It is normal to finally use them, the reasons are many and varied. I have written below a quick sum up of what I considere the first and foremost.
There are six main reasons to use a Painting Service to my knowledge:
- You are the ten thumbs type of person who does not like arts&crafts, and is not able to paint the figures yourself, but has read History and wants to wargame or whatever… needs someone to paint his miniatures for him. No problem at all you did not build your car don’t you? (mind, I know a guy who does! -built his car-).
- Time is an issue, either you are too old -as me today- to contemplate starting something anew, or either (as was my case too at a certain time) you do not have spare time because you are overworked and need what remains of it to have a family life in the real world.
- You do not have a room or a corner to do the job yourself -this can be aggravated but someone living with you allergic to paint- pass on and go ahead… use a painting service.
- Megalomania also is a cause because it is impossible to you to do it for the sheer amount of minis for your project.
- Laziness, if you are able to explain yourself meticulously to the painters and have the cash… why not?.
- A variant of (2) is a Time Date, be that a wargame with friends or a Convention Game. You love to paint, and are able to, but you simply have not the timespan.
I always had a plus of love for the figures I painted myself, and I painted more than two thousand 25/28mm myself in my time, but I adapted quickly to the system at a certain moment due to point (2) and (6).
Guess this is enough, maybe there are even other reasons like short-sight or whatever but I am not going to dwell on that.
Nowadays I use several painting services at the same time (I am near seventy!), Mersey Wargames have painted my Union 6mm Baccus Army and other projects like Khaki British Colonials, Custer’s Battalion at the LBH, the XIXth French Corps (Afrique) etc.; Turbil Miniatures have painted the Confederates also using Baccus 6mm; and Reveille has painted Leven&Baccus buildings, fences, bridges, stonewalls, Baccus trees basing, and scenery in general (and some units because Daniel have done them for himself before).
In my 25mm Napoleonic times, there was a time when I was really been overworking as an Arquitect, that made me start the process of dealing with painting services that even offered different levels of finition (I did the details and the basing myself) and that was the only way to have Austrian and Russian Armies and also other minor states…
Some tips that are probably evident… but nevertheless let me do a succinct exposition:
First of all you have to plan ahead because all painters have a waiting list, they are in it as a business and they want to keep the customer satisfied. So if you do wait too much to place an order do not be surprised by the long wait… keep that in mind. The better the Painting Service the longer the waiting list.
There are two ways to avoid too much delay: one which helps to speed the process (and gain time with cancelling the trips of the minis to and fro) is to place the order directly to the painters -of course it needs a sound knowledge of the packs or ranges you are asking for- but it is possible.
The other more lengthy but sometimes unavoidable if you -like I do- indulge in some conversions is to order from Baccus or whoever, and once things properly converted/organized send them to the painting service.
To gain time, if you really know what you are going to do, you can do it in parallel. For example: tell the painter via email: send an Invoice via PayPal for 12 brigades of Union Infantry ACW, 28 minis per stand including price of basing and put me on your waiting list while you wait for the rest of the minis to arrive, and so on. Ask for an ETA too. I would probably will use that mixed method if I do another period.
The most important tip is that the painter does not have the gift of telepathy, meaning that what you do not write down -on an email- will be done at his or her discretion, do you want the two standard-bearers standing in the front rank side by side? do say so, do you want a certain disposition of the figures in the base? specify correctly, do you want your Cavalry based in a certain way? wedge, line, double line, whatever… say so. I think I have made the point clear.
Think also that the Painting Service is not an Encyclopedia of your period of interest, and providing images and details of the uniforms ALWAYS (not shouting just emphasis) help a lot, specially when using proxies. Do not forget to ask for particular colours for the horses, trumpeters on greys, etc. And above all remember that what you do not specify is left to chance! – sometimes even a pleasant result-But surely it is not a moment for laziness. Do make your homework and the Painting Service will be almost as if you have painted the minis yourself.
I must add a black point… What happens if the parcel do not arrive? Normally you have to put your money forward when you ask something to be painted (providing the figures or not), so far so good. Never had problems in all my wargames life span -excepting an order from Robert Prati which finally was resolved to mutual satisfaction but that was 54mm long ago- until recently a parcel coming from Turbil Miniatures simply has vanished in a most puzzling way… no sign of it at all… has asked for a refund and Turbil obliged. A distressing experience when that happens for the loss of time and figures… specially TIME!