All Mixed Up: Let’s Talk Vortex Mixers

I am beyond excited to be writing this review and short tutorial. I have wanted a vortex mixer for literal years. As always, I spent my own money on this, I am not paid or compensated in any way for this.

This is the INTLLAB Lab Vortex Mixer. It was not the most expensive mixer out there at about $65USD, they can run up to several hundred dollars in some cases, but it works very well for my purposes.

“So what is a vortex mixer?

A vortex mixer is a piece of scientific equipment that is, most often, used to mix various liquids in test tubes.

When you apply the test tube, or in my case paint bottle, into the center divot on the mixer it causes paint to be spun around very rapidly, creating a vortex. Some models are controlled with a knob this one is turned on by pressing on the pressure plate underneath the rubber top.

“Why use this for paint?”

Paint is made up of pigment(s) and binder(s) of some sort. When you leave your paint sitting for a while these things can separate and can be hard to mix back to normal. It is very noticeable when it has become separated because when you put some on your palette it will look watery. You can’t always tell just by looking at the bottle.

When this happens, most painters, will shake the paint by hand. Some also may use a paint or, in some cases, nail polish shaker. These will just shake the paints as if you were shaking by hand but much faster. The vortex mixer will spin the paint.

I have found the vortex mixer to be much faster than doing it by hand or with another kind of mixer. From my experience, so far, I can hold it on the vortex mixer and it only take somewhere between 10-30 seconds depending on how badly it has separated. On the other hand, also in my experience, you have to shake the paint for, at least, 30 seconds or longer when it is that separated. For me, repeatedly shaking manually for this long causes pain.

“What don’t you like about it?”

My big complaint is that the cord that is included is a bit short. It will not reach from my desktop to underneath, I have to use an extension cord. My lesser complaint is that the pressure plate that makes it turn on is not super apparent where it is. If I am mixing the paint with the bottle top being pressed into the divot in the middle I have had no problems so far. When I try to press it down with the bottom of the bottle it sometimes slips off to the side and it will stop operating.

My last complaint is just partially user error. The vibrations from the spinning are very strong. This again is less of a problem when used bottle top down. When held right side up it is almost too intense to hold in place for more than 10 seconds.

“How do you use it?”

Time for the tutorial!

First I find a paint that is in need of being mixed. In this case I have chosen Brigh Bronze (not a typo) from Reaper Miniatures Pathfinder line of paint.

You can see that the pigment has settled on the bottom and the binder is on top. I then take off the cap and use something sharp, in this case a Reaper Miniatures Paint Pokey Tool (the skull thing stuck in my paper towel), and poke it into the hole of the top of the nipple. You do not have to use a special tool for this. You can use anything thin and sharp like a T-pin, sewing pin, or even a thin paper clip. After I clear the nipple of any paint that may have dried inside it I remove the pokey tool and then wipe the nipple and threads of the bottle and cap.

I then remove the nipple by holding the bottle upright and gently push to the side. If you push too hard it can just pop off and you might spill paint everywhere. Once removed I will look in and see if I can tell just how separated it is. This bottle was very separated as you can see it looks like lightly colored water from above. Sometimes, I will squeeze some out onto a palette and check if I’m not sure but in this case it was obvious that I just needed to get it mixed.

Next, I throw in an agitator. I know that Reaper paints come with agitators in them but I like the extra one for a bit more mixing power. I am using lab grade glass agitators from Monument Hobbies. I like glass because there is no chance it will rust and ruin my bottle of paint. I know there are ones out there made of metal that are labeled as non-rust but I just don’t want to take the chance with my collection.

I then replace the nipple making sure it is firmly in place and then the cap. Once I’m sure everything is secure I flip it upside down and onto the mixer. Pushing down gently to activate the pressure plate inside. It really does not take much effort to get it to work that way. I hold it there for at least 10 seconds, in this case it was probably closer to 20-30 seconds. Sometimes I will hold the bottle right side up and hold it on there for a few seconds more but I didn’t do that with this paint.

After I’m happy with how it looks I’ll take off the cap and nipple again and see if it looks thoroughly mixed or not. It may look mixed from the outside but still need a little more time. In this case I did not need to mix any further.

This one is a little bubbly but that will happen most any way that you mix them. To remedy this I’ll put everything back on the bottle and firmly tap it against my desktop, or some other hard surface, a few times.

And there you have it, nice and evenly mixed paint! You can definitely tell a difference from where I started to what it is now.

I hope all of this was helpful and made some sort of sense. If you’ve got any questions or comments let me know!

