Achievement Unlocked, Sort Of.

Posted: 24 July 2013 in Reviews

At the beginning of the year I established goals for the blog this year, and have now completed one: All of my unpainted figures are now painted; but I am not as happy about that as I expected to be.

For various reasons, I don’t paint figures very often, and I have to rush it when I do. As an attempted shortcut, I’ve used The Army Painter’s Quickshade on quite a few figures. When that works, it works very well, producing wonderfully shaded figures, much better than I could do by hand or with a wash/varnish approach. However, it doesn’t always work, at least not for me; some figures come out looking superb, some come out looking awful, and I find it impossible to predict which will work and which won’t.

This year, the dip stage went badly wrong, which led me to take a long, hard look at the results. Out of nearly 50 figures I’ve dipped over the last few years, I’m satisfied with the outcome on about 10-15% – since I finish figures at the rate of about 5-10 per annum, it wasn’t obvious as I went along.

I don’t think it’s the product; I’ve tried various floor varnishes, waxes, and quickshades, and I’m not happy with any of them. Also, I know there are a lot of people who get superb results with this technique. I’m just not one of them, and I don’t have the time, the patience or the large number of disposable figures to get good with it; it’s just too disheartening to spend 5-10 hours painting a figure over a two-week period and then see it turned into an awful mess right at the end.

Can anyone recommend a good way to strip figures? It’s that, buy them all again and start over, or just give up.

Meanwhile, colour me “grumpy”.

  1. Jim says:

    If they are metal, just buy some disinfectant with pine oil in, (I use original dettol), and soak them in it for a day or two. Any remaining paint left after that should flake off with a gentle brush from an old toothbrush or the like.

    Do you dip or brush? I also use dips, only I don’t dip them, I brush them liberally on, then come back in a minute or two and remove any excess pooling in the wrong places by wicking it off with the brush.

  2. Mark Watson says:

    Hi Andy. I’m not a fan of the oil dips (I haven’t tried stripping them yet; I’m assuming dettol doesn’t penetrate the oil varnish but I would be happy to be corrected). My general experience is that they overgloop the miniature, and then the matt varnish stage is high risk and ineffective (and as a result riskier) against the gloop.

    I’ve been working on an article for Slingshot where I tested a set of washes to see if I could get a better approach. Basically (I’ve save the working for the article, I tried 10 different combinations including the AP dip with a couple of different matt varnishes) my current most favoured approach is:
    – strong shading (like the dip but less gloopy) – Secret Weapon inked-based washes
    – subtle shading – GW current (latest gen washes)
    – gloss varnish – Vallejo (water based) spray
    – matt varnish – Vallejo paint on

    So I block paint as with the AP approach, then shade with SW washes, then either overpaint areas of pooling with the original base, or (cloth/skin) highlight, then if required use the GW wash to smooth out the result. Spray with gloss, then paint on matt (but don’t bother on armour or leather). This may seem fiddly but actually the main effort in the original dip approach is the block painting to start with, so proportionately I didn’t find it added that much time, and I’m far happier with the results. Also, no motor oil to clean off the brushes.

    Using lighter colours might remove the requirement for the highlighting. For SW’s Flesh Wash you might need white as a starter point as it’s quite strong.

    I note AP have themselves come out with a set of ink based washes. Maybe they’re finding the same thing. I think the people getting “great results” are often good painters to start with. I’ve noticed said results typically are very matt (so they’re a lot more adept with matt varnish than I am) and that plenty of work has typically gone into the bases. Looking closely at the models I’ve seen I can see a fair bit of uneven shading.

  3. rsmsingers says:

    Hi there.
    Dettol is a beast, it dissolves things like nothing else I have seen but it often turns things like dip into a goop that is hard to remove.

    I use a heavy duty degreaser I buy from a bulk cleaning store. Pretty much any heavy duty degreaser whether it be engine degreaser or for cleaning kitchens will do the same thing. I believe the citrus based cleaners (and simple green) will do the same thing. I use citrus based paint stripper on oak furniture and I’m considering testing on some old plastic space marines to see how effective it is. The benefit with using degreaser is that disposing of it generally just cleans fat and oil out of your drain rather than giving you a disposal head ache.

    Likewise you can use Caustic Soda (drain cleaner) but you have to take precautions (gloves, ventilation) and wait for the solution to cool, so it’s not as quick and easy as degreaser. It will however destroy any green stuff so it’s a great way to unconvert minis 🙂

    Some people rave about brake fluid, but it is not worth the effort and disposal problems. And frankly it doesn’t work that well.

    Which ever you do, if you have plastic miniatures, test the method on the one you like the least first. You sometimes get odd things happening like a lemon peel effect on the surface.

    If your metal miniatures blacken afterwards (probably lead oxide), just wear gloves and give them a good scrub with an old tooth brush, then dry and seal them with a good primer. The oxide is generally quite stable. You don’t want to be trying to clean it off with vinegar which creates lead acetate which is poisonous, and generally just makes the problem worse.

    I recommend Tamiya fine grey primer(spray can), or Vallejo Surface Primer (airbrush, spray or brush

    I would guess you’re not an over confident painter. If you’ve primed in grey you can then apply a black wash (thinned black ink, Vallejo black wash). This gives you a shaded miniature which is effectively a highlighting reference for itself. If you then highlight in your choice of (thinned) colour, taking care not to have your colour run back into where the wash settled you can very quickly have a miniature to a quality similar to when dipping works well. Then you just pick a few points and give them some bright highlights – spots of light as it were. Then varnish. Doesn’t really take that much longer than dipping, and is less of a mess, and is much easier to paint over if you don’t like it.

  4. jdmarzullo says:

    Andy! Quick! Buy some more miniatures! If you get all your lead painted you are in danger of spontaneous death. From the looks of my painting table, I’m going to live forever.

    • andyslack says:

      Does it count if I strip some I already have? I mean, they’ll be unpainted and everything…

  5. Sean says:

    I have yet to strip a figure, but I’ve only painted one recently. I would use Simple Green to strip. As far as dipping goes I would definitely brush it on. You can see my misadventures with GW wash here
    I totally feel your pain.

    • andyslack says:

      Thanks guys! Next time I get a painting slot in the schedule – probably July 2014 – I’ll try those ideas out, and let you know how it works.

  6. […] time for gaming this weekend, so I decided to fidget with some minis. A while ago, I was grumbling about my failures in dipping figures, and assorted kind readers made suggestions about how I could […]

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