Relevant To Your Interests: You, Too, Can Paint Minis for Gaming and Escapism

This past Christmas I received a kit that teaches you how to paint miniatures for Dungeons and Dragons games. It includes step-by-step instructions for three different miniatures, brushes, paints and everything you need to get started. I got hooked pretty quickly. It was so relaxing to basically paint-by-numbers in 3D. I even forgot about Trump while dry-brushing!  AND doing this makes my game prettier, which isn’t something we desperately need (I made cute little minis out of bottle caps), but is something that’s certainly nice and fulfilling. Even if you’re not a gamer, nothing says you can’t paint a dragon mini just because you want one on your desk. Or hell, just because you want to paint one. So without further ado, here’s a few recommendations regarding beginning to paint miniatures!

*A quick note on scale—I used 25mm and 28mm fairly interchangeably, but that might bother some of you! If it does, please pay attention to the scale of items in this post.

Getting Started

Here’s the kit that I got for Christmas: Bones Learn to Paint Kit, $35.42. And here’s a sort of level 2 kit that looks really fun: Layer Up Kit, $35.99. And here’s a thing I’m ordering literally right now: Helping Hands (with a damn helpful attached magnifying glass), $6.94.

Build a Force of Skeletons

The easiest miniature I’ve painted so far is a Reaper Bones Skeleton Archer. They’re pretty much all one color! And skeletons are, if you’re using these for gaming, one of those things you need a force of in order to challenge a party of players. So for some low-stakes practice, I highly recommend building a skeleton force. 3 pack of skeleton archers, $8.45. 3 pack of skeleton swordspeople, $8.04. 3 pack of skeleton spearpeople, $7.75.

Apologies for the lack of quality photos of these! Here’s a wee tiny shot of the wee skeleton archer I painted as penance:

Branch Out: Animals, Monsters, People

All sorts of beings might show up in your games! Or just on your desk because they’re adorable! Kobolds, set of 6, $5.96. Young fire dragon, $8.65. Familiars, set of 6 (includes a very cute weasel looking thing!), $5.02. Michelle, the Human Ranger, $6.72.

Pro-tip: if you’re having trouble finding lady miniatures that aren’t half naked (not that there’s anything wrong with that, you do you, it can just feel very male gaze-y), Oathsworn makes a “sensible shoes” line, wherein ladies are in armor that actually protects their bodies! Or, if you have a really specific idea of what your character looks like, you can always design your own at Hero Forge.

Wee Little Furniture!

It’s not just things to battle with! There’s also things to battle on and around! And sometimes they’re adorable tiny bookcases like the one I’m painting right now! Here’s a few other really adorable wee tiny furniture situations: 23 piece tavern set, $19.95. Bubbling cauldron, $7.95. Wee tiny Tudor house set with a wee tiny hanging sign and everything, gosh, the cutest, I love the small furniture, $55.

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A.E. Osworth

A.E. Osworth is part-time Faculty at The New School, where they teach undergraduates the art of digital storytelling. Their novel, We Are Watching Eliza Bright, about a game developer dealing with harassment (and narrated collectively by a fictional subreddit), is forthcoming from Grand Central Publishing (April 2021) and is available for pre-order now. They have an eight-year freelancing career and you can find their work on Autostraddle (where they used to be the Geekery Editor), Guernica, Quartz, Electric Lit, Paper Darts, Mashable, and drDoctor, among others.

A.E. has written 542 articles for us.


  1. I made the mistake of getting into a Bones Miniatures Kickstarter a while back and am now buried in minis. SO many to paint! I love almost every RPG I have played and minis are so helpfully when it comes to clarifying where things are. *and are a blast to paint*
    RPG’s are such a great escape and have been a big part of my small life for as long as I can remember. :)

    • Omg, Shelby, I should’ve KNOWN you were gonna be the first commenter on this one. RPG nerds UNITE.

