7 Tips for Artists – How to Paint Miniature Art

Miniature painting as a style of painting is a very distinct art that is often compared to gems.  As one of the most acclaimed early miniature artists of , Nicholas Hilliard, stated (c. 1600) “A thing apart from all other painting or drawing”.

 A few tips for artists wanting to create their own jewel-like works in miniature:

 1. Start out right and be sure to use good materials to paint.  Quality surfaces, paints, and tools are available from art supply companies as well as specialty miniature art supply shops. 

 2.  Whatever surface you choose, a very smooth surface is choice.  Ivorine or polymin are very popular for many painters, as is vellum or even porcelain.  Some oil painters use hardboard, wood or copper as well, while watercolor artists may use bristol or illustration board.  Surfaces like Belgian linen can be used, but will probably require a number of layers of gesso to fill in the linen surface texture.

 3.  Brushes may be sable or synthetic, but must come to a fine point so fine details can be painted.  You may find that you like a variety of different types for your paintings.

 4.  The technique of miniature painting, as stated in early manuals for educating artists, shows that paintings are to be made using many delicate strokes on the surface.  Artists create work that is very detailed and often use fine stipples and hatches, two classic miniature painting techniques. 

 Studying classic miniature paintings in museums and publications is very helpful to observe other artists handling of the brush and colors.  Some artists paint their miniatures to be seen from a distance of a few feet, and others use strokes that are so soft that they need strong magnification to be seen at all.

 5.  For beginning painters, it may be helpful to start by painting small format miniature pieces instead of larger sizes.  The surface can be covered more quickly and errors can be spotted and corrected with more ease than painting a larger miniature.  Hand held sized pieces are very popular as well.

 6. In planning your miniature, be sure to have a well thought out design and drawing before starting on your painting.  Design and composition is very important in making good miniature art.  Your miniature should draw your viewer into your painting.  Most often this is done by creating interaction or a story behind what is featured in the painting.

 7. While you are working, try to keep your surface texture to a minimum.  Palette knife work does not lend itself well to traditional miniature painting.  Rarely very slight texture in miniature painting may be seen.  However, most often fine miniatures are very smooth just like their early miniature counterparts in manuscripts.  Keeping your surface smooth will be very helpful as you paint in your crisp details. 

 Miniature painting has its roots in illuminated manuscripts, where miniature painters used their talents to tell the story of the written word it accompanied.  Many of those illuminations were cut out of the books so that they could be carried.  Other miniature works were painted larger to be displayed.

It can take some patience and practice, but you are well on your way to painting beautiful miniature art as well as being a part of an art form that has been practiced since early writing.