Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Saturday, August 29, 2015

A painting rebirth

A couple of old tricks approached in a new way have really changed the painting landscape around here of late.

One was setting myself up with a good wet palette.

I used to use a contraption that required two layers of foam topped with a sheet of cooking paper (or greaseproof, as we call it in NZ).

It was small, slimy, needed to be cleaned out quite often and was a pain to organise. It was much better than no palette at all, but if I hadn't painted for a while it became yet another barrier to actually sitting down and putting brush to figure.

The internal monologue would go something like this: "Hmm, you know, I could just about do a little painting tonight. Ahhh, but  I'd need to rejig that palette before I could begin. Can I be bothered washing it out, cutting the foam sheeting to size and soaking it for the appropriate amount of time?"

And we all know how rhetorical a question that is...

But recently I saw someone somewhere talking about another way to do a wet palette. It needed a shallower tray and instead of fluffing around with foam you used a paper handy towel to hold the water, putting your greaseproof paper onto that. When not using it you put another tray over the top of it (upside down) to keep the moisture in.

I thought about it for a while, then went to the 100yen store and grabbed the required items.

Needless to say, it has been a big success. The paint keeps for days, so the only prep I need to undertake before painting is to remove the top tray. Over time the paint liquifies, so if you do it right you can use older splotches as a wash or mix them with a more recent (and thus thicker) blob to do, say, a cloak, or horses in a slightly different colour.

The second thing has been to use the dip. I tried a dip substitute previously when I was just starting out, but it didn't come out very well so I shelved it. I'd pull it out again for things like pteruges, but more as a wash than anything. Of course, I used Future / Klear, but again as a wash, to bring a paint job together or to provide a protective covering.

And so I laboured for years with spray undercoat, brown wash, block colours, highlight, the odd wash, Future/Klear protective coat, spray varnish.

It works great, but it takes a long time and there are various steps that you end up dreading, and this all contributes to painting fatigue (or laziness, in my case!).

Like everyone I've experimented with various ways to improve and to speed up painting (some of them catalogued in painful detail on this blog!) and met with varying degrees of success.

The trouble for me is limited time, limited motivation, and a large lead mountain.

Anway, I again came across some posts (isn't the internet great?!!) and realised that maybe I should try the dip again, only this time using it more strategically. "Bugger it," I thought; "nothing's getting painted without it, so why not give it a crack?"

A little experimentation showed what I'd been doing wrong when I last used it: a) I'd been too heavy handed, and b) I'd used it on the wrong colours.

It seemed that the tricks were to dip your brush in water before putting it into the mixture itself (and then to come back with a brush or tissue paper to get rid of any pooling on the figure), and to use it on muted colours, coming back with a highlight if needed.

Having painted almost 50 figures a week since these changes were implemented, they have helped me to put a serious dent in the Dark Age leadpile - so much so that I'm probably going to need to buy more to 'fill in a few gaps in the collection'.

So far so good. I guess we'll have to see how long it lasts!


  1. I enjoy reading success stories of those overcoming painting inertia once the brush has been put down.

    Congratulate yourself, Aaron, progress!

  2. Congrats! Now I need to follow the same advice...

  3. Splendid! Great to hear that your painting mojo is restored. :-)

  4. Congratulations! Good to see. I am with El Grego, need to follow the same advice :-)

  5. Thanks gents. If I can keep this pace up for another eighty years or so, I'll get all my figures painted :D

  6. Well done Aaron! Just remember to not paint the last figure. You know what happens when you do right? *shudder*

  7. So the wet palette works with Tamiya paints too? I recently switched to Tamiya since I saw you using them and they are cheaper around here than any other brand.

    1. Hi Kristopher - I actually use a different brand of paints for fine work; I only Tamiya for the drudge stuff now like bases, blocking in horses, flesh, shield backs and so on. I find they tend to become gloopy and hard to manage, and can be hell on brushes as well. On the plus side they are cheap! I haven't used them with the wet palette yet. Might be worth trying out though.


    2. Would be keen to hear how you get on with them, actually. I think the humidity here is a problem. Hopefully it's less of an issue where you are.

    3. Oh, as well, what paints do you use for fine detail?

    4. These are the ones here: 20ml, "acrylic polymer emulsion colors for art and design opaque mat and water-resistant".

      If you can, pick up one or two tubes and see how you go with them. Works best with a wet palette though. Failing that, use a wet brush.

    5. Sorry, forgot the link:

    6. That looks interesting. Do you thin the paints then? When you squirt from the tube?

    7. If you put them on the palette and cover it over the paints will naturally thin. Or you can thin them with a bit of water on your brush.

      Hope that helps :)

  8. No. I'm in southern Ontario. It's humid as heck right now and we don't have air conditioning. I try not to paint when it's this bad.

    What spray primer do you use for the bulk of your troops?


    1. Ah, that's tough.

      For sprays I use the Tamiya Fine Surface primer in light grey (sometimes can go on a bit powdery in the heat, so I try to do the bulk of my priming in Spring and Autumn, and for smaller lots on a cooler / less humid day). I also have some gesso and paint on primer I use if I need to do a couple of figures and it's too humid to spray.

      For my fine detail paints, I've gone to the Turner Acryl Gouache. They are about three times as pricey as the Tamiya, but I've just slowly built up the collection until I'm at a point now where I can use them for just about anything. I still use Tamiya for bulk stuff, or drudgery, or when I want to match a colour I've used before, but the Turners (when used with a palette especially) are pretty good. They come out thick but turn into quite a nice consistency on the palette, so I can paint even when it's humid.


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