Once I decided to take the plunge and paint my game miniatures, the intimidation of actually doing it kept me away a bit longer.  Even after my trusted painting community recommended the Reaper Bones: Learn to Paint Kit (complete with paints, brushes, and practice minis), it took me a week to build up the courage to touch that first bit of paint to plastic.  So this kit review comes to you from someone not previously experienced in painting but from someone who learned to paint with it.

Is This Kit For You?

What’s most appealing about this kit for first-time painters is the practice miniatures included.  The best thing a new painter can do is start painting, but the thought of destroying your precious miniatures will keep you away, forever.  I believe the models included in the kit were chosen rather well for their size and simplicity and the walkthrough instructions are systematic in bringing you through some basic skills.  In that regard, I would say the kit progression is intentional and not merely random practice miniatures selected from their inventory.

What Do You Learn?

The skeleton archer gets painted first and begins with developing techniques rather than concerning you with model details.  By the time you get to add different colors, you have already painted most of the figure and you’re eager to see some variation.  It’s important you pay attention to how base coating, washing, and drybrushing changes your miniature’s look.  It’s a fairly quick process with this model which makes it super fun and rewarding.

The format transitions from the skeleton’s step-by-step walkthrough to a general color and mixing guide for the orc marauder and armored knight.  This is where I began to realize that each model might need a different approach.  I might not be so heavy handed with dry-brushing or I might finish with washing instead of highlights depending on the current piece.  So I began asking questions.  That’s the second thing I’d say this kind of process provides:  knowing what to ask is critical for knowing how to improve (I’ll provide some of my personal experiences at the end of the review if you would like to get a feel for how I waded through the beginning stages of this craft).

I believe the kit does what it sets out to do.  It is definitely not an advanced painting guide or an exhaustive take on various methods, but it will get you painting.  And speaking as someone with very little artistic experience, it felt good.  In addition to the kit, Reaper has some great articles on their website that are extremely helpful for going beyond the tutorial that may end up referenced in future logs.

What Comes In The Kit?

  • The 11 paints needed to walk through the tutorial
  • The 3 models featured above
  • 2 brushes – #2 flat brush and #0 round brush
  • Well illustrated (color) tutorial guide
  • Hard plastic case with foam insert and extra storage for more paints.

Like what you are hearing so far? Buy it here!

Final Thoughts

All in all I would say the experience I had was great and I believe I’ve enough confidence to try my hand at something that will make it to the table. If you are like me – you want to paint and you’re too intimidated to paint – I highly recommend getting this kit. I will say, however, once you start feeling good about your skills it’s hard to finish the tutorial. Painting practice miniatures is not very exciting. Do it anyway, and maybe pick up a couple more practice models. You’ll save yourself some heartache in the long run.

Examples From My Experience

I noticed when areas lack texture (like the orc’s sword blade and shield front) brush strokes are more noticeable. This makes your model look “painted.” This can be avoided by laying multiple thin coats instead of trying to get it covered with one thicker coat. Dry-brushing on these large, smooth surfaces can also look a bit splotchy if you hit it too hard with the brush.

Washing can really darkened the whole model. For the skeleton and the orc it looked good, the colors blended into shadows rather well. I really like how the contours grabbed the wash and even blended some of the splotchy dry-brushing. I even added more wash after dry-brushing the orc to cover some of the hard blemishes. So naturally, I washed the armored knight and another practice model the same way which did not turn out so well. I didn’t predict the way some of the paint would pool or how the contrast between my different reds would be less noticeable. I was fairly impatient and a little heavy-handed with the wash, and looking back I should have been more intentional with this step.

Painting metallics, while not too different, have their own nuanced way of leaving the brush and diluting them with water didn’t work as well as a flow-improver.

As I painted the knight, I started thinking more about my brush control and what order to lay the paint down. I also began experimenting with my own color schemes (which is why my knight doesn’t look like the one from the instruction book).

This was the second attempt at the knight (I re-ordered it from their website). I ruined the first knight by trying out a primer bought at the hardware store. Reaper Bones do not need primers but I wanted to try it out anyway. Lesson learned: Rustoleum primer for plastics is a bad move. The rubbery, wet feeling that never went away was due to a synthetic sealer added to the formula. It would leave fingerprints after you held it, even several days after the primer was applied. I didn’t attempt to paint it. So there’s one primer you can cross off your list.

In addition to the items in the kit, I used a plastic pallet for my paints, a couple of disposable cups filled with water, paper towels, some good lighting, and a brush soap called Pink Soap. You’ll also need dish soap to wash the models before you get started.