Paint Like a Pro
Part Eight: Finishing Touches
by Mike McVey

Over the last few months we've looked at different techniques to prepare and paint your D&D Chainmail miniatures, so by now you should be able to turn bare metal castings into fully painted warbands. Now it's time to put the finishing touches on your miniatures -- all those last stages that aren't really painting, but are vital to the overall look and finish of a model.

Final Assembly

Attach the shield to a small piece of card to make it easier to hold while your painting -- a strip of double-sided tape is ideal to hold it in place.
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When you buy miniatures, much of the time they come in two or more pieces, and assembly is something we looked at in detail in Part 2 of this series. In most cases, the best way to tackle these multi-part models is to assemble them completely before you begin painting. But sometimes it's easier to paint one or more of the pieces separately and join them together when finished. One of the most obvious examples of this is when a miniature has a separate shield: If you glue the shield onto the miniature straight away, you usually block a significant part of the figure and make painting the miniature considerably harder. In this case, it is far better to paint the shield and the miniature separately and attach the shield later; you will also find that the shield is easier to paint effectively as a separate piece. It comes down to common sense, really -- look at the different pieces and judge for yourself which, if any, to paint separately. If a piece blocks other parts of the miniature, it's a good candidate.

Should you decide to paint your miniature in parts, the best approach is to first clean up all the parts and make sure they fit together snugly. If you plan to pin them together, drill the holes and glue a long piece of wire into the piece you are painting separately; that will give you something to hold while painting. I prefer to hold the wire in a pin-vice to keep my fingers well out of the way. When you finish painting, just snip the wire off to the correct length and glue the pieces together. Always touch-up around the join, but make sure the glue is fully dry -- there is no better way to ruin a brush than by getting super-glue on the bristles.

When the paint on the shield is dry, attach it to the painted miniature. Make sure that the two surfaces that you are actually drying are bare metal. If you glue onto paint, the join will not be strong.
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Shields are pretty much always better painted away from the miniature. I generally attach them to a small piece of card with double-sided tape -- that way they are easy to remove when finished. If the back will be visible when attached, paint it first, then flip the shield over and paint the front. Shields generally cover some of the surface of the miniature to which they are attached, and some people anticipate this by not painting the "hidden" area. I prefer to paint the miniature completely and then attach the shield; that way if you decide to remove the shield for any reason, the miniature is fully painted underneath. But it's really up to you.

Basing

Basing is an often-neglected area of miniature painting, and some people do it almost as an afterthought,. But in reality it is as important as any other stage of the process. If you present your model on a badly thought-out and poorly finished base, all your hard work on the rest of the miniature goes to waste. There are really no ends to the different ways to base a miniature. We'll look at just a few of them here.

Standard Basing

Paint the top surface of the base with white glue. Be careful not to get any on the feet of the miniature.
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There are a couple of very straightforward ways you can finish off the base on a model. The first is to use scenic flock: fine, dyed sawdust used mainly for railway or scenic modeling. Flock comes in lots of different colors -- generally in natural shades of green or brown -- so you can choose one that best suits the miniature. Simply paint a thin layer of PVA glue (white woodworker's glue, such as Elmer's) on the top of the base and cover it in flock. Even though PVA is water soluble when wet, always use an old brush and wash it thoroughly after use. Be careful while applying the glue; make sure you don't get any on the model's feet or the sides of the base, or the flock will stick to them, too. If you do get flock where you don't want it, remove it straight away.

The other simple way to base your miniatures is to use fine sand instead of flock, and then paint the sand. The technique is the same: Apply glue to the top of the base and cover it in sand. (I keep my sand in a shallow container and dip the base into it.) You must allow the sand to dry thoroughly before you can paint it. But once it's dry, you can get all sorts of good effects. If you want it to look like grass, for example, just paint it mid-green; when dry, drybrush it with lighter shades.

Dip the base into flock as soon as the glue is painted on. Don't blow or tap away any excess flock until you've given the glue a chance to dry.
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The sides of the base also need paint. Again, this is mainly a matter of personal taste. I prefer black or very dark green, but it depends on the color of the basing material and the general feel of the model. Sometimes the base has little molding marks on the side -- make sure these are trimmed off and the sides are neat and even before you apply paint.

Scenic Basing

A great way to add a little character and originality to a miniature is to put it on a scenic base. It's good fun, too. There really is no end to what you can do; as with so many aspects of the painting hobby, it pays to think about the character of the miniature you've painted. For example, it's no good covering the base of a subterranean monster with grass-green flock -- it would be far more in character to create a dungeonlike feel. Or if you are basing a wood elf, what you really want is some foliage to put the model in context.

At a simple level, you could use both flock and sand to create a broken, more natural feel. Just paint glue over part of the base and cover it in flock, then repeat the process with sand. As an alternative, use "static grass" -- a material similar to flock but made up of tiny fibers that stand upright when glued to a base and look almost like real scale grass. Modeling putty can be put to good use to create basic groundwork; you can then work over it with different materials to create some great textures.

If you do decide to put a little more effort into your bases, the best place to start is in your local hobby or modeling store -- especially those that cater to railway modelers. Have a look round the shelves and you'll find all sorts of things that will make great bases for your miniatures, such as balsa wood to make broken stakes. Pieces from other miniatures also work really well: Try adding bits of broken weapons or bones from old models. Small pieces of detail can look really effective. Sometimes keeping the effect simple works the best, rather than loading the base with details that draw the eye away from the miniature.

Varnishing

The final stage of miniature painting is varnishing, and while it's not exactly a painting technique, it's a vital stage in the process that protects all your hard work. A spray varnish is easiest to apply. I prefer to give the miniature a coat of gloss first, which gives great protection, then a covering of matt to get rid of the shine. (Make sure you let the varnish dry thoroughly between coats or the finish won't come out matt.)

Some miniatures look good if you selectively gloss parts of them. For example, you can make armor parts appear lacquered, or make the fangs of a monster glisten. To do this, buy paint-on gloss varnish and apply it to the specific parts when the rest of the model has been protected.

Now, what are you going to paint?
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