Happy Painting,


March is Over…Almost

It is almost the end of March. I think this month I’ve been fairly productive I figured I’d write this up not because I’m not sure when I’ll have time to sit down and do a proper write up of things.

At the beginning of the month I sat out to do a few things. I finished most of them and got side tracked from other things that I wanted to do.

First, I finished the Pig and Cart.

I have not finished or even touched any of the minis from the Reaper Virtual Expo that happened at the beginning of this month. I also haven’t touched my Frost Gian Queen.

I did however begin Grimtalon and his wings have taken, so far, the better part of a week and a half of off and on work time. I have yet to do anything but the wings. Once I get a little further along I will post some pictures here.

Now for the reason I’ve been really unproductive. Two words: vortex mixer. I finally got one. Not one of the very expensive ones but it definitely does the trick. I will be writing up that review and a tutorial on how I’m going about mixing up the paints very shortly.

I’m sure I will do more things than just wings and mixing paint but if I don’t I’ll see y’all next month with, what have been so far this year, your regular update.

Happy Painting

Mini March

March is here, how’d that happen?

First up I’m going to talk a little about the Reaper Virtual Expo that happened this past weekend. I meant to mention this much sooner but life.

The Reaper Virtual Expo was a digital convention that was set up very similar to how ReaperCon 2020 was last year. This ran more smoothly and had a few additional perks that I am looking forward to. The main thing I am looking forward to is the classes that were recorded. This will let me go back and watch things that conflicted with my schedule or that I just missed.

I attended 4 classes over the 3 days. Stuff came up on Sunday causing me to leave classes early and I have a couple very rough, unfinished minis.

Friday I took Erin Hartwell’s Skin Deep: Monster Edition. She taught us how to do a blue skinned Frost Giant Queen. I however did not have a spare Frost Giant Queen as I had just started mine the month before supplies were announced. So I did the old sculpt of the Yephima, Female Cloud Giant, it is currently out of stock. The new sculpt will be coming in the Bones 5 Kickstarter later this year.

This is the result of that class:

She is not finished but this is probably the best skin I’ve done in a very long time.

Next class was Multicultural Skintones: Dark Skin taught by “Mocha” of Mocha Miniatures. It was a very enjoyable class. We painted Ziba, Female Efreeti. It’s a gorgeous model and the class was great. I am however not super happy with mine at the time. Looking back on it now I think it looks better but is definitely a little rough around the edges, there are a few gaps that need filling that I just didn’t have time to do beforehand. I will be going back and watching this class again when it is available on YouTube.

My third class was Fun Faces with Ian Markon. I signed up for this very last minute. And I am so glad I did. Ian is a fantastic teacher and did what he could to answer all the questions asked of him. We painted Small World Arnise. At first I was hesitant to do it because I don’t really care for chibi miniatures but I had a blast. The skin isn’t perfectly blended but most of the class was focusing on eyes, expressions, and makeup. Over all pretty happy with it. I’d like to in the future get her skin properly blended and finish the whole mini. The eyes though are by far my favorite part.

The last class I attended I do not have a picture for. It was about painting crystals with Erin Hartwell. I had some stuff come up and had to leave about 30 minutes into the class but I am looking forward to seeing that class in it’s entirety when the video is uploaded.

Anyway Reaper Virtual Expo was a blast and I do hope they continue to have digital conventions even when they are allowed to happen in person again.

Next up I’ve got some goals and stuff in mind for this month. I don’t expect to finish them all but one of them is a rather large mini.

First off are continuing projects:

I only have basing and last minute touch ups on this guy.

I also need to start and finish this one this month (for personal reference the 28th of March is the date it needs to be finished by). I have not started this one so here is the store page image.

Pig and Cart

I also don’t have a picture of the Frost Giant Queen. But she is somewhere in the 1/4 – 1/2 range of being done.

Lastly, and this is a big one. I’m going to be painting Grimtalon the roc as an American Kestrel. It may not look big here but one wing is about the length of my forearm. When I get around to starting I’ll post some comparison pictures.

These projects should keep me busy for quite some time. Hopefully, y’all are out there having fun and staying safe.

As always, happy painting.

February Down

I didn’t get much done this month. I’ve been dealing with some personal stuff and haven’t had a lot of painting time.

I did get a little painting done. I painted the Bones Dire Crab by Reaper Miniatures with 5 colors.

I did however start some different kind of painting. I have started to do some landscapes following along with Bob Ross videos on YouTube. I’ve done 3 so far. I’m very happy with the first two.

