I usually don't bother with this when I'm painting single models - BUT, armies look really nice when they're painted with a uniform colour scheme. Some variances are okay, but generally, you'll want them to be similar. Those similarities are what you should keep track of.
For example, I have notes for every version of the Eldar Alaitoc armour I've painted, and their accessories. (For reference, there've been 3 - heavy armour w/ chainmail, a newer style similar to aspect armour, and the newest sleeker style.)
I spoke about this sort of thing a little while back when I discussed Organizing Colours While Painting.That article was about planning ahead and pulling out all the colours for a mini before you get started AND lining them up in the order you'll use them. This will give you an idea of what your mini will look like, what colours you need, how the colours will look together, etc. Essentially, it's this order that you want to keep track of.
So, what sort of notes do I mean?
As you can see, it's just a point form list.
After some of the lines, I make other notes in brackets - usually what's a wash or h/l (highlight) but sometimes one or two more words about how it's applied, mixed, blended, etc.
Paint models one at a time without worry
Another reason to do this is it allows you to paint models one at a time, rather than assembly line stile. If you paint one colour on every model in the unit, then move onto the next colour, and so on, YOU WILL BURN OUT. It also doesn't allow you to get creative and blend. Keeping notes lets you focus all your attention on one model at a time, and you'll be healthier for it.
Something that I've started to do is paint a splotch of paint beside each step.
As I use different brands of paint and manufacturers change their formulas, (Like GW did recently) it becomes important to have a reference for colour matching.
This way, if I don't have the exact same paint down the road, I can find or mix it up later.
Speaking of mixing, if one of your steps involves a mix of paint, this should be MANDATORY so you know what the mixed colour looks like.
My Short Hand
The following is a list of the short hand I use in my notebook. What's important is it makes sense to you. Start by spelling it out and as you use your notebook more, cut it down to safe space. I think the first one I shortened was "highlight" to "h/l".
I'll also use verbs like light, slight, heavy, thin, thick, etc to specify specifics in the formula.
- A thick covering layer, usually only used in the first few steps.
- Mixing or tinting on the surface of a model to create a gradient from one colour to another.
- Intentionally make this step stand out from the previous ones like a really dark shadow or an extra bright highlight.
- Hatching technique
- Rather specific style like used on Thagrosh.
- Targeting raised parts on a model like edges and corners.
- Shade or Shadow
- Targeting recesses of a model like creases in cloth.
- tone or tint
- Modifying the Tone or adding a Tint
- A thin layer meant only to shift the colour of the existing surface.
- Covering the area with a wash. If the paint listed isn't a wash, also thin it until it is.
- Adding water to thin a paint, but not as thin as a wash.
- ___ + ___
- To indicate 2 paints mixed together in roughly equal parts.
- # : #
- A ratio to indicate 2 paints mixed together, but more of one.
- " 2 : 1 " would mean twice as much of the first paint than the second paint.
- > or } or ]
- A line connecting two steps to suggest doing a smoother blend than usual.
Here's an orc pictured that I painted as a defeated opponent for the bases of my War Walkers.
I'd never really painted Orcs before, but I had a good time doing it. There were only three of them, but I knew that if I came back to paint more down the road, I'd want them to look similar. (Though I'm starting from scratch with my Hordebloods as I want the army to have it's own style)
My Eldar style was much bolder, less blending, but here's the notes I kept for them:
The following are my notes from that project. You'll see I crossed things out as things change, and put some colour down as targets for later.
Excuse the water damage... there was this flood, and I'm lucky to even have this notebook still.