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"Is stripping paint off figures more trouble than it's worth?" Topic

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Action Log

05 May 2016 4:18 p.m. PST
by Editor in Chief Bill

  • Removed from TMP Poll Suggestions board

1,262 hits since 14 Oct 2015
©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP14 Oct 2015 9:51 a.m. PST

I used to strip paint off old figures all the time. Figures I bought at a flea market. Figures that I had painted but knew I could do a better job on, etc.

So I tried all the recipes. Acetone, Pine Sol, Simple Green, etc.
I quickly found that success depended totally on the primer, and the books and crannies on the figure. If the paint were to come off, it would come off after an overnight soak. Never completely.
I tried toothpicks, needles, etc.
I even got some fiber wheels for a Dremel.
I still have jars of stuff that never got clean.

I have come to the conclusion that if it is easy peasy it's still too much work. I am a slow painter, and this just cuts into my valuable time. I now would much rather spend my valuable time on painting new figures, and play with the old "inferior paint job" figures. Hey, my newer more beautiful figures don't fight any better than the old ones!

So, my choices are:
1) It's too much trouble to strip paint and start over.
2) It's worth the effort to put better figures on the table.
3) The usual no opinion.

Ran The Cid14 Oct 2015 10:05 a.m. PST

Unless the paint is caked on, dip them to hide the worst of the sins & apply new highlights.

Who asked this joker14 Oct 2015 10:06 a.m. PST

It's usually worth it. You do need to have time if you are going to use the less caustic removers (Simple Green etc). It can take up to two weeks for the stuff to work!

BuckeyeBob14 Oct 2015 10:18 a.m. PST

Educate me (as I have never purchased pre-painted figs)….why not just spray the figures anew with white or black and then repaint entirely?

VCarter Supporting Member of TMP14 Oct 2015 10:24 a.m. PST

Some paint jobs do not deserve to live (even under cover). Also each layer of paint can dull the details on the figure.

"Citristrip" on metal – ready in one hour or leave overnight.

Dynaman878914 Oct 2015 10:30 a.m. PST

Stripping paint is NOT worth the effort.

79thPA Supporting Member of TMP14 Oct 2015 10:39 a.m. PST

I have never stripped the paint off a figure. I have actually thrown some figures out rather that try to get the paint off them. Absent the deal of a lifetime on badly painted figures, if I can't reprime the figure or fix it by putting on a new coat of paint, I'm not buying it. My time is too valuable to mess with that stuff.

bruntonboy14 Oct 2015 10:40 a.m. PST

Either paint over the old paint or do what I usually do which is to repaint the really obvious bits that stand out…hands, weapons and faces, maybe the headgear. Give them new flags and matching varnish and basing to your existing figures.
To tell the truth I do this even if it is a decent paint job to start with as a/ the figures blend into my armies better and b/ it adds a bit of "me" to the figures and I have some ownership of them.

Personal logo Bashytubits Supporting Member of TMP14 Oct 2015 10:43 a.m. PST

I have never had any problem after soaking overnight. I use puple power and a simple toothbrush.

Broadsword Inactive Member14 Oct 2015 10:54 a.m. PST

I also use purple power and a toothbrush. Works fine. On the rare figure a second soaking might be necessary, or a toothpick to dig out stubborn recesses.

Al | My Blog

Personal logo Flashman14 Supporting Member of TMP14 Oct 2015 10:54 a.m. PST

I can never get a clean mini – nooks and crannies always remain filled. The worst bunch I've never done anything with because of it.

I tend not to buy painted miniatures of any quality as that's a pastime I enjoy doing myself.

Personal logo jeffreyw3 Supporting Member of TMP14 Oct 2015 11:00 a.m. PST

Definitely not worth the effort. As flash notes, nooks and crannies. A few extra bucks I have--time, I don't.

GarrisonMiniatures Inactive Member14 Oct 2015 11:39 a.m. PST

Depends on the figures. Some are worth it, some not.

Garand14 Oct 2015 11:50 a.m. PST

Agree, depends on the figures. If it is an OOP figure I really, really like (more likely with SF/Fantasy than Historicals) I'll attempt a strip. If it is still in production, I might just buy a new one instead.

That being said, there are times I've bought models that I though would have been acceptable via Ebay, and received them and were not. Like an Elf Mage I received last year that I thought was just black primed, turned out it was gobbed up black acrylic over a very indifferent paintjob. User didn't use primer so it stripped pretty well…


Mister Tibbles14 Oct 2015 12:36 p.m. PST

I've experienced all the trials the OFM mentions. I'm done with it. Not worth the effort, unless as Damon says is a valuable OOP figure.

Worst primer to strip IMO has been gesso.

skipper John Supporting Member of TMP14 Oct 2015 12:42 p.m. PST

You hit those boys with some commercial paint stripper in a baggie, shake them up a couple of times and let them sit in it for 10 minutes. They will shine like brand new castings!

