What You Need to Paint LEGO Minidolls
The shortest answer would be:
- paint brushes
but I have a feeling you already knew that. You want more. What kind of brushes? Which paint brand? Where can you get cheap minidoll parts? I understand. It's overwhelming at the beginning. I'm here to help.
It took me around 15 hours to create each one of these minidolls (Rainbow Dash, Female Pirate Zombie, Tiana).
The first thing you need to do is set your expectations right. If you don't have prior experience, when you take up your brushes for the first time and create your first minidoll custom it will not look like one from the photo above. That will come with time.
The painted minidolls are not well suited for playing. In fact, they are so fragile you need to take extra care when storing them. The paint will chip every time something bumps it. Even if you applied generous amounts of finish.
Miniature from Descent that I painted ~15 years ago with chipped paint
I started my painting journey with miniatures. Specifically, the little plastic wizards and monsters often found in board games. I convinced a very talented friend to show me the basic techniques and from then on it was practice, practice, and practice. You can get a similar beginner treatment by googling something like miniature painting basics and moving on from there.
Now we can move on to the actual materials I use.
I use Vallejo acrylic-colors. Why? Because at some point I was ready to invest more in my paints, these ones had good reviews and weren't as expensive as other miniature paints. I instantly got a whole case of them, as you do, so I've never gotten around to try out any other brand. Thus, I'm telling you that I use them, but not that I recommend them. I'm not comfortable recommending anything without familiarizing myself with similar products.
In general, the difference between expensive and cheap paints is in the pigment. Translated into minidoll painting that means that the cheaper ones require more layers which takes more time and makes the dolls slightly wider. For the first year of my minidoll painting career, I painted them with cheap acrylics I originally got for my children. They were horrible to work with, but it was doable. And I learned I had the patience to do it.
The Vallejo white and vermillion colors that are better than the cheap paints, but still require a lot of layers
That is why I'll recommend trying the paints out you already have at home when you're beginning. While the finished product probably won't be a masterpiece, you will have learned if minidoll painting is something you like doing. Then you can research miniature paints and see what price range best suits you.
Some Painting Tips
Any paint you use, you'll need many layers for white to get white and the red to get red. It's a pigment thing. You can mitigate that to a degree by putting on a light grey base coat.
For the techniques I use, you'll need to water down the paint. And it's an art skill to know how much water a particular color requires.
Mixing colors is fun and most likely mandatory if you want to match a LEGO color. You don't have to worry about too much though, for even LEGO doesn't get this step always 100% right.
Only partially painted minidoll parts
I use the Arteza Premium Miniature Brushes. These ones I do recommend because I have tried several other brands of tiny brushes. These simply work for me. It is entirely possible you'll prefer some other brand, or even other sizes of brushes, but they are a good place to start if you don't know where to begin.
The front and the back of my fav brushes
I buy most of my painting supplies minidolls on Bricklink. Every time I shop in one of the shops, I'm also on the lookout for cheap minidolls or minidoll parts. That way I'm constantly adding to my collection so I never run out of painting supplies.
A part of my minidoll parts collection
I consider a minidoll cheap if it's under 2 € (~ $2.40), and don't miss out on that offer cheap if it's under 1.50 € (~$1.80). Use such dolls for practice. When you're ready for a "real" project, you'll want to invest in the parts that are most similar to the project you imagined. Here, I mostly mean colors but also the style. If you can get away by just adding a few splotches of paint on an original LEGO piece - you should do that. The most important areas to keep in mind are the hands and the crotch area. You do not want to paint these unless it's absolutely necessary because you'll want your dolls to hold stuff and to be able to sit down without damaging the paint.
How to paint a minidoll: with paint, a paint brush, and a minidoll
Minidoll painting isn't a cheap, easy or quick hobby. But it's a fulfilling and even relaxing one. I like creating new outfits for my dolls and I even enjoy the painting process. It's a great time to catch up on podcasts or to listen to an audio book. Yes, that's right. You can easily get trough that epic fantasy your friend recommended while creating an artistic masterpiece.