One thing that many new starters don’t get told is how to prep a miniature for paint. It’s a fairly simple process, but it does take time and can be the most unappealing part of miniature painting. So here are my top 5 tips on prepping miniatures. These are mostly aimed at beginners, so If it feels like I’m teaching you to suck eggs, don’t despair, more advanced stuff is on it’s way!
1: Take your time.
I know that when you’re starting out on the glorious road to painting stardom with thoughts of a fully painted army marauding across the battle field on your mind, you just want to get to the good bit straight away. I know I used to.
When I first started out, I tore straight into the boxes, quickly clipped off any obvious pieces of flash (excess material from the casting process) and mashed the model together before splashing paint all over it in a fairly unorthodox manner.
Now I’ve been doing it for a while, I know that the care taken with preparing the miniature has a direct effect on the outcome of your paintjob. The longer you spend making sure your model is smooth and free of mould-lines, the better your paintjob will look and the quicker you’ll learn. It’s easier to see how to improve your blending for example, when you don’t have to try and look past a rough surface.
2: Use the right tool for the job
The expenditure required to start this hobby is more than people think, the models can cost a small fortune, as can amassing a decent collection of paints or the rulebooks needed to play a game. It would be a huge shame to ruin an expensive model by trying to clean it up with a potato peeler (an extreme example, but you see where I’m going with this)
If you’re dealing with a large lump of flash, use the side cutters. If you’re looking at a small mould line, use the scalpel to scrape it off (have the blade at a 150 degree angle with the sharp edge closest, then scrape away from your body. Having the blade angled the other way, you risk the knife digging into the miniature and damaging it.) (Obviously hold the piece in your other hand for stability, I couldn’t as I was taking the photo). And if you’re looking at a mould line a bit bigger, use the needle files to get rid of it.
When you start out, budget for a few simple tools. A scalpel, a pair of small side cutters, some needle files and a cutting mat.
on the subject of side cutters, the angled ones that Games Workshop sell are good enough for the job but don’t last long, so it’s worth shopping around. There are cutters with a rounded head available but they make cutting some sprues a bit tricky. Scalpels are personal preference as to what feels comfortable, personally I use the GW scalpel handle with Swann Morton blades. (Swann Morton make surgical equipment too, so the blades they make are the sharpest I’ve ever found. Seriously, it’s like using a small power sword.) The GW handle is surprisingly comfortable to use.
3: Measure twice, cut once
It might seem a little out of place here, but the old carpenters adage of “measure twice, cut once” is useful for our purposes. The essence of it is to look carefully at what needs doing on the miniature before diving in. This way you can see any potential problems like awkward to get to mould lines or miscasts. Look for things that look out of place (compare with the picture on the box if you have one).
4: Put it down
odd one this, but it works for me. Once you think you’ve cleaned up all the mould lines, clipped off any flash etc, put the model down and work on something else. A degree of patience is needed with this but it’s worth it. Once you’ve done something else for a bit, go back to the model and have a look at it again, fresh eyes may pick up something else that you missed. I can tell you, finding these missed bits of flash are VERY annoying if you find them during painting.
5: Wash it
Once you’ve finished taking off mould lines and flash, give the miniature a quick wash under some warm water with washing up liquid and scrub it gently with an old toothbrush. There’s no point doing this before you’ve cleaned off all the mould lines because you’ll be handling the model a lot and of course, there’s oil on our fingertips all the time. The quick scrub with washing up liquid just removes the oil residue and any mould release left on the model (again, a leftover from the casting process, it quite literally helps the miniature be released from the mould)
These oils and mould release will prevent any undercoat from sticking to your miniature properly and subsequently make painting it a royal pain in the rear.
Note: If you’re dealing with Finecast (Games Workshop’s new resin which has taken over from most of their metal models) Make sure the water is cold or lukewarm, water that is too warm will make the miniature very, very soft and you could end up damaging something permanently.
I hope that these tips have been of use, feel free to add your thoughts in the comments.