Monday, July 10, 2023

Painting HeroQuest! A FAST Guide

 So you got the new HeroQuest and you are thinking of painting it, but you have no idea how to even start? This is the guide for you!

This post will guide you through the optimal steps to have the whole game painted with a time-efficient effort and more than decent "tabletop" quality, taking advantage of the "slap chop" technique.

I won't go into all the details of each technique, but instead provide you with a working road map for the whole journey of specifically painting the HeroQuest board game. For each step, you'll probably want to delve into video tutorials on youtube.

A painted HeroQuest is different level! Picture and paintjob by Ian Schofield, with models on an alternative board by Ian himself. 

0 Solve the storage problem

The plastic trays that come with the game are guaranteed to ruin your paint job very quickly, so first of all you need to find an alternative for storage. Most people use the dedicated Feldherr Foam Set, designed specifically for the new edition of HeroQuest. If you want to keep the minis inside the game's original box, this is the most efficient solution by far. If you are going to keep them on a display shelf, that's good too, of course.

1 Get your minis ready

Before painting your miniatures, you must prepare them.

  • First of all, check them one by one and remove any "flash". "Flash" is the name given to the lines that MAY be on some models, marking the line where the two sides of the cast touch. Most models have no flash, or very little. If it is there, you can probably see it easily along the arms, legs, and weapons. Gently remove it with a cutter and/or sanding paper. If you don't, you'll regret it, because the most common (and easiest) painting techniques will make it x10 more visible.
  • Get your minis straight! The HeroQuest minis are made with a soft plastic that is prone to bending into weird shapes and positions. This often happens with long weapons and extended arms, but sometimes you may get a whole figure that is slightly bent forward or backwards and cannot really stand up properly. Fixing them is really easy: put the bent miniature into very hot water for about 5 seconds, then pull it out. Now it should be soft enough for you to get it straight with your hands. Once the position is ok, put it immediately into cold water. This will ensure the plastic "hardens" again, this time without the undesired bending.
  • Next, wash your minis! This is needed in order to remove the grease from production AND from your hands! And any dust that may have accumulated. Simply wash them with water and a drop of dish detergent. Rinse and let them dry thoroughly. If you don't do this, paint will have a very hard time sticking on the plastic, and the risk of seeing the paint chip away quickly while you play is much higher.
  • Finally, check and fill any gaps. Check ALL your models (especially the Barbarian and the Abominations!) for parts that haven't been assembled properly, because this is the time to fix them. You do this by filling the gaps with a plastic putty such as Vallejo's. Again, if you don't, you'll regret it. After this, you are ready to paint!

Removing flash and filling the gaps is important because the slap chop technique automatically exalts all the details of your mini, so you want to remove the small flaws, or you'll make them super-visible.

2 Slap Chop!

The slap chop technique requires a very specific priming technique and then a very specific type of acrylic colors. It is the easiest and fastest way of painting more-than-decent looking models, even if you are completely new to miniature painting. Lots of videos explain this technique, one of my favorite is this one. But go ahead and watch as many as you can.

  • Black primer. In order to take advantage of the "slap chop" technique, you must prime your minis with a black color. A spray is the fastest way to do it. You can get Citadel's, or Vallejo's, or Army Painter's, or any other brand, as long as it's black, matte, and specifically made for miniatures. Using a spray primer is an art of itself: the correct distance and angle, etc. Watch some tutorials before starting!
  • Dry brush with grey. For this step, you need a large brush (say, the size of your little finger): a cheap make-up brush will be perfect. And a normal, matte, grey acrylic such as Vallejo's or Army Painter's. Dry brush means you dip your brush into the paint, then you "clean" it on a piece of cloth or paper towel until almost no paint seems to be on the brush. That's when you use the brush on the miniature, so that the paint will not reach the recesses: they must remain black! All the while, your brush must NEVER EVER touch water, not even when you start. It must be perfectly dry for the technique to work. Wash your brush when you are finished, of course. Or don't wash it and go to the next step now.
  • Again, with white. After the grey, you do the same procedure with white, with even less color on your brush, so that the white only hits the most prominent details. Don't bother washing the grey away from the brush. Keep it dry!!
  • Time to actually paint! Finally! This is the moment you get to paint all your sweet minis. In order to take advantage of the slap chop technique, you must use a specific type of paints: Citadel calls them Contrasts; Army Painter calls them Speed Paints; Vallejo calls them Xpress Colors. All of them will work the same. Watch this video again!

