Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The "Dip Method" ... for miniature painting

A friend recently asked me for an old miniature painting technique recipe and having dredged it up I thought I'd do a quick post on it. There is a good article on the tabletop gaming news page page regarding the "dip" method or the "magic sauce method" ... "future finish floor wax method" .. etc. etc. this is basically what I use for a dip if I'm going to brew some up. I also just use plain old minwax wood stain. These methods really speeds up painting ... its not for every project or for every painter ... but if you want quick "tabletop standard" paint jobs ... this method is your friend. I have largely converted to this style of painting now ... as it saves massive amounts of time and at this point competition quality paint jobs aren't very important to me.

My recipe is 1 part future finish floor wax ... 2 parts distilled water ... 1 part Higgins Black Fountain Pen Ink (frequently called "India" ink) ... 1 Part Higgins Brown Ink
... I combine that stuff in a nice air tight container. Not usually just a tupperware style one ... but one that has a threaded lid so its very air tight and can withstand being knocked over, etc. 

The thing is this stuff is literally made to DIP ... i.e., fully submerge entire miniatures in. So you want a wide mouthed container that you can just kerplunk minis into. I usually take a pair of needle nosed pliers and grab a corner of the base and plunge the mini in. As you start running low on the dip ... mix a whole new batch so you keep your proportions correct and on this note having an oversize container (by this I mean something that would hold say two full batches of dip) is a good idea. For large models like vehicles, giant figures (monsters, giants, dragons, etc. ... shit that's too big to fit in the container) you can use a large "tank" brush or even a full sized edging paint brush or something ... and just completely cover the model. You'll still get the "dip" effect by doing that.

Essentially to break down how this works:

Assemble, Prime, Flock the base with gravel flock ... 

Block paint the mini (i.e., paint all the basic colors): to break this down further ... lets use an orc for an example. You would paint the skin green, the shoes and leather bits brown, the armor a metalic color of choice ... apply red to the eyes ... whiten or yellow depending on preference the teeth ... etc. just the basic colors your going for. Now this is again a matter of preference ... for the skin you might be talking about a two or three step painting process ... same with other parts ... but you can just go single step block color painting. 

Once that is done to your preference ... the mini gets dipped. 
What I do as I'm doing this is use a paper towel to daub off any excessive pooling of the dip. You want the dip to help shade the model ... but you don't want big pools to dry leaving odd lines, or watermarks on the mini. 

Let the mini dry ... 

look it over and do detail cleanup where needed ... but in many cases your done with the minis when the dip drys.

Here is a quick image of something that has been dipped. The mini isn't mine ... but you get a quick and very rough idea of what the method does. My results are usually even better than this picture ... but to me this picture demonstrates what your going for. Bear in mind that the dipped mini on the right hasn't dried yet nor did they do a good job priming this mini ... it has very telltale primer screw up signs. Also an example of the "pooling" I was talking about, its not very bad but you can see some on the shield on the fig on the right side ... the red part upper right hand side of the shield ... see it. That is an over shade ... it sort of screws up the effect your going for. You would daub that a bit ... not all the way you want the shading in the recesses but not on the field. Again that isn't an extreme example ... if I was doing say 100 figures in one batch I'd probably not even bother with that level of scrutiny but if I was just dipping a single figure or if this was a hero character or general of my army or something ... I'd pay more attention. Anyway that figure now that its nicely shaded ... it will be shiny.

The wax in the dip gives a glossy sheen after its applied (go figure) ... which on one hand is awesome because your mini is effectively sealed. What I do last ... once I'm completely done with the fig minus the application of static grass ... is I matte varnish the figure. That tones down the sheen and helps fully seal the model. At that point ... and by this I mean later on like a few years down the road when they are really dusty or whatever ... you can even clean minis l with a damp rag with soapy water, etc. (again that isn't a step in the process ... I'm just saying the seal is that durable).  Dipped minis will withstand a fair amount of abuse (especially plastic figs). Anyway in a nutshell that is the basic dip method. Once you try it yourself don't be afraid to experiment with the color of inks you use ... there are many different pen inks you can use in place of the black/brown. Tyranids for example are an army just begging for the dip method  ... and for a project like that ... using a red, blue or green variant on this method would probably work great! Happy painting everyone!

1 comment:

jabberjabber said...

An excellent summary of the method.