How to stay motivated at painting

One of the things that a lot of people talk about when it comes to painting miniatures is motivation. A lot of people want to get miniatures painted, but find themselves lacking in the motivation department and as a result, end up with grey unpainted miniatures on the tabletop week after week. Personally, I’m hooked on painting to the point that I start getting the jitters if I go on vacation for a week and don’t bring some paints, so the idea that I lack motivation may be a little odd. However, I do occasionally find myself in a little rut with my painting or end up with a project that I have trouble bringing myself to start.


When you’re this hooked on something, you don’t need motivation…

So, without any further ado, here’s some stuff that I have found helps with painting motivation.

1. Try New Things

Variety is the spice of life, and doing the same thing over and over is boring, which is why working on an assembly line gets real old real fast. If you’re getting bored with painting, perhaps you need to mix things up a little?

This can be done in a number of ways. You can take a break from painting an army in all its uniform colours and paint something like a mercenary model or just a random figure that you kind of want to paint as a palate cleanser. Or, you can mix in things like vehicles, warjacks, and special character models in between all your mook infantry wardudes. Or, within similar models, you can try new techniques.

Trying new techniques is also how you improve as a painter. Maybe this next model could be your attempt at learning two-brush blending, or non-metallic metal, or a new type of weathering or basing, or just some sort of new technique that would be good to add to your arsenal. This advice isn’t limited to aspiring competition painters either; even if you are just painting to play, there are plenty of techniques you can try out which will help you pump out better models faster. Things like rattle can tricks, new dry-brushing techniques, or sketch style are all simple techniques that cater to people trying to speedpaint an army. Or, you can try out new products such Army Painter’s colour-matching primers, or textured acrylic mediums for basing instead of sand.

2. Know your limits when assembly-lining

In most large-scale wargames, you have to paint a lot of mooks to fill out your army. While it can be tempting to line up 30 or 40 infantry models and paint them assembly line style, having too long of an assembly line can actually be detrimental to your motivation and result in you taking longer to finish the project. It’s pretty easy to get bored when you need to paint 80 boots, then 40 pairs of pants, then 40 tunics, 40 guns, and so on. Further, by doing it this way, you’re delaying those wonderful moments of satisfaction when you call a miniature finished, take a deep breath, and put it in its rightful place on your shelf or in your army case.

Yes, sometimes you have to just put your head down and get a lot of models done. I know that feeling; I’ve painted more than enough Man-O-Wars over the past several weeks to seriously need a break from steam-powered, heavily armoured medium-based Warmachine models. But I also know that while it is theoretically more efficient to make a big assembly line, my limit is about ten or twelve models at a time, and even less for very intricate models like my Necromunda gang. More than that, and I’ll have to split them up and finish a few at a time to prevent myself from going crazy. Not to mention that it starts taking up a lot of room on my painting table.

3. Manage your WIP

Speaking of having too many models on the painting table, managing your work in progress is a good idea. By this, I mean making sure you have the right number of painting projects on the go.

If you have only one thing on your desk, then that can help you focus and get it done, but it can also delay your progress. There are a lot of steps in miniature painting which involve waiting for something to dry, so if you only have one thing on the go, you’ll end up sitting there twiddling your thumbs while the wash dries, or more realistically, booting up some video game and then not coming back to it for the rest of the night. Or, there are times when you just mentally get stuck and can’t look at that one thing anymore, and you can take a break from it by working on something else.

So, it is good to have at least two projects on the go at any given time, but much more than that and you can start running into issues. Having too many on the go will clog your paint desk, and you may lose efficiency switching from one to the other all the time. Further, it can be a demotivator – when you have seven things to do, even just deciding which one to do first can be stressful and prevent you from doing any one of them.



This is why my FLGS doesn’t accept credit cards.

4. Manage your backlog


This is related to managing your WIP. I made the laughable resolution last year that I was going to end the year with fewer unpainted miniatures than I started.

