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Miniature and tabletop painting techniques explained

Tabeltop Maltechniken erklärt

Guido Sommerkamp |


Darkening is one of the most important technical principles when it comes to painting miniatures and tabletop figures. This technique involves applying a color or hue in different shades to add depth and realism. It is one of the most commonly used painting techniques, in which one descends from the lightest to the darkest shade and paints the respective areas on top of each other.

On the one hand, darkening is relatively easy to apply and it doesn't require a lot of time or effort. On the other hand, you can create subtle but also strong contrasts that captivate the viewer. The darkening can be used to emphasize the depth of surfaces and thus increase the dimension of the image. It is also very effective when working out small details such as eyebrows or lips.

If you want to learn more about this technique, you can find further information on various platforms as well as instruction videos and tutorials that explain step by step how to work with the eclipse. This technique brings more structure to the overall picture, making it more realistic and alive.

Conclusion: The darkening is a demanding but rewarding technique that creates miniatures and tabletop figures on a professional level and gives the viewer a breathtaking experience.

Accentuate / highlight

Miniatures and tabletop models are an essential part of a detailed gaming experience. But what is the best painting technique to accentuate and highlight your miniature?

One of the most popular techniques is highlighting or accentuating. This technique gives depth and structure to the models. It's relatively easy to use and only requires lightening from the dark shade, either by applying a lighter shade or by mixing intermediate shades of two different colors. Usually three layers are enough for an excellent result (dark - normal - light).

Another known technique is dry brushing. Here, only individual pigments are used to emphasize specific areas. Drybrushing can be very effective, but it requires more precision than highlighting/accenturing.

There are many other painting techniques that can be used when painting miniatures and tabletop models. In the end, it comes down to personal taste and what results you want to achieve. Practice with different techniques and find out which one works best!

black lining

This technique visually separates different parts of a miniature (e.g. the surface or details) by drawing a dark line between their points of contact. This line doesn't have to be black (you can also use dark blue or brown), but it should be darker than the rest of the miniature.

Blacklining is great for emphasizing the differences between parts, but can also be cartoony if used too heavily. Make sure you always keep your overall style in mind when using this technique!


Dipping is a quick and efficient technique for painting miniatures. It's a very popular method because it's a great way to paint a large army in a short amount of time. Thanks to the dipping technique, different colors can be easily applied. The basic colors are applied first and the figure is then held in a pot with the ink. The figure is then removed and the excess paint dabbed off. In this way, different degrees of darkening can be achieved.

However, dipping also has disadvantages. Since it is only a quick way, details are often missing. Also, you can't always predict exactly what the color will look like in the end because you can't test the shade of gray beforehand.

Nevertheless, dipping is a very popular and effective technique for anyone who wants to paint miniatures quickly and accurately. It gives consistency to the figure and allows artists to paint more figures within the same time frame.


A freehand is a painting technique in which images and patterns are applied to a miniature or tabletop with a fine brush without being pre-modeled beforehand. This painting technique is also called hand painting. Freehands can show different motifs and designs. They can be realistic or surrealistic.


There are a few different ways to prime miniatures and tabletop models. The most commonly used methods are spray priming or airbrush painting. Both methods have their advantages and disadvantages.

Spray primer is the easiest way to apply a primer. It is relatively inexpensive to purchase and ensures a consistent result. However, it is important to note that the spray primer should not be applied excessively thickly as this may result in the paint not adhering properly.

Airbrushing requires a little more effort than spray priming, but it usually gives better results. Due to the air pressure, the base coat is applied more evenly and the paint can adhere better. In addition, details can be highlighted better with the airbrush than with the spray primer. The disadvantage of this method, however, is the high investment in the equipment and in the primer itself.

Ultimately, it is up to the model maker to decide which method he prefers. Both methods have advantages and disadvantages and you should find out beforehand what is best for your projects. However, it is important with every primer that all components (primer spray/paint/varnish) are compatible with each other and that no undesirable effects (eg discoloration) occur.


