Speed Painting Secrets

Painting armies at a fast paint has very little to do with talent or skill.  It mostly comes down to clever choices and knowing a few techniques. Read on to discover!

Bringing Speed Painting Back

We are going to use a White Scar to showcase this, as it involves two of what people consider to be the worst colors to speed paint: white and red.

Also, because this is a big stereotype, nowhere in this article are airbrushes mentioned.  Yes, they are a great tool for speed painting, but are by no means necessary.


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 Auric Armor 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.

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.

Chosing 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 aint, 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.

Paint your Army in 30 Days 

Putting painted models on the table is my my favorite form of wargaming, and I hope this helps you with yours!

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