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Discuss all areas of historical miniature painting and painting preparation.
Beginners Questions about Oil painting
United Kingdom
Joined: September 02, 2012
KitMaker: 4 posts
Historicus Forma: 4 posts
Posted: Monday, September 03, 2012 - 02:18 AM UTC
Ok so I have recently begun painting with oil paints for their better blending ability as compared to acrylics. In my first attempt at painting with oils I have come across quite a few issues that may seem trivial (and thus ignored in tutorials). So I was wondering if anyone could enlighten me on these issues.

1. When fully dry are oil paints supposed to be 'rock hard' or still smearable? I have left some small trial pieces to dry for about 2 weeks and when handling them i noticed it was possible to smear off some of the color.

2. What kind of varnish should be used? Are acrylic varnishes usually ok? As I have applied an oil filter to some trial pieces and in some instances there seems to be a curdling effect, from the varnish I imagine.

3. Do most of you apply varnishes by brush or by airbrush/spraycan? Referring back to question 1 when I have tried applying some (acrylic) varnish to some pieces some of the paint just smeared off exposing the undercoat.

So I do not know if I am applying too much paint, using bad paints (most of my colors are from a pretty cheap starter set) or simply not leaving my paints to dry long enough.

I would be most grateful for any insights and answers as I have invested most of my summer money in paints and equipment to paint with oils and have also spent quite a bit of time working on mixing and blending paints and find it quite heartbreaking to have most of the paintjob ruined in the later stages.
South Carolina, United States
Joined: May 07, 2010
KitMaker: 2,238 posts
Historicus Forma: 16 posts
Posted: Sunday, December 02, 2012 - 12:15 PM UTC
Hi Richard,

I'm kind of surprised you didn't get any answers on this sooner, but here goes, and I hope you'll accept it in the spirit of "better late than never"...

1. When fully dry, oils are about as durable as any other hobby paint. However, some colors, especially whites, light grays and colors blended with those can take a week or so to dry out. A lot depends also on how thick the paint is put on.

Put your figures under a bowl or in a dust free plastic box to dry to keep dust off of them. Be patient and don't be tempted to "test" the paint by touching it - the inevitable will always happen - you'll smear the paint.

I usually give my figures at least a week to dry, and even longer if I don't have any reason to handle them (like while I'm still working on the base, etc).

2. I use Testor's Dull Coat lacquer airbrushed on. I thin the Dull Coat with ordinary lacquer thinners. As long as the oils are dry, I've never had any problems. If the oils aren't completely dry, sometimes they will make the surface glossy again. If this happens, I just let them dry some more and spray on more Dull Coat later.

3. See 2 above. I always airbrush my clear coats on, but have occasionally used "rattle can" Dull Coat or Citadel/Games Workshop matt lacquer in the spray can. The spray cans work pretty well, you just have to be careful about how much you spray at once. Multiple light coats are better than single heavy coats.

One of the keys to using oil paints for figures (especially 54mm and smaller like 1/35th scale) is to use as little paint as possible. To this end, undercoating with colored acrylics is very helpful. This way, you don't need as much oil paint to get good coverage, and if you do "blend though" you won't get the primer paint showing.

It's almost impossible to use too little oil paint, really. Remember, you can always add more, but taking it off if you use too much almost always results in a ruined paint job and starting over. On a 1/35th scale face, we're talking paint amounts that are literally the size of pinheads or smaller. Also, the more paint used, the more the brush marks will show and need smoothing out.

Also, on 54mm and smaller figures, it's often a good technique to blend your highlights directly on the figure by adding white (or whatever) directly to the mid-tones already on the figure rather than add even more mixed paint. That is, use the mid-tone color already on the figure.

So, add your shadow colors only into the dark areas. Then add your mid-tone colors to the rest of the areas. Blend the edges of the shadows and mid-tones. Then add white (for instance) to the highlight areas and blend it into the underlying mid-tones to create the highlights.

Alternatively, you can block in all three tones (shadows, mids, and highs) and blend them on their edges, but this is sometimes hard to do, especially if the working areas are very small.

Indre-et-Loire, France
Joined: May 23, 2011
KitMaker: 651 posts
Historicus Forma: 309 posts
Posted: Sunday, December 02, 2012 - 07:57 PM UTC
Hi Richard,

i'm sorry to did not saw your questions before, i agree with most of the Mike answers, i just add little things.

1- To dry my figs i put them in an oven (but the plastic ones of course), 45-60 min at 90C depending of the scale, and then they are ready for the next step (after they become colder). With this method the paint becomes matt, it needs varnish to be glistenning.

2&3- I apply matt oil varnish (the kind used for oil pictures) but for the parts i want to be shinning for which i use glistenning ones. I apply it gently with a very soft brush.

Cheers and happy painting,
United Kingdom
Joined: September 02, 2012
KitMaker: 4 posts
Historicus Forma: 4 posts
Posted: Thursday, April 04, 2013 - 01:30 PM UTC
Hi Nicolas and Mike, thank you guys for your replies, I've taken a break from painting for now since I'm off at university and didn't take any of my painting stuff with me, but I will make sure to heed your tips when I resume painting (soon! ). Thanks again for helping a beginner find his feet