Last time, I provided a primer on the best ways to handle and paint metal minis.
Metal minis are fairly straightforward, really, if a bit labor-intensive in certain parts.
Today, I’d like to delve into the world of plastic minis. They’re a bit trickier.
First, realize that, while increasingly more and more common (at least two of the major miniature games companies produces almost all of their miniatures lines in plastic), when we talk about “plastic” minis, there’s as yet no true standard definition.
Plastics range from the hard gray plastic that we’re familiar with from Games Workshop kits, to the semi-hard plastic that we frequently find in miniature board game boxes, to the soft, fairly bendable plastic that we see from the Reaper Bones line. Plastic doesn’t mean just one thing when we’re talking plastic minis.
Prepping plastic minis is a lot easier in some ways than metal. You don’t usually have the issue with flash that you would with a metal mini, and mold lines can usually be excised more simply. And, unlike with resin minis, I’ve never had issues with air bubbles causing pock-marks on a plastic mini that need to be filled.
Some plastic minis, you’ll notice, feel greasy to the touch once you’ve gotten them out of their packaging. In this case, it’s advisable to give them a wash with a gentle dish soap, cool water and a toothbrush to remove this, as this coating (I’m not sure where it comes from, I’ve heard differing theories) can interfere with priming a mini.
Priming plastic minis, though, is a completely different beast altogether.
Depending on the company, and the kind of plastic they’re made from, you have to prime minis very differently. While most minis can usually be primed with a rattle can without a problem, other plastics don’t work well with spray primer and the paint either won’t adhere to it, or it simply won’t dry and will just remain tacky to the touch. Do your research before priming, is my best advise. Some minis take best to priming by hand. And there are some plastic minis, on the other hand, that come already pre-primed.
By and large, priming plastic minis is necessary. I’ve heard a number of stories of people who didn’t prime a plastic mini, painted it, and then the acrylic paint, once dried, literally fell off the mini because it didn’t have anything to adhere to.
Painting a plastic mini is little different, overall, from painting a metal mini, once it’s assembled and primed.
Plastic minis are durable and don’t seem to have the same chipping issue as metal minis do, though it’s still a good idea to use some kind of varnish, etc., to preserve your paint job. The thing is, again, be careful and do your homework – While I’ve never experienced it myself, I’ve heard horror stories of some folks who’ve used different clearcoats, etc., on plastic minis, and it’s caused the minis to melt.
Another issue common with plastic minis is bending, if they’ve been stored wrong and weight is forced up against them. While you can sometimes fix bent spears, swords, etc., made of some kinds of plastic minis before painting (look up methods on YouTube) I’m not sure if it’s possible to do this once you’ve got it all painted. Soft plastic minis have the most propensity to bend. Harder plastic minis will bend, but the bending weakens the plastic and if you try to bend it back it may break on you.
About the Author;
Peter Kuebeck is a writer, gamer and award-winning mini-painter living in the Midwest. He wages a constant battle against the ever-growing tide of unpainted minis in his basement, and occasionally GMs role-playing game sessions with friends. Catch his hobby shenanigans on Twitter at @popculturecube
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