  2. Love it!

    Can’t do it myself (Parkinson’s like tremor isn’t small detail friendly) but I love seeing what people do with their own minis.

  3. Awesome!!! I love painting minis. I got into it as a tiny 13 year old baby gay who discovered a flyer of Warhammer Fantasy miniatures and drooled over them for weeks. They were massively overpriced but I got them anyway.

    I mostly paint minis for d&d now, because I don’t actually like warhammer that much and d&d is just bloody awesome. My favourite miniature company is red box: they make some really gorgeous minis, including very sensibly armored women.
    Recently I also got into making terrain for d&d from scratch. There is a very active community of DMs who do this on youtube and facebook, and channels like DM Scotty and Drunkens and Dragons are great sources of how-tos and terrain inspiration.

    I am literally making a blog right now to show my minis and terrain on just because this article got me excited to share it with the world. Here it is:

  4. If I start I’ll be sucked in and end up overdoing it in glorious fashion (then regret nothing). Basically like coming out!

  5. This is so relevant to my interests it’s a little eerie. Yesterday I re-attached the neck of my dragon best-friend-and-ranger’s companion Wellesley, using my brand new <a href=""Daylight Naturalight (not where I got it from, and actually a lot cheaper than I paid, darn you conversion). It is incredible to see! I’m debating stripping the paint off of my Ranger and my dragon and redoing it, since I didn’t clear coat them enough and they’re both chipping a little.

    I’m also annoyed at myself that I was too intimidated by the Euro to take the plunge on these miniature holders for painting. What I’m using (sticky tack and elastic bands on old pill bottles weighted down with pennies) doesn’t work super great. Oh well!

    I also got involved with a bones kickstarter, the one that they are waiting on the few last containers now before they can start fulfilling. I am going to have so many minis to paint, I will have to figure out a way to display some of them. :DDDD

    Games look a lot more fun when things are painted!

    I was trying to glue together a warmachine mini yesterday (I am playing an Iron Kingdoms game, so I only needed to buy a figure to represent my character and not an army, good lord those would be expensive!) and I could NOT get the darn thing to glue.

    Did some research, found out that really I should probably be pinning everything anyway. Already had a pin vice (because of course I did) and some pins, though I should go and buy a bunch of paperclips or something, softer metal would be nice. Drilled the holes, which was terribly nerve wracking, and managed to get the superglue to glue ONE side of the pin, but damn if that metal tail wants to stay on the resin body. I’m going to pick up some glue that fills thicker gaps today… Before I go and play my monthly D&D game.

    Also I might have downloaded an educational version of Maya to try to learn to model again, because my character in this game is a Wolfkin, a wolf person race my DM made up. She’s not very aggressive, which was a problem for something usually used as an enemy. (Poor Ashe, she’s not so growly! I do like the model that my DM found, Zoe the Golden retriever ranger from Dark Sword but Ashe has pointy ears.

    I also want to model a friend of mine’s character. She is a fish, like… A slayers fish. That’s actually not what the race looks like in game, but it is too perfect for how she plays the character. I really want to have her with her beloved grappling hook in one hand, and some sort of ice magic in the other.

    ALSO NOW I NEED TO GO AND MAKE SCONES, no modeling learning today whoops. Too much nerding out on Autostraddle! (hopefully those links worked)

    • I don’t know if I can edit once comments are out of moderation? But I forgot to mention that, for Wellesley, I was not happy with any of the little dragon models out there. I wound up buying to, snipping the head and neck off of both, and using the snakier neck on one of the models. Then I filed down his stomach to give him more of a ribcage>waist thing, rather than the chunk he had going on.

      What I’m saying is that you can also modify or convert your miniatures to get what you need.

      Okay really now I need to go and make scones. Mmmmm buttermilk scones.

  6. This is SO relevant to my interests! I, too, have recently gotten into mini painting, and find it to be wonderful for stress relief. I am also working on a skeleton army! :)

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