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"Matt varnish drying glossy - cure?" Topic

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138SquadronRAF23 Jun 2016 8:33 a.m. PST

Title pretty much the problem.

Yes, I know that getting the humidity wrong turns the figures milky. My problem is the other extreme. The figures are too glossy.

I'm using the can of varnish as directed, well shaken an then held correctly at about 15" (40cm).

Brand whether from hardware (DIY) store or hobby shop doesn't seem to matter.

I'm prepared to consider going back to painting the figure by brush and then basing but it's not an option I favour.

I like in an area where the relative humidity varies wildly, some times it's in the 90s, other times its 20s.

Any thoughts welcomed.

curlerman23 Jun 2016 8:39 a.m. PST

Brush everytime particularly in humid areas and use a professional artist matt acrylic varnish. Much better and much cheaper in the long run. I first varnish with gloss varnish for durability "liquitex" and then Cryla Soluble matt varnish. I have never had a problem with either milky finish or Shiny finish..

mrtn w23 Jun 2016 8:49 a.m. PST

Sounds like the varnish could have separated. Maybe try shaking it until you bleed and test again?

maverick290923 Jun 2016 8:50 a.m. PST

Have you tried using Testors Matt Varnish? I have always had good luck with that. It comes in a small can and is kinda expensive, but I have found it works the best out of multiple matt varnishes I have tried.

I recommend holding the can slightly closer than 15" as well. I usually hold the can 10-12" and do light sweeping sprays. I do this because I am usually spraying outside and even the slightest of breeze will blow away most of the varnish at 15" or more away.

vexillia23 Jun 2016 9:19 a.m. PST

I suffered this problem for years with all types of brush on varnish mainly on specific colours: red, blue and greens. Although I have to say the problem I had was more a slight (but annoying) satin sheen than a gloss finish.

It turns out the problem lies with the paint not the varnish.

Modern acrylics with certain pigments (red, blues etc) can dry leaving a porous surface. This absorbs the varnish preventing it forming a surface film. Without a film the matting agents in the varnish can't migrate to the surface as the layer dries. No matting agents at the surface means a satin/gloss finish.

Sadly, once the top paint layer has been penetrated by the solvent in the varnish it seems to allow subsequent coats to penetrate even deeper. This means additional coats of varnish don't work either.

I found two solutions:

[1] Use Flat Future (google it) to repair existing models.
[2] Add unperfumed talc to your paint.

The large polymers in Flat Future aren't absorbed like the solvent in varnishes to it tends to form a nice surface film. The talc platelets form an impermeable layer within the paint so the varnish doesn't penetrate the paint layer in the first place.

See my article The Unvarnished Truth for more details.

Good luck.

Martin Stephenson
The Waving Flag | Twitter | eBay

War In 15MM23 Jun 2016 10:11 a.m. PST

I've painted my figures in the same fashion for decades. After the figures has had it color applied (with acrylic or oil-base paints), I let the color dry thoroughly and then spray the figure with Testors Dullcote. I then use a hand held blow dryer (hair dryer) to speed the drying of the Dullcote finish. I have done this with metal figures, plastic figures, and resin figures… no problems. You can see an example of my results in my 28mm Victorian Gallery at link

Dervel Fezian23 Jun 2016 10:29 a.m. PST

Testors Dullcote is the only mat finish I use…

Ceterman23 Jun 2016 10:43 a.m. PST

+1 Dervel. It's the ONLY thing I use. Have for 30+ years. Only had a humidity problem once. I waited a day & sprayed again. Fixed.

Timmo uk23 Jun 2016 10:45 a.m. PST

I've found that leaving the figures for about a week to let the paint really dry helps. You may notice a very slight change in the colour after about 72 hours I do.

I then give them a very thin layer of Vallejo acrylic gloss. Let this really harden. I never ever try matt varnishing unless the weather is right so I generally don't varnish anything during the summer months.

I apply doctored Daler Rowney matt acrylic varnish over the gloss. You can run it through an airbrush if you want to. I've found that if I don't put down the layer of gloss first the matt varnish noticeably changes the paint colours.

On the one hand you could consider this a lot of effort but onto other I'd say painting figures is a lot of effort and there's no point in rushing it and messing up hours of work.

Personal logo Yellow Admiral Supporting Member of TMP23 Jun 2016 11:25 a.m. PST

In coastal California, humidity also varies wildly with time of day and season (sometimes between "desert" and "rainforest" in the same day!), but I've never had this problem. My clearcoating process is a bit different: I first spray on a thick layer of automotive gloss clear, and *then* use dullcoat. Martin's explanation (porous paint absorbing dullcoat) would explain why this works.

