I’ve been painting on and off over the last few years. I’ve even appeared in GeekDad’s irregular painting column from time to time. The older I become, the more soothing I find painting. In these uncertain times, the quiet minutes I’ve spent with a brush have been the closest thing to headspace I’ve been able to find. In recent weeks, I’ve been trying out a number of products sent to me by Redgrass Games. I reviewed their wet palette a few years ago, so I was interested to see what else they had to offer.
Painting is a journey. If you spend any time watching videos or following people on Instagram, you can pick up a host of tips and suggestions. Your style grows and, hopefully, improves over time. Painting even goes in fashions, something I have never noticed until very recently. Certain techniques become en-vogue for a while, like the “vaporwave” style popularized by Dana Howl in her excellent videos.
Before I started out on the latest leg of my painting journey, I had heard of neither a wet palette nor painting handles, and, generally speaking, I tend to avoid such aids, seeing them as unnecessary expense and clutter. I reviewed Redgrass’ wet palette a few years ago, and I liked it, particularly its mold-free foam and sturdy box, but unlike most of the rest of the painting world, I struggle to use a wet palette regularly. I know it sets me apart from most good painters, but I much prefer to use a standard palette, mixing as I go, adding water as I need.
Getting a Handle on Painting Handles
The painting handle, on the other hand, is a totally different story. I’m a 100% convert to the Redgrass painting handle, and it’s revolutionized my painting experience. I’m not sure it’s made my painting any better, but it’s certainly made it a whole lot more comfortable.
Why Use a Painting Handle?
I guess the first question for anybody wondering about a handle is, why use one? My first experience of a handle was watching an early Sorastro video in which he uses a bit of sticky putty on an old paint pot. The reasons he gave in that video for doing so were spot on. Firstly, they make it easy to hold the miniature still. Gripping something more solid, under the mini, makes it easier to keep it steady. Without it, you often have to hold your mini with your thumb on the base and one finger touching the miniature. Depending on what you’re painting, this potentially means rubbing off the paint you have already applied. Using even a rudimentary handle means your fingers touch the model less, which is a good thing.
Next, I tried one of Games Workshop’s own painting handles. These are much chunkier than a paint pot and its spring-loaded gripping mechanism holds the miniature more securely than putty on a paint pot. The problem with these handles is that they grip the entire base, which means you can’t paint the rim without removing the miniature. Also, they’re quite bulky and if you want to work on multiple miniatures, you either have to keep swapping the mini out each time you want to change, which increases the amount of handling you’re doing, or you have to buy several handles, which has cost and storage implications.
Hand It to Redgrass Games
Redgrass Games have devised a cleverer solution to the buying multiple handles problem and designed a handle much more comfortable to grip than GW’s.
The Redgrass handle has removable tops, which slide on and off a central spindle. So you affix your mini to a removable top and then swap it over onto the handle when you want to paint it. The spindle holds the caps very tightly, so there is no chance of the model falling off.
Each top, once mounted on the handle, is able to rotate. Rotate? I hear you cry, What’s the point in that? I was very skeptical about this feature, I must confess. After all, I have a perfectly good set of fingers and opposable thumbs; I’m more than capable of turning a painting handle with my hand. Well, yes I am, but the twisty head just works. It’s hard to credit the difference it makes without using one, but it’s a really lovely feature that, again, makes painting just a little bit easier.
One thing I wasn’t sure about before using it is that the Redgrass handle does not have a mechanical solution for holding the miniature in place. It uses some orange sticky putty. I’m not sure of the provenance of this orange putty, but it’s awesome stuff, fixing the minis down fast with no slip. I have to guard it against my notice-obsessed son to ensure he doesn’t run off with it for his latest wanted poster.
The Redgrass painting handle is considerably slimmer than its Games Workshop counterpart. GW’s is deliberately wider at the bottom to ensure it is stable. The handle on its own is a little top-heavy, but, again, the team has come up with a canny solution. The base of the handle is magnetized, and each one comes with a metal disc that you fix to the bottom. This provides great stability without compromising the comfort of the grip. The only problem with it (if it is a problem) is that the magnet is quite powerful, so if you have anything lying around with some iron content, it’s likely to attach itself to the base of your handle. Notably, the steel rule I use for craft projects. The one I use because I want to appear to look like I know what I’m doing!
All in all, I’m very impressed with the Redgrass handle. I can take or leave the GW one, often leaving it on the side and painting just holding the mini. The Redgrass handle has become a mainstay of my painting set up. I have three caps, which means I can work on a nice number of minis at once. I must confess that I don’t always swap the tops over, though, so in this respect, I’m often not painting with much more than a paint pot. Nevertheless, the option is there when I need it!
Painting by the Book
Redgrass also sent me a great little painting book, packed full of tips and suggestions for getting the best out of your painting. I’m not sure if the book is still available as a physical copy, but you can take a look and download it from the Redgrass website. They have a few other useful guides on there too.
Brush up Your Painting Skills
There is a lot of debate about brushes, and what makes a good brush often comes down to personal preference and available funds. Redgrass is confident they can supply you with the only two brushes you’ll ever need. Their No 2. (insert “needing a number two” joke here) and their “00.” In layman’s terms, a big one and a small one.
I don’t quite subscribe to this theory. I’ve been using the brushes, and whilst the 2 is great for base coating, I find it a little full for layering, especially smaller areas. The 00 is perfect for painting fine details, but for intermediate layering, I prefer something with a little more body. I haven’t been using the brushes for all that long, so I can’t 100% comment on their longevity, but they’re good quality brushes with good paint retention and application, and both are still in very good condition. They’re well worth a look if you want to add them on to your handle purchase.
I’m very impressed with the Redgrass Games painting handle. It has elevated handles from being “well, I could use one” to being an essential piece of kit. It’s well designed, very easy to use, and makes painting even more pleasurable and relaxing than it was before. Very much recommended.
You can check out all of Redgrass Games products and their painting tips on their website.
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Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this game for review purposes.