What a difference a few years makes! On the right is one of the miniatures that came in my USX: Modern Day Heroes set. I painted it several years ago. On the left is a newer miniature that I painted this year (2016). The difference is just astonishing! My technique has improved vastly. Okay, I am still not the best painter around, but I aim for table top quality and am not too worried about awards. Of course, I would take an award if one was handed to me. 😉
When I started, I would base coat the mini in whatever colour I wanted and then cover the mini with a dark-tone polyurethane. This polyurethane would go into the crevices of the miniature and act like an Army Builder Dip. Once I was done that, I would paint the base and coat the whole mini with a clear gloss varnish. This combination of polyurethane and gloss varnish is great for board game pieces because it helps protect your paint from chipping. With true-quality miniatures, you handle them more delicately, so that kind of protection is not necessary.
Take a look at how the details just pop out on the mini to the left versus the one on the right. My current process is to base coat the miniatures with the colours that I want. I will use one, to two, shades per colour and brush a dark wash (ink) over the miniature. This wash darkens the crevices and creates a gradient effect in areas. I then go back and dry brush or trace the original colours back on the model to highlight the miniature and to give a better feeling of depth. Sometimes, I will add extra tones by mixing some white with the original colour; however, I did not do that with the above figure. To finish, I glue basing materials to the base and top it off with a coat of clear matte varnish. Some people feel that varnish isn’t necessary, but I like walking away with the feeling that all of my hard work is protected against the symptoms of wear-and-tear.