Inks are commonly used in miniature and tabletop painting to add depth to figures. They are very thin liquid paints that can be picked up with a brush. The inks can be easily brought into all grooves and indentations and enable a quick result.

An advantage of the inks is that they don't shine after drying. However, you have to be careful when using it, otherwise the inks can smudge or color unwanted areas. For optimal color intensity, you can apply the ink several times and cover the background for more contrast.

Overall, inks offer a good way to add detail to the miniatures and create more realistic results. With them you can let your imagination run wild to create stunning weapon effects, shadows, gradients or details. But beware: be careful!

Non Metallic Metal (NMM)

Non-metallic metal (NMM) is an art technique that simulates a metallic effect without the use of metallic paints. This technique is mainly used by advanced painters and professionals, as it requires a certain theoretical knowledge about light, its reflection on the metal and the handling of paint. The metallic effect is achieved through the targeted meeting of light and dark areas, as well as through color gradients. The main reason why the technology is complex is that you should be clear in advance about the correct arrangement of the light and dark edges in order to achieve a convincing metallic effect.

Object Source Lighting (OSL)

Object Source Lighting (OSL) is a technique used in the model making and tabletop miniatures industry. This technique is based on the assumption that there is a light source that hits the character directly or that the light comes from a certain angle. This allows realistic lighting effects to be achieved that impress the viewer.

The OSL technique can be applied to various materials, especially metal parts, eyes and other objects. This technique is even more demanding than NMM (Non Metallic Metal), so miniature builders should have sufficient knowledge of handling paints and pigments before starting

. The end result is convincing: a realistic model with beautiful light reflections and shadows. However, if you are unsure or want to learn more about Object Source Lighting, you should definitely watch tutorials from more experienced modelers or take an online course. With a little practice and patience you can gradually improve your results and get beautiful miniatures!


Pinning is a simple method of connecting parts in a miniature. This method is often used on larger miniatures to ensure the pieces don't fall apart or become loose. It is a very simple method that does not require any special effort. Most people already know how to attach a pen. But for anyone who has never built a miniature, you usually have to drill a small hole in each of the pieces that need to touch or connect. Then insert the pin into the hole and press it firmly. With this connection, the parts can withstand a higher load (e.g. during transport) without being able to fall apart.

Speed ​​painting

Speed ​​painting is an art form that allows the painter to realize his ideas within a short period of time. It is used especially in miniature and tabletop games. Speed ​​painting is not subject to any rules and every artist can implement their creative ideas in a relatively short time frame.

In miniature and tabletop games, speed painting is a popular competitive format. In this case, the goal is to paint characters as quickly as possible. It is an advantage if players are already familiar with the colors before the start of the competition, as there is limited time to pick up and paint all the details of the character. Players must ensure that their final result meets expectations and pleases the judges.

Another aspect of speed painting is planning ahead of the competition. In order to work efficiently, players need to keep a few things in mind. An important factor is the right choice of color; what colors make the character come alive? In addition, one should also consider which techniques are best suited for the respective project (airbrushing or hand brush). These techniques help the artist to make the most of the limited time.

Speed ​​painting is a great way for artists of all levels to improve their skills while learning something new. The battle against the clock is what makes this competition so appealing and requires creativity and skill from the artist. With the right preparation, any participant in a miniature or tabletop competition can achieve brilliant results!

Sky-Earth Non Metallic Metals (SENMM)

Sky-Earth Non Metallic Metals (SENMM) are a very complex form of NMM, in which chromium and silver in particular are simulated. This enables impressive results as the metal parts can be polished to a high gloss. SENMM consists of a combination of sky, horizon and ground reflections.

This offers an incredible range of colors and details that normally can only be achieved with a great deal of effort. In order to use this technique, however, one should have a basic knowledge of light, mirroring and reflection, and the use of color. Therefore, it is advisable to turn to professional artists who have mastered the SENMM.

