Scent of a Gamer

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3 Tips to reduce your unpainted pile

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.

22 comments on “3 Tips to reduce your unpainted pile

  1. theimperfectmodeller
    January 23, 2022

    Can’t fault the advice. Now where did I put my discipline? 😉

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Peter Holland
    January 23, 2022

    Great advice! Recently, as you in know, I’ve created a spreadsheet that will pick models from my pile of shame at random which I’m forcing myself to paint before moving on to another challenge. I’m also painting my Kruleboyz army which I have to have ready the end of March. Nothing like a deadline to get you painting!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Pingback: 3 Tips to reduce your unpainted pile | Woehammer

  4. redcaer1690
    January 23, 2022

    Great post: made some progress in 2021 but “ a little and often” would be my guide. You’d be surprised how the figure count goes up….

    Liked by 2 people

    • davekay
      January 23, 2022

      Very true! Something else that helped me was keeping my paints and models in progress in easy reach and being prepared to do some as many nights as possible, instead of waiting for a 3-hour painting block.

      Liked by 3 people

  5. Osric
    January 24, 2022

    The real question is: how many of those 100 were in the original 1,000…

    Liked by 3 people

    • davekay
      January 24, 2022

      Good question! After checking the spreadsheet the answer is… 48!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. maenoferren22
    January 24, 2022

    Sound advice for the three listed… for me, getting paint I like certainly helped. As you know I use Contrast paint and it has allowed me to get so much more done. Okay, they will never win any prizes, but it does mean I can slay the grey.

    Liked by 2 people

    • davekay
      January 24, 2022

      I have become a big fan of Contrast Paints over the past few months.

      Like

  7. Chris Kemp
    January 24, 2022

    My top tip is to browse an online catalogue, build an order, look at your existing unpainted stuff, then delete the order. Works for me every time 🙂

    Regards, Chris.

    Liked by 2 people

    • davekay
      January 24, 2022

      Looking at my unpainted collection kept me from buying both the limited edition Sisters of Battle box and the Blood Bowl 2020 box – that can definitely work!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Guru PIG
    January 24, 2022

    Great post.
    “It’s not one pile, it’s many smaller pile” – yep this is doable and basically how I work now.
    “Show off your painted, hide your unpainted” = excellent do this now!
    “Paint more, buy less” – are you kidding! We are all addicted to plastic and metal bright shiny stuff! The stl files is a good idea though.

    Liked by 1 person

    • davekay
      January 25, 2022

      Buying less has definitely been the key to progress for me, but it definitely hurt to let some releases pass me by.

      Like

  9. daggerandbrush
    January 24, 2022

    Very useful suggestions. I, too, like to have some painted models in my display case. Gives me the motivation to finish more. Having a dedicated work space also helps, but I need to clean it more often.

    Liked by 1 person

    • davekay
      January 25, 2022

      I cleaned my painting space over New Year, but you would barely know it now!

      Like

  10. Kuribo
    January 25, 2022

    These are great tips and as someone who is likely finally going to have a real backlog, I will be referring back to this article for ways to keep it under control! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • davekay
      January 25, 2022

      Thanks, I will definitely have more to share once I actually get all my models finished!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. The Solo Meeple
    January 29, 2022

    Good advice Dave – it’s the paint more, buy less, that catches me out every time!

    Liked by 1 person

    • davekay
      January 29, 2022

      In all honestly I think I found this harder than changing my habits to paint more often. Kickstarter and online shopping generally have made it very easy to acquire masses of minis.

      Liked by 1 person

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This entry was posted on January 23, 2022 by in blogging, Miniatures, Painting & Modelling, Writing and tagged , .
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