So what's involved in the craft of miniature painting? Some supplies and some knowledge.
The knowledge is available everywhere online and in several good books we have in the store. There's the Darkson Designs Painting Guide, How to Paint Citadel Miniatures and How to Paint Space Marines, the last two by Games Workshop.
The basic techniques are pretty simple. You need to prep your miniatures, usually meaning you wash them if they're metal or remove them from their sprues if their plastic. You file off the flash and mold marks, and you prime them with spray primer. After that you need a basic base coat of paint, meaning you paint the model with the correct color in the correct places. Pants might be brown, shoes black, nothing fancy.
After base coating, you can call it a day if you like and claim you're done. You could also learn the various techniques of dry brushing, washes, stippling, or whatever, but generally, the key to this craft is that you decide when you're done. You can spend eight hours on a model, something I do with my single Dungeons & Dragons character miniatures, or you can base coat a unit of figures and call it quits. If you're truly done, the last step is some non glossy varnish to protect your work.
What about materials? The secret here is that there are no right or wrong materials, within reason. I know award winning painters who use every variety of paint we sell in the store, and cheap craft store paint. All of these people have won regional or national awards using these paints, so there is clearly no wrong paint choice. Sitting on my painting table right now are paints from Reaper Master Series, Vallejo Game Color, Vallejo Model Color and one bottle of brass P3 paint from Privateer Press. It's all good.
Primer is the same way, we sell three varieties: Games Workshop, Armory and Testors. I personally have two bottles of Armory, a bottle of Testors and a five year old bottle of Games Workshop sitting on my painting table right now. It's not that big a deal.
Brushes are similar, although a good brush is more important. I use three brushes: a large brush, a small brush and a wider brush for dry brushing. I've got twenty or so brushes, but that's only because I refuse to throw worn out ones away. All brushes are fine, but you'll be much happier with a hobby brush as opposed to cheap art store brushes, which wear out faster.
Let me stress again, that you are done painting when you decide you are done. Nobody can tell you this, it's about your commitment to the craft and how quickly you want to start playing. I personally need to have my models base coated as a minimum, or it feels kind of lame to me.
before your army is fully painted. There are those out there that look on painting as performance and won't reveal their army until it's completely finished. I think they're missing out on a lot of fun, but we each decide when we're ready.
Our local Warhammer Fantasy game doesn't allow unpainted models in play, although painted is a subjective term as you can see by my guys above. I've been known to hire out the game room residents to paint a few ogres for store credit when I'm out of time. If I've got a campaign battle to play and the units aren't painted, they aren't allowed on the table by our own rules. This can be a shortcoming of the GW painting rules. Many people want to play, but because of the craft culture, they have difficulty committing the time and resources to painting. Ebay then becomes a source for painted armies. I also see this as a big reason why AT-43 pre-painted miniatures are doing so well for us.
My bare minimum painting regimen: prep to a small degree, prime, base coat, dry brush, magic wash, base with static grass and varnish.