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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Dip Shading Technique for Miniatures

After constructing your painting station one of the techniques you can use to paint your miniatures is called the dip method or quick shading.  More or less its a technique used quickly field a group of miniatures for your games without too much hassle and effort and requires very minimal artistic skill.  If you can paint within the lines then you can use the dip method to get some nice looking figures on your game table.  (don't forget you can click on the pictures for larger versions)
I learned the method from the Dark Age Games miniatures section, specifically this article on dipping. (Careful its a 17.5 mb pdf!)

First and foremost you need to prep your miniatures are you normally wood.  File off all mold lines, clean up any figures, and do all putty work, then primer the figure using either a white or a light gray primer.  I'd suggest white as the dip method mutes the colors so you want as vibrant colors as you can get initially pre dip and using a dark primer just already degrades some of the value of the colors.  

Once you've prep'd your minis you'll want to do a basic paint job, nothing fancy, just hit all your areas with a single tone of color making sure you get coverage and stay within the lines of your miniature.  For this method I like to just paint by dipping the brush onto the cap of the paint bottle and use it straight up no mixing or thinning needed.  Once you get a figure painted then you can go ahead and let it dry fully.  Acrylics need but an hour or two, if I'm using enamels I tend to paint everything wait a day then do all of my dipping at once.  Also it doesn't matter as much if you use gloss, satin, or flat as in the end you should hit your figure with some testors dullcote anyways.

I'll show you some test I did using white plastic miniatures from a board game.  I learned much doing these test and even a method of creating different effects using clear sealer and some pigments.  I did put a light coating of spray primer on them as they are plastic. I used three stains, two from the minwax polyshades line and one "regular" stain that was waterbased also from minwax. DO NOT BUY THE WATER BASED STAIN THE RESULTS WERE HORRIBLE.(NOTE: I SAID WATER BASED STAIN, NOT WATERBASED SEALER, BIG DIFFERENCE!) Here are the two polyshades and I'll show you the water based sealer.

This is a polyshade called American Walnut.
Its a combination of polyurethane sealer
and stain combined. As you can see its on the
 lighter side good for neutral/warm shading.


American Walnut / Polyshade
The solider I dipped then used a paper towel
 twisted at one end and wicked away
and deep pools of stain.
American Walnut / Polyshade
The tank I dipped but did not wick
away any of the excess stain.
As you can see too the excess pools
in the crevices and unless wicked away
will dry this way.  This figure became
tacky in about 15 min and dry in 1 hr. 

This is a polyshade called Bombay Mahogany. This stain is quite a bit darker. Many "dippers" use
 a stain from this line called Tudor and on the
 display samples is charcoal black color.
 however most stores do not have it in stock
 and can only special order it. Otherwise Bombay
is the darkest stain in the line.
Polyshade / Bombay Mahogany.
Again I used a paper towel to wick
away the excess stain after dipping it into
the can.  You can see that the Bombay is
a much richer and more red stain than
the walnut.
Polyshade / Bombay Mahogany.
If using this stain as it is more of a
red hue you could use it for dried blood
effects or possibly to enrich the skin
of some horrific demon or devil figure.

As you can see the walnut is much more of a warm neutral color where the bombay is considerably more red.  I'd suggest using the walnut for clothing, normal skintones, etc.  Where the bombay I would use in specialized areas such as demon, devil skins, gemstones, or dried blood spatters or coating of sword blades, etc.  Experiment is the key here.  Which led me to the next solution for dipping or Making custom color dips!

This is a can of clear sealer
which you can make your own
shades of dip out of!
Essentially its the same as the polyshades just without any "color" or "tint" added. I got a quart (32 fl oz) for $15.69.  Some other places online will try and sell you "magic dip" 8 oz. cans for the same price or more! Don't bother with those and make your own! The key there here is that it is a water based acrylic finish. Which means you should be able to mix it with ANY acrylic paint. NOTE: When you open the can you'll see that it has the consistency of warm honey or maple syrup, runny but still vicious, and has a milky white color like that of 2% or 1% milk. It dries absolutely clear and in this case with a nice satin finish.  It does comes in a "gloss" version if thats what you are looking for for a particular effect, regardless I typically use a coat of dullcoat afterward to protect everything and cut down on the shine.

