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Can you paint miniatures with Watercolour?

Painting miniatures and models is a beloved hobby for many. Typically, miniatures are painted with acrylic paints which provide opaque coverage and allow for detail work. However, some painters like to experiment with using watercolour paints on miniatures as well. Watercolour provides transparent layers and blending not achievable with acrylics. With care and planning, watercolour can be used to paint stunning miniatures.

The Challenges of Using Watercolour for Miniatures

Watercolour paint has some inherent qualities that make it challenging to use for miniature painting:

  • It is transparent rather than opaque – Layers of colour mix and blend together rather than covering uniformly.
  • It stains rather than coats – Watercolour soaks into the surface and is difficult to cover up.
  • It flows and bleeds – Watercolour moves and blends on the surface making crisp lines difficult.
  • It dries quickly – This makes blending large areas challenging.

These qualities mean painting miniatures with watercolour requires planning and care to achieve a good result. Strategies to manage these challenges include:

Strategies for Using Watercolour with Miniatures

Challenge Strategy
Transparency Build up colour in thin layers. Underpaint in complementrary colours.
Staining Seal the miniature with varnish prior to painting. This creates a protective layer.
Flowing Use controlled wet-in-wet techniques. Allow sections to dry before painting adjacent areas.
Quick drying Work in small sections. Use a spray bottle to rewet areas.

Using these strategies allow watercolour’s transparent properties to be used to advantage:

The Benefits of Watercolour for Miniature Painting

Watercolour offers some unique benefits for painting miniatures:

  • Luminous transparent layers – Multiple glazes create luminosity and depth.
  • Blending – Soft blended transitions are easy to achieve.
  • Detailing – Fine details can be painted over underpainting.
  • Controlled flow – With care, wet-in-wet techniques provide interest.

Take advantage of these benefits by planning painting techniques and layers:

Techniques for Painting Miniatures with Watercolour

Technique Description
Wet-on-wet blending Blend two wet colours together while painting for smooth transitions.
Glazing Build up transparent layers of colour for depth by letting layers dry between applications.
Underpainting Start with complementary colours as a base layer before painting final colours over the top.
Lifting Lighten or remove colour while wet using a damp brush or paper towel.
Details Add fine lines and details over dry underpainting.

Combining these techniques allows you to build up watercolour paint on a miniature for amazing results.

Process for Painting a Miniature with Watercolour

Follow these steps to paint a miniature with watercolour:

  1. Prepare the surface – Seal with varnish and let dry fully. This prevents staining.
  2. Sketch outline – Lightly sketch any outline in pencil. This helps guide the painting.
  3. Underpaint – Apply initial layers of transparent colour using complementary or contrasting tones.
  4. Build up colour – Use glazing, wet-on-wet blending and lifting to develop the forms and colours.
  5. Details – Refine with fine lines and details.
  6. Seal – Apply a final sealant layer when finished.

With patience and practice, you can learn to handle the challenges of watercolour and take advantage of its unique talents.

Recommended Watercolour Paints for Miniatures

For best results choosing high quality watercolour paints designed for miniatures is recommended. Some top choices include:

Brand Benefits
Vallejo Saturated colours in a broad range ideal for miniatures. Available in sets.
Daler Rowney Artist quality pigments. Large 15ml tubes available.
Winsor & Newton Top professional grade paint. Very concentrated for vivid mixing.
Scale 75 Dropper bottles allow controlled application. Produces vivid results.

These professional grade paints provide intense, transparent colour perfect for building up layers on miniatures.


Painting miniatures with watercolour is an advanced technique that comes with challenges but can produce stunning results. With careful planning and by utilizing wet-on-wet blending, glazing, lifting and detailing, watercolour’s transparent abilities can be used to full advantage. High quality watercolour paints allow vivid, accurate colour mixing. With practice and patience, watercolour provides a whole new way to paint miniatures.