Materials #2: Sprays & Wet Palettes

Monday, 6 April 2009
No exotic trips to junk-troves on the weekend, but I'd like say hi to Mitch from the Games Workshop over in Hornsby. I was over that way last week and thought I'd pop by Westfield's to check out GW. We chatted about Citadel's new washes, varnishing and undercoats.

Talking about undercoats...


Yep, say goodbye to the last Chaos Black undercoat spray bottle I'll ever use ...


That's right, after something like 8 years on and off using this kind of undercoat spray, I've had enough of "frosting" and the can's drippiness. Okay, frosting is fixable - but dribbly nozzle problems on a spray bottle can spurt globs of paint on your fresh model. Maybe my last few cans were dodgy, but I always follow the instructions carefully and am still getting this problem.

What is frosting you ask? Well, it's just a phrase we use (not sure if anyone else does) for the white film or frost that appears on models as they dry after spraying them in humid weather, full sun or some other stroke of misfortune when doing your undercoats. This same problem used to occur with the old GW Purity Seal varnish - which is no longer sold as a result.


Now it might be fixable by coating your model with watered down Chaos Black - but doesn't this extra step of fixing the frosting problem defeat the purpose of using an undercoat spray? It's meant to be quickier and easier than painting on an undercoat. And when you've got deadlines, a spray should be saving you time.

I'm not going to give up on sprays altogether though. Send me any recommendations via and I'll check them out and post on this blog. I might have a look at Tamiya primers from HobbyCo, as I started out using these paints in the early to mid-90's. Although some hobbyists have found other problems with these primers, I might try this technique of extracting paint from a spray can to then feed it into an airbrush for smooth application like the YouTube clip below ... this would only be viable for larger quantity jobs, as for only a small bunch of models I might as well hand-paint the undercoat.


At the moment I'm using Testors All Purpose Dullcote (Flat Clear Lacquer) - and I think it's fantastic. The guys over at Tin Soldier recommended the small bottle (85g) that I bought for $11.95 back in February.

It leaves a Matt finish, which is great as I hate Gloss varnish with a passion (unless it's for a specific purpose). Give it a try and see what you think. It doesn't need too many coats, just a few outside in the air under some shade. Leave it to dry and in about 10 minutes (usually less) your model is good to go.

TIP: They also recommended a neat trick I'm going to try in the next few weeks (and will blog about it, so stay tuned). If you're going to be doing a lot of wargaming with your models and you're looking to protect them from getting chipped and scuffed: use a Gloss varnish as this is the strongest and will seal paint the best. Once dry, spray successive layers of Matt varnish (4 or 5) to get rid of the gloss finish. Make sure you let each Matt layer dry before repeating 4 or 5 times. This should leave you with a matt-varnished model that is chip-proof.


ALTERNATE VARNISHES: I've got my eye on some alternate varnish sprays that I'm going to use for this experiment. If all goes well, these could be the most economically efficient way to lacquer your creations. The Micador and Helmar brands make a full range of sprays from Fixatives (for dry media artwork) to Varnish and Adhesives.

I'll aim to use the Helmar Crystal Kote Gloss and Matt bottles (400g each!) to test out the above 1:5 ratio Gloss/Matt technique. They generally retail for not much more than $10 each. But again, I don't know how many coats are required from a Crystal Kote Matt bottle to achieve the same results when using Dullcote. It'll be interesting to compare drying times as well.


What's a wet palette? Ah yes, this is a godsend for those of you who are frustrated by your paints or custom mixes drying too quickly on the palette.

They've been around for a long time but you can make your own quite easily, customising the size to your requirements (see below). Generally, the commercially-sold wet palettes are small.

Forumla P3 (Privateer Press) sell a Wet Palette that I've seen on shelves at Tin Soldier (Sydney), online at Defiant Gaming in Canberra, and Irresistable Force (who seem to be having website problems). This one is reasonably priced compared to other brands you'd find in general art stores.

Sometimes called "stay-wet palettes" (mainly after a brand by Daler-Rowney in the UK) these trays are specially designed for acrylic paint and are developed to keep paint wet and workable for several days. The palette is a shallow tray where a sheet of water-absorbent paper, or a sponge soaked with water is slipped into the base. A sheet of palette or membrane paper is placed on top through which water passes by osmosis, keeping any paint on the palette moist. You can replace the sheet of membrane paper when it's full.

These are great because they prevent wastage by keeping your paint moist - instead of having to close the lids on your Citadel (or other) pots and re-shaking them once in a while.

It's fairly cheap, around $26 to $33 bucks, so have a look at your nearest supplier or google around for a good wet palette.


A palette for miniatures painting can be improvised from a number of sources. You could even use a white ceramic tile, but make sure it's non-porous so it doesn't absorb the solvent in your paint. Cans, glass jars, white china condiment trays (like my photo above), yogurt pots, glass, plastic, enamel, melamine and the list goes on.

A stay-wet palette can be made from a photographic or baking tray. Several sheets of blotting paper need to sit beneath a sheet of grease-proof paper. The paint can be kept wet while not being used just by covering it with cling-wrap. I'll put one together and blog the results (just remind me) and compare that with another technique where you moisten layers of paper-towels in the tray using a water spray-bottle which you can get from places like Reverse Garbage in Marrickville.

It's also a good idea to try and use cling-wrap often with your palettes, it helps to keep off little (and large) bits of dust that fall down into your dabs of paint while working on a miniature.

I strongly recommend trying to work with improvised palettes, there are no disadvantages whatsoever, the costs are minimal or none, and the advantages are that they're easy to find and recycle. Hey, you'll be doing your bit for the environment and keeping your wallet closed during these difficult times.

NEXT TIME: We'll cover tools, brushes, Ibigawa rocks and more.

MFXPOSÉ: Keep an eye out for a series of upcoming interviews and exposé posts on featured artists. In the next week or so, we've got photos and footage to post from Giuseppe Borzone, a miniature effects artist from Italy with over 15 years experience in the film industry.


Post a Comment