Friday, July 10, 2009

Sealing the Minis

Being new to 40k, I haven't really attempted a "How To" article, because I'm still learning how to. So for my first attempt at what could be viewed as a "How To", I'm describing how I seal my minis after painting them. But please, feel free to offer suggestions, because if there's a better way to do it...I want to know.

During the winter months as I finished up minis I wasn't able to seal them. My garage is where I do all my primering and sealing, but my camper was in there for winter storage. So now that summer is here and camping season in full swing - I've been able to get the camper out of the garage so I can primer more parts and I can seal the finished boyz.

So let me tell you about the first boy I painted. I went out and bought some some spray enamel. I sprayed my boy, and when it was done and dried it looked...wet. See I didn't pay much attention and the can I bought (which was with the flat enamels) was gloss. So he looked wet. I was really kind of pissed and embarrassed.

I was able to fix him by covering his head and arms, and doing a light coating of flat. It didn't completely take the shine off, but it dulled it. I had covered the arms and head, because if it did what I wanted it to, then he'd hopefully look sweaty. If it didn't work, then I figured better his armor and clothing looked bad than his head and arms. He doesn't look bad, but the spray gloss enamel has been retired.

Now I use a clear flat enamel that I bought at a major hardware retailer. I'm not endorsing them, so I won't mention their name, but I can tell you it starts with L and ends with owe's. Nothing fancy, but it does what I need it to: Protect the paint. Now, for things like blood on a blade, or a wound, something like that then a brush on gloss enamel is my preferred choice. That way it pops against the flat.

To seal the minis up, I set them on my saw horse in the middle of my garage. Then I use what I call a burst method. Keeping the can back about 12 inches, I spray the enamel on in "bursts" to keep from causing a build up, or dripping. A burst of enamel, then a different angle and another burst. I do this as I move around the Mini in a circle. Then I let it dry. Simple as that. Once that's done, then I'm ready to finish the base (I've read that it's best to do like sand or grass on the base AFTER sealing as the enamel can bunch up on the base material and make it look like crap).

I started sealing because I want to protect the minis I spend so much time painting. However I never really saw the need for it until Zagstruk. He's the first metal mini I've painted, and I've noticed that the paint comes off the corners and sharp edges easier than the plastic minis. Maybe I need a different primer? I'm not sure, but to be safe, I definitely have him sealed. The only thing I've noticed is that the flat enamel sealer I use dulls the colors a bit. Maybe it's just the stark contrast to the shiny gloss I used before...but maybe a semi-gloss would be better? Do they make a clear semi-gloss spray enamel? Anyway, as the name of the blog implies, I am no expert - just a new guy to a game. So any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.


  1. I'm not much for Lowe's cheap spray enamel. It tends to go on a little thick. For the best results, go to an art store and pick up some Krylon lacquer. It comes in Matte, Semi-Gloss, Gloss, and Super Gloss.

    The short version is that gloss lacquer is a stronger protection, but looks wet or shiny. Flat lacquer can rub or flake off and will dull the colors, especially pastels.

    I recommend against a semi-gloss as it is all mixed together. It has some of the pros and cons of both. A stronger semi-gloss can be gotten by putting on a coating of flat and then cover it with a light coating of gloss.

    If I'm reading your spray technique correctly, you might want to change it. Doing burst directly onto the mini gives an uneven coat and can lead to extra buildup, white rime, or even drips. You want to start your burst pointed a few inches to the side of the fig and then sweep across it before releasing the nozzle.

    As to the lacquer making your basing look like crap? Depends on how you're basing. It can do bad stuff to static grass and flock. It's just fine for most anything else as long as you don't over-apply it.

    Funny thing is, excepting terrain pieces, I haven't used spray lacquer for figs in about 3-4 years. I've found I much prefer brush applied lacquer so that I can control the effect layers more directly. I find it as just as important a step to painting as primer, basecoat, layering or blending.

    Cheers and hope this helps!

  2. Cool, thanks for the tips. I'm definitely going to change up how I'm doing some stuff. And definitely thanks for the pointers on the different lacquers.

    Also, I was brought to task outside of the comments because it appears in all my years of doing models and now minis I never knew to wash them first. I just always started out priming and then painting. It appears that has helped cause my problems with Zagstruk's paint coming off so easily. I'll sheeplishly take that advice and go with it (please don't judge me too

  3. Krylon 1311 matte sealer. totally worth it.

    For gaming models, I prefer a gloss sealer first (1 or 2 layers), followed by 2 layers of matte. let each layer dry fully before adding another.

    I will always seal after things are flocked. The sealer will help to keep the flock attached, and if you're using proper spray technique, you're not going to get it clumpy or messed up.

    Bursting like that can lead to problems. Spray a bit to the side of the model, then bring it across the model, and end your spray past the model. this ensure an even coating and avoids any of the particles that may dry in between sprays. rotate the box your models are on (or move yourself in the case of a saw horse) and repeat.

    It's actually good to spray a matte coat before the gloss sometimes, as most matte sealers tend to blend your colors a bit, and this can help to slightly smooth out any transitions between your color layers for highlighting and shading.

  4. Hah. Don't stress it. Washing the figs is only truly critical for resin pieces. Metal ones don't have nearly the same amount of issue.

    If it makes you feel any better, I didn't start washing my figs before painting until recently. My first few years of playing I didn't know better and the next decade I got everything used and was usually stripping old paint off it anyways...

  5. My experience has been that the metals benefit the most from washing... primer seems to stick SO much better. Plastics on the other hand, I still wash as a matter of course, but the times I've forgotten to, they don't seem the worse for wear.

    Resins I've never had a problem with, but I've been washing parts as usual practice for long enough that by time I started doing anything in resin it was just natural so I've never NOT washed a resin piece.

    But yeah, I say definitely get a toothbrush and soap and wash your metal... all too often I've seen paint/primer flake off a broad open surface with the most accidentally casual rubs when it hasn't been washed. It's just a good practice to engage in every time.