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Robert's Historical Miniatures and Musings (Slow Grow League)

Robert's Historical Miniatures and Musings (Slow Grow League)

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Why Hairspray and Varnish Don't Mix!

Tutoring 5
Skill 3
Idea 6

So I thought I had some infantry bases finally finished last night but by taking a short cut these troopers were nearly ordered to go into a bath of Dettol!  I wouldn’t have made a very good officer, it seems.

I’m a big fan of using hairspray as a sealer for terrain especially anything that has flock and static grass on it.  It holds things in place really well, is cheap and as a bald person it is quite novel buying hair products in a supermarket or chemist!  I normally don’t use it on models but I decided to take a short cut last night.

My typical varnish routine is 2 coats of gloss and then a coat of matt.  It is probably overkill but it is the way I was taught to do it years ago, and never had any major problems with it.  I also tend to brush on varnish or sometimes airbrush it on because I have seen too many horror stories with people farting about with aerosols.  I hate aerosols full stop, including primers, but this is not a rant about them…

So yesterday when basing my wee men, the soldiers had already two coats of gloss, and I planned to use my airbrush to apply a matt coat, which would also seal the static grass and flowers on the bases.  Stupidly I decided to use hairspray to seal the grass and paint on the matt varnish as I thought it would be quicker than setting the airbrush up.

A couple of hours after spraying the bases I started to put the matt varnish on.   I did try to avoid getting the hairspray on the figures but it was impossible to completely avoid it and some of the models must have gotten quite a bit on them.  What I also didn’t realise at the time of brushing on the varnish was that it reactivated the hairspray and as I moved the matt varnish about with the brush, it actually lifted some of the paint and gloss varnish off the model… I don’t exactly know how as I thought the gloss would have been good enough protection.

You can see the results below.  Quite a few wee bits to fix up and a lesson in not rushing and deviating from the plan and the tried and tested method.

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CoG Member

I think this is looking really good so far, especially as I think you said this is your first attempt at 15mm? If so, I wouldn’t worry too much as the scale is quite forgiving. The worst problem I find is editing the photographs. Given the high resolution these days, when you zoom in you start spotting all sorts of painting issues, mistakes, etc that you just can’t see with the naked eye. And you certainly won’t see them from the standard 3ft away when gaming!

I’ve never sealed terrain with hairspray or varnish. I only ever varnish my miniatures and use watered down PVA for flock, bushes etc. Has the advantages of turning it solid.

And for a bit of shameless plugging, while you’ve found my project where I’m currently painting up the NIH Churchills, I also have another project covering some of the battles and history of the Italian Campaign. Like you, I’m drawn to it not out of personal connection, but just because it is somewhat forgotten and overshadowed by the campaign in Norther Europe. I warn you now that this project is very much a ‘man on YouTube’ effort with no citations, so treat it with caution but you can find it here:

CoG Member

Sometimes when painting small stuff I will take photo when zoomed in as I find it easier to look at the photo than stare through a magnifying glass to see what I’ve missed or screwed up

CoG Member

Always good to see posts of the bad as well as the good as we tend to learn more as a community that way without quite so many of us falling down the same pitfalls.

CoG Member

Oops! 🙂

CoG Member

With the smaller scale and the fact the minis are plastic, I’d usually go with just a quick spray of a matt varnish and leave it at that. The fact they are also on a big base will also protect the minis. There’s not need for a gloss varnish (unless you want the minis finished in a gloss look).

On painting (in general), I usually find I got with a less realistic shading and colour match and tend to paint with more vivid colours and no blending at all (as all that work is lost on the tabletop). I usually paint over a black undercoat and leave the black undercoat showing between the different colours to leave a black line to help define the detail. So its a lot more forgiving in your brushwork as you don’t actually have to get the paint all the way up to the edges. If you try and paint them as you would a 28mm figure they can start to look “dark”, and you lose a lot of the detail you’ve carefully painted in.

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