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"Painting those black plastic mini. bases, some thoughts?" Topic

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Baranovich07 Mar 2018 9:05 p.m. PST

Discovered something interesting tonight.

Over the past several years, I've used Michaels and Walmart craft paints to paint many terrain boards, terrain projects and even to paint GW plastic terrain/building kits, as well as resin scatter terrain and resin building kits like Tabletop World, etc.

All of the craft paint I used on plastic and resin terrain kits was over Armory black spray primer which holds craft paint extremely well.

Craft paint works perfectly well on a spray-primed plastic surface like model plastics such as the hard plastic GW produces.

However, I've found something curious with the typical, black plastic bases that most minis are provided with. Even when those plastic bases are spray primed, paints don't seem to stick to them as well as the actual mini. I'm talking both craft paints AND miniature paints both have some problems, at least it seems to me.

I used brown craft paint over GW Chaos Black spray and it adhered very well. With a brush-on varnish over it, it's a solid bond above and below, it can even be lightly scratched with my finger nail and doesn't budge.

However, tonight I tried that same brown craft paint over goblin green Army Painter spray primer, and the craft paint was not creating a bond, it came off very easy.

I also did a test on a recent unit of dwarves. I applied a layer of Vallejo brush-on primer around the outside of the plastic bases before applying craft paint, which works VERY well, I can scratch at the surface and the craft paint has seemingly glued itself to the spray primer underneath. Brush-on primer seems to provide an amazing bite that is superior to spray.

So it seems that this universal black base plastic might be a slightly different plastic composition than the actual minis? I'm guessing here.

The result of my experience is that with some spray primers craft paint can be used to color your bases and will adhere, but to be sure it will adhere use a brush-on primer around the base first even if it was spray-primed already.

So any way, in my long-winded post I end with a universal question? How do you paint your plastic mini. bases? Do you use actual miniature paint or some other type of acrylic? Do you prime your bases at all?

Thought and thanks in advance!

Baranovich07 Mar 2018 9:13 p.m. PST

Just one additional note: I remember talking to a fellow at Historicon way back in 2008 who had a number of Napoleonic historical armies on display. He told me that he painted his entire armies with craft paints like Ceramcoat and Apple Barrel, apparently over I assume was spray or brush-on primers. The miniatures looked absolutely gorgeous, but I had to wonder how durable an entire paint job of craft paint would be for use in a wargaming setting.

whitphoto07 Mar 2018 9:37 p.m. PST

I have recently switched to a brush on/airbrush primer and use mostly craft paints without a problem. They hold up well to use and do not chip without some sort of trauma to the mini

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP07 Mar 2018 9:51 p.m. PST

I use Tamiya on the primed Satanic plastic slotta bases.
It's an acrylic paint, but solvent based, not water based.
I've also used Testors and other enamels.
But I NEVER leave the edges black. That's an abomination.

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP07 Mar 2018 9:53 p.m. PST

By the way, I also NEVER (well hardly ever) use Hobby spray paints as primer.
I usually use Walmart or Rustoleum Flat Black or Flat Ehite.

Hobby primers are also an abomination.

Cyrus the Great07 Mar 2018 10:08 p.m. PST

Never had a problem painting black slotta bases.

Baranovich07 Mar 2018 10:20 p.m. PST


Do you prime your slotta bases? I assume you would if you're spray or brush priming the minis. themselves…that was my primary question with regards to adhesion and the kind of paint used on the bases.

Personal logo Flashman14 Supporting Member of TMP08 Mar 2018 1:48 a.m. PST

Do you soap wash the base (and the miniature) before priming? I do, and I've never had the problem described regarding bases.

ZULUPAUL Supporting Member of TMP08 Mar 2018 2:44 a.m. PST

I prime my figures with white craft paint including the base & have had no problem. Also not had any problem with durability of the paint in use, granted that they do not get extensive use.

Vigilant08 Mar 2018 4:44 a.m. PST

I've always used spray car acrylic primer on my miniatures, usually grey. Never had any issues with metals or plastic including slotta bases. Only issues I've had recently were with Blitzkrieg's resin which despite being washed in mild detergent and wiped with degreasing cloth had the base coat and primer lift when removing masking. Not sure why, not had the same issue with other companies resins.

Mick the Metalsmith Inactive Member08 Mar 2018 6:04 a.m. PST

I always use craft paint and prime with just brush on black paint slightly diluted with water. I never use any sealers or clear varnishes afterward and my figs hold up pretty well. I rarely pre clean figs or the bases, no vinegar etching or any thing else. I just get right to painting. Heresy maybe but heretics are more logical, yes?

I am of the opinion that craft paint and the paints sold by mini companies are all the same back at the original factory just marketed differently. I might be wrrong but I have never noticed any difference in the few bottles of reaper or GW paint I bought from cheaper paints.

Personal logo Sgt Slag Supporting Member of TMP08 Mar 2018 7:19 a.m. PST

I do not paint my bases, exactly. I apply Wood Glue (much stronger than White, PVA Glue), with a throw-away school paint brush, then I swirl it in a tub of mixed sand, and Model RR ballast. The sand colors used are typically two different shades of green sand, and a tan colored sand. The ballast looks like large rocks, and it gets placed randomly in the swirl process. The 2-3 different shades of sand, create a visually appealing mottled color scheme.

