Soft Plastic Figures

Someone originally asked:

I didn't know there were any good plastic figs available. What happens when they bend, does the paint flake off?????

Steve Burt (

I've found that if you use an acrylic undercoat, paint with acrylics, and then varnish with polyurethane, the paint stays on. I can bend pikes and muskets double and nothing flakes. In fact, you can stand on the figures without damaging them, though I wouldn't recommend doing this routinely.

Never use enamels - the paint comes off at a depressing rate.

Properly treated, plastics are more durable than metal figures. On the other hand, with some figures (not all), the polythene seems to go brittle after a long while (20 years or so), and the figures often break off. They are repairable, though.

Clif Castle (

All plastics should be washed in warm-to-hot soap-and-water before painting with any paint type. Then use gesso, a white undercoat found at most art supply stores. Paint using acrylics and the figure is sealed. Overcoat with acrylic Matte Varnish (or Gloss) and your figure will last equal or better then the metal ones.

I have not tried spray acylic primer, but I suspect it would work also.

Craig Salkeld (

I recently found the only product you'll ever need. It is made by the Humbrol Company and is called Plasticoat. You paint it on the weapons or whole figure, let it dry overnight, and presto -- a flexible base that will accept paint, that will not chip.

You can get it through The Toy Soldier Co. 1-201-433-2370 in New York. Ask for Jamie and tell him Craig Salkeld sent you.

Tony Santosuosso (

My experience with plastic figures is this -- regardless of the way that you paint them (for instance washing in detergent and so on), the thin parts will often have the tendency to flake. This, I have found out, is the most efficient approach:

  1. prime them
  2. paint with gloss
I have used the Tamiya gloss paint markers with a number of Napoleonics. Still no flaking.

Bill Armintrout (

I heard somewhere about coating the figure first with superglue, that the glue (when dried) would form a coat over the figure which paint could adhere to better. I've tried this, and the paint does not flake off when the figure is bent. However, the paint does easily chip.

Ed Allen (

I've had pretty good luck in keeping the paint on 20mm plastic figures by first washing them in detergent and then undercoating with something flexible that bonds reasonably well to polyethylene. Nothing I know really bonds well to polyethylene, but the nail polish I used about 15 years ago has kept the paint on well, expect for a bit of flaking on really thin parts that got extreme bending like guns, and the polyurethane spray I've used more recently has also worked pretty well.

For gluing plastics, I've tried the new Plastix stuff, which uses an organic solvent that you brush on the plastic to melt it some and then a cyanoacrylate to bond the pieces. It's better than most glues on polyethylene, but still doesn't take much banging around. Anybody found something better?

I hope they do a decent amount of cavalry for the Carthage vs Rome sets. That's been the problem with lots of periods in plastic. All infantry except for maybe a token officer, or those bases that come separate from the horses if they do a cav pack, which can never be really glued on well. Revell's Normans were a particularly bad set, hardly any mounted figures for a predominantly cavalry army.

Christopher Salander (

Almost all the plastic historical figures available are 20mm.

Years ago, I used to go through all sorts of gyrations to paint plastic figures -

  1. wash them to remove a surface film
  2. soak in vinegar to create tiny pock marks in the surface
  3. use a plastic-specific primer

And still the paint would flake off.

However, there is now a solution!! I recently found out about vinyl paint. It comes in plastic bottles with long tubes and caps. It does not flake, crack or peel! It's rather expensive, and tricky to handle, but after beating up some figures painted with this paint, I'm amazed. Find some and try it! Check with your local hobby store.

(One caveat: Apparently the paint needs to be "circulated" every now and then - moved around (or squished around) inside the bottle.)

Last Updates
4 May 1998Clif Castle's comments
1 May 1998Steve Burt's comments
28 April 1998page first published
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