Speed Painting 101

Speed painting has very little to do with talent or skill.  It mostly comes down to clever choices and knowing a few key techniques. Ready to put painted models on the table?

Bringing Speed Painting Back

In this article, we are going to go over the basis of speed painting.  Getting your models from plastic to painted in the shortest time possible to a standard that is good enough for your taste.

To showcase that speed painting really is for anyone and anything, we are doing it using a White Scar Space Marine. It involves two of what people consider to be two of the worst colors to speed paint: white and red.  Furthermore, we will not be using an airbrush*.

“It’s for everyone” means everyone, we are not kidding.

The Quality Myth

A lot of the time, speed painting is viewed as lazy because we picture this sweaty tournament player with an army spray painted in one color with a dash of silver on the guns and red dot for eyes, clinging on that “3-color is the minimum and maximum in my scheme” motto.

Let me assure you, this is not what this is about.

You can produce great looking models, and fully painted ones too.  The difference is that with a few simple techniques and shortcuts, you can produce full armies in the time it takes some people to produce squads.

I’m a big believer of of painting with a purpose – sometimes you want to improve your skills and make models in the best quality you want.  Other times, you just want to get painted models on the table.  Speed painting is for those times.


A lot of people assume that speed painting involves just painting really fast – like having your hands on fast forward.  Let me assure you, this is absolutely not the case.  It’s simpler than you think and does not rely on very specific skills.

This last part is important:  Speed Painting is 90% on technique and 10% on speed.

Let’s address that 10% of speed first.  This is the ability to put paint exactly where you want it without having to touch up.  If you are proficient at that, more power to you, but it can only take you so far.

That other 90% is about choices you make.  Color choices, the order in which you apply them and which techniques to use.

Let’s break down those three technical components

Color Choices is both in terms of individual pots and whole painting palette. 

Individual pots is picking colors that are easy to work with.  A good example is Gold.

My favorite color when it comes to gold is Greedy Gold.  It produces a rich, yellowy gold.  But it take at least 3 coats to get a flat and opaque base coat, so I rarely use it.  Instead, I use Retributor Gold, that’s less yellow-y, but takes a single coat to cover anything.

Palette means taking colors that work well together.

This is one subject I talk about the most, including my favorite motto: “Colors, like buttholes, are meant to be tight.” Picking colors that work well with each other, and that can be shaded with the same wash same you a lot of time.

A simple example of this is shading our White Scar’s Silver, gold, red, brown and beige areas with only Agrax Earthshade, instead of a variety of washes.  It doesn’t look like much at a glance, but by doing this wash on all the colors at the same time and on your whole army, you same a ludicrous amount of time.


The order in which you apply colors is exactly as it sounds.

This is a good counterpoint to the 10% speed factor.  Imagine the White Scar here, but we paint the red first.

Primer. Red. Then what…

This sounds incredibly stupid, but it’s to showcase my point.  We start with the white because it’s everywhere and there are lots of it.  I can use a 2″ brush and put white on every other surface, it won’t matter, because we will paint those parts later anyway.

If you do the red first, suddenly, when you’re painting white you have to be extra careful of not hitting any red areas.

A general rule of thumb is First do the main color, the one that covers most the model, then play dress up.  Start with the deepest areas, usually the skin, and work your way out.

Painting the eagle on the chest after the gun is an ancient form of Chinese torture.

With picking the right techniques, right means those techniques that allow us to move quickly.

Weathering with a sponge is a good example of such technique.  It looks good, is quick to do and you can use this technique to mask small mistakes.

Choosing to do pouches with contrast paint rather than paint, highlight and shade is another good time saver, as those are areas that you need to ain’t, but would rather not spend a lot of time on, as they are not important parts of the miniature.

If you want to take a deeper look at speed painting, you can check out this dollar e-book from Amazon Kindle ( it’s free if you have Kindle Unlimited ) that explore these techniques and many more.

Putting painted models on the table is my my favorite form of wargaming.  Hopefully, with a few of these tricks, yours can be too!

*Mind you, airbrushes are great and I can’t recommend them enough.  We are doing this to showcase that you don’t need one to produce good looking models quickly.  But go get you one, seriously.

Share your thoughts