I started doing this to protect the figures. With dullcoat as the sole protective layer over the paint, I was still getting some chipping if the figures got knocked around. Quality automotive spray gloss clearcoat is non-yellowing and dries very hard, providing a layer of invisible armor to the paint job under the dullcoat.

Thoughts and caveats:

  • Each extra clearcoat is an extra step. Of course, <lifts nose in air> fine art requires patience. <sniff> Wouldn't you agree? <sips brandy>
  • Gloss clearcoat is self-leveling, so fills in sculpted details. This is not a problem if the figure is fully finished, but does no favors for future overpainting.
  • Gloss also accepts paint differently (e.g., washes totally don't work right). Again, not a problem on finished miniatures, big problem for future overpainting.
  • More layers of gloss clear = more protection for the paint job.
- Ix

dragon6 Supporting Member of TMP23 Jun 2016 11:55 a.m. PST

You can see an example of my results in my 28mm Victorian Gallery

Always a pleasure to browse your gallerys

legatushedlius23 Jun 2016 2:55 p.m. PST

I use enamels and Humbrol enamel brush on varnish. Sometimes have a slight problem with a new tin but after stirring it – really stirring it five to ten minutes -the first time it's opened – it's fine.

War In 15MM23 Jun 2016 4:06 p.m. PST

dragon6, thank you. Richard

Henry Martini23 Jun 2016 5:38 p.m. PST

I doubt that artists' varnish is sufficiently durable. Paintings aren't going to be continuously handled, so it's probably only intended to protect them from oxidation and atmospheric pollution.

Goober23 Jun 2016 6:59 p.m. PST

There's a myth that gloss varnish is more durable than matt. Likewise artists acrylic and enamel varnishes are just as good as modellers.

Common wisdom is to varnish with the same base as you have painted, so use an acrylic varnish over acrylic paints. But, once you have sealed the paint with a similar varnish you can then use an alternative over the top if you need to. Many modellers use Future or similar to seal a model that has been painted with acrylics before they begin using oils or enamels to weather it. You them use a lacquer or enamel varnish over the weathering before apply any further paints or filters or so on.

You could try spraying first with the acrylic, then with a dissimilar matt coat such as enamel or a matt lacquer.

Also, another +1 for Testors dullcote.

Syrinx023 Jun 2016 7:19 p.m. PST

If you need to mix a flat and don't have talc available, Tamiya flat base mixed with any flat will dull any finish. I have been using W&N mixed with a drop of Tamiya flat in my airbrush.

Personal logo Doctor X Supporting Member of TMP23 Jun 2016 9:12 p.m. PST


Fat Wally23 Jun 2016 9:45 p.m. PST

Obviously do all the right things with the can and humidity levels.

This works for me.

Put the oven on 50 degrees and warm the figures in there for 10 minutes. Spray with Matt varnish.

Figures will be Matt.

idontbelieveit24 Jun 2016 9:28 a.m. PST

I've never been able to get dullcote in a spray can to come out flat, but I use the bottled stuff through my airbrush and it's awesome.

Timmo uk24 Jun 2016 1:12 p.m. PST

Henry Martini

A good point but I've yet to have a problem. These varnishes are widely used in the hobby and I've yet to read of anybody having an issue with them.

They make the figures feel as if they are made of porcelain which is a novel quality.

When I came to chose the varnish I used one of my prime requisites was to avoid any varnish that was lacquer or oil based as they have the ability to yellow in time. That's not to say they will but rather they might. Having had to repaint 400 Napoleonics because the varnish yellowed I decided to never go down that route again.

Clays Russians29 Jun 2016 5:27 p.m. PST

I gloss everything….. Everything! Sometimes I have the opposite problem, hmmmm I says, that looks a little subdued---------- WW2 however, no, dull coat all the way – RUDIN'YA

Monophagos05 Jul 2016 2:29 p.m. PST


Henry Martini05 Jul 2016 7:58 p.m. PST

Just yesterday I was looking at a battalion of 15mm Mexican Adventure Imperial Mexican infantry that are going to need a repaint of their white trousers for that very reason, Timmo.

Ghecko14 Jul 2016 5:10 p.m. PST

I've used Estapol Interior Tough Polyurethane Clear Finish in matt (brushed on) for some time now. It's meant for timber surfaces, but it works ok. 500 ml can lasts forever and is reasonably cheap. Like others, I always wait several days before coating.

