There are gobs of techniques and work philosophies that we can cite for helping us achieve a wonderfully painted force without spending the next decade on it. Let's dive in.
Having most recently spent 18 hours painting Bugman for this past Golden Demon competition, opened my eyes to the details and techniques I focus on for a single competition figure versus the ones I dismiss for Amy projects. You see, in 18 hours I could have painted roughly 6 marines to my typical standard. 3 hours per figure (using a tactical marine as a baseline) for an army really isn't that bad, and if I try I could even push each figure to 2.5 hours apiece. But at what cost? What has to suffer in detail and quality for the sake of speed? And is that cost worth it? These are questions we have to ask ourselves every time we begin a new army project. Obviously we don't want to spend 18 hours or more per figure for an entire army, especially if the end goal is to be able to play with said army. After all, I'm painting the army for me to play with, not to give to my 4 year old son for his future high school graduation!But maybe these are the wrong questions to ask ourselves. Perhaps instead of asking "What will suffer in quality?", we should ask "How can I get similar results in less time?".
Work Smarter, Not Harder
Come on now, I know we've all heard this expression in the past. This involves the use of tools and techniques available to us to achieve helpful results in less time. Notice I said "helpful results", and not "shortcuts". This isn't about shortcuts, it's about using the tools available to use intelligently. Perhaps this means you purchase and learn to use an airbrush to basecoat all your models with. Maybe you use washes to get that first layer of shadow in instead of painstakingly blending it down. Perhaps you even use those same washes, watered down, to use as a glaze to smooth a transition or tint a highlight. What about coming up with a color scheme, and then pre-mixing a color set into specific painting stages so that each stage takes a fraction of the time compared to having to mix for every figure? Even just expanding your color choices by purchasing paint from various ranges so that you don't have to mix colors all the time is a smart step that can save you time. In no way am I endorsing a paint style of basecoat, dip, then done. This is about quality and quantity, not one or the other.
Take Your Time
Yes, I realize this is a bit of an oxymoron when taken at face value, especially in light of my first point, but I didn't say "Take MORE Time", I said "Take Your Time". Have you ever moved onto the next step in painting a figure, only to realize that because you're hurrying the process, you messed up the part or parts you've already finished? If that happens, all you're doing is creating more work for yourself as now you have to go back and fix your mistakes. If you had just slowed down and taken an extra minute or three, you may not have made that mistake in the first place. I can't tell you the number of times when I thought I was finished with a figure, but found odd spots of paint in places they shouldn't be. It's frustrating and completely unnecessary.
The Right Tools for the Right Job
Your bargain basement brushes don't cut it for the painters who've won Golden Demons and Crystal Brushes, and they shouldn't cut it for you either. Buck up and buy yourself a set of Raphael Series 8404 Kolinsky Sable brushes. Don't look at me that way either..."They're so expensive...waaah...". Right, cause this hobby is cheap, after all. If you own an army of any sort, from any game system you've already paid through the nose for something. A good brush will perform better, hold paint properly, let the paint flow properly and help improve your skills. Now pry open that wallet and buy a well made brush, you'll be glad you did, trust me.
Is this a fully exhaustive list of painting techniques, teaching a step-by-step method by which we end up with a fully painted force at the end? Nope. What it is, is a philosophy and guide to changing the way we think about painting a full army project versus one competition figure, with a little smattering of techniques throughout.
Your turn. Tell me what you do to push your painting beyond the norm on an army-wide scale. I know I left many techniques out, so let me hear from you!