Have you ever found that you rub paint off the miniature while you paint it? I know I had major problems with it – most of all when painting minis without mounting them on a base first.
A painting handle or a miniature holder simply “holds” the miniature while you paint it, but a good one can also add other benefits to your painting process.
In this article I will go through what you should look for in a miniature holder and what I think the best painting handle on the market is.
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What to look for in a good painting handle when painting miniatures?
A good miniature holder or painting handle should do the following:
1. It should hold your miniature firmly in place
This is very simple, but in spite of that, a lot of the different handles can get this wrong. Once you have mounted the miniature it needs to be kept firmly in place on the holder.
You might think this is funny, but it is actually quite a problem with the various holders that pressure on the model or tilting of the handle will make the mini fall off. And you need to be able to tilt the model or else it will be a pain to paint.
2. It should not damage your miniature in any way
The whole point of the paint handle is to make sure you do not have to put your nasty skin-oil on the miniature and rub all of those delicious highlights off.
But what good is that if the handle damages your miniature?
Besides the mini falling off, various things can happen:
- Some handles are built with a high centre of gravity. You need to be able to put the handle with the mini on your painting desk, without fear of it falling over constantly.
- Some mounting mechanism are either really hard on the base or forces your fingers to touch the miniature to much (which is what we are trying to avoid in the first place).
I find the Citadel Paint Handle really crap in terms of balance…
3. It should be comfortable to hold
Most painting handles are made in one size and only comes in that size. Do our hands vary in sizes? Yes!
I am lucky in that my hands mostly fit the smallish miniature holders on the current market, but I know a lot of friends who get cramps using some of the smaller ones.
When you are looking for a painting handle, you should be looking for something that you think will fit your hands and that you can imagine holding for an extended painting session.
4. It should be easy and quick to get miniatures on and off the holder
Some of the various holders use a very tedious mechanism for mounting. This is no problem if you only paint one model at a time, but I paint greenskinz and armies so I need to paint LOADS of models at a time.
If it takes just a few seconds to get the minis in and out of the handle I find it really obnoxious.
And in the same category as this, I got enough maintenance with just trying to keep my brushes from getting damaged. I do not want a painting handle that requires me to maintain it in order to make sure it works.
5. Add extra features
One of the things I get asked a lot when I talk about the joys of painting handles is “why do you need it? Why can’t you just hold the mini by the base?”
First off, sometimes I paint the base and the mini separately (not when painting armies, but it can happen when I paint a single miniature). And I find flipping the miniature upside down without touching the mini can be hard, if I only have the base to hold onto.
But I find the biggest reason I use miniature holders is that they add improvements to the way I paint.
As an example, my homemade painting handle lets me rest my palm on the handle. This makes my hand more steady which in turn improves my painting (I also rest my elbow on the table and in combination I have two points of contact the makes any shakiness less likely to ruin my “epic” highlights).
Other handles do add other feature. The GW version with the arms is great for glueing on fiddly parts of model. Some can rotate in a smooth way and others give added grin or comfort.
Oh and if you got kids, a big handle can help them hold the miniature much easier if they just hold the it by the base.
Different available painting handles / miniature holders
Overall these are the different versions of paint handles / miniature holders you can get:
- Games Workshops different versions of “paint handles”
- Game Envy’s Hobby Holder
- Rathcore’s V3-series
- Redgrass Games “RGG 360” paint handle
- And off course multiple versions of do-it-yourself, 3D-print and what have you.
I will go through the different paint handles and give my thoughts on the pros and cons of each different type.
The Games Workshop painting handles
The Citadel Paint Handles from Games Workshop is a very bare-bones paint handle. It is simple to use and quite cheap, but in my opinion, you are also getting what you paid for.
What is not working with the citadel paint handles:
- It can be sort of fiddly getting the base and the miniature in and out of the handle. When I do it, I always wish I had 3 hands: 2 to pull the springs and one for putting down the model in the holder. This means it is not designed for batch painting (some people solve this by buying their multiple handle box, but this seems like a bad solution to a problem you could solve with better design).
