Sunday, 19 February 2012

Are you a 'dip in' or 'splash on' kind of guy?

Ok, I know. Slightly smutty post title, settle down; it wasn't that bad.

As wargamer though, it is a reasonably pertinent question. As you are now aware, I do have issues with seeing certain colours and therefore the quite basic job of highlighting figures can be a real pain, particularly reds; I can never see where I have already been for one. So, I started using the Army Painter dip to provide the depth of colour and tones I needed. Yes, I did have to force my self to immerse my first figure into that jar of dark brown gloop and had a bit of a disaster when it came to the spray varnish bit afterwards but, once I got past all of that, I ended up with some great results. The trick was, I gradually learnt, to be vigorous when shaking the dip off, to turn the figure through ninety degrees and shake some more until the figure had been turned completely around. This made the dip cover far more evenly whilst still leaving enough to create shadows and depth here and there. Each figure needed to be shaken in a swift downward arc some twenty odd times in all....not the two or three the Army Painter video suggested! This does kill your arm and shoulder when you have a twenty four figure battalion to get through but the reseults were worth it....even if you do need to have a lie down until the strange purple blobs in front of your eyes have gone away and you cannot hear that whistle in your ears anymore. Oh, and another thing you learn doing this, be prepared to lose a figure or two. I have had one monted general figure snap off at the horses ankles, whiz off down the garden at a terrific rate of knotts and crash into a concrete fence support. Another slipped out of the grip of the pliers I was using to hold onto the base and rocketed into the air, only to come down into the neighbours ornamental pond with a loud splash. Luckily, she thought it was a frog jumping in! Others suddenly showed themselves to have weak ankles and ended up bent at an odd angle. All very difficult. So, given these issues, I decided to try the splash on method, liberally painting the gloop on with a brush and lifting off the excess etc. This did work although I think I preffered the dip in results for overall effect. The spray varnish is the key to the army painter dip, it leaves a brilliantly flat matt finish and makes the whole dip effect work perfectly....just be careful, not too much and to used from a good half an arms length away at least three days after the dip has dried....DO NOT BELIEVE THE VIDEO ON YOU TUBE!!!!!!!!!! I followed the instructions and the varnish blistered off the dip leaving a serious mess. I had to strip the figures back and start again. take a look at the club website gallery under 'Alan's Figures'. It made me want to cry but I did carry on to great the end.

Anyway, the whole issue became mute as the dip is oil based and has a strong odour. Both my wife and daughter suffer with Fibromyalgia, which makes them very sensitive to smells, and so I was not allowed to use the stuff in the house or to even let the dipped figures dry there....and what with the onset of winter my painting slowed to a stop. Then I came across the new acrylic dips by Vallejo! These are, in essence, bloody big jars of wash although they do contain some carrier ingredient too. They are designed to let you dip your figures but can be equally used for splash on work. two colours are available, brown and black and so far I have had some good results but I do need to play around with them some more to get used to them. The first point is that the need to be shaken or stirred quite regularly during use if being painted on. I have found that after every five or so figures was about right. That can be a bit annoying but is not so bad once you get going. The effects were good, especially around areas like faces where the dip could add definition, although I noticed that it did not darken other areas as much as I would have liked; or was at least expecting compared to the oily stuff.

I also used it on the guns. It covered the wood areas as I expected it to but left the barrels looking dull and coated with what looked like smudges of dirty water. That was a real disapointment because they actually looked great when wet. I tried rubbing the barrels to see if I could remove the patches and discovered that a judicious rub down with and old (but clean) sock buffed them up a treat. It left them with a great colour with some good depth and shading. Given the weather I could not use the spray so was forced into a jar of humbrol matt cote, sadly it left the figures with a slight sheen as you can see. I have yet to find a good matt varnish in a jar.

The vallejo dip also worked well on the basees. I glued down some light buff grit (all I had at the time) but darkened it with a liberal coat of the dip. This left a good effect but also helped seal down the material. In all I was very pleased wit the new acrylic dip. Yes, I do need to practice with it some more but I have high hopes. I can use it indoors, it dries quickly and for 200ml it is about a third of the price of the Army painter tins.

Will I use it as a dip like I did with the oil gloop? I think I will have to, at least once. But, I cannot give up on the gloop, I have already started using it on my Marlburians and I hate changing something as major as that in mid project. The gloop for my Marlburians then and the acrylic stuff for my Greek hoplites.....lets see what happens.


  1. Most of the Rejects use Windsor and Newton peat brown writing Ink, we water it down 1:1, and brush it on, then when dry, it doesn't take long, 5 minutes perhaps, give the figure a coat of matt varnish by hand, this takes the ink off most of the raised areas, you can get some really good results with it. Here's a link

  2. Hi Ray,

    Good to meet you on Sunday!

    That sounds like a good idea. Once you get the hang of these methods, and some confidence in them, the results do start to impress. My old teacher, Bob Cordery, first introduced me to the wash idea back in the mid eighties. He used to use nut brown indian ink but I had completely forgoton that until I read your comment. Bob runs a blog called Wargames miscellany on blogspot, well worth a look.