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Do you remember a time when you had a manageable number of figures to paint? I know I don’t! I started in the hobby by splurging on several hundred figures, which I then set about figuring out how to paint. More than 30 years later, I am still going. Call me Sisyphus.
What I want to do here is share three tips that have helped me reduce my unpainted pile from over 1,000 at the end of 2018, to fewer than 100 now.
It’s not one pile, it’s many smaller piles
First, in spite of the title of that piece, don’t think of it as one mountainous pile. Wear away a mountain with a paint brush? It can’t be done! Instead divide your models into armies, themes, types, whatever it takes to create a group of smaller, manageable projects which you can focus on and which provide a sense of completion.
Give yourself lots of goalposts to hit, not just one. Painted those 32 dark age archers? Goal met! Painted every zombie you own? Goal met! Printed and painted all the figures from last month’s Patreon delivery? Goal met! Celebrate your smaller victories along the way to your larger goal and you’ll find this works great for motivation.
Show off your painted, hide your unpainted
If they aren’t at your painting station, unpainted models should not be seen. This may seem like an obvious one, and maybe it is. For years this is exactly what I was doing. My painted miniatures were all in drawers, boxes, and cases. My unpainted miniatures were visible as a sea of undercoated models atop a layers of grey sprues. Not very motivating.
Hiding your unpainted models is easy enough, pick a room, alcove, or cupboard and stick your boxes, sprues and assembled but not painted models in there. If you want to be more organised by all means sort them first. Keeping a count of progress towards your goal will keep you aware of these models, but there’s no need to hit yourself in the face with them every time you sit down to paint or play.
After hiding your unpainted models, keep your recently painted models somewhere you can see them. Maybe you don’t have room to display every model you have ever painted – I know I don’t! – but keeping even a dozen or so where you can see them can be encouraging when you sit down to paint the next ones. Display as many as you reasonably can – especially the ones you are happiest with.
Paint more, buy less
If you think of painting models as reducing a pile, it makes sense not to build that pile up faster than you are reducing it. Right? Easy to say, but sometimes harder to do. There are always those ‘limited release’ boxes to tug on the FOMO muscles. Dialling back on the impulse buys is one way to keep progressing – paint more than you buy and that pile will reduce. Another option is to give up physical miniatures for digital ones.
A benefit of buying .stl files over physical models is that it allows you to control your own supply. Files don’t take up any physical space, and you can print just enough to keep you going, without having a sea of grey staring back at you every time you visit that cupboard.
Buying less is fine, but painting more can be harder. Here it’s about trying to keep the models you are currently working on and you paints as close to hand as possible. Identify any activities you can reduce or give up in order to focus more on painting.
Organising your model collection into a list of projects is one thing, reorganising your life to allow more time for painting can be the bigger challenge. I focused on cutting down the mostly invisible time I was spending on social media and other websites and using that time to paint instead. The other bonus was seeing fewer cool new models to trigger that buying impulse.
Those are my three tips for wearing down the pile. What are some tips that have worked for you over the years? I would love to hear them, as my pile isn’t gone yet!
A version of this article was originally published at MyMiniFactory.