1968billsfan08 Sep 2016 2:31 p.m. PST

You can just just magic dip (some India ink in water with a little wax floor polish) to coat the figures. Gives a little gloss and seals things with the wax.

Ramming30 Sep 2016 11:00 a.m. PST

If you look at troops in 'old fashioned' rig, Household Division, Kings Troop RHA etc, its noticeable that they glint; not just bayonets, swords etc but the brightware, harnesses, bits, the horses themselves so why do people insist on matting everything down? I use a satin finish Army Painter final coat and I think the results better reflect reality than a matt finish. Just my three ha'pence worth.

Personal logo War Artisan Sponsoring Member of TMP30 Sep 2016 12:29 p.m. PST

Which reality, Ramming? It depends on your frame of reference. A household trooper on parade, seen up close, will indeed have considerable glossy bits in various places. Cavalrymen on campaign, seen en masse from a distance with mount and equipment less-then-optimally maintained and covered with mud or dust, may exhibit the occasional glint of metal but not much more. Since I game big battles and not military parades, I matte down everything but the metal.

Both aesthetics have their proponents. Neither one reflects reality "better".

Old Contemptibles03 Oct 2016 8:26 a.m. PST

1. Don't use varnish.

2. As for the cure, try spraying them with Testors Figure Flat. I have found it turns gloss into a matte finish.

Ramming03 Oct 2016 10:35 a.m. PST

Clipped horses shine, boots bulled up shine, scabbards shine, oiled hooves shine, buttons, cap badges, harness, the guns themselves, the wheel bosses, the spokes of the wheels, the limbers etc etc, they all shine, even when not in ceremonial kit there is a lot of shine.

Personal logo War Artisan Sponsoring Member of TMP06 Oct 2016 4:25 a.m. PST

By all means, suit yourself, Ramming. If glossy figures look right to you, then varnish away . . . but I'm not convinced. When I look at cavalry en masse, I see some highlights and a few glints but nothing that would justify a gloss finish, so I will continue to do mine with a matte finish (except the metal).



uglyfatbloke30 Nov 2016 6:32 a.m. PST

Great pics!

Great War Ace30 Nov 2016 8:40 a.m. PST

Nothing is more matte than acrylic paint. Just put the paint on generously (thick where handling is expected) at the edges and high spots and call it good.

I dumped varnishes of any sort years ago, and wish that I could remove all earlier efforts to "preserve" my miniatures. Too many went weird, mainly ambering and changing the original color to something puky looking.

"Embalming" miniatures is a feckless, OC(D) pursuit. With a very few nicks and scrapes, your miniatures will all outlast any of you. So why bother with varnish, when the risks are greater than the potential benefits?…………

Personal logo BigRedBat Sponsoring Member of TMP30 Nov 2016 9:04 a.m. PST

Windsor and Newton matt Professional (not the Windsor and Newton matt, which is satin). It's as good as Dullcote and a fraction of the price and smelliness.

John Treadaway07 Dec 2016 7:56 a.m. PST

I'm with War Artizan – gloss, like so many things, does not scale. What you can get away with on a 1/6th scale Actionman figure is not what you can do on a 1/35th and – the smaller you go – the less glossy they need to be to be 'realistic'. That's why miniature figures are shaded and don't just reply on natural shadows.

But painting and reality are two different things. Paint them as glossy as you want but it's not really my cup of tea!

Oh and – original post: Testors dullcote spray (often over a gloss – Future or Army Painter dip).

And nothing else.

John T

Mac163829 Dec 2016 4:07 a.m. PST

The use of acrylics has changed how we paint figures, in the past we use to use mat enamels paint they use to rub off the figures so we use to gloss varnish (every think) which made them hard wearing but less realistic.

I have sprayed lots of these figures with mat acrylics spray from Army Paints or Vallejo and it has matted them down nicely.

Be aware that you need to glass varnish your flags and banners be for you spray your mat varnish to stop them from "frosting"(I have had a lot of trouble with Humbrol's mat varnish "frosting" in the past).

Spraying mat varnish when your figures are based up helps to fix static grass.

At the end I will go in and pick out armor and gilt with gloss varnish to make them shine again.

RitterKrieg29 Dec 2016 10:23 a.m. PST

Use this…


No more issues…



Azure Gryphon29 Dec 2016 5:08 p.m. PST

Testors Dullcoat is awesome. I also like the Model Masters Lusterless spray as well

I usually seal with a DIY store flat finish to get a good protective coat then finish with a coat of one of the above.

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