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"Starting in "Armies in Plastic" - prep and paint pointers?" Topic

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1,513 hits since 19 Jan 2017
©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

Queen Catherine19 Jan 2017 7:40 p.m. PST

Just got a bucket load of these guys for the Northwest Frontier. I think they are lovely plastic army men, but recognize that there's going to be a bit of a learning curve here, as I've always worked with hard plastic models, and mostly metal figures. my last big plastic army was GW Necrons [last edition] at least ten years ago!

Have already noted that they don't respond well to cutting, even with a very sharp X-acto knife. So my plan is to ignore the mold lines as part of the aesthetic, just trim off the little nub each fig has somewhere.

I was thinking then:
- cleaning in warm soapy water with dish soap,
- priming in the basic color of the unit / group,
- block painting the rest,
- quick highlight by drybrushing,
- dip in shading solution of some sort for a light shading,
- several coats of gloss?

Open to suggestions. I'm trying to both properly prepare the figs for painting and get something that does look like "Traditional Toy Soldiers" but not "junky toy soldiers". Toy Soldiers that are proud to come out of the box and defend the Queen, etc. so both aesthetic and practical advice sought here.

Uncertain what this comes under toy soldiers, army men, plastic figures, what? AIP are definitely high-end soft plastics, but they aren't in the realm of hard plastic Perry sets either.

thanks in advance!

Rich Bliss19 Jan 2017 7:44 p.m. PST

I'd say your step look good. In regard to the mold lines, try scraping them off with an X-Acto knife held perpendicular to the seam

Oberlindes Sol LIC19 Jan 2017 11:42 p.m. PST

Looks good to me, except that I wouldn't use gloss, but rather matte varnish, and probably just one or two light coats.

I agree with Rich Bliss on X-Acto knife technique for seams.

Martin Rapier20 Jan 2017 12:12 a.m. PST

I wouldn't bother with drybrushing them, they are a bit big for that.

Do undercoat them with undiluted PVA , the paint sticks much better.

I usually only do one coat of varnish, satin works well for a toy soldier look as it is a bit gloss without being silly. I use floor varnish.

If you undercoat black then block paint leaving shade lines, that really is all the shading you need.

Eyes and moustaches are a must. Rosy cheeks optional.

Personal logo Wolfshanza Supporting Member of TMP20 Jan 2017 12:19 a.m. PST

Rustoleum makes a primer for plastic. Had good luck with that to give a base to the paint.

Black Hat Miniatures20 Jan 2017 3:05 a.m. PST

I have a large number of these figures and second Martin's suggestion of a pva undercoat – it stops the paint coming off the bendy rifles and swords


Martin Rapier20 Jan 2017 4:26 a.m. PST

Here is some of my 54mm stuff:



as I said, just block painted over a black undercoat over PVA, then satin floor varnish.

79thPA Supporting Member of TMP20 Jan 2017 5:03 a.m. PST

I have not had good luck with the plastic primers, so I have recently started using PVA under a black spray primer, and that sems to be working better. Gesso is another option, but it costs substantially more than white glue.

daler240D Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member20 Jan 2017 6:59 a.m. PST

I agree with the PVA being the best undercoat. I dilute mine with about 30% volume of water though. Also, agree about the scraping the Xacto blade along the mold lines in a perpindicular fashion. It's not great, but it does improve some of the worst ones.

Queen Catherine20 Jan 2017 7:19 a.m. PST

What did you guys do with the little circles that are on the figs – about 3-4 each sometimes?

They are inset a bit, making them hard to reach and since they aren't "raised" like the mold lines, they don't scrape off. I tried undercutting one and got it, but uncertain if that's best.

Far as the Elmer's glue – I'm assuming you brush it on after washing the figures?

I'm surprised however – doesn't it make you lose some detail?

gamedad2520 Jan 2017 7:48 a.m. PST

@ Martin Rapier
Very nice figures. Great job. I especially like the semaphore flags.

Thanks to all for the helpful tips.

Personal logo Sgt Slag Supporting Member of TMP20 Jan 2017 9:02 a.m. PST

If you want them to look somewhat dirty, as if they've been through clouds of smoke, flying dirt clods from artillery, etc., then I would suggest using Minwax Polyshades Urethane Stain -- Royal Walnut -- Satin color. This is The Dip, and it works quite well on soft plastic figures.

I use The Dip on good 'ol green and tan, plastic Army Men (TM), from the dime stores. I only apply acrylic paint to the parts which need to be different from the plastic's color, using simple, block painting technique. Once I get that part done, I apply The Dip.

I've gamed with these figures for years, without flaking issues anywhere on the figures. I base them, so they don't get man-handled, which helps. I use the same techniques on 1/72 plastic figures, with the same results: no flaking, paint stays in place, figures are perfect, for years of gaming use.

If you prefer a less dirty appearance, visit your local hardware stores, and see if they have Minwax Polyshades Urethane Stain in Tudor color -- pure black. This is the color which most folks prefer, as it is less dirty/muddy looking, and more of a traditional shading color.

