Brushstrokes : How to Paint Miniature Figures with Expert Detail

A book by Gary Leitzell, 1992.
Review copyright 1993, 1997 by Steffan O'Sullivan
This page last updated July 27, 1997

I have played miniatures games (mostly at conventions) for well over ten years, exclusively with other peoples' miniatures. I do own a number of miniatures, but have never painted any because I lacked all confidence in my artistic abilities. I've wanted to for years, though.

So when I saw this book about two and a half months ago, I bought it. I figured if I could learn to paint, anyone could. After giving it the acid test (painting my first figures with advice almost exclusively from this book), I'm ready to review it.

The short review: it works for beginners! I'm now painting my 20th figure, and am very pleased with the first 19! I don't know how valuable it would be to an experienced painter, though: I'm not any such thing.

The long review:

53-page book, 8.5" x 5.5", $12.95


  Buying Models
  Required Tools
  Preparing Your Miniatures
     Plastic Figures
     Filling Joints
  Preparing Metal Miniatures
  The Painting Process - Undercoatings
  Applying the Base Coat
  Mixing Exercises
     1) Flesh Tones
     2) Brown Tones
     3) Dark Greens
     4) Metallic Colors
  Shading/Painting Shadows
  Ink Washes and Glazes
  Drybrushing and Wash Project
  Painting Faces
  Painting Horses
     1) Bays
     2) Chestnuts
     3) Grays
     4) Browns
  Painting the Base
  Paint Manufacturers
  Ink Manufacturers
  Figure Manufacturers

I had bought the Grenadier Dragon Lords game last year, and decided to start with the dragon figures in that game. Using just the techniques described in the book, I now have six dragon figures that I am very pleased with. The detail is good, though not show-winning. [1997 update: they did win a show at a small convention in 1996!] It is nonetheless, better than I had ever thought I was capable of. When I showed them to a friend, who has run the miniatures painting contest at a convention for years, her response was, "Wow! You go right into advanced techniques, don't you!" I think this was because of the wash and drybrush techniques, which came out rather nicely, if I do say so myself.

The only thing I did that is not covered in the book is to strip the paint off of one figure and start over - I didn't like the way it looked. The book does not cover stripping paint off of figures, but I had read about household solvents on, so I used CitriSolv, which is what I have in the house for such purposes. It works great.

At this point, I felt ready for human figures. I next went to Western Gunslingers, since Desperado is one of my favorite games. I painted six at a time, and now have 12 gunslingers, enough for a great Desperado game. I think they're very good, and am very happy with everything but the eyes. Eyes are tough, as he admits in his book, so I'm still struggling with them. I tried his technique, but feel it makes the eyes too big for the face. On the other hand, I notice this seems to be the common style - most figures I've seen at convention painting contests have eyes too big for the scale. Otherwise, I think they look great.

Now I'm doing swashbucklers, and having great fun with the colors.

All in all, I recommend this book, at least to beginning painters. I'm very happy with my work, and can honestly say that they look a lot nicer than they would have had I just painted without any instruction at all.

Brushstrokes is available for $12.95 from:

G.L. Books
227 Hawthorne Drive
Oakdale, PA 15071
(412) 788-6358

Note: the above information was accurate in 1993 - I haven't checked it since then.

Disclaimer: I have no connection with Mr. Leitzell.

Updated note as of April, 2001: I'm told the phone number above doesn't work, sorry - I have no new contact information.

1997 Update: I'm still painting miniatures, and getting better at it. Still have trouble with eyes, but otherwise, and pleased and very glad I bought this book four years ago. I now have many more figures painted than when I wrote the review!

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