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"How do i paint soft plastics?" Topic

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Beowulf Supporting Member of TMP Fezian21 Oct 2003 10:13 a.m. PST

I'm interested in building a Crusader army in 1/72 scale. I have some crusader and saracen boxes by Italaeri, but they are made of soft plastic (vinyl?), which is nearly impossible to paint by normal means.
How do you paint this figures? And after painting, the paint is resistant enough for gaming, or just bfor display? Should i drop the whole idea and stick to metal miniatures? Any help will be greatly appreciated.

Personal logo Pictors Studio Sponsoring Member of TMP21 Oct 2003 10:28 a.m. PST

Krylon has a new primer made for plastic but it doesn't work on those figures. I tried it and it just scrapes right off.

I would stick to metals if you go 15mm vs. 20mm plastics it will still be pretty cheap and a lot easier to paint.

companycmd21 Oct 2003 10:36 a.m. PST

Nope stay with plastics in 20mm and get some more feedback on painting them. If you want to see how plastics are painted with no fuss or loss or nothing, just use Acrylics after you wash them with warm water a just a little dish soap for about 10 minutes and that's all you need to do, and see the various galleries at under the home dropdown menu. Anyone who tells you metal is better is biased. Believe me, I have both. Plastic is better and no one is ripping you off with silly insane ridiculous prices. Besides, compared to my 20mm plastics, my 15mm ACW armies look like pieces of junk and I should know I have 5,000 of them sitting in storage shelves and never used for years, since I got into plastics again.

THE GOD Inactive Member21 Oct 2003 10:36 a.m. PST

Prime them any color. I suggest spray can.

Paint them normaly.

Hand varnish them with acrillic polyuretane floor finish. Many companies make that and you can buy it in any hardware store. Make sure your varnish is colorless, but it doesn't matter if it's gloss or satin.

Spray your figures with matt finish.

After all that paint will stay even on spears!

Personal logo Sgt Slag Supporting Member of TMP21 Oct 2003 10:52 a.m. PST

There are other options: using Aleene's Tack-It Glue, or plasti-dip. I'd offer directions on polyurethane-stain (the DIP), but it comes off with time.

Aleene's Tack-It Glue: paint it on, with a throw-away brush; let it 'dry' for 24-hours; paint as usual, with/without primer, depending on what you want. The glue will remain tacky, permanently; the paint will adhere to the glue, and it will never flake off. I've used this technique on soft, plastic army men figures, with great success. Wear vinyl gloves: you will have to use "vegetable cooking oil" to remove it from your hands. Seriously!

Plasti-dip: this is a form of RTV silicone, I believe; you paint the figure normally, then paint on plasti-dip, and let dry. The plasti-dip is intended to be used to cover the handles of tools, like pliers, wire cutters, wrenches, etc. You need the clear variety. It will brush on, but once dry, your figures will be rubber coated. I haven't used this technique, but I've heard great things about it. Cheers!

Tsintsu Inactive Member21 Oct 2003 12:25 p.m. PST

Be sure to wash the figures with mild detergent before applying anything. I prime them with cheap latex house paint, slightly thinned. I tend to use a grey, tan, or black color for this first coat depending on the results I am looking to achieve.

After drying, paint as normal and seal with varnish. I find very little chipping occurs and my figures do take a beating.


Beowulf Supporting Member of TMP Fezian21 Oct 2003 1:18 p.m. PST

Thanks a lot. I really appreciate all the pointers.

(Change Name) Inactive Member21 Oct 2003 1:50 p.m. PST

One thing I have used with the Fortress figures plastics is vinal paint: the stuff you get at auto supply stores for painting vinal seats. The figures are basically the same material. I have used the spray paint as a bascoat and painted with acrylics over it with no problem.

I don't know how well this would work with the 20mm figures. I have tried soaking them, boiling them, and none of this seemed to work too well.

Personal logo Flashman14 Supporting Member of TMP21 Oct 2003 7:31 p.m. PST

All those who said wash the figures prior to priming and then protective sealants after painting are right. It's not the equivelent firmness of pewter/lead/metals but it's the most ready way to get it close enough.

Allen57 Supporting Member of TMP21 Oct 2003 8:35 p.m. PST

Another method which is used by toy soldier collectors is to dip the figures in Elmers Glue although I would guess any brand of white glue would do. When dry you paint the figure as usual. The glue acts as a primer and seems to keep the paint from flaking off.


Nik Gaukroger22 Oct 2003 12:28 a.m. PST

There is a Yahoo group for plastic figures at where you will be able to find answers - there a lots of people who have no trouble painting these figures.

steveD Inactive Member22 Oct 2003 2:06 a.m. PST

I wash them in detergent, white undercoat (although for flesh mid brown works well), and I use a watery PVA solution as varnish and if needed a second coat of normal matt varnish.

I did some this way 15 years ago and very little of the paint has come off mainly on plastic lances and bows but these are easily refreshed.

I have also used a watery PVA as undercoat with good results.

Personal logo 20thmaine Supporting Member of TMP22 Oct 2003 4:26 a.m. PST

It's a good idea to multibase the figures to encourage players not to pick them up by the bendy bits. A frequent complaint is that the spears etc shed paint when they are bent - well don't bend them then ! Metal figures do the same if you bend them once painted.

