Miniature Assembly and Painting Guide

Miniature Assembly and Painting Guide


Assembly & Painting Guide

Thunderbolt Mountain Miniatures, in its dedication to the production of high quality figurines, pays particularly close attention to each facet of the production process. In this way we seek to ensure that you, our customer, possesses a figurine unmatched in the quality of its detail. There are, however, several ways in which you may enhance the overall appearance of these figurines yourself.

Two of the more popular methods of enhancement are antiquating and painting. Both of these require that the figure be prepared. To do this your will need a straight edged hobby knife and several needle files. These may be obtained from your local hobby shop or hardware store. You will also need a good quality super glue with filler or similar type product. Some inexpensive white glue will also be useful. If you choose to antique your figure, you will need some metal polish.

Choosing Paints & Brushes

There are several types of paints and brushes you may choose from. Both oil and water-based paints have much to recommend them to the painter. While water-based paints are faster drying and easier to clean up, oil paints seem to give a richer texture and color. They also offer superior potential for the blending of colors. However, if you choose oil paints, remember to allow for a longer drying time. There are also available various inks and creams which may be applied to your figures. For the proper use of these, please refer to the manufacturer's guide, or seek the advise of your local hobby shop.

When choosing brushes, remember that the better quality your tools, the better your results will be. For water-based acrylic paints, The Golden Takalon type brushes are excellent. If you are using an oil paint, we recommend the use of pure Red Sable brushes. For priming and black washing, inexpensive water color brushes are fine.

Preparing & Assembling Figures

Most figurines will require some preparation before painting. Using a hobby knife or needle file, carefully remove any excess metal from the figure. If any molding ridges appear on the figure, they should be carefully filed smooth. All of this should be done so as not to destroy the detailed sculpting that is inherent to Thunderbolt Mountain creations. CAUTION: Please dispose of all metal scrapes and filings in a safe and proper manner!

Having cleaned your figure, you are ready for the next step. If you figure requires assembly, carefully fit each piece together. This is to ensure that they all fit properly. Occasionally, some minor filing may be necessary. Then using the super glue, assemble your figure


If you choose to antique (also called blackwashing) your figure so that it has the appearance of old pewter, you will need paint thinner and black high gloss oil based enamel. The first step in the antiquating is to polish the figure with metal polish. We have found that a toothbrush is an excellent tool for this. Use an old rage to finish this polishing. This removes any oxide that has formed on the surface of the metal.

Now, dilute a small quantity of the paint with thinner in a 3 to 1 ratio of thinner to paint. Then, either dip the figure into this solution or paint it on with an inexpensive brush such as one would use for water colors. Allow the figure to dry until the wash becomes tacky but has not completely dried, about 5 to 10 minutes. Take a rag and remove any excess paint by thoroughly rubbing the figure.

You may achieve lighter or darker coloration's by varying the ratio of paint to thinner or in the drying time allowed before wiping. After the figure has completely dried, it may be sprayed with a polyurethane sealing spray.


If you choose to paint your figure, follow the same steps for cleaning and assembly. (A Special Note of Caution: if you choose to paint the individual pieces of your figure before assembly, remember to scrape of those areas where the pieces fit together so that the glue will adhere and hold.) Take a strong piece of cardboard (3" x 1.5") and using your white glue, attach the figure to the cardboard. After this has securely dried, apply a coat of white metal primer. This may be either sprayed or painted on. Because of the detail on TMM figures, it is important not to obscure those details by priming too thickly.

An essential quality of a good painter is patience. Take your time and be willing to re-do a job if it does not look right. Another good rule to follow is to paint your figure from the inside out, as if you were dressing it. When applying a color, dip only the tip of your brush in the paint and gently spread the color over the surface of the figure. Remember, pain should be thin so as not to obscure the detail. It is always easier to add a second coat that to remove the original paint.

Painting small figurines relies on enhancing the contrasts between darker and lighter areas. This shading adds depth to a figure and makes it look more alive. The raised areas should generally be lighter while the recessed areas should appear darker. To achieve this effect, mix your original color with the next darker shade. Black, in small amounts, may be used to darken all colors except red and yellow. It tends to turn these colors muddy. With red and yellow, use brown to darken. The easiest shading method is the "wash". Take your darkened color and mix it with two to three parts of water or thinner until the mixture is transparent and runny. Using a brush, dab the color on the figure. The concentration of pigments will collect in the recessed area while the raised areas will retain a thinner coating and allow the undercoating of paint to show through.

A further enhancing technique is highlighting. While not as important as shading, it does add another dimension to a figure. To obtain highlights, mix the next lighter shade of the original color. Using a dry brush technique, dip the tip of the brush in paint. Take a clean rag or paper towel and wipe most of the paint from the brush, leaving the pigment. Then run the brush lightly over the raise portions of the figure. A wide tip brush is the best for this brushing technique.

When painting the face start with the basic flesh color and allow it to dry. Next apply a wash of dark brown or red brown and apply it to the face. Remember to keep the wash as light as possible. If necessary, add a second or third was to darken the flesh tones.

There are several methods for painting the eyes. One is to begin by painting eye sockets dark brown in the shape of two almonds, leaving a white outline. After the white has dried, use a dark blue paint to draw two vertical line from the top to the bottom of the white portion of the eye, slightly inside the center point of the eye.

Another method of painting the eyes is to paint the eye socket white. It may be necessary to trim and shape these sockets so that they are not too large for the face. When the white has dried, paint a thin vertical strip of color chosen for the eyes from the top to the bottom of the white, slightly inside the center point of the eye. When dry, paint the lids of the eye across the lower edge of the white with a flesh tone and the upper lids with a slightly darker flesh tone.

Once the figure has been painted to your satisfaction and has completely dried, it should be sprayed with a polyurethane sealing coat. A matte finish is preferable for this. This sealing is especially necessary for water-based acrylic paints to ensure their permanence.

Reinforcing for Frequent Handling

For those figures which are subject to frequent handling, TMM suggests that prior to assembling, small holes be drilled into those pieces to be fitted together. Short dowels of brass wire should be inserted and glues into place. This will add strength to those fittings and help to maximize the durability of your TMM figure.

We at Thunderbolt Mountain Miniatures with to thank the following individuals for their input and suggestions to this painting guide:
Jay Hadley, Terry Hauck, Richard Kerr, Scott Mathis, Carroll Nell, R. Philip Prince, Don Settles, Matt Sturm and Ron Woodrum.