Kropotkin30314 Oct 2015 1:34 p.m. PST

I used to try to strip all my e-bayed painted figures, but now I am slaking-off as stripping paint is, as others have said, a very hit and miss affair.

The undercoat seems to prevent some figures from ever been shiny again, but getting rid of clogged-up paint is worth it if the detail is gunked-up.

So some I will and some I won't.

Now days I try to use Dettol (Brown) as I feel OK about washing it away down the sink.

However only rinse and brush off the paint with Dettol after a soak as getting water anywhere near Dettol and paint will produce a horrible sticky mess that makes the figures worse than if you had left them alone and not bothered at all.

I never use Nitromore any more as it is very harmful to the skin.Even wearing gloves I got nasty dermatitis that lasted for months.Disposing of it is a headache.

Timmo uk14 Oct 2015 2:09 p.m. PST

Never, ever again. It takes far too much time to strip figures and get them really clean. I can no longer be bothered and will only paint new castings.

KPinder14 Oct 2015 2:17 p.m. PST

This question pops up from time to time and there is some sensei stripper who has inexplicably not chimed in, so here goes. Agree, that the value of stripping is directly proportional to the value, and rarity, of the fig. That said, Simple Green used to be the universal go to stripper. I tried everything. Alcohol, mineral spirits, Testors ELO, Acetone, turpentine, I drew the line at oven cleaner. Nothing. Simple Green did the trick. The sensei posted last year that Simple Green had been reformulated to omit a key ingredient that reduced its effectiveness. I have to agree. Purple Power is the way to go. You can get it in the automotive aisle in Walmart. Leave it soak 1-2 days then hit it with a stiff bristle brush. (No toothbrushes are rigid enough anymore) You can expect 90+% effectiveness. I found that hobby stores carry these sand picks. Plastic abrasive white sticks about 3" long with abrasive points. These are good in nooks and crannies and come in very fine grits so you will do little to no harm to your fig.

Allen57 Supporting Member of TMP14 Oct 2015 2:17 p.m. PST

Stripping is too much time and trouble. I usually just paint over the existing stuff. Yes, they do not always look as good on close inspection but on the table I can hardly tell.

Personal logo Flashman14 Supporting Member of TMP14 Oct 2015 4:08 p.m. PST

I've been watching threads like this for years -started my own at one point, but I've never heard mention of the ones seen here that Skipper John referred to:


I'd be willing to try one of these once.

Personal logo The Beast Rampant Supporting Member of TMP14 Oct 2015 4:29 p.m. PST

I find it's always worth it (provided the minis aren't ugly or damaged), and not that much trouble. I haven't just "painted over" anything more than a very partially painted mini since I was maybe fourteen.

Soak in jar of Walmart stripper overnight, wash off, scrub with detergent and old toothbrush, use dental pick to get some occasional chunks out of the recesses. Everything left will most likely be more a 'stain' than paint, so after that they are typically ready for priming. I strip in batches, so the actual time per mini is *maybe* five minutes?

And I doubt that you are a slower painter than I am!

Personal logo Pictors Studio Sponsoring Member of TMP14 Oct 2015 5:00 p.m. PST

Unless the figure is $10 USD or more it isn't worth it.

If the paint isn't too thick spray it black and start over, if it can stand a wash and highlight do that. If neither of those work cut it up and use it for spare parts if possible or just toss it.

cmdr kevin Inactive Member14 Oct 2015 5:21 p.m. PST

lacquer thinner, takes off anything, but melts plastic and resin use on metal figs only

JSchutt14 Oct 2015 8:20 p.m. PST

As has been said….Only if the figure is worth more than the trouble.

Cyrus the Great14 Oct 2015 8:32 p.m. PST

No work at all, Simple Green and an ultrasonic cleaner.

Pedrobear Inactive Member14 Oct 2015 9:57 p.m. PST

Painted figures, especially the poorly-painted ones, can sometimes be a way to get figures that are OOP or that are much cheaper than new *cough*GW*cough*.

It really depends on whether or not you feel the time spent processing the figures is worth the savings.

I used Dettol, and have had good results with most figures, but also sticky goo that sticks to everything with some (I suspect enamel paints?).

Martin Rapier14 Oct 2015 11:12 p.m. PST

They are wargaming pieces, not works of art. I either touch up the existing paint job, or more commonly, repaint the whole thing over the existing paint. Yes, some detail might be obscured. Whatever. Once it is based and from 2 feet away, no-one can tell.

Personal logo etotheipi Sponsoring Member of TMP15 Oct 2015 5:48 a.m. PST

I will:

* Paint over painted figures
* Touch up painted figures
* Convert painted figures and touch up
* Finish partially painted paint jobs
* Overhaul painted figures
* Repaint painted figures
* Prime over painted figures
* Strip figures overnight and start from scratch

As with Martin Rapier, my figures are not exactly works of art (though I consider come of my conversion projects to be). Most are intended to be seen at arm's length on the table only.