The big difference between mine and the videos are that I’m using acrylic paints instead of oils. I am practicing to eventually make them much smaller and do miniature paintings. These are on a mixed media paper. I have bought some roughtly 2 inch by 3 inch canvases to scale it down. I hope to scale it down even further.

My ultimate plans are to make diorama backgrounds and small paintings for dioramas. I may sell these if there is enough interest.

I am going to get back to mini painting, hopefully, this weekend. I’ve got some things I want to finish by the end of next month.

I won’t get much personal painting done the weekend of March 5th through the 7th. I am “attending” the Reaper Virtual Expo. There are tons of FREE classes to watch and/or follow along with.

You can check out what classes are available at the Reaper Virtual Expo site. There’s also lots of other fun stuff like painting contests.

That’s all for now. As always, happy painting.


Reaper Challenge League: January

The year has started and it’s already flying by. January will be over in a matter of hours for me. I have done a lot this month, at least compared to the last several months. 

This year I’m participating in the Reaper Challenge League. This is a thing that Reaper Miniatures is doing through their official Discord server. Here is a link to more detailed information on the challenge: Reaper Challege League.

It is a challenge to paint Reaper models, aside from the freebie (I’ll talk about this a little further down) and bust categories.

Each month there are eight (8) challenges. 

The first two change each month, the first is a theme, for example, January’s theme was fire or ice. 

There is also a limited palette challenge. You are given a set of three (3) colors, January’s were blue, green, and pink. You paint one mini with just these three colors with the addition of black and white. However, these do have to be Reaper paints to count for points.

The other six (6) categories stay the same. There are categories for a player character mini and a monster mini. There are categories for Duo’s and Trio’s. This is where you pair up with one (1) or two (2) other painters and paint the same model. There is a category for New Releases where you pick a mini that has been released in the current month or the previous two (2) months. Then last but not least there is a Freebie/Shelf of Shame category. It is for you to paint any mini, from any company, in your stash.

There are also additional categories that are due quarterly, bi-yearly, and yearly. Each quarter there will be a raffle. You use the points that you get from doing each challenge and turn them into tickets. The raffle is held on the last day of the quarter. 

I did not plan to do much with this initially but I am getting things painted so that is a big motivator to do things. I finished three (3) challenges this month. A player character, a trio, and a freebie. I have also started two (2) models, a mini for the large group and a mini for the large model quarterly categories.

Here is what I accomplished:

Player Character: Bryn, Half-Elf Rogue
Trio: Andromedan Queen
Freebie/Shelf of Shame: Thac0vius, d12
Quarterly Large Group Model: Annoyed Rocky (WIP)
Quarterly Large Model: Frost Giant Queen (WIP)

So that’s what I’ve been up to this month. More to come next month!

Happy painting,

Brushes, Brushes Everywhere: Anatomy

Well, it’s time I finally got around to one of the hottest and most debated topics in the miniature painting world, paint brushes! There is a TON of information out there that can be conflicting and confusing at times and I’m hoping to help make it a little easier to pick out what the right brushes for you are.

“Awesome! What brushes do I buy?”

Whoa, whoa, whoa. There is a lot to know about brushes. There are also many opinions on what the “right brush” is. Whether it be brand, shape, or size; someone, somewhere will have an opinion on it.

“What is the ‘right’ brush?”

The “right” brush is the one that works for YOU. No matter what suggestions you may get or information you may read. Ultimately the best brushes are the ones that you like the most. 

Artist brushes are what are generally used for miniature painting, either watercolor or acrylic brushes. 

There are many factors to choosing a brush, just to name a few; how they’re made, what they’re made of, and how they act when painting.

But we’re not going to talk about any of that today. Today we’re going to be discussing the anatomy of a paint brush. 


Yes, anatomy! 

Knowing what parts make up a paint brush will help you immensely. 

Like I mentioned, there are many factors to picking a paint brush but, whether you’re painting on canvas or on a miniature, brushes are more or less universal and are made up of three main parts: handle, ferrule, and bristles (also sometimes called the tuft). Most paint brushes will also have a number (the size) and one of, in some cases both, the type of brush and company that produced it. Below is a handy diagram so you can see what I mean.

Diagram drawn by Ian Allen Bird

“Tell me about handles first.”

Handles are pretty self explanatory. They are the part of the brush that you hold. There are many different types of handles and several materials they can be made from. They also come in long and standard, which varies from company to company. 

