Reaper Miniatures Learn to Paint Kit: Core Skills Review

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Reaper Master Series Core Skills - Learn to Paint Set

Today, we’re looking at alternate methods to getting into painting and learning those first few valuable skills you need to take your first steps into the world of this hobby. Instead of following the well-trodden path that leads to your local Warhammer store and the Games Workshop website, this time we’re going to see how Reaper Miniatures do things.

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Reaper Miniatures Learn to Paint Kit: Core Skills Review – Summary

If you’re as green as summer grass when it comes to hobbying, and you’re not all that interested in the Games Workshop/Citadel way of doing things for whatever reason, the Reaper Miniatures Learn to Paint Kit: Core Skills set is a great place for you to start your journey into miniature painting.

See our full review of Reaper paints below.

Reaper Miniatures MSP Master Series Paints MSP - Core Colors Set 1 Review - Featured

Reaper Miniatures Learn to Paint Kit: Core Skills Review – Introduction

In the past, I haven’t been all that blown away by Reaper Miniatures’ products.

It’s my fault, not theirs (well, perhaps not entirely). By and large, Reaper Miniatures’ range of paints and figures strikes me as very old school, but that’s only because my initiation into hobbying was a thoroughly Games Woskhopian affair.

I trod the well-worn route of going into my local Warhammer store, buying a Start Here magazine, a starter kit, and then a Start Collecting! box. I’m sure I was the ideal initiate for the Great Warhammer Cult, and my transaction was about as by-the-book as you could get, and the very polite occultist who took my cash probably got a thumbs-up from his hooded managerial overlord.

Reaper miniatures do things a little differently. Geared away from the hordes of ravenous wargamers Games Workshop cater for and towards the millions of TTRPGers the world over, there’s something quintessentially retro about the way Reaper Miniatures approach the hobby.

Their miniatures have that oversaturated photo-of-four-kinds-with-bowl-cut-hair-siting-around-a-dining-table, overenthusiastically playing Dungeons and Dragons vibe to them. You know, the kind of picture you’d find on the back of an original HeroQuest box. The figures are cartoonish caricatures, larger-than-life, lacking that grimdark realism those more familiar with Games Workshop miniatures will expect.

But that’s not a bad thing. Variety is the spice of life and all, especially if you’re in the hobby for the painting, and by and large Reaper’s figures are considerably cheaper.

With my own very cookie-cutter introduction to the hobby in my mind, I was very interested to see what a non-Games Workshop welcome to the world of miniature painting would entail – and, to be honest, I wasn’t that disappointed.

Reaper Miniatures Learn to Paint Kit: Core Skills Review – Design and Contents

It seems like the particular painting kit I have may have spent some time deep in the vaults of Casa del FauxHammer (other evil strongholds are available). Looking at their website, Reaper’s Core Skills kit does now come in a different case, though the contents appear to be identical.

Here’s the case as it is advertised on Reaper’s website, so you know what to look for:

So, with that in mind, the box comes with a whole host of things to get you started on your miniature painting journey.

Two brushes:

  • #2 Flat
  • #0 Round

Eleven MSP paints:

  • Leather Brown
  • Pure Black
  • Polished Silver
  • Harvest Brown
  • Candlelight Yellow
  • Naga Green
  • Desert Sand
  • Mountain Stone
  • Dragon White
  • Blade Steel
  • Dragon Blue

Three Bones miniatures:

  • Skeleton Archer
  • Orc Marauder
  • Mangu Timur, Evil Warrior

And an all-important guide booklet written by award-winning miniature painter Rhonda Bender.

The box comes reasonably well packaged: a foam insert keeps the brushes and paints secure, though when I opened mine the minis were loose.

Reaper Miniatures Core Skills Set Box Open

The brushes are somewhat rudimentary. Both are crafted from Golden Taklon, a synthetic alternative to sable. The #0 Round doesn’t have much in the way of a tip to it, and It’s also pretty narrow so you’re not going to be able to load this brush up with much paint. It’s a sensible inclusion for first-timers, though, as it’ll teach the valuable lesson of not overloading a brush with your paints.

Reaper Miniatures Core Skills Set Brushes Far

I’m not a fan of the #2 Flat. Intended to be used as both a basing and a dry brush, the bristles are just a bit too soft and fine to be practical for the latter. Still, as far as a beginner goes, much like the #0 Round, it’ll get the job done – albeit without any airs and graces.

Reaper Miniatures Core Skills Set Paints

The paints included in the set have been selected with the three included figures in mind, so there’s not much of a range. The palette is definitely tilted towards beige tones with an abundance of creamy yellows and brown shades. Excellent if you’re painting skeletons (which, oh look, we are!), but will prove to be a little muted for a lot of other figures.

And then we arrive at the figures themselves.

Reaper Miniatures Core Skills Set Models Unpainted

These three figures are a tactical choice: they have large areas that are easy for a beginner to get a brush around; they have straightforward textures that lend themselves to washing and drybrushing; and there’s not an intimidating level of detail on them to put off a novice.

But man, these things are ugly.

There’s a pretty distinct lack of detail across all three figures, and the overall quality of the sculpt isn’t great. Mangu, the evil warrior, has a particularly flaccid sword that required quite a bit of bending to get it upright.

There is a reason for this, though. Reaper’s Bones figures are designed to be as hardy as possible. Apparently, you can ever drive over a Bones figure and it’ll suffer very little damage. It makes sense, then, that these three figures have been picked for inclusion: the kid gloves are on!