- There is potential to accidentally damage the base and the model when you fiddle around with getting it in and out (I have chipped the rim on the base many times with this handle).
- The centre of gravity is off when you have a mini mounted (especially if it has any kind of weight). It falls over on me waaay too often.
- It is not very comfortable to hold and there is no way to rest my hand on the handle.
- If you want to mount a big base you will need the XL version (and with that one the issue with the centre of gravity is even worse).
- If you want to mount something without a base, you are out of luck!
What has the Citadel Paints Handles got going for it?
- They are readily available and sorta cheap
- You just use it (as in, it requires no preparation with sticky stuff, magnets or what have you).
- Once you have something mounted, it tends to stay there (unless you screw up the mounting and send your mini flying like I once did…)
- It is better than holding your mini by the base
As you can hear, I am overall not impressed by the GW paint handles. I use mine from time to time, but it is very rare these days.
That said, the assembly thing is good for glueing together old metal models. For that, it is a lifesaver (but for simple plastic models it does not really add a lot of value)
Oh, and for the meme fans I almost forgot [insert your own meme about how the GW handle looks like an adult toy].
Want to paint more than 1 mini at a time? GW has a simple solution: buy more paint handles!
Game Envy’s Hobby Holder and Rathcore’s V3-series
They are a step up from the GW paint handle in terms of price and features, but they are still not the best product for me (but they are the best miniature holders for a lot of people).
Both feature an upwards grip, designed to make it easier to paint (you can hold the mini more steady). The Hobby holder grip can be flipped downwards for a “pistol grip” if that is more comfortable for you.
With the Hobby Holder you get multiple screws (but you can also use various bottle caps). You mount the mini by putting sticky tac / blue tac on a cap and putting your mini on top of that.
The sticky stuff will not bond to your model but will keep it quite firmly in place. If you need to paint multiple models you can just use multiple cabs.
The Hobby Holder is made from plastic and is a bit… well, if you think it looks cool then power to you.
The Rathcore uses a really sleek looking wood design for the actual painting handle. We again got the grip, this time with a more a sweet looking metal thing.
You mount the miniatures on the Rathcore via cork thingys. You put the bases of your minitures into the cork and once you put the cork thingy into the actual holder, it will press the cork together, holding your miniature firmly in place.
I have used neither of these products, so take my criticism with a grain of salt.
But here is why I never bought any of these miniature holders:
- If I wanted to use sticky tac to mount my miniatures, I would just mount them on cork from vine bottles or other random things. I do not think the grip from the Hobby Holder ads enough value for me to buy it.
- While I totally dig the aesthetic design of the Rathcore, we again run into the issue of having to use multiple cork thingys and mounting (dismounting stuff). As a person who paints armies and loads of models, it is just too fiddly for me. Oh, and it requires bases which is sometimes a pain.
But hey, I have heard from multiple people who swear by either the Hobby Holder or the Rathcore. So for some, they are absolutely worth it.
Red Grass Games Painting Handle
Warning: Red Grass Games sent me a review copy of the RGG360 holder free of charge. This in no way affects my opinion on the product nor what I write about it.
So the RGG360 from Red Grass Games is closer to my ideal painting handle, but still a bit off.
The RGG360 is a smallish piece of plastic. The handle is formed to be more ergonomic than most other paint handles. It sorta works, at least if you have the correct hand size. I got small hands so no problem, but people with big hands might find it does not really fit them that well.
On top of the handle, you have a small knob that you can turn around with your thumb while painting. I was surprised at how good the turning thing was working, as I had originally written it off as a gimmick feature. The knob is tight enough to not turn by itself but feels smooth to move with your thumb.
You mount the miniature on top with some sticky stuff that comes with the handle. I must admit that the sticky stuff seems better than normal sticky tac, but the sticky mounting mechanism is still the downfall of the handle.