Because you will spend so much time with it you want to make sure it’s comfortable when held. Ask yourself “Is it too light or too heavy?”. If yes to either, then you want to pick a different brush. You’ll also want to pick the type of material that is comfortable. Handles are generally made from wood or plastic. I find that the really cheap synthetics are made with plastic whereas almost everything else is made of wood. I can’t stress this enough, if it doesn’t feel comfortable, don’t buy it.

However, if you live in a remote place without a hobby or craft store nearby, testing out how it fits your hand is not necessarily an option. If you know someone who paints you may ask to feel how their brushes feel.  

None of these are options, you say? You then might turn to the internet to purchase brushes. This is not a bad thing. In fact, you can sometimes get really good brushes online that you may not find in a store. This can end up being trial and error which can get expensive depending on the brand of brush you buy. If you find a brush that you find paints well but isn’t quite comfortable enough you could always make or buy grips or simply look for a different brush. I will talk more about grips at a later date.

A word of warning though, buying name brand brushes, like Winsor and Newton, off of Amazon or eBay is not necessarily the best idea. While it may be convenient and maybe even cheap there are lots of people that sell them and it’s never guaranteed to be a legitimate brush of that brand. I’m not saying you can’t buy brushes off of Amazon, I have tons of synthetics that I’ve purchased there that work wonderfully, just be cautious if you do.  

“What is a ferrule and what does it do?”

It is a piece of metal, higher quality brushes it is generally made of copper or brass alloys but they can also be made of tin or aluminum. The ferrule holds the bristles in place and serves several different purposes.

The ferrule is crimped at the bottom to hold it to the handle. If not crimped properly the bristles can fall out or the ferrule itself may come off the handle completely. Neither of these things are good. There are a couple things to fix a ferrule that is loose or that has come off the handle. 

First assess how loose it may be. If it only wiggles a little you may be able to re-crimp it. You can do this with either a crimping tool (that can be found easily online) or some needle nose pliers. With pliers gently squeeze where the original crimp marks are. After each squeeze rotate the brush a little until you’ve gone all the way around.

If the ferrule comes off the handle glue or epoxy is the way to go. Start by gently sanding (or otherwise roughing up) the handle. Next take super glue or (preferably) a fast curing epoxy and apply some to the inside of the ferrule. Now this step can be tricky. If you use regular super glue, as opposed to a gel type glue, you need to make sure that it doesn’t drip down into the bristles. If it gets into them then you may have just ruined your, possibly, expensive brush. You will want to then leave the brush upright until the glue or epoxy sets completely. Just let it sit, don’t touch it.

If none of these work you may be out a brush.

PROTIP: If you get paint in the ferrule, if you’re not quick to clean it out, it can dry and this will cause your brush to splay out and split in an undesirable manners as seen below. 

If this does happen, stop what you’re doing immediately and rinse your brush very well. You may even want to run it under some cool water to help. Continue to rinse until the water runs clear and you can no longer see paint near the ferrule. While rinsing you will want to periodically dry the brush on a paper towel putting a very small amount of pressure at the heel (where the bristles meet the ferrule) and see how much paint may remain in the brush.

If paint does dry in the ferrule don’t despair! It can sometimes be saved, not always though. There are products out there that can remove even the most stubborn of dried paint. These products, however, can be very harsh on the bristles. I’ll do a whole post about brush cleaning in the near future and go into detail about the product and process that I use to clean and maintain my brushes.

“So it seems like the most important part you’ve left for last? The bristles?”

You are, indeed, very observant. The bristles are the heart and soul of the paint brush. Without them it’s impossible to paint. This can be the really confusing part about picking brushes. There are many types of shapes, sizes, and materials that the bristles can be made of.

“That seems like a lot, where do we start?”

Let’s start with materials. There are many types of hairs that make up the bristles or tuft. There are two broad options, synthetic and natural hair. 

Synthetic hairs are usually made of nylon or polyester, these are sometimes labeled as “Taklon”. Brushes with synthetic hairs are, generally, much cheaper than natural hair brushes. Taklon is generally white or golden in color. I have not found much difference between the two.

Natural hair bristles are made up of different animal hairs. The two most common natural hair used in high quality miniature brushes are Red Sable and Kolinsky Sable hairs. Both types of hair come from animals in the weasel family not from a Sable.

Red Sable, while still of decent quality, are much cheaper than Kolinsky. They come from an animal that lives in a warmer climate than the Kolinsky thus making the brushes work in different ways. Red Sable can also come from the female of the same animal from which a Kolinsky comes from. It also does not come to as fine as a point as a Kolinsky because of the nature of the hairs; and because of this they generally will not hold a point as long or as well making it difficult to control.