I used a wide mouth jelly jar (also purchased from hardware store) and filled it with out 5 fl oz of the clear polycrylic finish. I then added about 1/2 fl oz of Ritt Black Clothing dye(MISTAKE!). Initially this mix worked really well. The dye mixed well and tinted the polycrylic to a nice dark shade of black. I dipped another solider figure and found that it was a very dark tint almost too dark, but i figured i'd keep this as the "darkest" shade i'd use for dipping, but mix up a light and medium shade too.  A day later when I went to do an additional test I noticed that the polycrylic finish had "gelled" and become like jam or jelly in my jelly jar! (no pun intended)  Something in the RITT dye caused a reaction and while it worked well initially clearly after a day the dip was ruined.

Clear Polycrylic Finish w/ RITT
Black Clothing Dye. It gelled into the
consistency of jam or jelly
after only a day.
Clear Polycrylic Finish w/RITT
Black Clothing Dye.  Initial results
were promising and produced
a very dark shade however
long term storage of mix
was 
disastrous

The next batch I decided to uses some liquitex mars black soft bodied acrylic paint. This time I only used 1/4 fl oz. Then stirred the paint and the polycrylic together (I used a popsicle stick to stir slowly, to avoid bubbles never shake it!) This mixture, i'm proud to say has not gelled. I did noticed however that after sitting awhile the mixture would separate (the paint would sink toward the bottom and the top would get grayish white) I just mixed it up again and it was fine. I performed another dip of a solider and i really liked the results for this "light shade".

Clear Polycrylic Finish with
Black Acrylic Paint.  Notice how you can
somewhat see the paint starting to separate
from the finish by the top white line.  Mix
this well always before using!
Clear Polycrylic Finish with
Black Acrylic Paint. This is a nice light to
medium shade.  
As you can see above the "tint" was pretty good. Rather than "dip" you could make up a custom color on the fly and paint it on with a paintbrush.  Using a paintbrush gives you much more control too, however use a scrap brush and not your best brushes as it'll destroy them eventually.

You could use multiple colors on the same figure just be mindful that you'll need to wick away any excess and not let the colors mingle, unless that's what  you're going for.   The key thing here is that it shows you can make a color up from any acrylic color out there! So this allows for custom "dips" if you so choose! I would suggest that you try and find an acrylic paint that is transparent or has the least opaqueness to it.  Again though, experiment, just document your findings and post the results here in the comments!

The other neat thing about using the polycrylic and acrylic paint is that unlike the polyshades, which even though I used the "satin" instead of the "gloss", the polyshades still has some glossiness to them. The polyacrylic were more of a "true satin" and technically didn't need any dulcoat, but to make sure I had a durable finish and to knock down even more any shine I would certainly dulcoat painted minis.

You might even want to try out other brands of "clear" finish, just be sure that if you are using a water based product you use acrylic paints while oil based products use an oil based paint.

There were some "marine" finishes which had added UV Protection included in their formulas , but according to the product description they took 6 hrs to dry. While the polycrylic took about 15-30 min to dry in such a light coat, the product info said 2 hrs dry time. So I'm guessing those marine finishes would dry somewhat faster than 6 hrs.

Overall I'm pretty happy with the results of my test and have used the method on a few of my figures.  When I get around to photographing some of them I'll post them up.  Also there is another method to wick away the excess finish instead of using a old paint brush or paper towel, which can leave streaks if done too late when the figure starts to get tacky.  The method involves "spinning" the figure or shaking the figure which the latter method makes a horrible mess! The spinning is a pretty good method and only involves some basic tools a electric drill a craft paint can and maybe some jury rigging a device to hold a miniature in the drill.  That however will likely be another post!

Hope you enjoyed this post and thanks for stopping by!