Cons of the RGG360
- Some of my sticky stuff is starting to lose potency. What happens when I run out?
- You sorta have to maintain the sticky stuff (covering it up when not using and so on), to make sure it does not die over time. Not a fan of extra maintenance on hobby products.
- While mounting a round 40mm base on the handle sort of works I had some issues with big bulky models falling off. I tried painting a giant with this thing and that did not work at all.
- When you have bigger models mounted centre of gravity is an issue with this handle (falling over is not cool).
- The handle is kind of small, at least for some big-hands-people.
Pros of the RGG360
- When you get get the sticky stuff to work you can quickly swap miniatures on and off the painting handle (for batch painting miniatures).
- Once the sticky stuff is on, it is very easy to use (it does not get stuck to the base of your miniature).
- The turning thing works much better than anticipated and is a joy to use.
- You can mount things without a base on it.
- Quite cheap.
I am happy for the RGG360 holder, but it is still only use it for single smaller (32mm and down) models. When I batch paint or paint bigger models it is just not really cutting it for me.
Make your own painting handle / miniature holder
There is a ton of options when it comes to making your own miniature holder or 3D printing one.
A lot of people simply use some sticky tac on top of whatever they like to hold onto while painting. The miniature simply gets stuck on top of the sticky stuff and you are set to go.
While I own multiple different bought miniature holders, I have found a DIY solution that I myself is a big fan of.
Read on below on what I do!
A magnetic miniature holder – my DIY version that I think is the best painting handle out there
While most of the paint handles described above work fine, I do not think any of them work great for what it is I need them to do.
So, over time I have developed a simple and super good DIY paint handle solution.
This is what it looks like
As you will probably know from some of my other content, I am a massive fan of magnets when it comes to miniatures and the hobby. It solves most of my issues with transportation, storage and movement on the tabletop.
And with just a few steps, magnets can also be really great for miniature holders!
The setup and making of it is simple really.
- All my models are magnetized on the bottom. Most I have done by a magnetic sheet (great for flat MDF bases but can also work fine on GW’s hollow bases). On larger bases (40mm and up) I have shifted to doing it via rare earth magnets and hot glue.
- Because all my bases are magnet I just need my miniature holder to have some metal it can hold into. I have solved this by using a metal sheet on top of whatever thing I deem good enough to be my painting handle.
- Now the miniature will magically (or, magnetically), stick to the painting handle.
I simply buy some a metal sheet that (where one side is adhesive) and stick it on top of a big cork piece or whatever (mine are bought in the local hobby store and is normally used as plinths).
If you had the tools and know-how, you can also just make the miniature holder out of metal in the first place.
Why a DIY magnetic miniature holder is the best solution for me
1. Minis stick to it and come off when I want them to
As you can see from my criticism earlier, it is very important for me that I can take miniatures on and off the holder without ANY hassle. By doing it with magnets, the mini simply stick on there no problem. It also comes of, not problem.
Batch painting have never been easier.
2. I make the miniature holder with exactly the materials, height and width to fit my needs
Some of the problems with the bought holders are that they do not fit your hands exactly, or they do not fit the miniature exactly, or the centre of gravity is off or whatever.
By creating this simple solution YOU decide how you want it to look, feel and operate.
One of mine is high enough that I can rest the bottom of my painting hand on the miniature holder, giving me some rest for my hands (which makes sure that I can keep them steady).
You got quite a lot of options when it comes to painting handles.
Since the variance in price is so little, it is all matter of figuring out what painting handle will be best for you.
For now I am going with a magnetic solution that I make myself. This is because I do not want any hassle taking getting the miniature in and out of the mount, nor do I want any maintenance on the holder itself. I should be able to use it without thinking about it.
But if you are more interested in only painting one miniature at the time, you cannot really go wrong with any of the options above. They all work and if you do not like it in the end, you can just replace it with a new one.
Looking for other tool recommendations?
This article is part of a series where I explain what tools and gear I use and why I think they are the best on the market.