A small tin of the Minwax will cost less than $10 USD to try. I use Wal-Mart's School Paint Brushes (30 for a $1 USD), and throw them out when done. The nice thing is that I apply The Dip en masse, so a 30-pack of brushes lasts a while. I recommend giving it a try to see if you like it. Use a child's Army Man (TM) figure as a test figure, so you won't lose anything. Cheers!

79thPA Supporting Member of TMP20 Jan 2017 9:37 a.m. PST

I am not sure what circles you are talking about. You brush the PVA on before you prime the figure.

Queen Catherine20 Jan 2017 10:45 a.m. PST

The figures have small circles, some sort of mold pocket, that are a couple mm wide, and sunk into the fig a bit. Some have 1-2, some 3-4.

They're more obvious than the mold lines.

Marc the plastics fan20 Jan 2017 11:13 a.m. PST

Mould ejector pin marks. Best to fill them with miliput/green stuff otherwise the dip will show them up

nheastvan Inactive Member21 Jan 2017 1:54 p.m. PST

I wouldn't use spray paint directly on the plastic. Rust-Oleum primer for plastic is the exception. There are loads of plastic spray paints, but only the white primer for plastics product 209460 seems to work well.

That said, I use gesso or Vallejo surface primer brushed on. Floor varnish is great as it strong and stays slightly flexible. No chipping or paint loss on soft plastics for me going on 20 years now (my earliest figures are PVA prime, acrylic paint, floor varnish, light spray of Testors dull coat).

Queen Catherine21 Jan 2017 10:26 p.m. PST

Martin, I've forgotten 5 times to ask if you've a blog where I can see more inspiration!

When this NW Frontier project is well under way, I'm very tempted to do a 19th C. project with the AIP figs, that looks a lot like yours!

EDIT: Nevermind, it was easier to find you than I thought:

Dentwist Supporting Member of TMP21 Jan 2017 10:29 p.m. PST

For the mould lines, heat a hat pin and run it along them, works a treat.

Queen Catherine24 Jan 2017 7:01 p.m. PST

Dentwist – I'm going to give that a go.

Anyone know the right glue to repair broken bits, or, seal things up for head and weapon swaps?

This has been quite enlightening – I never knew how many differences there are when working with soft plastic!

Queen Catherine02 Feb 2017 7:18 p.m. PST

Rust-Oleum primer white 209460
has some reviews at Amazon. most were very favorable. Some advocated that you clean the plastic with alcohol before spraying, which I'd never heard of. Anyone tried this?

A couple of negative reviews said it didn't stick or dry. They didn't mention prepping the plastic at all, so I assume they didn't and got poor adhesion.

I've cleaned my test figs with hot water and dish soap. They do look less shiny, so I assume it removed some of the coating.

I've brushed on two different types of PVA glue. One is the very common Elmers, the other looks very similar and is called "Super Tacky Glue" by Nicole Quality Value.

The figs have mostly dried; The Elmer's seems harder, smoother, and is a bit cloudy. The STG is still a bit tacky but already clearer and seems more flexible.

nevinsrip Sponsoring Member of TMP03 Feb 2017 12:10 a.m. PST

The best primer for plastic figures is called "Grip and Guard" or "Plasti-Dip". It's the same product made under 2 different names.
Plasti-Dip is liquid rubber in a spray can. It's used to spray on tools to rubberize handles. It comes in Red, White, Gray and one or two other colors. It's very easy to use and a light coat will not obscure detail. It leaves a smooth painting surface and will not crack, chip, of flake off.
Both ACE and Home Dumpo carry it.

Ken Cliffe of All The Kings Men did a tutorial on priming plastic figures using PlastiDip. It may still be on his website.

Paint your figure with acrylic paint, then use an acrylic sealer and you figures will never lose their paint. Krylon makes a good sealer in a spray can. You may wish to Dulcote over it.

AIP are the worst plastics to convert. Lucky for you Michigan Toy Soldier Company carries a product named Tricky Stick that you can apply to the surface of the figure parts and it will allow Super Glue to work.
Details at their site.

TMP link

Here are some plastic conversions I did.
Search my name for other plastics on TMP.

Queen Catherine07 Feb 2017 3:07 p.m. PST

I had no luck trying to find Rust-Oleum primer white 209460 but I did find two other Rustoleums that claim they can cover plastic.

I also found my favorite old cheap black spray paint for 97 cents at Loews. I feel like buying ten cans of it!

I'm going to do some experimenting with that, also, since I've found that there's this weird thing about "cheap", it either works way better than expensive, or is a flop, but usually worth trying out!

Botch B19 Feb 2017 6:14 a.m. PST

I think you may have just come up with the 4th rules of wargaming – '"cheap", it either works way better than expensive, or is a flop, but usually worth trying out!'

Just be careful what you try it out on…

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