Which Painting Medium should I Use?

Most people who take up the challenge of Miniature Painting will already have had some experience of painting and will have a selection of paints. However some may take the opportunity to try a different medium.

Acrylics are popular because they are versatile, fast drying, and mistakes can be rectified with relative ease.

Watercolour is the more traditional medium, and the image is generally built up in layers of ‘stippling’, or tiny dots. It is recommended that if you are purchasing watercolours for the first time, to buy artist’s quality, not a student range. There is a world of difference between the two. 

Oil Paint is another option but it appears that acrylic has largely taken its place for ease of use.

Which Brushes will I Need?

It is important to have the right brushes for painting Miniatures. Kolinsky Sable are the most widely used by the majority of Miniaturists.  Many Art Shops however do not stock Miniature brushes, or have a limited and often expensive selection.

Two of the companies which specialise in Miniature brushes and will post out your requirements are:

Polymers Plus, who have a wide range of materials as well as brushes.

Rosemary And Co have a full range of brushes and orders placed usually arrive within 24-48 hours.

Both companies are very helpful and will be happy to advise.

Which Paper or Surface should I Use?

Painting surfaces are varied, but whatever you use it must be smooth:

Paper. Hot Pressed (HP) Paper is smooth – as opposed to NOT which has a rough texture. Arches is one of the most widely used. 

Vellum. This is a specialist surface and unless you are very keen to try everything, it is best left for future experimenting. It is available from Polymers Plus.

Ivorine And Polymin. Ivorine was a man-made substitute for ivory which is no longer used – for conservation reasons. However, Ivorine is now no longer available in the UK and Polymin has taken its place. This can be purchased at Polymers Plus. Because it is a non-absorbent surface, it can be challenging to work on. For portraits particularly, it is a popular choice because it has a quality of light which cannot be achieved on paper.
This surface is fully dealt with in Pauline Denyer-Baker’s book.

Tips from Top Miniaturists

‘I use a mix of Winsor And Newton and Schminke Watercolour paints. Schminke colours have a wonderful clarity. I also use Schoelleshammer paper which has a hard surface although the downside is that it is mounted onto thick backing card which can be a nuisance when it comes to framing. Schoelleshammer can only be obtained from Jacksons Art Supplies, as far as I know. I Use brushes from Rosemary and Co, Series 92 4/0 and Series 93, 2/0, 3/0 and 1.’

‘I use Vellum and Arches paper for my work. I don’t recommend using Vellum until you feel comfortable with your standard. It is quite absorbent and it can be difficult to rectify mistakes.’

‘I use Arches paper for larger work, but have always painted Miniatures on Vellum. It is a beautiful, smooth surface with enough “bite” to hold onto the paint and provides a robust ground for layers of Watercolour to be built up by stippling, resulting in intense, jewel-like colour. I don’t think mistakes are more difficult to correct than on paper. I use Windsor And Newton Artists Watercolour paints and Windsor And Newton Series 7. Miniature Finest Sable Brushes sizes 0, 00 and 000.’

‘I use Series 33 Kolinsky Sable brushes (From Rosemary And Co) in sizes from 10/0 up to 1, and most of my Watercolours are Winsor & Newton or Daniel Smith. Be aware that colours may have the same name but each brand is slightly different. I like Arches HP Paper (I often prefer to do my initial drawing on a separate sheet of paper and then trace it lightly across to the Arches paper when I’m happy with it, thereby avoiding any erasing on the final surface, which can ruin it for Miniature work). I also use a hand-held magnifying glass.’

‘ I use any HP Watercolour paper and I buy my brushes from a model shop. They are Nylon but when the point goes I use them for Watercolour washes’