Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Top 10 Most Frequently Asked Questions as a Professional Miniature Painter

Top 10 Most Frequently Asked Questions as a Professional Miniature Painter

Throughout the years as a hobbyist, I've met a lot of people who aren't in the hobby and saw what I was doing either when they visit my house or look at my Facebook feed. I've gotten a lot of questions regarding the hobby and here's the top ten questions I've gotten from them.

You paint what?!

Miniatures... I paint miniatures/figurines/toy soldiers, or whatever you want to call them. Specifically I paint miniatures that are parts of some sort of a war game (i.e. Malifaux, Warhammer, Warmachine, etc). They range from 15mm (roughly 1/2 of an inch) to 75mm (around 3 inches) tall. Most are made for those games, but some are made for display purposes only like this one from Scale 75 for example:

How big did you say they were?

The smallest I've seen/painted are 6mm scale (Epic size) up to a 75mm scale (this is roughly 1/6 of an average human size). Scale does not equal to their size, but it is more the ratio to the average human size. For example, I've seen/painted a 28mm scale dragon that was 5-inches in size. That means if the average human being is 5'7", the dragon would have been around 5 times the size of that human in real life.

I've seen "40 Year Old Virgin", are those the miniatures you're talking about?

Not in particular. The movie portrays a loner who paints historical models and builds dioramas out of them. The concept of the "painting" part of the hobby is the same (minus the magnifying glass for me because anything in front of my eyes bothers me when I paint), but I actually use some of the models to play with. The games are like playing chess with uberly advanced rule-set (compared to chess) minus the checkered board. We use dice and/or playing cards and other tools (i.e. measuring tapes to measure distance, aquarium pebbles as counters, etc).

And there are a lot of other people that do this?

I go to a particular annual convention in Chicago, IL called Adepticon where around 5,000 like-minded people are there to either play in a tournament, compete in the Crystal Brush painting competition (main prize is $10k), check out new releases, take painting classes, and many more activities. Adepticon is more miniature-centric, but there are other conventions that hosts miniature games like Gencon (50,000 people), some part of San Diego Comicon (300,000 people), and more.

Wait, you said painting competitions?

Yes, painting competitions. Painting competition rules varies depending on the events/hosts/judges, but there are universal painting etiquettes that people should follow. The one I most frequent is the Crystal Brush that hosts over $10,000 in prizes, but there are other local/non-local competitions out there. The smallest being painting competitions being held at a local game stores with probably 10 people participating, all the way to Crystal Brush where there were hundreds of entries this year from people all around the world.

What do you get from winning these said competitions?

Prizes (money or more models), ego boost, contracts/jobs with game companies (not video game), being featured in magazines that are distributed globally/locally.


If you've seen a board game box that has some miniature game pieces as part of their packaging, you notice some of them are painted. Or if you've visited websites that show the painted samples of the products they are selling (in case you didn't know, these miniatures usually comes unassembled and unpainted), someone had to paint those models. Those people who did those amazing paint jobs are called Studio Painters.
Another position is called Commissioned Painters. These are the "brush-for-hire" painters that paints other people's models (because they have their own reasons for not being able to paint their own models) for a price.

How much are these so-called painters are getting paid?

That depends, painters are artists, and their rate varies. Contracted Studio Painters usually are paid in salary/hourly like a normal worker in an office. While Commission Painters are paid either hourly or per project. I've heard some Commission Painters making $650 for a single 32mm model (at a $25/hour rate). Some of the cheaper Commission painters will paint your models at $5 per model regardless on how long it would take them to finish. For my rates, please feel free to contact me at virtualonmars at gmail dot com.

How long does it take for you to paint the models?

That depends, if it is for a commission, I try to paint it as fast as possible so that my $/hour rate goes higher. For example, I quotted a guy $250 for a single model, and if I paint it in 10 hours, that means my rate is $25/hour. If I'm painting models that are just for gaming purposes (the lingo is "table-top standard" which means good enough to look at from 3 feet away), then each model can take from 2 - 10 hours. But if I'm painting for a compeitition or "display standard", that range from 25 hours to 100+ hours. It takes a lot of patience and dedications to paint these models, and the models aren't cheap.

Do you wear glasses when you paint?

No. Anything in front of my eyes are very distracting when I paint. This includes, but not limited to, magnifying glasses, a pair of glasses (I actually wear glasses when I drive at night), magnifying glasses attached to a visor, etc. I'd imagine later on when I get older and when my eyes are getting worse, I would probably have to start wearing a pair of glasses, but as of for now, the only thing I need is my Ottlite desk lamp, my brush, some paints and my model.

I hope you guys find this little article interesting, and thank you for reading my little blog!