Painting Miniatures: Varnish

This is the last post of my miniature painting series. Last time we touched some on varnish, especially if using flock on your bases. A critical final step for your miniature is sealing the model in a coat of varnish. Even with a good coat of primer, typical handing of your mini during gaming can cause the paint on your figures to rub off.

With a varnish coat, you can protect your models and have them keep their amazing paint job for years. There are two routes people go with varnish. Some use a gloss spray, and then give it a quick layer of dull coat. I go the lazy route and simply use a single coat of matte varnish spray.

I’ve used more expensive stuff for models like Tamiya and Testor’s, but found Krylon a good choice. Like spraying on primer, you want to mix the can well and do it in weather that is not too cold. Go for an even coat, spraying not too close to the figure, and making sure to cover all the angles of the model.

A matte spray varnish will dull shiny paint jobs. Something that can happen if using ink washes. The varnish will also act as a sealant and adhesive for flock on the bases of your mini. There is one critical point with giving models a coat of varnish though, beware of humidity.

A decent amount of humidity can result in a horrible white misting or ‘frosting’ on your mini. There are some ways to restore your paint job if this happens. However it’s best to avoid it in the first place. If worried about humidity, you can paint a popsicle stick black and give it a test coat of varnish to ensure humidity won’t be a problem.

If you live in an area that has months on end of high humidity, you can try using a brush on or airbrush varnish. Vallejo matte varnish is formulated for airbrushing. However I’ve thinned it out and used is as a brush on varnish too. It will give your figures a slightly glossy look if applying by brush but provides a good protective coat.

That concludes my painting tutorial series. It’s an enjoyable hobby. While it might be daunting when starting out, if you stick with some key techniques you can produce some nicely painted figures. Just an even application of base coats, a wash, and highlights, you can get several miniatures done that can certainly rise up to tabletop standard. So don’t let painting anxiety keep you shackled to pushing around unpainted plastic. Get cracking and spend some time at the paint bench!