The Paint Rack: Undercoating and Basecoating

Greetings fellow generals,

In this article, I would like to talk about the first steps of painting miniature toy soldiers: Undercoating and Basecoating.

Disclaimer: I have to let you know that there is actually a step before undercoating if you are super serious about your painting and that is cleaning the mini with warm water and soap to get rid of excess production oils (and scraping away “flash”) but in my experience, most gamers skip this step because we’re just not that anal about our painting. We want to get our new shiny on the battlefield and killing stuff as fast as possible, not lounging around on the painting table soaking in warm water… Gothar the Bloodthristy does not do jacuzzis…

Anyway, on to the article



Undercoating is the first step, whereby we cover the bare miniature with a layer of “paint” to facilitate easier paint application later on in the painting process.

This step is kinna important.

You see, when you open up your newly bought miniature for the first time, whether it is a metal or plastic or resin miniature, there are residues of the production oils still on the minis. These production “extras” will mess up your painting in a big way because most miniature paint ranges are acrylic based, which is part water… And God knows water and oil don’t mix. Undercoating will cover the oiled up areas and let you paint the minis easier.

Undercoating also helps your paint to adhere to the minis in one or two applications where as on a bare mini, the paint will not really apply very well and will take longer with more applications to get a smooth finish.

How to undercoat:

There are two basic ways to undercoat a mini:

1. Spray it on

2. Paint it on

Everybody uses no.1, nobody uses no.2

Why? Cause it’s a lot simpler and faster with less chance of miss applications:

Put the mini on top of a box, take it outside, shake the spray can vigorously, spray the mini evenly, wait to dry. Done.

It’s usually better to find a spray with a matte finish. A shiny smooth finish won’t really help with the later paint application.

Colors to use are usually either black or white depending on the army color scheme you have chosen. Black is usually easier for darker army colors while white is better for lighter army color schemes. That said, if your army colors are mostly Browns or blues or whatnot, using the corresponding undercoat color is also advisable cause… Heck, why not, makes things easier and faster.

There is also a new way to undercoat a mini that will help create highlights and shadows easier. It’s called Zenital Undercoating.

For this new age technique, you use a black and white undercoat. You spray on the black all over the mini as normal but then you take the white undercoat and lightly spray it from an overhead angle. This will give the mini a light dusting of white over the black on only the raised areas of the minis. The effect of this is that when you paint the mini, the raised areas will by default be a lighter color, creating a natural highlight over the darker shadows of the lower areas of the mini.

I recommend you try out this advanced undercoating technique as it will make your painting easier and faster with a good result.


Basecoating is the application of paint to cover up a dark colored undercoat and provide the first layer of color for your miniature.

Base color paint sets usually have thicker color pigments that will cover a dark undercoat with the color of your choice in one application. They are also usually of a darker shade then your color scheme of choice. So if you picked blue as an army color, then the base color is usually dark blue.

The purpose of a base coat over a dark undercoat is to help us put on our real color choice easier and faster.

Whereas if without a base coat you will need to apply that blue multiple times to get a smooth finish, with a base coat of blue, probably in only one application it’s already smooth and bright.

The exception to this are Yellows (and to some extent, reds). These acrylic based paints usually have a translucent consistency and maybe more that one or two thin coats will be needed to get that smooth finish.

The pic above shows the base coat red on the left leg while the non base coat is on the right leg. To get the same smooth finish, you probably have to apply that red multiple times…. not fun.

Base coloring will seriously make your life easier when you apply these colors to a dark colored undercoat. Use them.

Well,…. that’s it for this installment of the Paint Rack, I hope this article helps you in getting you army to the tabletop as quickly and painlessly as possible (while still looking presentable on the battlefield).

Think of the painting time as the training of your fresh recruits before sending them off to the front lines.. I know I do.

Until the next article fellow generals,

“Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more; or close the wall up with our English dead” – William Shakespeare


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