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"So many issues! Choosing a varnish is hell!" Topic

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paranoid painter28 Oct 2010 3:50 p.m. PST

I've been looking for a finish I can protect my war gaming miniatures with that absolutely will not:

a) Yellow over time (cough, Krylon Clear Coat, cough)

b) Discolor the acrylics I apply it over (I'm looking at you, Liquitex Matte Varnish)

Any suggestions?

In addition, does anyone have any experience with:

a) Microscale Industries' Micro Gloss and Micro Flat

b) Delta Ceramcoat's Gloss Varnish and Matte Varnish

c) Rust Oleum's Varathane (water-based)

If so, please share, especially when it comes to the issues I described above.

Lastly, I'd also like to hear from anyone who can tell me about the application or appearance differences (if any) when it comes to using UV-resistant finishes instead of non-UV resistant finishes.

Phew, that does it. I couldn't thank you guys enough for any help you could lend me.

Oberst Radl28 Oct 2010 4:32 p.m. PST

I'm not very long in the hobby. Right now I'm using Magic Wash followed by Dullcote. Can't tell first-hand about performance or yellowing over time, although the Magic Wash gurus (aecurtis & John Leahy) report no yellowing and good durability.

Funny you should post this now. I left out a strip of painted 1/72 burgundian knights and archers from the Magic Wash I did last week. Today I bought Liquitex Matte Varnish, W&N Galeria Matte Varnish, and two matte products I was talked into by the proprietor of our local model railroad shop. I'm going to try them out since I want to be able to varnish in winter weather (I have to spray dullcote in the garage). If you like I'll keep you posted on progress.

BTW, what Varathane is clear? All the ones at our local hardware store are billed as "creating a rich golden glow," i.e., amber colored.

paranoid painter28 Oct 2010 4:55 p.m. PST

Hmm, Magic Wash, eh? I'll look into it. Thanks.

It's true; most Varathanes are formulated to sport an amber tone. But not this one.

The particular line I'm looking into is Varathane Diamond. Here you go:


"Q: What is the difference between the Varathane products? ( Oil vs. water )
A: The Varathane Premium (oil based) Finishes will go on with an amber tone and will amber more over time, giving the wood a warm look. The Varathane Diamond (water based) Finish will go on clear and remain clear. Both products offer excellent performance. The best way to choose is to determine what look you are looking for."

Taken from the link.

Oberst Radl28 Oct 2010 5:38 p.m. PST

Thanks. Trust me, you'll need to try Magic Wash. It's not a product so much as a technique -- search for "Magic Wash" in the title. MW is a mix of Future floor wax and pigment, usually ink. You need dullcote or a flat varnish because Future is glossy. I know, but it really works. Not to be confused with The Dip[tm] which is dippping or washing figures with a polyurethane stain.

Twilight28 Oct 2010 5:39 p.m. PST

Delta's Matte Interior Varnish, at least the one bottle I've got on the shelf, comes across more like a satin or semi-gloss; there's still a fair sheen to the model as opposed to using Dullcote. When applied, it has a milky blue tinge to it, but it dries with no discoloration to the acrylics underneath.

timlillig28 Oct 2010 5:53 p.m. PST

I like Golden polymer varnish

Personal logo T Callahan Supporting Member of TMP28 Oct 2010 6:03 p.m. PST

I like Armory Clear Matt Sealer for metal figures and Dullcoat for plastic models


CeruLucifus28 Oct 2010 6:40 p.m. PST

There is an amazing amount of disinformation out there.

I didn't post on your other topic because you were just linking to Vexilla's article (which has been posted on TMP before, by Vexilla in fact, who is a TMP member) and asking what we thought. There isn't anything technically wrong in his article, it just suggests a slightly different approach than what other people do. (Most other people build up several thin coats of varnish until they feel their protective coat is thick enough; Vexilla agrees thin coats are better than thick. His main point is he feels he's found a varnish so strong one coat is enough. Who is to argue with that, unless you've used the same varnish and tested it and found it not very strong? Which I haven't … used that particular varnish, that is.)

The basic rule with EVERY paint product is to follow the manufacturer's instructions. If there are no instructions to be found … either guess and don't be upset if you're wrong, or set up a scientific experiment to test for what you want to know, or switch products to something with better documentation.

So, on to your questions:

I've been looking for a finish I can protect my war gaming miniatures with that absolutely will not:

a) Yellow over time (cough, Krylon Clear Coat, cough)

The general rule is we can trust a manufacturer's claims, because there are truth in advertising laws to protect us consumers. So if it says "non-yellowing", it really means it won't yellow. Artists and professional painters and decorators rely on these products for their livelihoods. If the product does yellow over time, it's easier for the manufacturer to NOT call it "non-yellowing" than it is to lie about it and get sued.

