Miniature painting can be intimidating if you're just starting out. And even if you're not, come to think of it. It's expensive, too: there's a dizzying variety of options to get caught up on before you put brush to paint. D&D model-maker WizKids wants to remove those obstacles. More specifically, it's launching its own line of paints that focuses on entry-level hobbyists later this year. Dubbed 'Prismatic Paint' and made in collaboration with the experts at Vallejo, this range is primed to launch toward the end of 2021.
It's not the only release the company has planned, either: WizKids is also working on brand-new, sprue-based miniatures. Called 'Frameworks', these will provide customizable characters, large monsters, and boxsets that offer multiple foes per kit to populate adventures from the best Dungeons and Dragons books.
I managed to catch up with producer JD Wiker to discuss both projects, and what I saw was enough to make me very excited for release day.
D&D Prismatic Paint
WizKids isn't trying to stage a takeover here; it knows that this is a crowded market. Instead, it's hoping to woo beginners that are testing the miniature-painting waters.
Created in partnership with the maestros of Vallejo, 60 paints will be making their way to stores at the end of this year for an undisclosed - but apparently affordable - price. These will be available individually (in pots with dropper lids) or via two boxsets. One, known as the Starter Case, includes 30 basic colors and serves as an entry-level option. The second is an intermediate bundle with 30 more complex effects. In other words? You'll be able to collect the entire Prismatic line if you buy both.
Although the range includes some formulations we've seen before (albeit in smaller pots this time), 20 are entirely new, D&D-branded additions. These hope to be more user-friendly than the competition with names like 'Scarlet Red' or 'Gunmetal' that do exactly what they say on the tin. In addition, each pot features easy-to-understand branding that'll tell you which kind of paint, wash, or effect you're seeing at a glance.
Accessibility is key
This cuts right to the core of what Prismatic Paint is here to do: as Wiker points out during our talk, accessibility is key.
"We're trying to develop a paintline that is mainly aimed at people who are not pro painters," he says. "The people who are maybe just dipping their toes into the hobby, who want to try things out and not be confused by terminology that's designed to cover all possible applications of the paint."
That's why the brand leans so heavily on the Dungeons & Dungeons name; it wants newcomers to know exactly what Prismatic Paint is for, giving them something to zero in on amongst racks of confusingly-titled competitors. When combined with model packs that might act as tutorials and a selection of basic tools like flexi-sanders or sprue clippers (not to mention clearly-labelled fine detail, multi-purpose, and dry brushes), this dedication to user-friendliness sets the range apart.
We'll have to wait and see how it stacks up against entries from Games Workshop and The Army Painter, of course, but the fact that Wiker is a keen hobbyist himself provides some confidence. It's obvious right away that he's injecting years of experience into Prismatic, and this should smooth the road ahead for beginners.
Unless you've dabbled in model-making sites or are converting something in figure surgery like Sid from Toy Story, creating characters that fit your vision is easier said than done. That's why WizKids has been beavering away on Frameworks behind closed doors. These sprues will feature minis with a variety of head, weapon, and accessory options that can be mixed and matched to your heart's content. Keen to give your dwarf a mug of ale rather than a shield? No problem. Want to add a creepy would-totally-murder-you-in-your-sleep gingerbread man from the Night Hag set? Go ahead, you brilliant weirdo.
This is something of a departure for the company as WizKids miniatures are usually a one-size-fits-all deal and are more or less ready to go out of the blister pack. By contrast, Frameworks can be tailored into something much more unique. Because of the emphasis on individuality in D&D, that makes all kinds of sense.
As always, these miniatures will be released in waves that arrive every five months or so. Although we'll have to wait until the second batch for a dragon, the first set is headlined by old favorites such as clerics, beholders, and halfling bards. The latter is a particularly good example in terms of variety; they can either take up an en garde position, strum a lute, or be happily tooting on a flute. Something similar can be said for the range's kobolds, which include one wearing a boot as a hat.
The multi-model kits are just as intriguing, if not more so. Of all the renders I saw, this is what excited me most - bulk D&D miniatures. It's not hugely cost-effective to buy blister packs when building an orc warband, for example, and you'll lose out on variety if you try. Because the alternative is opting for sprue-based minis from competitors like Warhammer and Kings of War that might be a different scale or style, Frameworks is a neater solution. If all goes according to plan, it should allow us to pick up D&D models en-masse without having to buy the same couple of models from existing lines.
Don't think these miniatures are exclusive to D&D, though. Even though they carry the brand (aside from a small number that are based on the Pathfinder tabletop roleplaying game), Wiker pointed out that Frameworks sprues are largely "game-agnostic." That makes them compatible with some of the best tabletop RPGs beyond Dungeons & Dragons.
No matter what you use them for, Wiker's background as a hobbyist should make for a better experience. More specifically, he's been sure to leave enough room on sprue pieces for pins in case painters want to secure fiddly bits.
Wiker and the team have also developed some fun ways to keep track of foes in combat for initiative. Rather than differentiating between them based on what they're wearing or the weapon they're using ("quick, hit that one with the axe - no, the other one"), Frameworks will include sets of arrows, mushrooms, and similar detritus in bundles of one, two, three, or more. This offers a clever way of numbering each miniature without resorting to a system that breaks immersion.
Not that boxsets and singles are all Frameworks will offer. A few larger sets are on the cards - nicknamed 'fat packs' on-team - including a rather intimidating Balor that Wiker notes is a personal favorite. Judging by the wealth of detail and optional extras you can add, it should be a lot of fun to paint.
Naturally, things aren't set in stone just yet - the current situation has made production difficult for everything from PS5 stock to Xbox Series X stock, and WizKids is no different. However, everything it has in the pipeline is tremendously promising.