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Apostates of the Purple Cowl: Speed and batch painting practice

The gentleman whom I have commissioned to paint nearly all of my miniatures since embarking on this hobby in 2016 has had to reluctantly retire. He's about my age (around 50), but his rheumatoid arthritis has worsened in the past year to the point that he can no longer paint straight or fast, much to both our sadness. A pile of lead he has been hoping to get to for almost a year as he waited to see if his condition would improve is going to be returned unpainted.

I'll confess that there are many things I love about this hobby, but painting figures is not one of them, ironically (assembling multi-part plastic figures from sprues ranks below that). I love owning and playing with beautifully painted figures, but I have such deficits in time, patience, and skill that I would have been more than happy to keep paying my commission painter to paint the hundreds of miniatures I've been stockpiling since falling in love with miniatures gaming. He painted to a standard with which I was happy for a price I could readily afford. 

Knowing that he won't be easily replaced, I've decided that I need to get over my reluctance and start to school myself in painting these miniatures. Because I don't love painting for the sake of it, a decent tabletop standard will be all I ever achieve, but I do want to hone my skill at speed and batch painting. I had a decent experiment in these areas when I painted a large group of 1/72nd scale lizardmen earlier in the year. When the Kickstarter arrived for my Dark Shadow Cultists a few weeks ago, I decided they were simple enough in design to be an ideal candidate for more speed and batch painting practice. 

In the end I spent about 10 hours in total painting these 19 figures (not including priming and basing on clear acrylic), which works out to around 30 minutes a figure. That's a speed I can live with, though I hope to get faster with practice.

For now I've dubbed them the Apostates of the Purple Cowl. Maybe the name will spark some narrative ideas for working them into games as recurring villains. I really do like how characterful some of the sculpts are. I believe a few of these started out in the Otherworld Miniatures line (which I adore despite being too expensive), and I think Dark Fable Miniatures acquired and expanded the line with a few more miniatures.

I also tried a technique new to me and primed these using the zenithal method with rattle cans (no airbrush for me yet). I started with a black primer and then followed up from above and at a downward angle with a white primer. I actually think it made a difference, creating some natural highlights on raised areas. I also used my wet palette for the first time, and it made a difference in exactly the ways it's designed to: it kept my paints from thickening while I was working, and it allowed me to keep using the palette for several days while I picked away at trying to finish painting these miniatures with little snatches of time throughout the week. are my 19 cultists with which to plot foul rites and harass the less guileful.

I'll likely move on to my gladiator project next. That's going to require speed/batch painting about 40 gladiators and another 30 spectators. Wish me luck! (I'm going to need it.)


And don't forget, more details for Scrum Con 2020 will be announced soon. Sign up for the registration announcement email at!


  1. Joe they look great! 30 minutes per figure is excellent speed too. Looking forward to seeing your gladiators next.

    1. Thanks, John! As always, your opinion in these matters means a lot to me!

  2. I"m an army painter (because I have to paint them, not because I really enjoy painting...). I do simple block painting, followed by the classic, The Dip Technique. Your painting is far, far above my level. I average 10 minutes per figure, organizing them by pose, repeating the same brush-stroke on each figure. I suggest you try simple block painting, followed by classic Dip technique, using Royal Walnut Minwax urethane-stain. Put your test Dip figure on the table, at normal gaming distance, next to your 30-minutes figures. Be honest with yourself, and compare them. I can't justify painting my figures to a higher standard, even though I am capable of it. But, I paint armies, so YMMV. I have more than 1,000 25mm-28mm miniature figures in more than a dozen different armies. I could not have so many, if I painted to a 30-minute standard. Try it, to see if it is really worth your time, to spend 30 minutes on each figure. If it is, keep truckin' on! If not, try a few more test figures, with simple block painting and The Dip. Cheers!

    1. Thanks for the tips! I've heard of that technique before, and if I was painting armies, it would seem like the way to go. But at this point I'm almost exclusively playing skirmish games, and so probably won't explore the full-on dip approach just yet.

  3. Lovely finish, very nice job all round! I also prime black but I then dry brush white with a dirty big brush,it gives me a bit more control than spraying white and doesn't take that much time. Everything else is done with washes which works surprisingly well and is pretty rapid.
    You might like to have a look at GW new contrast paints which are a bit like paint and dip mixed together which you paint onto a white or off white primer, meant to be faster than block and dip. I enjoy painting the figures but I still want to get my armies done!
    Best Iain

    1. Thanks, Iain...just after painting these I saw somebody else who uses the technique you describe. Very likely how I'll tackle my next batch paint job. I've been wanting to get my hands on some of the GW contrast paints to see what I think. Lots of folks have been recommending them for batch painting, so I'll definitely be exploring that option, too.

  4. For someone who says they don't enjoy painting, that's sterling work. As for the speed...let's just say that I've finished 33 miniatures/terrain pieces this year.

    1. Thanks, Mikko! Very much appreciate the kind words. If you've enjoyed painting those 33 minutes, then time well spent! I don't hate painting minis, but I'd rather be gaming than painting!

  5. Good stuff, Joe. I like the detail on the figures. I'm curious to see a set of the army miniatures Sgt. Slag mentioned, above. I painted a very small Civil War soldier set and "blank" electric football team sets when I was a kid, so I get a sense of what you're dealing with, but I knew nothing of technique and went at my miniatures from years ago with model paint and ceramic paint. Anyway... it's always a treat to read about what you're up to.

    1. Thanks, Mike. I always love knowing you're out there reading this stuff. Strange the twists and turns our lives take, eh? Hope you and yours are all well, dear friend!


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