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Painting and Project Management

project manager painting miniatures

As I grow more … mature, I am learning things about the value of time and how it can be used both productively and not. Between work and family, hobby time becomes a rare and valuable commodity that must be used wisely. It scares me to say, but I have started to look at project management techniques to make better use of the limited painting time I have. I call this,

The Sprue Grey Project Management Painting Method

Yes, I came up with the title WHILE I should have been painting.
In the Sprue Grey Project Management Painting Method you take an assessment of the things that need to be done and then the available time in which to do them. At the end of the process, you should have a list of miniatures that need painting and a (hopefully) detailed breakdown of the order in which they are done.
I am going to reference the Painter’s Pledge or, as it is better known, the List of Shame and choose an existing incomplete project from there. There’s a mass of choice, and I need to add a couple of other projects as well.

Choosing a Project

With the release of Infinity N3 and having listened to a few Mayacast episodes, I am getting excited about Infinity again. The disappearance of the Caskuda still wounds me deeply but I look at the new Morats and all is forgiven.
I am easing my way back into painting by completing my Combined Army force as Infinity forces tend to be smaller model counts than Warhammer 40000 or Warhammer Fantasy Battle. Smaller numbers of models to complete means that is easy to see progress as it is made. Psychological wins count when painting an army.
project management painting miniatures

Inventory the models

This one is easy. Build your army list/war band/force list. The list will become the foundation of our project. This method should work as well with larger games as much as smaller, skirmish style games. Whole units can be project deliverables (in the case of larger games) or individual models. You can mix and match too. Make a character model one project deliverable and then another deliverable is a unit of twenty troops. There is an obvious difference between the time taken to paint one model compared to twenty models, but we’re taking that into account.
There are a HEAP of resources out there for building an Infinity list. I have been messing around with Infinity Pool for ages. The interface is straight forward and it does what it says on the box. It lets you make an Infinity list. No muss, no fuss.
However, I haven’t read the new rules yet, and I’m just looking for some models to paint. Rather than work to a dedicated list, I’m just going to inventory what’s in the Mancave and use that as the basis for my deliverables.
project manager painting miniatures

Build your timeline

How long does it take you to clean a model? How long to undercoat? What is the total time spent painting? Some of these values you will know and others will need to be guess or sit down and record. Based on the time taken to clean, undercoat and prep a model you will now know how long the project will take.

Prepare Your Reference Model

This part is particular to painting mass units. Batch painting is the easiest way to get a unit finished. With batch painting, you paint all the colours on one model and then move onto the next. For example, if you’re painting a squad of Space Marines you might paint all the power armour on the models first before going back to paint the guns on the models and then go back and wash all the models before highlighting.
Before you get all excited with batch painting, it’s important to have a test model with the colour scheme for your unit. Working without the test model to reference may lead you (as I do) to getting caught up painting too much detail on each model that will be lost in the mass of bodies that make up the unit. There’s nothing wrong with going to town on the painting, just set the standard you expect to put into each model in the unit.
Also, when painting the test model, make sure you measure the amount of time it takes to complete the paint job because this will allow you to come up with more specific time lines for painting the unit.

Painting the models

The important point of the painting is keep to the standard of the test model, particularly the time taken to paint each model. As part of on-going measurements, you can also compare the time taken to paint each model against the expected value of the test model and adjust the time taken to paint each model accordingly.

Tools used

The complexity of the tools is limited to your knowledge. This can be as simple as an Excel spreadsheet, or an old fashioned pen and paper. Solutions range all the way to some awesome tools like Trello. I have to admit that I could not remember the name of the tool I wanted to use. It wasn’t until I found this post on Broken Paint Brush about using Trello that the search was over. More complex tools like Trello have a steeper learning curve but the investment of time taken to learn is always worthwhile.
Full credit and thanks goes to Broken Paint Brush for this one!

Conclusion

At the end of the process, the project should have concrete deliverables and measurable outcomes. With only limited time for hobby, making the best use of available time becomes very important. Taking a large project and breaking it up into smaller pieces that have established outcomes means that I can sit down at any time and know exactly at which part of the overall project I’m supposed to be working on.
The initial setup of the Trello work flow is a bit of a labour. It is kind of ironic that you are spending hobby time on a tool to organise hobby time. However, long term it means you can be more efficient in the way that you are working on projects.

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