Kolinsky Sable hair comes from an animal that lives in a much colder climate than the Red Sable hairs do. To be a true Kolinsky they must be made from the hair of the male. They will keep a point much longer than most any other type of hair on the market. A good Kolinsky brush can last years if properly cared for.

“Okay, what’s next?”

Now, like the brush itself, the bristles have their own anatomy. 

Bristles are made of the tip (or point) and the belly. The tip of the brush is one of the most important aspects in choosing one. The shape of the brush will determine the shape of the tip. The important thing to look for is that it comes to a point without flaws. 

The belly will vary based on the size of the brush. It is where the majority of the paint should sit after you have loaded the brush. The size will determine how much paint it can hold. The larger the belly the more paint it will hold. Very small brushes have very small bellies. This can cause problems because, depending upon the climate of your surroundings, the paint can dry on the brush before you even touch the brush to the mini. That is why it is recommended to use the biggest brush you are comfortable with. This is, however, not always practical; you probably can’t paint those tiny eyes with a size 4 brush, no matter how sharp the tip is. 

That is where we are going to leave off for today, thanks for reading!

“Wait! You mentioned that size and shape also affect how brushes work. What about all of that?”

That is for next time! It is much more information than this one post can hold.

Happy painting,


Portfolio Overhaul

I’m hoping in the near future to get my portfolio more organized. I have not yet determined the best way to do that though. I’ve painted So Many Reaper Bones that I feel just putting them into one section isn’t helpful if you’re looking for something specific. I’ll let y’all know when I figure out a system because I may have to take that part of the site down for a bit to rearrange things.

Thanks for your constant patience.

Happy Painting,

Happy New Year!

So it’s 2021 now, weird right? I will have been painting for 8 years this year and have come so far and don’t intend on stopping now. A couple posts ago I mentioned hobby resolutions. I have…many. I’m try to reign it in but it’s proving difficult.

I have two lists. One for hobby specific goals and one for hobby adjacent goals.

Hobby Goals:

  • Finish Ma’al Drakar
    • I came very close to this last year but Stuff (TM) got in the way. This might be the year it’s done!
  • Start Grimtalon
    • This is a gorgeous Roc mini by Reaper Miniatures from their Bones IV Kickstarter.
  • Baba Yaga’s Hut
    • A house. With chicken feet. Need I say more?
  • Eldritch Desert Diorama
    • I’m not sure I mentioned it last year but I started a diorama later in the year. It’s going to be a black and white film noir Lovecraft-esque thing.
  • Finish up Shadows of Brimstone that needs to be done.
  • Start painting Forbidden Fortress.
  • Finish up the minis started during ReaperCon Live 2020.
  • Clear some of the Shelf of Shame.
  • Participate in the Reaper Challenge League.
    • I’ll come back to this in a minute.

Hobby Adjacent Goals:

  • First I want to work on the blog.
    • I love being able to share things with y’all and, I feel, I’m not doing it enough.
  • Level up my photography skills.
  • Organize minis and paint
    • Lol, this may never happen well enough for me to be content.
  • Update the mini inventory spreadsheet.
  • Update the paint swatches and make sure they are inventoried.

Okay. That was a lot. But it is for the whole year so maybe I’ll get some things done.

Now, I mentioned the Reaper Challenge League. It’s a new thing that is happening on the Reaper Forums and Discord server. The only downside I have found is that you have to have a Discord account and be part of the server to participate.

I am going to attempt to do this for a while. I probably won’t make it the whole year with everything else I want to get done. But it’s a fun thing to try to challenge myself. It is NOT a contest. It’s purely a challenge to see how much you can get done. I’m using it to help me clear my backlog.

This is the link to the forum post with a ton more information:

I think that’s all I’ve got for now but looking forward to bringing some exciting things to y’all this year. In the meantime be safe, happy, and healthy.

Happy Painting,


This year has been a trip and it wasn’t one I planned for.

All told I painted about 36 minis this year. I can’t find an exact number because I did not write things down like I should have.

As it is the holidays I have broken out my Reaper Miniatures 2011 Sophie Christmas Ornament to hopefully paint before the end of the year.

For next year I have goals. I can’t say if they are big ones or not yet. I will have to think on them for a while before I can really say one way or the other. I will get my list of overall goals up sometime soon.

Lastly, I want to wish everyone a very happy holiday season.

Happy Painting,