Wednesday, June 17, 2020

In war (-gaming) your soldiers needs protective cover!

Tired of army men loosing their paint?

Perhaps you have experienced that your Army men  starts to loose their paint after a while, and ruins your paintjob? Especially if they're regulary handled and if you use them for wargaming. That happened to me. After a just a few gaming sessions my painted plastic soldiers earlier mentioned in this blog, was starting to take their toll and the paint started to flaking (!). It was actually worse on the soldiers from the 'Toy Story'-collection as their plastic seemed softer and 'oilier' than their Matchbox-clones Brothers in Arms (which had harder plastic and took primer and paint better).

As I have a 'budget-approach' to wargaming, I painted them with cheap acrylic paint  from the craft store. This paint works fine with my model railroading, but was it also usable for miniatures which shall withstand some handling during gaming? I was not sure, so therefore I initially followed 'The book' here and washed them, primed them (twice as the first coat was with plastic-primer), painted them and sealed them flat clear varnish. Despite of this the paint was still coming off shortly after some handling:
This one was the most heavily attacked. It does not look good!!

The solution

So, how could I provide some First Aid quickly and save my plastic army men? I found a possible solution with another product from the craft store. In model railroading I've been using (Matte) Mod Podge for scenic glue and sealant. This dries without the slight shine often found on PVA-glues, so I decided to give the Matte Mod Podge a try as a varnish for my miniatures. If you want flat figures, it's important that you go for the Matte Mod Podge and not the 'glossy' or semi-shine versions:
Still wet of a cover of Matte Mod Podge (yes, it IS Mod Podge!!) it still doesen't look too good...

First I tried a thin layer of Matte Mod Podge as a varnish, and found out it turned out pretty flat and transparent and gave a resistant and flexible surface. It still had a slight shine to it.

I wanted to try to make the surface even more durable and resistant and tried a thicker coat of Mod Podge. After it dried, the figure was still pretty flat but with a slight more shine to it. The coated surface felt very durable yet still completely transparent and flexible:
This is how (flat) it looks after it's dried after a heavily coat og Mod Podge.
Note that I modified his rifle as well to give it a more generic look of assault rifle like the G3 or from the FN-family. This way they looks even more different that their 'foes' based on the same figures.

Despite the slight shine, the clear cote from Matte Mod Podge is still very flat and your figures are fine if you leave them like this. I wanted a even more 'dull' and 'dead flat' look to them, so I finished them off with a thin overspray of 'Army Painter' "Anti-Shine":
With a thin coat of Armypainter "Anti-Shine" added

I'm sure the whole problem with flaking paint can be avoided if you use 'right' primer and  'right' paint or using metal or hard plastic figures. Perhaps Enamels are better suited on stubborn plastic than (cheap) acrylics. I'm also sure there are a lot of other ways to fix it if you run into problems with paint coming off your (plastic) figures. I found my solution and fixed it with a liberate cote of Mod Podge, and it seems to work just fine!
A benefit is that you can buy Mod Podge in craft shops, and it's cheap. Another benefit is that if "glossy figures" is your thing, you can get Gloss Mod Podge as well. I have not tried the glossy version and don't know if it acts differently than the Matte.

For future painting-projects, and especially for figures made of soft plastic, I'm going to coat them with Matte Mod Podge directly. If I still might find them to shiny I'll just give them an additional coat of something very flat, like the Army Painter "Anti-Shine".


  1. I hadn't heard of Mode Podge (what a great name - sounds like porridge). I wonder if it is water based and what the ingredients are.

    Enamel paints, especially if gloss can be fairly tough but when they come off they will come off in big flakes. The very thing which makes them tough also makes them less flexible and soft plastic will expand and contract in heat variation so I'm not certain if enamels are the solution.

    The Mod Podge sounds interesting. I have been using PVA with a couple of drops of dishwashing detergent for an overcoat prior to the second overcoat with a craft clear spray called Crystal coat. They both give a slight shine which I actually don't mind on some figures, where I actually want a toy finish but not a full gloss, but I use a water based hobby paint clear flat over that as well where I want flat finish, such as on cloth. I leave skin, leather and weapons with the slight shine and also add gloss sometimes to metal, and, if I am feeling up to the extra effort, to eyeballs!

    If paint does start flaking, usually off extremities like gun barrels and swords I add some PVA to the area stop the peeling from spreading and to provide a surface for repainting. I try to avoid picking up painted figures by the thin projecting parts.

  2. It's waterbased and contains "1,2-benzisothiazol-3(2H)-one", so don't drink it or put in in your eyes. Remember this is a product you can buy in a craft store after all. Google it for even more information. Since it's waterbased, it can be thinned with water, but why should you? I used it unthinned and it worked just fine.

    I suppose it can be used as a primer as well, but with the durable and flexible surface it gives I think it will be enough to use it as a sealer. This product have many similarities with ordinary PVA glue but seems even thougher.

  3. That is a nice job on the Toy story figures. I'm tempted to paint mine.

    1. Thanks!
      There are not many crisp details on them to really bring out in the paint job, and as I wrote earlier it was challenging to paint so soft oily plastic and have the paint stay on. It seems like the Matte Mod Podge still does the part being a flexible seal. I was at the Disney Store in Copenhagen recently, but they didn't have this 'bucket o soldiers' anymore. They had a bucket of cheap China-copies often found elsewhere.
      I'm looking forward too see your figures if you paint them!

  4. Nice tutorial! I'm using also 2 primer coats ,one for plastic and one grey. I also use Army painter anti-shine varnish after my first surable varnish. But this product looks more durable. I will search for it :)


  5. If you find it and try it, you should try it on a figure first and not a whole platoon just to see if it suits you. I've read about persons who skipped priming and just sealed with Mod Podge after painting (!) If you try it out, please give a feedback how you liked it.

  6. I need different miniature models for war games, to print miniatures I check some options here. Can you please guide me on which is a good 3D Printer for war game models.

    1. First of all my experience with 3D-printing is very limited. I have only used the one printer that our family bought;a Flashforge Finder. That is a FDM-type printer which is more inexpensive than a SLA- or SLS- printer. The two latter type of printers, print resin, and are better for printing small miniatures to a high finish than a FDM-printer.

      As you can see for my use in mostly 54mm scale, the FDM-prints are more than good enough. I'm not able to print high quality 1/87 scale figures to my model railroad with such a printer. I guess it's a matter of what price you are willing to pay for a printer, and what quality you need on your prints.

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