Seriously, I value your input. Do you paint with any magnification? Do you believe in “tabletop standard” as the standard? Do you think people put perfection in the way of good? Let me know.

One of the greatest struggles I have when painting miniatures for tabletop wargames, is forgetting that I’m painting them for the tabletop, and not a full page spread in White Dwarf.

Do you use magnification like this when you paint?



I never have, even when I was painting up my 2mm Macedonians. I actually own one and use it while I’m looking at my stamp collection. If you have never experienced an Ott-Lite, you are missing something. Basically, it’s a genuinely pure white light without any yellowing or harshness. Perfect for reading, painting, etc.

Now anyone who’s seen my painting stand knows I have two Ott-Lite lamps on my desk. Or to be more accurate, two cheap Home Depot desk lamps with Ott-Lite bulbs in them. I can’t get over what a please they are to paint with. There is no “oh crap, I didn’t realize the colors were that off” moments.

Then I fell right into the trap…the trap of…

Magnification While Painting and the whole “Tabletop Standards” Thing


What brings this up is I went over to a friends house, Mr Gadget Freak, and he had a really cool setup. He was using a USB connected microscope, actually an endoscope. His wasn’t a cheap one, it was actually a medical grade one, but he had it connected to his laptop. That way, he had an exploded view, and pretty decent resolution at that, of his work while iHeartRadio was playing.

Funny but I had the real feeling that I was watching a painting tutorial by Romain from Beasts of War. Kind of expensive for a really good one but that does make me wonder. Hmmmm. Cheap ones might not be as clear but even blurry-ish images blown up to my 15″ screen could be useful. It would really help you get in nice and close to view your models as you paint them and give you more brush control.



The first problem I have with it is unlike traditional jewelers headsets, you aren’t looking directly at what it is you are painting. It is easily doable with practice, I did it all the time when I was teaching and used an Elmo Document Camera. Still, it is not ideal.


The inexpensive USB magnifiers are pretty crappy as they use software for zooming. Basically, they are live feeds from really bad quality digital cameras with macro lenses. Also, even the cheapest digital ones are still more pricey than the old fashioned jewelers visor that I sometimes wear.



No, not focus as in clear images. I mean focus in the metaphysical sense. I’ve painted everything from 2mm all the way to 57mm. Being on the internet and also being wildly guilty of it myself, I notice sometimes that people forget what their goal is. By my guess, 99.5% of people know that they are never going to win a Golden Daemon for painting and frankly don’t aspire to. One of my great criticisms of certain corporate tabletop wargame chains is that they keep stressing Golden Daemon level painting for the sake of selling more stuff at the expense of discouraging hobbyists.

I’m a strong believer in tabletop quality for tabletop models. If you are putting a model on display, then go for it I say. However, most of us actually intend to use our toy soldiers for the purpose in which they were created: playing a tabletop wargame. “Tabletop” has become an almost snear from people. I heard it used usually as a knock from one painter to another when I managed a game store. “Oh, it’s tabletop for sure but not bad.” Frankly, we need to remember that we are viewing the models usually from about six feet away. So, QUIT FOCUSING ON YOUR MODELS FROM 6 INCHES AWAY darn it.

There is absolutely no need for someone painting a stand of 2mm Macedonians to worry about painting each man in the Phalanx individually. Unless you use a magnifying glass, you’ll never ever see the details.

Digital Cameras.

I think one of the other HUGE elements of people moaning about Tabletop Standard is the use of digital cameras. Frankly, even cell phones much less the cheapest Chinese digital camera on the market can take some pretty darn good macro shots. Again, people are taking, myself included, some really good up close and personal shots of their work. Problem is, we are forgetting nobody should be looking at the models that close normally.

Looking at the models on the Flames of War website, you would think that they look like crap. Up close, yes, they do. However you aren’t supposed to look at either of these pictures up close. The whole point of the FoW painting style as well as the whole school of Pointalism is that YOU AREN”T SUPPOSED TO LOOK AT THEM UP CLOSE. The distance is what causes the light to play tricks and make something oh so much more beautiful as you step away from it.


Seriously, do you notice the difference? Same things, just viewed at the distances that they were intended to be viewed at.


Ok, so I have ranted along for almost 900 words now… my point is, don’t let perfection be the enemy of good.