Sep 052011

Have you ever heard the phrase table top quality?  Did you wonder what it means?   Well, if you know or think you know what table top quality means read on and I will share with you my findings.  We will attempt to do this by not siding with any one view (I will still pick on stereotypes though), but instead by defining it based off reading articles, and forum posts from Dakka Dakka, Bolter and Chainsword, Cmon, and game manufacturer’s websites.


When I first decided to write this article I thought I had a good understanding of the phrase.  I was wrong.  I discovered that a  part of the “painting” community is loud enough that that they are heard.  Not only are these people loud they are rude.  You will find comments like”table top quality is just another way of saying ” , and “tabletop quality is just an excuse for you not wanting to play me”.  So if you are a new player or painter who plays you are forewarned that you will be up against this kind of mentality.  I suggest you steer clear of these people as best you can while you are learning to paint.

Getting back on topic,  in my readings I discovered there are basically three levels of painting, Table top, professional, and expert.  Here are the basic rules associated with telling the differences.  A table top quality paint job is one that looks good from six feet away.  A professional paint job is one that has no visible defects at arms length (about three feet).  An expert level paint job is one that has no visible defects at six inches.

The table top quality paint job has a minimum of three colors in its simplest form.  Some may have as many as six colors from highlighting.  If it does have more than three colors the painter is progressing to the next level of skill.  it is possible that the tabletop paint job might have painted eyes, but most will not.  They might also be based.


The professional paint job is, in my opinion, is what most gamers achieve.  It is the broadest definition because it can include a well painted three color paint job that is based.  It would be tough to get others to admit to it but it is possible.  The professional paint job is based.  It has a minimum three colors – most have six. That is three base colors and two color to highlight each base color.  Because this level of painting is fairly easy to achieve most will end up here.  I am an ok painter and I believe I fall into this category.  The truth is anything beyond tabletop quality is professional and the only thing that seperates you from an expert (at this point) is skill.


An expert paint job is based and has hours of love put into it.  This paint job might have six base colors with least three highlights for each base color.  The biggest difference from a professional level paint job and an expert paint job is this:  in the expert paint job you will not see the highlights, they will fade into each other.  An expert painter will blend his/her colors right into one another so the changes will not be abrupt.   This technique takes a lot of practice and  can use as many as 12 shades for each base color.


I hope that this helped you as a gamer.  If you are new to painting paint what you want to paint.  If you don’t want to paint your tactical marines for 40k then don’t.  You will only get better painter if you paint things you want to paint.  If your friends won’t play with you because something is not painted, they are probably not your friends.



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