Monday, May 20, 2019

Preparing metal miniatures for paint

This weekend I completed a set of ten classic Plaguebearer models using (and adding to) the new contrast technique I picked up on the airbrush course last week. The trick to really make Nurgle models pop is adding yellow, purples and reds to the green skin. As the models themselves are metal I thought it would be a fun idea to write a quick tutorial on the proper preparation of metal models for paint. At least my take on it. 

Plaguebearers, now with added contrast!

A complaint you hear from people working with metals (and resin for that matter) is that paint tends to chip off, even when plenty of primer has been used. A secondary problem I personally had is glue failing to hold bits in place. Both are quite inconvenient and (mostly) easy to prevent. The main culprits are leftover casting agent and finger grease.

New models with lots of very small, easily lost bits...I'd better assemble these straight away. Not so fast! You have to clean the models first.
Lets take these new models I got through a Die Hard miniatures Kickstarter. The first step after unpacking and marveling at my new purchases is removing flash and (hardly needed here) mold lines. The molds for metal models are covered in a casting agent to ensure the model is easily released. Bits of this are always left on models after casting and this makes the paint chip of. Luckily it's easy to remove. To prevent (some) cursing during assembly and paint mishaps take the following steps before and after assembly. Please ignore the fact that I forgot to take pictures before assembly and just go through (most of) the next steps twice.

Everyone ready for their first bath? No? Good, there we go. 
1. Put your new models in a plastic bin, add some dishwashing liquid and then add water.

Waiting while models soak has to be the easiest part of the hobby (right after buying more stuff I'll never finish).
2. Marvel at the beauty of the bubbles (or spend your time doing something useful). I usually let the models soak for an evening but I suspect an hour should be enough.
Nah this glove has never ben used before.
3. At this point you want to prevent touching the bare metal with your greasy fingers. Even the cleanest hands leave grease behind and this can stop paint from adhering to your miniature. As you can see in the picture I only use brand-new, mint out of the box protective gloves.

Buying a dedicated miniature scrubbing toothbrush is preferable to borrowing one from an unsuspecting roommate.
4. Using a toothbrush (preferably one dedicated for this task) scrub the soaked miniature under a running tab (cold water can be used, or lukewarm if your precious appendages can't stand cold water). 

That's one drowning wood elf.
5. Marvel at the color difference between the miniature before and after cleaning. (And ignore the fact that I've been using two separate photo sets for this one story). 

Don't be like a certain blogger who shall remain nameless and try priming wet models. It'll make a mess (or so I've heard...).
6. Put the models on some kitchen towelette to dry and wait another day. I usually put a solid lid underneath that can serve as a tray so I can transport the cleaned models without touching them. I do touch pre-assembled models with bare hands because I'm clumsy enough to glue my gloves to a miniature. In this case I avoid areas that need to hold glue. After the glue has dried, go back to step 1 of this tutorial. 

Next step (after the primer has cured): applying paint.
7. Don't touch assembled and cleaned metal models with your bare hands! As soon as the assembled models are dried apply a primer to them. I prefer airbrushed primers, but this comes down to personal taste. After this point you still shouldn't touch your models with bare fingers until varnish is applied (but we all do because it makes painting easier). 

The truly impatient can always try an arcane technique called 'dabbing the models dry'. It's rumored that a secret cult of monks living high up on a mysterious mountain range can teach this technique. Try untutored at your own risk...
If you want to speed up the drying process, you can always dab with the towelette. But my paint stack is big enough to wait for the models to dry of natural causes. I hope this helps someone. Happy painting.


  1. Good advice, and those Plaguebearers look ace. I seem to spend at least as much time cleaning up old metal as I do painting it. Between the mould lines/flash, scrubbing them clean, and the occasional paint stripping, it seems to take forever!

    1. Thanks. Stripping paint does indeed seem to take as much time as applying it. Although I have to admit plastic gives me more trouble then metal.