Reaper Miniatures Learn to Paint Kit: Core Skills Review – Testing

At the core of this set is a short guidebook by award-winning miniature painter, Rhonda Bender. I decided the best way to put this box through its paces was to follow the instructions in this guidebook and paint the included figures accordingly. Just how different is Reaper’s figure painting method?

Reaper Miniatures Core Skills Set Booklet

The guidebook starts with a well-written section of tool care, which is something I wish I had been more aware of when I first started the hobby. Many newcomers will grab their brush, their paints, their figures and go without a thought to correct brush care and use. Because of this, most people’s first sets of brushes are doomed to be wrecked within a few sessions.

So, a good start. Next is a section on paint prep – another thing newcomers are ill-informed off. I’m fairly sure I speak for everyone when I say that my first ever minis were painted with from-the-pot paint that clogged up detail and applied unevenly to the figure. Again, this is a sure-fire way to wreck your first set of brushes and your figures, so the well-written warning in the booklet is a good inclusion.

What follows are detailed, well-written steps pertaining to core painting techniques: base coating, washing, and drybrushing both base and highlight colours. The initial guide is based around the Skeleton Archer, and ends with some straightforward information to take the same techniques used to paint the Archer and apply them to the other two miniatures in the set.

So, with this in mind, and everything I thought I knew about painting well and truly shoved to one side, I set off to paint these three figures the Reaper way.

Reaper’s MSP paints will adhere to Bones figures without the need for a primer. In fact, the guide recommends not using an aerosol or spray primer on Bones figures, as apparently, they do not react well to the plastic.

The paints go on reasonably well. They’re quite aqueous by nature, so you’ll be forced to do a couple of coats of each in order to build up an opaque layer.

The recommended washes, on the other hand, are a different beast. Whilst the guide acknowledges that sometimes it can be quite difficult to judge how much water to put in a dilation ratio, I frequently found my carefully crafted as-per-the-instructions washes running across my figures. It’s worth taking some of the mixing ratios with a pinch of salt, and making sure you apply them with a small brush for good measure.

The paints are all provided in dropper bottles, which certain sects of the hobby community will be very pleased about. However, with a number of these previously unused and unopened paints, I found that the dropper nozzle was blocked with dried paint mix. This made the bottles impossi9ble to use, and I actually had to remove the nozzles to try and clean them before I was able to use the paints. Not great.

Still, having followed the instructions in the book (more or less), here’s what I ended up with.

Reaper Miniatures Core Skills Set Models Painted

If I was a straight-up beginner and these were my first ever three figures, I’d be pretty pleased with how this looks. I think back to my first Fire Warriors which I painted when I was still in single digits, and these are a vast improvement. Whether or not that’s down to the guide or my experience – which I did my best to try to set to one side and approach this as I would have done if I were a complete newcomer – I’d like to think it’s more of the former. The guide really is rather good.

Will Reaper Miniatures Learn to Paint Kit: Core Skills Improve my Hobby?

This is another experience-dependent product. If you’re a complete novice to painting – as in you’ve got absolutely no idea what you’re doing or even where to start, but like the idea of colouring in some tiny plastic people – this is the set for you.

Obviously, if you’ve been in the game for a while, this set isn’t going to teach you anything you don’t already know. You’ll be on to bigger and better brushes than those on offer in this case, and the paints and minis alone aren’t worth shelling out for. You’d be better off browsing Reaper’s range and picking out exactly what you’re after.

Reaper Miniatures Learn to Paint Kit: Core Skills Review – Price and Availability

The Core Skills kit is available straight from Reaper’s website for £36.36/€34.48/$39.99USD, which is a pretty solid price for what you get.

By comparison, a Games Workshop Age of Sigmar or Warhammer 40,000 paints and tools kit (thirteen paint, a brush, some nippers and a mould line remover) will set you back somewhere in the region of £25/€30/$40USD. You’ll then have to buy your own minis, which will likely cost you the same again. One of the Games Workshop figures and paints sets (three minis, six paints and a brush) will cost in the region of £20/€30/$35USD.

Reaper Miniatures Learn to Paint Kit: Core Skills Review – Final Thoughts

ProsCons
Seriously excellent beginner-friendly guide book
Decent paints
Minis aren’t great
Brushes are rubbish

Whether or not this is the right set for you comes down to what kind of painter you want to be. If you’re drawn to the whole Warhammer pedigree, brand loyalty, and wargaming aspect of the hobby, this set probably won’t scratch your itch.

If, however, you’re just interested in painting minis for the sake of painting minis, this may be a good place to start your journey. You’ll be able to develop some fundamental painting skills and familiarise yourself with a few basic techniques before splashing out on some more expensive figures to paint. At the end of the day, Games Workshop isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, so there’ll be plenty of opportunities to nab yourself some Space Marines or whatever takes your fancy at a later date.

Sure, the minis may be a bit on the rough-and-ready side, and the brushes aren’t of the best quality, but the paints are superb and Rhonda Bender’s guide booklet is a resource no beginner painter should be without. It really is an excellent resource for the artistically-inclined miniature painter.

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Author

  • Rob has spent most of the last 15 years playing World of Warcraft and writing stories set in made-up worlds. At some point, he also managed to get a Master's degree by writing about Medieval zombies.

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About VoltorRWH 31 Articles
Rob has spent most of the last 15 years playing World of Warcraft and writing stories set in made-up worlds. At some point, he also managed to get a Master's degree by writing about Medieval zombies.

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