Painting Figurines: The Basics

You know you’ve reached a new level of nerdy when you have legitimate arguments about what exact shade your figurine’s cloak needs to be, based on the terrain he/she has adventured through.  If you’re ready to get on (stoop to?) our level, this is the post for you! Through trial and error, we have stumbled upon some useful tips and tricks for enhancing your gaming through painting your figurines.  You can do this with any game with character figurines, and we’ve found it really makes the gaming more fun! We’ve used it for Zombicide and Dungeons & Dragons, but games like Mansions of Madness and Mice and Mystics have figurines just waiting to be painted.  You can break through to the next level of nerdy figurine mastery by designing and painting your own custom minis through Hero Forge (see some of our examples here)!

Set aside a couple of hours with your friends, a bottle of wine, and some good music and make yourself some works of art!


  • Primer (we used Krylon’s primer)
  • Paints (we started with the cheap acrylic paint set from Michael’s, but found this set by the Artist’s Loft, and felt like it really enhanced our figurines)
  • Fine point brushes (we use sizes 5/0, 2/0, 0, 1, and 2)
  • Newspapers or other table cover (put that spam mail to use)
  • Water bowl (for rinsing)
  • Paper plate for mixing colors
Optional (but helpful):
  • Painting palettes (if you’re feeling fancy)
  • Shading paint (we’ve been playing with ghouls and zombies, and find that this quick shade by The Army Painter works well for the darker genre)
  • Matte finishing spray (we’ve been using this one, by Rust-oleum, but really any matte spray will work)
  • Figurine holder (see our DIY options below)
  • Magnifying glass (if you’re super OCD about getting those details right… like us ;))

Pro Tip: Set yourself up for success by having adequate lighting

Let’s Get Painting!

  1. Wash your figurine: there will be residue on the figurine that should be removed before priming                     
  2. Go into a well vented area (not a closed off garage, like we did…don’t try and kill yourself) to prime your figurine.  The primer recommends waiting 24 hours before painting… but we aren’t that patient. As long as you do thin coats, you should be ready to paint in about 30 minutes – 1 hour. Just test to see if the primer is still tacky before you start painting.  Look at the difference between the pre and post-primed figurine!
  3. Lay out newspaper or scrap paper over your painting surface, because we don’t want ruin our nice (?) furniture.  Because we are adults.  Responsible adults.
  4. Set out a glass of water (for cleaning your paintbrush) and your paints.  
  5. Channel your middle school art class teacher and start mixing up some colors on your palette (or a paper plate) to get those perfect shades
  6. Figure out a way to hold your figurine (we MacGyver’d two devices; one with a wine cork and some tack and one with tweezers and a binder clip. The tack had mixed results but we were big fans of the binder clip.  Somehow the tack didn’t want to stick to the cork but will never EVER come off the bottom of the figurines.  #paintingfail)
  7. Paint from the base layers outwards, in the same way you would get dressed (from birthday suit out to your jacket)

PRO TIP: use a magnifying glass to enhance those small details, for the best results while painting


If you make a mistake, don’t sweat it!  Wait for the paint to dry and then try again.  OR just keep adding layers of paint until you end up with pie-face Riswynn, like we did…


At this point, you probably have some swanky looking figurines.  Congratulations! If you’re feeling daring and want to take it one step further, keep reading for some additional steps/tips below.  If not, let them dry and enjoy how much more amazing your game is about to become.


  1. Shading: This step really brings your figurine to life and adds that 3D effect. Basically, it’s an additional layer of special paint that is more viscous and settles into all the grooves and naturally shadowed areas of your figurine and accentuates them.
    1. Brushing technique: This is great for your “hero” characters. It gives great definition to the shadows on the characters but doesn’t make them too dark. Brush the shading paint onto your figurine. You want to cover the whole figurine, and then you can use your brush to remove any excess paint as it settles into the shadows.
    2. Oh no, my figurine fell into the shading technique (or the dunking technique): This technique is great for your villains or darker characters. It adds a darker, more dramatic level of shading that works well with zombies, ghouls, or just plain old villainous fighters. Basically, you hold your figurine upside down (DON’T drop it! Like we did a few times. In case you do, it’s great to have some rubber or latex gloves on hand to fish it out). Once the figurine is fully covered, you can use a paint brush to distribute the shading, and also to remove the excess shading paint.
  2. Matte top-coat: if you don’t want a glossy finish to your figurines, we would recommend using the Rust-oleum Painter’s Touch 2x Ultra Cover matte Clear spray (follow the link listed above), to give your figurines a more “life-like” quality.  Again, be sure to spray this in a well-vented area with those excess amazon boxes, because we DO NOT support inhalation injuries.  


Pro Tip: Designate one of your non-quality brushes for shading, and make sure you clean it off right away! The shading paint is very sticky and pretty much ruins the brush for normal painting, so it’s good to have a separate brush for this step

Pro Tip: to step up your game even further, add in a gaming playlist.  Because everything in life should have a soundtrack.  


Enjoy the fruits of your labor 


See what a difference it makes??!! 


Make sure to share your creations with us on Instagram @questfriendsgaming or Twitter @QFriendsGaming.  We can’t wait to see what you make!

Special thanks to Hero Forge for our amazing miniatures


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