Friday, May 31, 2013

1/72 Zombies step-by-step Pt. 3: Zombies complete!

(Update: New camera, new photos!) Zombies are finally complete! Part 1 of this tutorial covered modding figures to make 1/72 zombies, part 2 covered actual painting, and this part will cover finishing touches, including the "magic dip" method for adding outlines and shadows.

IMPORTANT UPDATE (10/2013)!: After using this method on several miniatures, I've concluded that the solvent used in the Minwax dip is reactive to certain kinds of plastic, creating a sticky sheen that matte spray can't kill or contain. This includes the softer plastic used in Caesar Miniatures and Twilight Creations minis used here, plus the material used in Reaper Bones. The Italeri minis used for these zombies seems unaffected, as does the harder plastic used in Warhammer, Arcane Legions, Age of Mythology, and strangely, the soft plastic used by Hat.

I can't really recommend this method anymore. If you still want to use it, make sure it's on plastic that won't react by testing first, or find a way to seal the plastic before dipping (primer and paint isn't sufficient). I brushed on a coat of Pledge Floor Care Multisurface Finish (aka Future Shine) on all my affected minis, and it seems to have alleviated the problem significantly; it may also be enough of a seal to protect minis from The Dip.
1. The first step is to finish the bases. I just paint them with a couple coats of flat black paint. I don't like anything more detailed, preferring as neutral a base as I can so I can feasibly use these figures for a number of scenarios. If I added static grass, for example, they would look strange in an indoor dungeoncrawl.

2. The eponymous "dip" is this stuff: Minwax Polyshades, Classic Black Satin finish. It's wood stain and finish in one.  The figure is mounted here on a battery-powered drill: this is another reason I glue my minis to nails when painting. Some people prefer the control of painting the "dip" onto their figures, but as I find one needs to wipe the dip off no matter what, I like actually dunking the figures in the dip

3. I do this with a box nearby and plenty of paper towels on hand. I open the can, dip the mini while holding the drill, then immediately hold it over the box and spin the drill, to shake off most of the excess dip. Be sure to do this in a well-ventilated area, and to put the lid back on the can when you aren't using it to minimize exposure to fumes.

4. After it's dipped, you'll need to remove even more excess dip. Blowing on the mini while it's in the box will get rid of the globs that tend to accumulate between arms and legs, and a paper towel will soak any dip that pools in the neck and other places. Dab if you want to reduce the amount of dip, and wipe if you want to remove most of it. By the way, your minis usually won't turn out this dark: I have a problem with too-thick dip that I'll need to solve.

5. Give the dip at least a full day to dry (IMPORTANT UPDATE: I've since learned that 3 or 4 days at least is necessary for the dip to dry, or it will eventually turn sticky). Even with the satin finish instead of the gloss, the dip looks way too shiny for most minis. A matte spray will solve this problem, and will also provide another layer of protection. Do this outside on a fairly warm day with fairly low humidity, and be sure to rotate the figures and spray as much of them as you can.

6. Give the matte around an hour to dry: You'll see that it kills the shine and also gets rid of a lot of the blobbiness the dip leaves. At this point you can simply pry the minis off the nail head, and they're mostly ready to go (the nails are reusable). You may want to use a hobby knife or emory board to get rid of any excess glue or paint that accumulated around the nail head on the bottom of the miniature, so it will rest flat on the table.
I hope this tutorial was helpful to at least some of you. As I mentioned, I'm concerned by how dark and splotchy the dip is leaving my figures lately. It's a decent effect for zombies, but I used to get a much cleaner look from this method. I think the problem is that I was lazy about fully sealing the can of dip when I was done with it, which allowed for a degree of evaporation that has now left the dip too thick. I need to figure out a way to thin it with something that won't eat my plastic figures. I'd welcome any suggestions!

Sven's bad day, part 2.


  1. Hey, did you ever determine why your wash was coming out too dark? I'm about to do a batch of minis in the same method and wanted to see if I could avoid the this problem.

    1. I had some success thinning the dip with Naptha solvent. I hear that mineral spirits works better and is less volatile. But I don't recommend the dip anymore for plastic figures, as it often reacts badly with plastic. Maybe if you seal them first somehow. Search for "Magic Wash" on this blog for what I use instead.