5 Must-Have Miniature Painting Tools from the Cosmetics Aisle

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On  The Painter’s Guild, host Will Friedle (who is new to the hobby) is joined by veteran hobbyists who show him the ins and outs of painting minis. Join him on his journey this Monday for another episode airing on  Alpha where Matt Mercer will be giving sage advice to Will.

It seems strange, but some of my favourite hobby tools are found in the cosmetics aisle. Here are a few fantastic tools you’ll want to pick up.


While intended to be used for applying eyeshadow, this is the best $3 drybrush money can buy. Because it has dense bristles and the cut of the brush is such that it is domed at the top, dry brushing with this tool actually mimics the look of airbrushing. Beyond basic highlighting, you can also paint traditionally hard-to-paint colours on dark primer is a breeze and is fast, while still leaving shadows in the model’s crevices. You can work white paint on black primer remarkably fast, and the effect this brush gives with metallics is one that can’t be described.


Cosmetic sponges are fantastic tools. I keep one in a cup of water when I’m painting as hobby version of the backspace key. Did your brush go astray? As long as you’re thinning your paints down with water, take the dampened sponge and wipe the still wet paint. You should be able to remove most of it.

There are other uses for cosmetic sponges. Use them for stippling on paint for some weathering effects, or use them to protect your models when you transport them (they make great packing material). You can buy a bag of these at the dollar store and you’ll always want to keep some in your hobby kit once you do.


Dealing with super glue bottles can be a special kind of hell, since they like to seal themselves shut sometimes. Same goes for paint and ink bottles with weird lids: when paint or ink build up on the lid, it sometimes prevents it from fully closing meaning you’ll certainly end up with a mess on your hands.

A dab of petroleum jelly, however, will fix those woes. Applied to threads and on the inside of the lid for super glue, and applied to the lip of paint bottle, the vaseline will act as a barrier preventing the glue and paint from adhering, meaning the bottles will seal properly and also won’t adhere themselves shut.

Cotton Swabs

Q-tips are another great tool for applying products that would ruin your minis. Looking for a dry application of pressed or loose pigments for weathering effects? Care to something to apply decal products (like Microsol or Microset) or a pigment fixer onto your mini? Need to take some rubbing alcohol to strip a layer of paint off of a mini so you can redo it (like when painting a face?) Just grab a cotton swab and away you go. You can spare your brushes.


Hairspray is the ultimate masking product, which is particularly useful when you want to create weathering effects. You can create a pretty impressive weathered/rust effect by painting a mix of metallic and rust colours as an undercoat, spraying that layer with some hairspray. If you want the more corroded effect (rather than worn) throw some salt on the hairspray as well.

Let the hairspray layer dry, and then add a layer of paint on top by airbrush, drybrush, or aerosol spray (don’t thin this layer of paint with water.)

When that layer is dry, take a cotton swap or a drybrush dipped in water and rub it where you want the weathered effect to show up. The hairspray will break down, revealing the metallic/rust beneath the paint. Voila – easy weathered rust effect perfect for tanks, warmachines, dreadnaughts or other miniature vehicle exposed to the elements.

Be sure to join Will Friedle on The Painter’s Guild this Monday starting Monday on  Alpha and jump on the miniature painting bandwagon! Tell us in the comments where you find unorthodox hobby tools!

Image Credits: Teri Litorco

Teri Litorco is a tabletop game fangirl who makes  YouTube videos about miniature games that include various painting tutorials and helpful tips. She’s also the author of  The Civilized Guide to Tabletop Gaming and the Geek & Sundry Vlogs miniature wargaming vlogger. To keep up with her personal projects, her on  FacebookInstagram, and  Twitter and support her on Patreon.

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