This first entry in the Tools of the Trade series will discuss brushes, toothpicks, sharpies, and hobby knives. There are still many more tools to talk about, so I will post another entry in this series soon.
I used to always use the cheap Testors brushes that come in a 3-pack for about a dollar. They last forever, and they don’t shed very much. Recently I switched over to some sable haired brushes. They are double the price, but I think they help the paint go on smoother. Plus they make some ridiculously small sizes that are great for small details. You can clean them with just water, but I learned to use both soap and water and to reshape the point of the brush, otherwise it would get permanently frizzy.
I have several larger brushes for painting large areas, such as 3″ minimates. You should choose a brush size that is appropriate for the area you are painting in order to minimize the appearance of brush strokes. I have five or six tiny brushes for fine details. These brushes do not hold very much paint, so its important to “reload” often. You don’t want to run dry halfway through a nice crisp line. I have one 1/4″ square brush as well. These brushes work really well for doing straight lines across a minimate body.
I use toothpicks for all the details that are too small for a brush to handle. It is hard to do straight lines with them, because they don’t hold very much paint at all. They are better for doing eyes, teeth, and highlights. It is hard to judge how much paint is on the toothpick. Sometimes I need to use a sharpie to clean up the edges of details I have made using toothpicks. The best part is that toothpicks are the cheapest tool you will ever find.
If you paint everything by hand, a sharpie is a must. Someday I might make the jump into using decals, but for now the sharpie is my main source for the lines on my customs. Specifically its an Ultra-Fine Point Sharpie. Accept no substitutes. These are fairly cheap at $8 a dozen, and they are reliable for about 5 or 6 customs each. Then they start to get gummed up, and they never work as well again. At this point I usually toss them and grab a fresh one, otherwise your lines aren’t as crisp any more.
Sometimes I will use a ruler, or any straight edge, along with the sharpie when drawing long straight lines. If you are drawing faces, the lines you will get are going to be a little thicker than the lines on factory painted minimates. However, if you make very quick, light strokes it is possible to get these thinner lines. The problem with sharpies is that the ink fades in sunlight over time. I keep my minimates out of the sun now, but I have had to re-do some of my older customs because of this.
I use hobby knives for helping shape clay when I am sculpting, modifying existing minimate pieces, and shave down the mold lines on the front of minimates legs before I paint them. You can even use them to remove paint details on minimates if you are very careful. Also, if I am supergluing two pieces together, I will scratch both sides with a knife to make the bond stronger.
I have a kit with about a dozen different blade shapes, but I use the one pictured above the most often. After about a year the blade starts to get dull, so I replace it then. My mother-in-law is a nurse, and she got a few scalpels for me to try. These are even sharper than a hobby knife, but they broke really easily. You can also use box openers, but their bulky size makes them harder to use on something as small as a minimate.
Remember these knives are all very sharp, so stay safe!