Friday Quick Tip: The Notebook

No, this isn't a tip about a sappy movie, but about how you need to keep a record of your painting; not just the colors you've used in the past but the techniques and other details as well.

Earlier this year I completed a Black Templars army in a short period of time and I really didn't need to write anything down because it was all fresh in my head from the beginning to the end of the army. Hey, I'm not that old yet and for the span of thirty days it was easy to remember how I painted each guy and where each batch of base texture was lurking on my painting desk. But as I was going along and when I finished, I wrote down all of my color, base, shade and highlight combinations, the order which I painted and other details.

Almost a year has gone by since I finished the army and today I am glad I did write all of the details down, because this week I decided to add a few new models to the army. (And yes, shame on me, it has been almost a year since I painted anything for this army.) I used to make notes of just the colors I used, but this time I made detailed notes, mostly because I was pretty sure I'd forget the sequence of painting and putting on the base mud/splatter/gloss medium. And I did forget, so I'm glad I wrote it down. Now the snow on my new guys perfectly matches the snow on the existing army. (And fitting because we got some snow here in central Texas today.)

Here are a few other things to make note of and keep around when you finish an army:
  • Not only the colors but techniques and order of colors you used.
  • Basing material so new models match up with the old.
  • Extra of any custom colors you blended.
  • Any ideas for the army you didn't complete.
Besides copious notes, don't forget to save those things like basing material, custom colors and iconography-- all those army specific bits. It doesn't take much time to write down everything you'll ever need, but recording it all can save you a lot of time later. I even reminded myself of a few cool hobby ideas I had for the army. And it doesn't have to be a notebook. Just about everyone has a blog or forum they regularly contribute to. Why not post your information there for others to see as well?

What organizational tips do you have for adding to your hobby collection?


  1. Along with my painting supplies, I have a collection of large note cards where I write down "recipes" and step-by-step details. I first started this when I got back into painting, bought a GW Tau Battleforce box, and settled on an army scheme. I have a note card filled out for those Tau with colors used, thinning ratios, and order of paints in step-by-step for the armor, undersuit, Sept symbols, etc.

    I also have a decent number of one-off cards and non-specific notes - stuff like "raw flesh," "dirt bases," and "cream/off-white." Not necessarily for any particular model I've painted, but sort of overlapping.

    To expand on these, I also have a 3-ring binder filled with reference pictures, notes on duplicating certain materials, scratch-building templates and so forth. (That's not to mention a smaller hard drive from an old computer transferred over to the new one with all sorts of downloaded references and other useful files.)

    I'm not particularly organized, really, but getting back into the hobby about 4 years ago, I thought if I was going to start playing 40K in earnest I should jot down "instructions" for the army I was painting at the time - it's kinda snowballed from then, as it turns out I never became much of an army painter but more of a display-quality painter.

  2. HAHA! I do this all the time. I have about 5 note books full of paint recipes for units or armies in case I ever have to go back and paint a unit I'll know how I did it the first time. It's proved invaluable.

  3. For me physical space organization is just as important as anything else. My wife and I are in between houses right now, and without my desk set-up my painting has suffered a lot. I'm not sure if it's the time it takes to find what I want, or just the general disorganization, but having an organized (and well lit!) workspace does improve my already mediocre painting.