Miniature and tabletop artists especially appreciate the possibilities that SENMM offers. With their realistic appearance, miniatures and tabletops can look stunningly beautiful, adding vibrancy and reality to any scene. Many different textures can be created using SENMM and there are no limits to creativity or design. So SENMM is a very complex material for creative artists with professional experience in handling color and light reflections. It is especially suited to miniature and tabletop artists as it allows them to achieve compelling results without having to put in much effort or expense. Therefore, if you are interested in this material, you should definitely contact experts in the field of art!

dry brushing

Drybrushing is a quick and easy way to paint miniatures and tabletops. The method is often ridiculed by professional painters, but for beginners and with a little practice it is well suited to achieve quick and good results.

The application is very simple: First you dip the brush in the desired color, wipe it off with a lint-free cloth until almost no more paint sticks to the brush, then you brush carefully over the miniature so that individual color pigments stick to the set down higher parts of the miniature. Due to the different shades of the dry brushes, different nuances can be achieved.

Drybrushing is particularly good for rough textures or areas where a lot of detail needs to be achieved. However, the individual pigments can make it look dusty and unclean. With a little practice, however, it is possible to counteract this effect.

True Metallic Metal (TMM)

True Metallic Metal (TMM) is a technique used in painting miniatures and tabletop games. It offers the artist unique opportunities to vary and create the look of metal in a variety of ways. The idea is to use several different metal colors to add a realistic metallic finish. This can be achieved by using a combination of shading and reflections.

The process of applying TMM is relatively simple. In order to achieve the best possible effect, you should always work on a black primer. If this is not possible, one should use the same kind of coloring techniques as when painting other colors. You can then experiment with different metal colors and decide on a combination that best suits the desired effect. This technique allows the user to make the look of metal in their miniatures even more realistic and bring their creation to life with fantastic color combinations.

Devil Rays Note: Here, too, different metal colors can be used in opposite directions, similar to NMM. This gives an even more interesting look to the end result of the miniature or tabletop game. With a little patience and a willingness to experiment, breathtaking designs can be created!

Weathering / Weathering

Weathering a model or miniature is a technique used to make items such as ships, vehicles, figures, and other objects appear too realistic. The weathering of the metal can clearly underline the character of the figures. This technique is relatively easy to perform and also looks incredibly realistic.

There are several methods to achieve weathering. A very popular method is to use inks and heavily diluted paint. Using this technique gives a tarnished effect to the metal. To do this, you should clean the surface of the metal part and then apply a highly diluted paint (e.g. brown or black). It is important that the paint is not applied too thickly, otherwise the effect cannot be achieved. You can then further embellish the desired effect with oil or acrylic paints and round off the metal part.

There are other methods for weathering miniatures and tabletop models, but inks and heavy dilution are the two best options for this technique. With the right technique, you can give your model a realistic look and allow you to refine your project in even more impressive detail.

wet blending

Wet blending is a technique in which two colors that are still wet are blended to create a smooth gradient. This can be done in different ways: either with a brush or with your finger. Another option is to use splashes to blend the colors together.

Wetblending is a very beautiful and realistic technique to paint miniatures and tabletops. However, there is a window in which the colors must be dry, otherwise the effect will not be as beautiful. Wet blending is a complex technique, but it works very well.

wet palette

The wet palette is similar to a normal palette, but with one difference: it is moistened with water. The water helps the paint stay fresh longer and doesn't dry out as quickly. This allows artists to use a self-mixed color mixture longer. Another advantage of this tool is that it offers many different options: there are pallets of different sizes and made of different materials such as plastic or wood.

To make a wet palette all you need is an old plastic lid with a rim to support it. Now put a piece of toilet paper or a handkerchief on it and drip some tap water onto the paper until it is soaked. Then you put a piece of baking paper over the damp cloth and the palette is ready! You can then use the palette for your painting and use the colors much longer than usual before they dry out.

All in all, the use of wet pallets only brings advantages. While it may be difficult initially to figure out which material to use to make the palette, it's usually easy to figure out what works best depending on the type of painting you want to do. With the right wet palette to help you, you shouldn't have any problems perfecting the color of your miniatures or tabletop models!

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