What I do for a specific figure is a function of where that figure fits in to the generic figure … special character figure continuum. Is this figure one of hundreds? a platoon member? one of a party of figures? a character? a special stand alone?

This isn't related to the detail for the figure, just the general approach in the context of stripping. I actually find it easier to add more and more details to a large number of figures. I think it's because I am distributing the overhead of a new paint color, brush, figuring out the application angles, dealing with figure shape, and cleaning up after across more figures. The opposite of my trade-off for whether or not to strip.

Personal logo miniMo Supporting Member of TMP15 Oct 2015 4:20 p.m. PST

I just touch up over existing paint job.

Personal logo Doctor X Supporting Member of TMP15 Oct 2015 10:12 p.m. PST

It takes me maybe 30-60 seconds to strip a figure 95%+. What I can't get I don't go OCD over. I use the same method as Cyrus. Ultrasonic cleaner and Simple Green.

It is definitely worth the time to strip.

womble67 Supporting Member of TMP25 Oct 2015 4:32 a.m. PST

My guide for stripping miniatures with Dettol

Take care


R Strickland Fezian Inactive Member31 Oct 2015 3:22 p.m. PST

I identify with everything you've said, but I finally found a method that works well and is worth it in terms of the time spent. If it's a popular figure that gets a decent resell value and you can buy it new or pay more to buy it used unpainted, then it's probably worth it to just buy it new or used unpainted. But I often buy oop uncommon painted figures off ebay for a fraction of their unpainted street value, and then it can be well worth it.

I use products you've used already, but there really is something to method. First, I strip the figures in the standard simple-green bath for a week or more. I scrub with a toothbrush in a tub of water. If it's a pewter figure I sometimes use a brass brush. I find 60-80% of the paint usually sloughs off pretty easily. As you point out though, it all depends on the paint and primer. There are some paint/primer combinations that are all but impervious to simple green.

Successive passes of simple green is not worth it. The law of diminishing returns is felt strongly. I a dozen or more small flat rate usps boxes crammed with half-stripped figures sitting around for years. I searched and searched for a solution for round II and finally found it in pure acetone.

You mention you've used acetone before. But I would be very surprised if you didn't have good results with the following method. I also don't know if you used pure acetone or a watered down solution such as what's used as nail polish remover. I'm not given to hyperbole and I was amazed, yes amazed at my initial results, which have born out with great success across the board.

Pure acetone will completely melt certain materials including most glues and some paints. Some figures you pull out will see marked results right there, paint ready to brush off. Other figures, the acetone bath SEEMS to have done very little, but it's not the soaking step wherein the magic happens, but the scrubbing.

Need to add a disclaimer here that I researched acetone and it can be very harmful, so I strongly urge everyone to take every precaution. Mine consist of nitrile gloves, long sleeves, eye protection, full filter type paint mask, hepa filter, window open, and paper screen of my work area.

Acetone evaporates almost immediately. You need to scrub with wet acetone and frequently dip your brush in a small pot of the stuff and reapply. My experience suggests that soaking a figure for five minutes, overnight or a week has pretty much the same effect on the figure. When I scrub with the stuff, however, the paint dissolves it a way that pretty much perfectly matches the vision I had in my mind of what the perfect agent would do. It literally dissolves. It dissolves enamel especially well. Figures that simple green had no effect on are completely stripped. I find that pressure doesn't matter. Much like scrubbing a pan with caked on black stuff, scrubbing harder doesn't do it, but lightly scrubbing more repetitions is how you break it down. It's really not to hard and doesn't take to long.

You might say why not skip right to acetone, but the thing to keep in mind is dissolving paint is a bit of a mess. It's way easier to slough as much off as simple green will take, that time spent with lower health risk, and then cover the last mile with acetone.

I find that using the two-step method I get 98% of paint off 99.5% of figures. Out of the thousand or so figures I've stripped I've encountered 3 to 5 that the acetone doesn't work on. I have no idea what kind of paint they were painted with, but I doubt you can buy it off the shelf today! ;)

R Strickland Fezian Inactive Member31 Oct 2015 3:24 p.m. PST

By the way, I have yet to find a round 2 product for plastic miniatures. Acetone can't be used as it melts the plastic. Anyone have stubborn plastic figures and find a solution? I haven't tried brake fluid or perhaps a few other things people use. I'm in the us.

snurl105 Nov 2015 4:39 a.m. PST

I got some figures in a trade once that looked like they had been coated with Parking Lot-Line paint, so thick it completely obscured the detail, to the point where chain mail looked like cloth.

A 10 minute soak in EZ-Off Oven Cleaner followed by a rinse and scrub with an old toothbrush removed 99% of the paint.

ced110610 Nov 2015 12:46 a.m. PST

Paint <> Primer!

Super Clean (warning: caustic, so wear gloves) works for me, although I don't try to get rid of *all* the primer anymore. Optionally, use 90% Isopropyl Alcohol or Simple Green first for a preliminary stripping. I'll try the acetone tip if I ever need to!

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