There’s no denying that painting has always been a massive part of the tabletop hobby. I often see messages from fans on social media saying they don’t play our games (they definitely should!); they simply buy them so they can paint our excellent minis! (And yes, that’s our own trumpet well-and-truly blown).
Jess from PaintSlam recently got her teeth stuck into painting the ferocious Fireclaw from our Horizon Zero Dawn board game with this amazing 'How-To' painting guide. We thought it would be the perfect opportunity for a deep dive on everything involved in the world of painting!
Hey Jess! Thanks for chatting to us today. So, first things first: how did you come to join the wonderful tabletop world?
I was introduced to the world of tabletop gaming in the mid '90s. Well, beyond the usual "Snakes and Ladders" types of games, at least! I had a Primary School friend who collected Warhammer models – back when pretty much everything was made of lead. I was fascinated by the miniatures and the hobby aspects, as well as the way they worked as a game. We spent many a happy evening painting models and having adventures at his dining room table!
Over the following years, I started to amass my own collection of boxed games and miniatures, which I played with my brother. Of course, back then it was pretty much all from the one hobby shop in my local town, so the choice was fairly limited.
Tell us about your work as a painter. What's the most rewarding part of what you do?
After I was made redundant in 2015, I decided to try going self-employed as a freelance miniature painter. It's definitely a bit tougher than I expected – sometimes you do have to really battle through a job even if you've lost your "hobby mojo", and it can be hard to find work some months.
But I don't regret my choice. My hobby is my job now, which is great fun! It means I've had the opportunity to get hands-on with a huge range of models that I might not have discovered otherwise. The first SFG product I painted was also a commission - a team from Guild Ball!
Time for a tricky one! Which do you enjoy more: painting or playing?
I'm definitely more of a painter than a player! I'm actually a very shy and reserved person in real life, so I find it a bit difficult to get out there and play games and socialise, especially for any length of time. For me, painting is my escape from the real world. It lets me focus in on my own little bubble and lose myself for a few hours at a time. I guess you could say my paint station is my actual "comfort zone"!
I do enjoy gaming with close friends in moderation, though I can burn out quite quickly. I feel most comfortable gaming with close friends in a private space, rather than a gaming hall or store.
You seem like a real fan of our Horizon Zero Dawn minis (if we do say so ourselves)! What do you like about them?
I love how they capture the spirit of the in-game creatures so well. They're big, impressive miniatures that look equally at home on a game board or on a shelf as a display piece.
I also really appreciate how they're either completely pre-assembled or have a few push-fit parts too, meaning you can open the boxes up and immediately get into the action. It feels like a lot of games out there these days take hours and hours to build before you can even think of playing a game!
(The Fireclaw in its pre-painted form)
What do you look for in a mini when you embark on a new painting project?
If I'm painting for myself, I like to keep my projects varied. So, usually, I'll jump into a new project that's completely unlike the last one. For example, if I've just painted something heavily-armoured with a sci-fi theme, I'll go for something fantasy-themed – something organic with lots of interesting natural materials and aspects. One of the keys to stay motivated is having a wide range of minis to enjoy!
I just finished painting an amazing cyber-bear, the Fireclaw from Horizon Zero Dawn, so a perfect model for me to paint next would a fantasy creature from D&D. In fact, I might just dig into one of the Epic Encounters sets next. That Frost Giant has been taunting me from the shelf for a while now.
How do you bring minis based on characters from video games to life?
I adore painting models based on my favourite games. When tackling these types of miniatures I like to go through the artwork from that game – cover art, screenshots, concept art, whatever I can look at – to inspire me and inform my colour choices. I want them to look like they've just popped out of the screen onto the tabletop! This can also manifest in the basing as well as the actual painting.
For example, on the Fireclaw I went for a rough wilderness base with patches of white snow to reflect the Frozen Wilds where the beastie roams.
You’re stuck on a desert island. Which book, film, and TV series do you take with you?
Oh gosh, that's a question, isn't it? I think I'd take the original The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy as my book. The misadventures of Arthur Dent and his journey into space remains one of my all-time favourite reads.
My film choice would be Back To The Future. It's been a firm favourite of mine ever since I was a kid. Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd are fantastic in that film, with amazing on-screen chemistry. Can I be cheeky and bring the trilogy with me?
My TV choice would also be sci-fi: I'd take Red Dwarf with me. Even though I can pretty much quote my way through every episode of the first six series, it still cracks me up. I'll always have the time to sit down and watch Lister, Kryten, Rimmer, Cat, and Holly get into deep smeg!
Thinking about it, sci-fi comedy really is my favourite genre for just about everything. I just can't get enough of it.
And finally, big question... What’s your favourite mini you've ever painted?
Those who know me won't be surprised by this, but it's my classic '90s Wood Elf Forest Dragon from Warhammer Fantasy. The Wood Elves were my first real army project and my "hook" into the hobby that took me from 'interested' to 'fully invested'. I've loved the green noodle dragon ever since I first laid eyes on it, with the elven lord sat atop with shield and spear. It might look a little dated to modern eyes, but to me it's just the perfect miniature and it's my most treasured piece.
Thanks for your time Jess!
About Horizon Zero Dawn
Horizon Zero Dawn the video game was created by Guerrilla Games and launched on PS4 in 2017 to mass acclaim (The Frozen Wilds expansion was released in November of that year). Since launch the game has sold over 20 million copies, with the sequel, Horizon Forbidden West, released in 2022. There have been numerous comic book releases and a Netflix TV Series is also in the works. The game follows Aloy, a hunter living in a world overrun by machines, who sets out to discover the truth of her past. We released the widely heralded board game in late 2021.