Again, this is related to the idea that having too much on the go can demotivate you. When you have a whole shelf full of unpainted miniatures, it looks like a monumental, if not Sisyphean, task to finish them all. Further, it can be hard even deciding which ones to paint, as any time you pull one model off the shelf to paint, you’re forgoing getting dozens of others painted.

While I don’t always pass my will save on the “purchase something shiny and new” check, one thing I do to manage my backlog is to avoid assembling and priming my models until I’m close to painting them. This way, with them still in their boxes, they aren’t sitting on my shelf, staring at me, begging with their cold, grey, lifeless eyes for some paint.

5. Set yourself up for success

A little while ago, I rearranged my painting desk. The big change was that I placed my portable spray booth for my airbrush on top of my desk and left it there. The result of that was that I now use my airbrush more, and because I’m using the best tool for the job, I’m more productive.

Sometimes, just making it easier to start your painting session makes you more likely to paint. If you have to clear off room on your kitchen table, pull out your models, pull out all your paints and brushes, get your paint water, and so on and so forth just to start painting, then you’re not likely to start painting because it’s easier to just boot up a video game and waste your whole evening doing that.

While not everyone has the luxury of having a permanent workstation where their works in progress can sit there undisturbed by pets and toddlers, the less you have to do to get started painting, the better. If you can get yourself a painting table, do it. And while you’re at it, set yourself up with a workstation where everything you need is within arm’s reach. This way, you don’t get distracted or lose your motivation because you have to get up and walk all the way across the room.

6. Do a little each day

The #hobbystreak tag, where people post what they’ve done each day on the painting front and try to get the longest streaks has been popular since late last year. Some people are up to 250 by now, which I don’t think even I could match. However, it is a great motivator to at least do a little each day. Not everyone can commit to hours-long painting sessions, but if you can squeeze in even a half hour before you go to bed and make painting part of your routine, you’re going to get a lot more done and you’re going to be less likely to lose motivation.

7. Celebrate small victories

When you finally bang through that unit of a dozen or more, you should celebrate that. Bask in that warm feeling of accomplishment. Take a picture, post it on the internet, and show your friends – you might even motivate them to paint, or get some valuable pointers. Maybe even reward yourself, such as buying yourself something like a new paint or basing product that you’ve been eyeing, or paint yourself a model that you’ve been wanting to paint but doesn’t fit in your current army project.

8. Join leagues and groups which promote painting

Extrinsic motivation is good, and leagues and the like can be a way to incorporate that into your gaming. I once was part of a league where you would get experience points for a model which could be used to purchase upgrades for one of your models on the table. As a result, I got Alexia and the Risen – a character model, a couple solos, and about 20 zombies – painted and my insanely powerful Marauder put the hurt on a lot of fools on the tabletop. Things like journeyman or slow-grow leagues which incorporate a painting reward are great for a community because they motivate people to get their stuff painted.

Alternately, there are plenty of groups online where miniature painters can challenge and motivate each other and celebrate each other’s work. There is the aforementioned #hobbystreak tag, but also there are things like the monthly Warmachine/Hordes painting challenges and various facebook groups where painters work to challenge each other.

9. #playitpainted

When it comes to Warmachine, I think it’s been over a year since I fielded my last unpainted model. Nothing motivates quite like a hard deadline, and if you really want motivation to get your models done, commit to only playing it painted. I’ve written before on why it’s good to play painted, but one thing I didn’t touch on is that if you tell yourself that you’ll only play with painted models and you have a new army list that you want to play, that’s going to motivate you to get them done. Especially if there’s a tournament coming up that you want to play that army in.


Motivation is a fickle thing – sometimes you have it and sometimes you don’t. And part of the reason why I’m writing this article right now is that my motivation to paint yet another Man-O-War is flagging a little. However, there are a lot of things you can do to help keep yourself from falling into a rut and falling behind in the ongoing war against the unpainted grey horde. Just rearranging your workstation and committing to painting a little bit each day can help with motivation and get your armies done in no time.

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