The three layers of black, grey and white will enhance the semi-transparent nature of such colors, creating an excellent effect for the time it takes.

3 The Devil is in the details!

  • How about metal? You can paint swords, blades and armor with the above technique, or you can grab a few metallic colors if you prefer a shinier effect. Your choice!
  • Eyes eyes baby! Eyes are hard. If you want your Heroes to look mad, paint each eye as a white oval and then paint a black dot in the middle. They will look crazy, so please don't do it. Instead: paint a full black oval covering the whole eye, then paint TWO white dots in each eye, trying to keep them inside the black oval. This is the easiest, simplest way to paint decent-looking eyes that don't seem insane.
  • Bases. Painting the bases is an art. You can add rocks, sand, skulls, tufts, synthetic grass, or just leave them black and get the job done. Plain black (or grey) is ok, and if you're new to miniature painting, there's no shame in that.
  • How about transparent minis!? The spectres and wraith from the newly released Rise of the Dread Moon expansion are made with transparent plastic. Maintaining the transparent effect is really easy. You prime them with a thin layer of matte varnish (a spray is ok). Next, you wash them with a diluted wash / contrast / speed etc of your chosen main color. Add details such as eyes, as you prefer, with normal colors. Depending on the effect you aim for, you may consider a VERY LIGHT dry brush with a brighter tone to highlight some spots.

4 How to actually proceed: BE WISE AND FOCUSED

Keep in mind your job is to have THE GAME painted, not a couple models, so you must practice self-discipline, wisdom, and focus.

  • Always work in batches. Prepare, and then prime, and then paint all the doors. Then move on with the other furniture pieces. Then all the undead; then the orcs, etc. This is how you get THE WHOLE GAME painted. If you don't work in batches, you'll grow tired after your third door.
  • Begin with the least interesting models!! Really, start with the open doors and get them out of the way immediately. You only need three colors to paint them. If you're an absolute beginner, the open doors are great to get a feeling for using a spray primer and to learn how to dry-brush, and to feel how the colors flow. Closed doors are next. Then tables and cupboard. The bookcases, alchemist's bench, sorcerer's table, fireplace, etc are more interesting and more detailed sculpts. Save them for last among the furniture. After all furniture is done, you start with the monsters.
  • Save heroes for last. You want the heroes, gargoyle and dread sorcerer to look cool! This is why they MUST be the last models you'll paint. They are your final goal, your prize. So after the furniture you must tackle the common monsters! The zombies, mummies and dread warriors are easier than the skeletons, orcs, goblins and abominations, so start with them.
  • Choose a color scheme and stick to it. Check online for examples of painted figures. Choose a color scheme that you enjoy, and stick to it. I strongly advise against making each orc different. It WILL look bad when you play. A single color difference (hair, loincloth, etc) is ok, but avoid making each model different. They will look bad, and it'll also cost you a lot of extra time because you won't be able to work in batches. Also, choosing the color scheme before starting will make you work much much MUCH faster.

5 Shopping list

If you are completely new, this is what you definitely need to buy.

  • A cutter or modeling knife.
  • Plastic putty to fill the gaps.
  • Black primer spray.
  • Black, grey and white normal acrylic colors.
  • A set of about 20-50 contrast / speed paint / xpress colors. This one seems like one of the best deals at the moment.
  • Optional, but recommended: gun metal, silver, and gold metallic acrylic colors.
  • One or two cheap make-up brushes for the dry-brush technique.
  • A set of brushes like this one, or at least a "2" brush for most of the job, and a"0" for smaller details.
  • A matte varnish spray! You NEED this if you plan to ever play with your minis! Even if you plan to put them on a shelf, you would still be better using one to protect the minis from dust anyway.


Into HeroQuest? Check the HeroQuest page with all the posts.


  1. That leftover stuff from mould lines is called flash, not flesh. Great guide!


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