On bases larger than 1-inch (2"-square, or larger), I first apply random swirls of Wood Glue, dunk the base in a dark, reddish-brown sand, wait for this to dry, then apply Wood Glue to the open areas, and swirl it in the green-tan-ballast mixture, to give a mottled, green and dark reddish-brown pattern. It works rather well, allowing these bases to look decent on grassy plains, as well as building tops, and roadways (well, better than just green bases…).

My technique creates very decent looking bases, with minimal effort, and minimal time spent. They are fairly durable, but if necessary, a watered-down application of PVA Glue will secure the sand granules in place. A person must be careful, because if the PVA Glue is too thick (50% water/50% PVA, is a good mix), it will create a translucent, 'plastic' layer over the sand, which is not pleasing to the eye… Just sayin'. Cheers!

Baranovich08 Mar 2018 8:08 a.m. PST

Hey guys,

Thanks for all the feedback, much appreciated!

I apologize for not being more clear, I'm focusing on how you personally deal with the sides/edges of the plastic bases. The tops of the bases are universally not a problem, that gets the standard PVA glue with sand, painted and flocked.

I'm talking about the actual sides themselves. Some modelers like to put texturing all over the base right down over and including the edges. I personally don't like this look and prefer to keep the edges just neatly painted in a green or brown color and as I said only texture the top of the base.

Baranovich08 Mar 2018 8:14 a.m. PST


Wow, you prime with white craft paint? Over both plastics and metals?

It's not that I'm not believing you when you say it works! It just makes me wonder then, going all the way back to my posts a few weeks back about what a "primer" technically is.

I pointed out that all of GW's spray "primers" are not primers at all but merely spray paint. Says so right on their cans. They describe their sprays as providing excellent base coats, but curiously they use the term basecoat and not undercoat. Just so happens they sell their white and black spray as primers and they work successfully as such.

Reading your post makes me feel that white paint, even craft paint must have some properties that actual primers have. Plus you're putting model paints over that white craft paint, and since the craft paint is porous it definitely would provide a bite for the model paint to stick to.

I find all this fascinating! Your technique makes me feel that maybe I'm overthinking this way too much and what I'm doing with the brush-on primers is fine!

Martin Rapier08 Mar 2018 8:25 a.m. PST

"But I NEVER leave the edges black. That's an abomination."

LOL. I deliberately paint the edges black. I like the look, it frames the miniature.

Personal logo Sgt Slag Supporting Member of TMP08 Mar 2018 9:16 a.m. PST

I never use the slotta-bases: too thick, look like a podium, beneath a statue! Can't stand the sloped edges… I use a wire cutter pliers, cutting off the bar connecting the figure's feet. I then glue the feet to my base material of choice.

I have tried various basing materials, over the past 20+ years. My favorite basing material, is Plastruct's 1mm-thick (or thinner) plastic sheet. Buy their grid pattern sheets, and just snap it off at the proper sizes. It takes paint well, after hitting it with an automotive primer.

Being 1mm thick, or less, the edges are hit with a permanent black marker. The thin, black edge, disappears into the table surface.

I tried using vinyl floor tiles: easy to cut to custom sizes and shapes; inexpensive, $0.39 USD/12-inch square. Problems arose, however: needed to stick two tiles together, mating their glue sides; too thick, even with just one tile; warps, over time, after painting only one side of the base with Wood Glue -- gets too warped to continue to use, after one year, or so.

Currently, I am using 3mm(?) thick, MDF. My nephew, a carpenter, gets it for free, from work. he cuts it down to the sizes I need, using his table saw, and chop saw: 1"-square, 1" x 2", 1" x 3", 2"-square, etc. For the edges, I either apply the sand (uneven thickness), or more commonly, I paint it black. I am not satisfied with the black, as it is very thick, and obvious, compared to the Plastruct sheets, but the price is very nice. It is much easier to pick up the figures by their thicker bases, as well, which is also nice. Cheers!

ZULUPAUL Supporting Member of TMP08 Mar 2018 6:35 p.m. PST

Baranovich, I have used white craft paint brushed on for years both on metal & plastics and some resins (I really don't like working with resin). I use a lot of craft paints for my painting as well as some very old (90s) GW paint & valejo without problem.
I color the sides brown or black.

Cyrus the Great10 Mar 2018 12:03 p.m. PST

I use Krylon white primer, but I've also just washed the bases and painted them without primer.

Poniatowski Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member29 Mar 2018 3:46 a.m. PST

What Flashman14 said… I have been modeling and basing for over 30 years now and have been a HUGE GW fan….

1. GW used to wash their bases before they were packaged (bases came in a dull black color)
2. In the late 90's early 2000's the bases started coming in shiny…. they looked better…. BUT.. that is the mold release, oils, etc…. the bases need washed…. hot water and mild dish soap.. I actually use DAWN. I haven't had that problem since I started washing the bases.

I have used MANY types of primers also… I haven't found them to be of any consequence, except…. some are thicker or thinner and can mess up the details on your figures.

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