Handiest painting tips

14 July, 2011

I was thinking how much easier gluing was thanks to a tip I got a while back on superglue not sticking to graphite. This put me in mind of all the handy tips I’ve picked up from the web since I’ve started painting.

1. Hobby glasses: these are magnifying lenses that clip on to my existing prescription glasses. They are 1.5 magnification and make the 15mm figures much easier to see. Made a massive difference to my painting.

2. Brush soap: like many of the things I use this is from an arts supply shop. I credit it with keeping my brushes in good condition for a very long time. It’s a bar of soap and it’s getting a bit potholed, but I can’t see it running out ever.

3. Klear wash: absolutely transforms the figures I paint. It takes a bit of practice getting the strength of ink right, but I’d not paint without it. I use Klear for:

a.  a varnish for decals.

b. as an undercoat that shows the areas that will be shaded when finished. This has the added bonus of showing where I’ve not cleaned up flash lines enough.

c. for the final ‘magic’ wash on my figures.

d. as a wash on bases and terrain. I’ve made waterways with a darker blue wash over a base blue.

4. Gunk: I use this for thinning paints; I keep it in a dropper bottle and make it 30ml alcohol, 60ml water and a drop of detergent. It keeps paints going forever, and it’s great for mixing colours on a palate.

5. VVV transfers: I use these whenever possible and have found them very easy to use. They transformed the way I felt about shields. I’ve found them easy to cut up and make different designs out of. I use them for standards too.

4. Gluing tips: gluing has at times caused the most frustration, but a few tips have made it a lot less annoying.

a. using white glue on one surface and superglue on the other is very effective, especially for shields. It doesn’t seem to work for wire to white metal, though.

b. using a graphite applicator for the superglue is much tidier. I use a 0.9mm clasp pencil lead. I now keep it clean with nail polish remover, as it was developing quite a blob.

c. using green stuff for things like shields or riders on horses where there’s plenty of contact area, but it may not be flush. I’ve found the riders of Chariot figures are good candidates for this. Araldite is another option.

d. keeping the superglue in the fridge and the green stuff in the freezer preserves their life.

7. Basing techniques: the base really lifts the whole finished element.

a. using MDF bases. Much more convenient than cutting cardboard myself, and gives a better surface.

b. using a black marker pen to colour the edge of the base; it looks very tidy and is very quick.

c. using magnetic sheets in my storage containers (from Southern Magnets) and self-adhesive metal sheets for under the bases (from Products for Wargamers). The figures store much better. No more untangling elements in one corner of a box on arriving at a destination. They even survive the box being dropped.

d. using a mixture of sand mortar and gel with artist paints for the base: this is very quick to apply and with a finishing wash of a darker colour looks great. Also described here.

e. using static grass, foliage, stones and reeds to finish the bases. With practice these are quick to apply and I find that less is actually better for the static grass. The stones are from a bag of kitty-litter stuff for soaking up grease on a barbecue. I washed them to remove dust. I glue everything on with white glue and wash the stones with my Klear wash to get a dark grey finish.

8. I’ve found a pin vise essential for preparing figures to hold spears, and occasionally, when the spear is really spaghetti-like I’ve drilled it out and added a Xyston spear as a replacement. The drill bits from Donnington are really sharp. I got them on a whim, but compared to the bit I’ve been using, they’re amazing. It’s just a pity they’re short, as I use the bit to drill into the base and cut into the side of the figure at times, making a very snug fit. The Xyston spears (with a thimble) are great for pricking the point you want to start drilling. I also found the hobby glasses essential for accurate drilling, as I found by trial and error!

Well, that’s a list of all the tips I can think of. I’ll no doubt think of more once I post this.

2 Responses to “Handiest painting tips”

  1. Little Odo Says:

    Some really handy tips there Mark. Rather than the clip on lenses, I was thinking I might buy one of those large magnifying glasses with an inbuilt light to aid my painting. Not sure where to get one from though.

    Little Odo

    • Mark Davies Says:

      Thanks. I’ve seen the lamps in NZ at lighting shops, and they do look rather good. I got to try out a friend’s head-mounted magnifying glass before I committed to getting one. If I could have tried out one of the lamps, I might have gone that way instead!

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