prep ur minis for paint
I will now endeavour to describe and detail the steps, tools and methods I use to turn a leadpile into an army. This is in no way an attempt to say that this is the only way, the best way or the fastest way. This is merely my way. My way is designed to make mini painting less onerous, less difficult and definitely less stressful. Every step has a purpose, which is simply to make future steps less hard.
So the first thing is getting the minis. Open up the pack(s) and dump the contents into a large fine-mesh stainless steel colander. Mix up some moderately hot, soapy water in your work sink and dunk your minis into it shaking the colander vigorously. Next rinse them under some cool running water, then dump the contents onto a small clean towel and pat dry.
Now organize and sort the minis. Check and double check that you have what you need to make your unit. If the pack(s) are defective and missing what you ordered, set aside the minis and make a note to contact the manufacturer. Grab another unit from the leadpile and start again.
First off you should notice I’m talking about units, not whole armies. I don’t recommend painting whole armies at a go. Cleaning, prepping, painting and basing 500-1000 little guys at a time probably is quicker, but also soul destroying. Finishing a unit is easy, and once done you will want to start and finish another unit, this builds momentum.
Secondly you’re probably thinking, why waste time cleaning the minis? Surely I can skip this step, whats the harm? Well it’s a good habit, the manufactories where minis are produced can be dusty, dirty and grimy places, who knows if someone sneezed on your order? Gross. Plus certain materials like resin almost certainly need to be washed to guarantee the paint sticks.
Now that your minis are cleaned, organized and sorted into like piles. Pose A all together and pose B all together and uniques all together etc. it is time to get the tools out and get started.
When using tools wear eye protection. If you don’t know this basic rule of shop work, stay out of the shop. A paint or shop smock is also useful to keep metal off your clothes.
Like most men I have a vast quantity of tools. You only need a few to prep minis.
- file card brush
- an axe file
- small diagonal cut pliers
- hobby knife
- small snap-blade utility knife
- small round file
- extra blades
- sheet of paper
Only one of the tools needs to be adjusted or tuned up. Gently crimp the end of your utility knife with a needle nose pliers, this will reduce blade chatter. More often than not your using the utility blade for scraping, not cutting. Be careful not to over-crimp, the blade should still retract and advance smoothly.
Now look at the mini, specifically the bottom. 15mm minis will have a base. Minis that stand up and have a flush base are easier to work with than those that don’t. Usually the base bottom will have a large seam and or vent. If the seam or mold line is obnoxiously big, chances are the mini is not useable. If the base is deeply pox marked, it means the mold the minis were cast in is probably old. Here are two minis from the same pack, but from clearly different molds. The one on the left is shit, the one on the right is typical.
I’ll work on the old shit casting just to demonstrate that all hope is not lost. First use your flush cut pliers and utility knife to remove the vent and enough of the seam that the mini will stand up.
Next get out your axe file, this is a tool normally used for hogging off a lot of metal, like if you wanted to sharpen an axe or lawnmower blade. The mini should sit fairly level on the file, this will ensure an easy to file mini with a flat level bottom once your done.
Now grip the mini as close to the base as possible and firmly but gently file the bottom flat. The file will cut better in one direction (from point to heel) but either direction will work. Particularly hard metals are sometimes easier to start filing heel to point, like when you’re sawing wood, starting the cut with a pull stroke is easier than starting with the push stroke. Regardless, when your done filing, clean your file with the card brush. Here is the finished base, nice and flush.
Next let’s work the interior mold lines. These are the mold lines in-between the legs or between the weapon and the arm and the body. Use the small round file to get these rubbed away quickly. Use the hobby knife if the space is too small for the file. Some molds will be old and the void will be filled with flash or metal. If it is flash, cut it away. Flash is the paper metal that forms around the mold line from not pressing the molds tight together when casting. Flash is okay, it proves the mold hasn’t been unnecessarily squashed when casting, squashed molds result in flat 2d models. If it is thicker than flash you might have to drill a hole first than cut the opening back to intended. My model had one void, between the legs, easily fixed with the small round file.
Ok, let’s finish this little guy off. Grab your snap-blade utility knife and start cutting off any vents, these are found on the end of swords, spears, guns, elbows, heads etc. Vents allow the metal to flow properly so you get a complete cast. Vents are good but must be removed. Look carefully, inevitably you will find a string vent tucked away when you’re painting. Finally, start scrapping and cutting away the mold line. Be careful not to remove detail, just the mold line. Some areas be extra careful, like the face. Some areas you will have to actually cut the detail back in because the mold is old and blown or the mini was brutally miscast. Better to find this out now, and not once your half done painting it. Here is my little guy, pretty old, shit cast, but he’ll definitely be good enough. I chamfered the edge of the base, a not necessary step, I’m just that good. LOL.
For this example I just did one guy. In real life though, you do all the guys one step at a time. First you cut all the bottom vents off all the guys, then you flatten the bases for all the guys, then you do the interior voids for all the guys etc. If you notice I did most of my work on the piece of paper, this makes clean up easier. All the filings on the paper can be easily dumped into the trash. You should also have two more tools.
A hand vac to suck up all the little pieces of metal that didn’t land on the paper and a small stiff bristle brush to clean your hands well and remove any filings from under your fingernails. Obviously don’t eat food while filing and prepping minis. Take care and have fun.