Thursday, October 29, 2009

Improve Your Painting for $2

This may seem amazingly obvious, but as a beginning painter I didn't quite grasp it.

You can't paint what you can't see.

To paint with precision, you must be able to see what you are painting and be able to see your brushwork in enough detail to be able to figure out what you want to do and then do it.  I used overhead incandescent lighting for my first seventy five models or so (go Skaven!) but was never able to get them above basic tabletop quality.  "Good from afar, but far from good."

So how does $2 help?  You go to the dollar store and buy yourself a compact fluorescent bulb and a pair of +3.5 reading glasses.  A CF bulb in a goose neck lamp (or ever better, two CF bulbs in two goose neck lamps!) will  give enough light close to the mini to actually see the thing, and CF bulbs have a much better lighting spectrum then incandescent bulbs without getting nearly as hot.  Trying to use incandescent "daylight" bulbs in close quarters can get to be uncomfortably warm.  Use of specialized lights like an Ott light give good results, but the advent of the CF bulb has put them in the "diminishing returns for the price" category.  When painting small details or freehand try the +3.5 reading glasses.  You'll have to experiment with how far to hold the mini from your face, but the amount of magnification this provides is quite adequate for detail work.  Also, the fact that you are looking through two lenses maintain binocular vision, something that has prevented me from effectively using single magnifying glasses in the past.  I just couldn't judge where the brush was in relation to the mini.  All I was getting were up-close-and-personal mistakes!

I've been using bright lights for a while, and only recently got the reading glasses (which I wear right over my regular glasses when painting.)  I did some touch ups on Vayl's body armor using the glasses, and was surprised of the detail I had missed previously.  Not only was I able to see what I had missed along with the less than tidy areas, but I was able to see areas where the color consistency were sorely lacking.  Now I should probably go over all that fiddly armor and highlight the wolf grey with skull white.  That should improve the pop quite a bit.

So try it!  It's only $2 ya cheapskate!


  1. I'm near sighted as it is so the glasses aren't needed for me but having good light is essential.
    I paint with overhead flourescent light and another one on the wal in front of me. Basically lots of light, the same kind you find in the hobby store so my models look the exact same at home on the bench as they do in the game store.

  2. I'm near sighted too, but the reading glasses give so much more detail than looking over the top of my glasses at close range ever did. I don't think my 40+ eyesight is as sharp as it used to be, so this one might be moot for the younger crowd. And there isn't a hobby store / GW center within 100 miles of me that has even halfway decent lighting. Anything I paint there is for the social aspect... I always end up having to fix a great deal of it when I get home.

  3. Good idea with the glasses! I already have the lights (stole a lamp from the living room and still get teased about it) but the glasses are new to me. Thanks!

  4. I have to agree on both parts. I use a CF lamp (daylight or white light, not yellow/tungsten light), and though I don't use reading glasses, I essentially use the same thing.

    I used to be in the Microbiology industry, and have a magnifying lens headset that I whip out for the fine detail stuff.

  5. I have the overhead and a desk lamp.
    Like Mike, my over 40 eyes need more help. I use an 2.5X OptiVisor; it fits over my regular glasses. I also have the 2.5x AccurLoupe attachment for that extra boost when I need it (mainly for painting eyes).


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