A few issues ago in MWAN there was an article by someone who had painted some plastics and wanted to test how much paint would shed if handled roughly. If I recall correctly he had primed and sealed with thinned PVA/wood glue (which dries clear) and had painted in acrylics.

His tests included (again if I recall correctly) - drops from table height base down and base up, and also throwing the figures as hard as he could against a wall ! The paint stayed on.

Try the "all things toy soldiers" web page to see how well plastics can be painted. It's also useful for seeing what else is around that would fit in with your crusaders game. The old Airfix Sheriff of Nottingham box would probably be useful (can get this from HaT) - and probably some other bozxes from Esci/Revell and Italeri.

I agree with companycmd - stick with plastics if you like them, and don't be persuaded by "snobs".

THE GOD Inactive Member22 Oct 2003 6:44 a.m. PST

Talking about "Sheriff of Nottingham" or "Robin.." sets, peasants make great piligrims.

vtsaogames Inactive Member22 Oct 2003 7:04 a.m. PST

I wash them in warm, soapy water. When dry, spray prime them white. Then block paint with bright colors, no shadowing. When dry, paint them with a thick coat of varathane floor sealer/wood stain called Polyshades Minwax, the darkest shade Tudor Satin. The pigment settles in crevices, shadowing and outlining. It also tones down the bright colors and covers those places where the primer wasn't covered. When dry, they are sealed in plastic, proof against several years of adult wargaming so far, though folks on the web say young kids can still get the paint off. When they've been dry for 12-24 hours, spray them with Testor's Dullkote to cut the glossy finish.

My wife says the Minwax makes 'em look 3D.

Some of my armies are plastic, some metal.

PJ Parent Inactive Member22 Oct 2003 8:00 a.m. PST

I wanted to have some figures for a very simple game my 4 year old could have a go at. I decided I wanted to do the game and armies as inexpensively as possible so I went with 1/72nd scale moderns (they where on sale). I bought a bunch of the soft plastic figures.

For paining I started by glue each guy individually to a steal washer using white glue. Then I used white glue to glue sand on each base.

I then used automotive primer as it’s meant to hold on plastic bumpers as well as metal sides. I normally use gesso to prime but for money reasons I went with a $3 can of Canadian Tire grey automotive primer. I then painted as normal and then to seal them I “washed” the figures in watered down white glue.

My four year old plays with them (sometimes) and his little brother has taste tested both armies and so far nothing has come off. Not paint or heads or guns.


SNOWMAN Inactive Member22 Oct 2003 8:50 a.m. PST

Most of the ideas above will work. Main point is wash the figures,prime{I use spray paint\house paint which expands\contracts with hot-cold seems to hold to the plastic}than paint,seal either with the DIP idea{which also
makes my poor painting look very good} or the clear floor wax approach.Than base\put on shelf\play\go to next box and star all over again.
Last point is do not give up on plastic. So many choices
this day and so much comming in the future. As for the cost
maybe it's where I live but they are appox 12-14 cents each
vs 26-85 cents for 15mm metal. With family\home\etc this has brought me back to plastic{cost and the ever expanding choices}for good.
As one person pointed out "no one will try and outlaw plastic as they tried with lead.....

Nukuhiva Inactive Member23 Oct 2003 4:14 a.m. PST

As for the spears, snip the plastic ones off and replace them with something like piano wire.

Martin Rapier23 Oct 2003 6:27 a.m. PST

Like other people:

a) wash in detergent

b) 'undercoat' all over in PVA (white glue). This can obscure some of the detail if overdone.

c) spray enamel undercoat, black or white depending on painting style

d) paint as normal using acrylics

e) seal with varnish

Having said that, I've got Aifix figures over thirty years old which were painted in enamels without cleaning or undercoating and then jumbled up in a box & which have still got paint jobs as good as new.


Dave Crowell23 Oct 2003 5:31 p.m. PST

What I do is this:

1. Run the sprues through the dishwasher (top rack) with detergent.

2. Prime with Testor's Dulcote (greatest stuff in the world for getting acrylic paint to stick to plastic).

3. Paint with acrylics.

4. Seal with Minwax Polyshades Satin Tudor (the Miracle Dip)

5. Play games!

I love my plastics.

CauCauCau Inactive Member25 Oct 2003 6:54 a.m. PST

And my list:

1. Wash figures -- soapy water and a good rinse

2. Prime with Krylon Primer - grey stuff. Cheap grey automotive primer also works really well. It won't come off the soft plastic.

3. Pain with acrylics

4. Seal with the Dip, or a clear polyurethane

5. Give a little shot of dull coat to cut down on the shine.

I've heard plasti-dip is as good as it gets for priming, but I've never had the chance to pick up a can.

The Old Rebel Inactive Member09 Nov 2003 7:26 p.m. PST

I grew up painting the original airfix plastics...the secret is to remenber that the plastic has oil in it....soak the figures for 24 hours in water as you would wash the dishes.. the soap cuts the grease out.....let dry for several hours then prime ....allow to dry at least 24 hours befor you paint

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