I recently purchased “How to Paint a Better Miniature,” the three-DVD set of miniature painting instructional videos from Hot Lead, and I must say that on the whole, it is the most important investment I’ve made in my role-playing game miniature painting hobby, apart from buying the miniatures themselves. The DVDs feature instruction from Laszlo Jakusovszky, award-winning miniature painter and creative genius behind the Hot Lead Web site.
This post is a brief review of the first of the three DVDs, appropriately titled, “Basic – Volume I.” A review of the second disc can be found here, and a review of the third can be located by clicking here.
The “basic” label on the first disc is a bit misleading; Jakusovszky’s definition of “basic” included more information than I’ve learned in three years of painting. There is so much information presented, in fact, that I could only watch about 20 minutes at a sitting in order to absorb it all.
The first disc describes every operation in the miniature painting process, including preparing the miniature for painting, priming, basing, basecoating, highlighting and shadows, producing lifelike flesh tones and painting metallics. In order to fully explain these topics and techniques, however, Jakusovszky needed to share supplemental information about how miniatures are manufactured; how a painter can tell if a miniature was cast in a worn-out mold, and how to compensate for that problem; the physical properties, benefits and drawbacks of different types of paints; differences between plastic and metal miniatures; various tools and art supplies that make painting easier; techniques for keeping one’s hands steady; and offering perhaps the best introduction to color theory I’ve ever heard.
Essentially, the first DVD covers everything a war or role-playing gamer would need to know in order to put well-painted figures on the gaming table. Jakusovszky has indicated that the other discs are geared toward competitive painters, or for painters who want to take their art to a very high level of quality.
The physical quality of the DVD is reasonably good. The only shortcomings I noted were largely asthetic, those being variations in video quality and distracting, synthesizer-generated background music. The high number of bookmarked chapters (more than 80) seemed to be an inconvenience at first – a handful of the chapters seemed shorter than the background music introducing them – but when I needed to double-check his advice for a painting project earlier this week, the bookmarks turned out to be one of the DVD’s best assets.
What really sets this DVD apart from the innumerable video tutorials seen on sites such as YouTube or Google Video is the camera angle used to demonstrate painting techniques. Whether a painter is viewing one of those online tutorial clips, or watching a talented painter demonstrating in person for that matter, it is very difficult to actually see what the painter is doing. These videos place the camera between Jakusovszky and the miniature, so his actual techniques can be observed and replicated.
The full set retails for about $40 U.S. plus shipping; at first glance, the price seemed a bit high to me, but when I learned that the set contains more than eight hours of instruction I was much more comfortable. Who wouldn’t pay $5 per hour for professional art lessons?
Needless to say, I wholeheartedly recommend this product to those D&D players who paint their own miniatures, or for those who feel a bit intimidated about trying the hobby.
Reviews of the next two discs will be published during the next two weeks.