Anyway, Krylon Crystal Clear Acrylic spray DOES say it is non-yellowing.
Krylon Crystal Klear Acrylic: link

b) Discolor the acrylics I apply it over
Well yeah. But most likely you're confusing your root causes here. If a clear varnish discolors a painted model, it is probably because the paint wasn't fully cured, and the solvent in the varnish reactivated the paint and caused it to blend or (less likely) had a chemical reaction with it which caused a color shift. So make sure the paint on the model is fully cured before you apply varnish.

This is probably one of the reasons so many of us hobbyists have success with Testors Dullcote. That product is a lacquer, so it uses a different solvent than either acrylic paints or enamel paints. So it is less likely to reactivate not-quite-fully-cured paint. That's my theory anyway.

Discolor the acrylics … (I'm looking at you, Liquitex Matte Varnish)
Now I KNOW you are doing something wrong. Liquitex is an artist paint brand, very high quality. Their varnishes are designed specifically for artists to apply on top of acrylic paint to protect the paint. Their Matte Varnish certainly says it will "Resist discoloring (non-yellowing, non-fogging)" and further says it is "archival", meaning it does not deteriorate over time.

I'm sorry to say, if you have used it and it has colored your paint, you are probably doing something wrong.

Look at the instructions: "Apply as a final varnish over dry acrylic paint" and "Acrylic paintings must be completely dried and cured for a minimum of 48-72 hours before varnishing". Did you do that? I'm guessing no.

Liquitex Matte Varnish: link

Any suggestions?
Testors Dullcote. Any Liquitex product. Some people use Future (an acyrlic varnish sold for floors) which is glossy but they mix mattting agent in it to make matte varnish; search TMP for the many topics about Future, Kleer, and "magic wash" and look for a web page called "The Complete Future".
In addition, does anyone have any experience with:
Not me, not those.

I've used Rustoleum's Specialty Lacquer before as a gloss protective coat I overcoat with Testors Dullcote. It doesn't say it's non-yellowing however (I didn't used to know about that). I haven't noticed any yellowing, but then I store my figures away from light.

who can tell me about the application or appearance differences (if any) when it comes to using UV-resistant finishes instead of non-UV resistant finishes
?! UV-resistant means it doesn't yellow or (with paint) fade over time from exposure to sunlight. That's it. Other properties will depend on the brand and formulation. So unless you have a brand of finish that comes in both UV-resistant and non-UV-resistant versions, you can't say anything specific as far as UV resistance causing some difference in the product.

Good luck to you.

paranoid painter28 Oct 2010 8:13 p.m. PST


Thank you for your very complete and helpful info.

You're right, misinformation and inaccurate conclusions are out there, and I've been fed a boatload.

From your comment, I could surmise that most finishes, acrylic or non-acrylic, are safe as long as the paints are fully cured. Great! Of course, I'll always test a new bottle before blazing something over my entire army, don't worry.

One last thing; there is a brand or two of finishes that come in both UV-resistant and non-UV-resistant versions. Unfortunately, is seems you don't much experience there.

At any rate, you've helped a lot. Thanks.

Delthos28 Oct 2010 10:21 p.m. PST

If you have a choice I'd go with UV-resistant ones as it is UV light that causes colors to bleach out over time and exposure to the light. If its UV-resistant that should help protect the brilliance of your colors. Even if I haven't experienced fading of the colors on my miniatures that don't have UV-resistant finishes.

CeruLucifus28 Oct 2010 10:39 p.m. PST

One other thing I wanted to mention as far as building up thin layers of varnish. From what I can tell, all manufacturers advise against building up layers of matte varnish, because the matting agent in the layers can combine producing haziness or whiting effects. What is recommended when multiple layers are desired is several layers of gloss varnish, as many as you want, followed by a topcoat of matte.

Vexilla is correct that people who do this are wrong when they say the reason is gloss varnish is stronger than matte. Not that it isn't stronger or maybe it is -- I don't know, I haven't tested -- but that it isn't the real reason we do gloss before matte. We do gloss first because we want more than one layer of varnish and, as I say above, when doing more than one layer, all bottom layers should be gloss. The explanation that the gloss is stronger is just a misinformed assumption.

As I mention in my other post, Vexilla is saying hey, if you pick a strong enough varnish, just one coat is strong enough. So don't mess with those gloss underlayers, just do the topcoat, and that can be matte varnish. Makes sense as long as the one layer is sufficient protection.

vexillia29 Oct 2010 2:00 a.m. PST

I heard someone mention my name so I thought I'd drop in and say hello.

To add a whole new dimension to the discussion I'd like to point out that the strength of any paint job starts with the primer and ends with the varnish. No amount of varnishing will compensate for a lousy primer.

I feel that the strength of my paintwork on metal miniatures comes from the combination of a specials metal primer – which is specifically designed to bond to lead and tin, and the use of a decent matt varnish

Martin Stephenson

richarDISNEY29 Oct 2010 5:43 a.m. PST

I have used Varathane Diamond, does not work well on minis! Has a tendency to dry quickly, and start to get 'stringy'…

I ONLY use Flowquil spray for all of my models now.

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