Thursday, June 23, 2016

On Miniatures - Essay The First - Basing and Primer

Ten sets of figures from the recent Dark Fable Indiegogo:
The Temple of Set

Still organized by sets; the last time they will be, actually.
Bases by Litko Aero and TRE Games

And now with flat white spray paint as a primer...

Well, here we go. This series of little essays is on how I do my figures; one of my regular readers asked, so...

I'm going to leave aside until later the question of where I get my figures, and why; it's a much more involved subject, so we'll leave it for another (series of!) post(s). This batch are the figures I got from the recent Dark Fable offering, and are:

Top to bottom, left to right:

Reward Figures, including Prophet of Set,
Temple Guards I, Cultists I with Set figure, Cultists I with Cultist figure, Heroes, Temple Guards II,
Cultists III, Female Temple Guards, Serpent Braziers, Consort of Set, Temple Characters, Cultists IV,
Nubian Queen, Nubian King and Followers

These come with plastic slotta-bases, which I do not use; I think they're too tall, and not all of the 'slots' on figures will fit into them. So, out come the sharp side cutters, and off got the slots. Bases for my figures intended for characters are rounds, 25mm for humans, and bases for military types are 25mm square - there are variations to this, for 'wargame figures', but we'll pass over that for now. Bases are laser-cut 3mm thick plywood, and I use hot-melt glue to attach the figures to the bases. I had a few bases with laser-cut slots from an earlier project, so I used these up on this one; I dislike sanding the slots in the plywood to fit some figures, so I usually go with the solid bases and the glue. I also use various brands of 'tacky' glue, used for crafts; I do not use epoxy or anything really permanent, as we run smack dab up against Chirine's First Law Of Miniatures:

"No matter how well you paint the figure, or how much detail you put into it, you will always find someone who can drop it on the floor for you."

So, by using a good but non-permanent adhesive, the base will break off the figure on impact, and the shock will be largely absorbed in the process. Fire up the hot melt gun, and your little warrior or sorcerer will be back in action in a flash.

At the same time I base up the figures, I also do any assembly and gluing on of parts. This is to assure the best possible bond between everything - see the First Law, above. One note on these figures; as supplied, two of the soldiers had shields that looked a little too much like medieval 'heater' shields, so I replaced them with more 'Aegyptian' ones from the parts bins. Otherwise, all of this batch was used 'as is'. I tend to use Walther's 'Goo', a contact adhesive, reinforced by super-glue; this works very well, and I have yet to have anything done this way fall off...

Once everybody is based up, they get put on a sheet of scrap plywood and taken outside to the back yard. I do most of my painting with acrylic paints, so it really helps to have a coat of a good primer on the metal figures to help the paint adhere. I use a flat white enamel spray paint almost all the time; I do use flat enamel black, as well as the usual red and grey enamel primers. Each of these, when used as an undercoat, will make a difference in how the final paint scheme will look; I used the flat black for the silver tubeway car, for example, and I'd use it for metal armor as well. Grey is good for buildings and other objects, and red for items which are supposed to be made out of wood or leather - experimentation is the order of the day, as you will have to be the one who chooses how you want your figures to look.

So, it's out to the back yard, as it's summer and the weather was perfect - warm, low humidity, and a slight breeze to keep the fumes and paint out of my face. I put the figures on a bit os scrap plywood, about 18" on a side to make it easy to handle, and I put the figures in staggered rows so that the paint can get to all of them. You want a nice even and light coat - as you can see from the third photo, the miniatures actually look grey as the spray paint went on perfectly. Now, the most important step: let everything sit and dry for twenty-four hours. if you try to slap any acrylic paint on before this, you can get a 'crazed glaze' effect, as the solvents in the spray paint will leach out and cause the acrylics to break up.

So, we'll let everybody dry for a day, and be back tomorrow. I am - for once!!! - stopping and getting photos of the figures as i work on them, so next time around we'll see the first coats of paint on them.

Thoughts? Comments? Questions?


  1. No comments so far... painting "how tos" are always a reflection of the artist's experiences and techniques, which are always a joy to read. I have already learned something - I'll be checking out "Goo" as versus the 2 part epoxy I use for shields, spears, weapons.

    1. I'd really agree with you about this - I think that there is no 'right way' to paint figures, just like there really isn't a 'right way' to game. Ours is a very individual hobby, where people can show who they are by what they do.

      I really enjoyed your post on your blog about how you paint, by the way; I'd like to include you in my list of blogs, if you don't mind. Your use of black primer for your armored figures is really a good one, and one of the best on how to do that I've ever seen.

      I've never been able to get the hang of epoxy glues; I'm always mixing it wrong, or something...

    2. Sure, please do! I'd appreciate that.

      Epoxys - I use the Gorilla quick set - it's 8 min to set, 20 min to not move much. Equal parts, mix together, use lots of sticky blue tack to keep the parts together and in position and viola, Bob's your uncle.

      I wish all the armors were that easy! The 12 figures of Chaos Warriors with black armor were very easy, but doing these Land/Sea Elves with different/fully colored armors takes a bit more time.

      I have found that the idea of shining the light from above to get the highlights works as well for doing all highlights as for doing just the black/grey highlights.

    3. I'll get it done over the holiday. Thanks for the epoxy tip, too!

      Figures looked very good, by the way... :)

  2. I just received my rewards from the Dark Fable Indiegogo as well, though a much more modest collection of figures. I do need to get a new pair of side-cutters to clip the tabs off them though; I agree about the height and often-ungainly fit of the plastic bases.

    I also will be trying your adhesive methods - "Chirine's First Law" may be getting printed out and framed over the gaming table.

    1. If it's any help, I used a set of side cutters that the Missus got me at her favorite jewelry supply place; they are designed to cut through metal, and do a very good job of it.

      Feel free - maybe people will pay attention, and be careful! :)

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