There’s no denying that board games with miniatures can be a fairly expensive hobby, especially if you tend to prefer games that require a lot of miniatures to even begin playing. But forget about buying the miniatures themselves: how much does it cost to paint them?
Frankly, it depends. Are you doing it yourself? If so, you could easily paint dozens of miniatures for under $10. If you are paying someone else to do it, that can fluctuate as well, because different painters and businesses are going to charge different rates based on their own criteria.
Of course, we understand that such an answer may be a little vaguer than you were hoping for. Don’t worry: we’re going to break down what types of factors go into pricing, and what prices you can generally expect.
DIY Vs. Outsourced Painting
Naturally, there’s a pretty big difference between doing something yourself and paying someone else to do it. But what actually goes into the cost estimates of the two options? Well, allow us to explain.
Painting the Miniatures Yourself
We’re going to give it to you straight: it will always be cheaper to paint your own miniatures as opposed to paying someone else to do it. That’s because, when you pay someone else to do it, you are paying for their time just as much as their skill. Naturally, you don’t have to pay for your own time.
Believe it or not, painting your own miniatures can actually be pretty affordable. High-quality craft paints, such as Ceramcote, are only $1.50 at the full price per two-ounce bottle and are often on sale for even cheaper. That means you could buy five different colors for less than $10. You’d have to buy your own sable or camel brushed too, but those are still quite cheap.
Of course, there are also “official” paints like Reaper, Vallejo, and The Army Painter. Supposedly, these are the best paints available for miniatures, of unmatched quality: and they are also much more expensive. These official, professional paints can be as expensive as $4 per half-ounce bottle. Yikes!
Now, are these official miniature paints better than the cheaper kind like Ceramcote? Yeah, probably. But are they so much better, that you can justify spending nearly four times as much money for a quarter of the paint? That comes down to personal preference and your own budget. We recommend trying many brands to find your preferred paint.
We recommend The Army Painter Miniature Painting Kit if you are planning on painting your army yourself. It is the most comprehensive starter collection which includes 50 war paints. It’s excellent quality and non-toxic.
Rough Price Range of DIY Miniature Painting
So, how much does it cost to paint miniatures yourself? Well, assuming you procure the most basic necessary paint colors, as well as a pack of camel or sable brushes that generally weigh in around $10, anywhere from roughly $25 to $170. If you need to buy a handful of other items like glue or a Xacto knife, tack on $10 or so.
This price range is highly dependent on the paints you buy. Buying a two-ounce bottle of full-priced Ceramcote red paint will cost you $1.50. Buying the same amount of Vallejo red paint could cost you roughly $16. So the affordability of painting your own miniatures is almost entirely dependent on the paint you buy.
The good news is that, once you have all your materials, there is no other cost besides your time. You can color as many miniatures as you have paint for at no extra cost. This is opposed to paying someone else to paint your miniatures, which we’ll talk about now.
Paying Someone to Paint Your Miniatures
Now we come to how much it costs to pay someone else to paint your miniatures. Unfortunately, this is where things get a little complicated. That’s because, in all honesty, it just depends. Miniature painting is very much a trade skill, like being a car mechanic or a sketch artist. This means each artist has free reign to charge what they want.
How they go about charging can vary as well: maybe the artist charges a certain amount per miniature of a certain size. Maybe they charge by the hour. It all depends on where you look and who you ask.
How Much it Costs
On average, a miniature painter makes $10-$12 an hour, but that doesn’t reflect how much they are actually charging you. That’s just how much profit they walk away with. According to professionals (actual expert miniature painters, that is), you should expect to pay 1-1.5x the MSRP of the miniature itself to have it painted.
In other words, if you paid $35 for a Games Workshop miniature, you can reasonably expect to pay at least that much to have it painted to a high tabletop standard. That doesn’t mean you couldn’t find someone who would do it cheaper, but go in at least expecting that.
What Factors Affect Pricing?
There are many things that will affect how much you have to pay for your miniatures to be painted, including but certainly not limited to:
- Skill/Reputation of the Painter: Paying an expert is more expensive than paying an amateur. You are paying for the quality of work their skill can provide, so expect to pay more for more reputable painters.
- Miniature Size: The bigger the miniature, the more paint and time it will take to fully paint it. Naturally, that’s going to cost more.
- Complexity of Request: If you just want your miniature to be painted all blue, that’s obviously going to cost a lot less than asking for detailed tattoos on skin, or a complex color pattern on a cape. The more complex your request, the more it is going to cost.
- Speed: If you want your miniatures to be painted very quickly, you’ll have to pay for that speed.
Ultimately, there are all sorts of things that affect how much a freelance painter may charge for painting a miniature. With no universal price range, it’s up to the client to do their research and compare prices to find the best deal. On that note…
Where Can You Get Your Miniatures Painted?
There are many places you can look when you want to find someone to paint your miniatures. First, consider your local game store. The place that sells miniatures often has connections to the people that paint them. Many painters choose to advertise their services there, and all you have to do is look around or ask the owner.
Social media is another viable option: there are thousands of painters offering their services online, and there are plenty of dedicated places online you can find them. Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, you name it: the internet is always a good place to find craftsmen.
Finally, consider conventions. Many freelance artists attend conventions because they know they can find interested clients there, and some game company studios may even send their best artists there to represent them. Many of those artists also consider freelance work.
In short, buying your own materials and painting your miniatures yourself will always be cheaper than paying someone else to do it. You could buy enough paint to color two dozen miniatures for less than a professional may charge you to color just one miniature.
On the other hand, painting miniatures well takes time, effort, and skill, and you may not want to commit any of that to the exercise. The cost of getting a freelance painter to color your miniature varies by their skill, the speed the job gets done, and the complexity of your request, but expect to pay roughly the price you bought the miniature for to get it painted, at least.
If you don’t know where to look for a painter, consider online social medial platforms, your local game store, or tabletop game conventions. All are viable ways to get you connected to a painter that can get the job done.