Setting up a Painting Area
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You should decide this in advance. If you need to be able to put everything away to clear the area when you are done, then that will affect how you proceed. Also, if you plan to pack up your stuff and paint elsewhere, you will need to plan for that.
When I go mobile, I like to use one of the tall Plano tackle boxes (model 758 is the monster I use now; 787 might do for most folks) with drawers and a spacious top compartment. Note: this is the style of tackle box that is basically a small chest of drawers. I find the top compartment has plenty of space to hold paints. The drawers will hold brushes, knives, and other supplies. I strongly recommend capping your brushes if you transport them in a drawer in this fashion. If you have lost the caps, buy some plastic tubing of the proper size for your brushes and create some new caps.
This is a very undesirable situation, but sometimes necessary. I would recommend keeping your paints and large supplies in large food containers then use a tackle box, as described above in Going Mobile? for brushes, files, tools, and other bits.
For your workspace, you can use a paint station like those sold by Games Workshop or you could save some money and buy any number of tray-like objects from a variety of stores. Or you could just use a simple piece of firm material such as a piece of Medium Density Fiberboard, which is a cheap, sturdy, available at any DIY (Do-It-Yourself) store. Most DIY places will cut down a piece for you.
Ceramic Palette: This is a good choice for the sake of the environment as it is washable and reusable. You should never have to replace this unless you break it. It easiest to just let all of the paint dry and then you can rub off the paint under warm water. The ones I like seem to belong to the area of watercolor painting. They have multiple compartments for holding paint. I will post a list of online vendors for these on my Buying Paints page for those of you that cannot find them.
Size Matters: This is the most desirable setup; minis involve enough tools and supplies that setting up and tearing down each time could be very time consuming. You will probably want a 2' x 3' area at a minimum to give you space to set down paints, a palette, minis, and other random things. This is especially true if you are going to be painting 6-8 minis at a time, as is typical with painting squads of an army.
Safe Painting: Now that you have a space in mind, protect it! I use a large cutting mat as my first layer of protection, then I use scratch paper for the area where the actual painting will occur, generally a 1' x 2' region. This approach allows me to set up my materials around the painting area and protects my table very well. Also, if I need to cut or file some bit off a mini, the surface is protected from that as well.
What's That Smell? Self-healing mats sound like a good idea, but every brand I have found has a foul smell which may not be as noticeable in a large open shop, but is very noticeable in a home or apartment. I bought one and laid it on the couch for a few hours while I cleared off my work table. In that short time, couch adopted the foul smell of the mat and it persisted for days. A normal cutting mat has a plastic smell which diminishes quickly.
And The Kitchen Sink: A cup of water is a reasonable method for cleaning your brushes, but you close proximity to a sink with soap is a good thing, but not necessarily a kitchen sink :-) . I like to wash my brushes out frequently and clean off my palette when it gets covered in paint. My brushes last a long time because of this. You also never know when something will spill...
But I Want To Paint in the <insert room> Today: If you want to be able to relocate, use a tray of some sort to hold the bulk of your painting materials as mentioned in Temporary Workspace above. I personally use one of the trays sold by Games Workshop, but you could even get away with any solid, firm work surface, such as a piece of Medium Density Fiberboard, which is a cheap, sturdy, available at any DIY (Do-It-Yourself) store. Most DIY places will cut down a piece for you.
Brush Stand: You should store your brushes either standing up or protected by caps, preferably both. Art supplies or craft stores should have affordable stands that will store the brush upright and keep them separated.
Let There Be Light! This is more important than you might realize. You should try to work by daylight, whether or not it is daytime. Sound puzzling? Enter the wonder of technology know as the daylight bulb. It may also be called "daylight color corrected", "natural", or something similar. Now why bother? Our eyes have evolved to see in the solar spectrum that is daylight.
Sorry, Was That Important? If you can, place your work area in a low-traffic area to prevent people from bumping into it, or accidentally sweeping things off.
The Smell of Brain Cells Dying En Masse: Be sure to move to a well-ventilated area for toxic or hazardous work, such as spraying on primer. At the same token, it is wise to make sure someone else is around and/or aware of what you are doing in case something goes wrong, e.g. you pass out.
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