Sunday, 23 May 2010

Dipping sauce

 There isn't a hobbyist that hasn't at least once encountered this problem: after a while you own more unpainted miniatures than you can realistically hope to paint in your lifetime.

I am no exception to this rule, as I have amassed quite a lot of miniatures over time, most of which have too much sentimental value to give away, and yet I have never gotten round to paint them (completely/at all).

My old half painted collection of orcs and goblins. This was my second army and I had a lot of fun with it. The models are not exactly brand new (most of them 5th and 6th edition WHFB). In there are roughly 30+ boys, 16+ orc archers, 2 chariots, 2 catapults, 3 Stone Trolls, 10 Wold riders, 10 Boar Riders and 30 night goblins with fanatics.

I am a rather consciencious  hobbyist, and seldom does a purchased miniature wait for its paintjob, but considering the eternal problem of miniature quantitiy versus available painting time, one is hard pressed to finish every project one starts.

Yet I do not like to give up on projects. I feel that too much effort (and money) has (usually) gone into them to just let them rot in a drawer somewhere... for more than a few years :)

My space marines are a prime example for this. I think it was really worth the (reasonable) effort to completely remake them. It's incredibly satisfying to see a pile of bits coagulate into brand new army - and what's more, a pretty big one!

"But how do you deal with those heaps of plastic? Where do you find the time to paint them?"  I hear you ask.

A technique that has been around for a while now is "dipping". Like most people I first came accross it when I saw Fanatic Army Painter's "Quick Shade" products. At first, my artist's soul was offended. "That's not painting!" it cried, outraged.

But having thought about it a little, it started to kind of make sense. It is the quickest and easiest way to get many many minitaures done and onto the field of battle. Don't get me wrong, from an artistic point of view, the result is still nauseating. However the efficiency of the procedure is rather compelling. Plus: you have to admit it is a pretty clever idea.

So I decided to give "dipping" a try myself. And what better army to try it on than a massed, dirty horde of orcs? 

Here are my results and thoughts.

  • My shading solution is nothing more than regular "satin" or "matt" wood finish, rosewood shade. It's very cheaply available at your local home improvement store (around €6). 
  • I diluted it with  a little bit of water (you may want to try matt varnish as a better alternative) until I felt that it was the right thickness. I sacrificed two orcs in the process, but that's ok. They may be a little to dark but no-one will notice that if they are in the back of the regiment.
  • Despite being called "satin" the wood finish is a little bit too shiny for my taste. Dilution fixes that well enough to be acceptable.
  • I then painted my mini with simple colours. You just need to make sure to do a rather neat paintjob. I used VGC Camouflage green for the skin, VGC Leather Brown for the leather parts, VMC Off White for the teeth and bone. You can use any other acrylic colours that you normally use! (e.g. GW Snot Green, GW Snakebite leather and GW Skull white)
  • I based the models normally with sand
  • Let them dry completely.
  • Dipped them in the wood finish using clippers to hold onto their base.
  • Shook off the extra liquid into a cardboard box.

  • Let dry for an hour.
  • Done!

Here's an example of my test miniature:


Another nice feature is the relative stickiness of the wood finish while it is still wet. I sprinkeled some grass flocking onto the bases, and let dry. Saves white glue and  time and looks perfectly natural (not visible on picture)!

If you feel so inclined you can even go back and pick out some details like the teeth if you feel they have gotten too "flat" from the dipping: works brilliantly.

Overall I have to say I am pretty satisfyied with the result. Of course, it is a method of last resort for me, and looks 10x worse than a "properly" painted miniature, but if it allows me to get my orcs out of their box and onto the table in little time, and that they look acceptable at arm's length, I think it's a pretty good deal.

In particular for people who enjoy gaming more than painting I think this is a very cheap, effective and viable option to be considered.


Patrick said...

I'm really impressed by this method! Thanks Tom for the hint :)!

Thomas said...

You are most welcome, mysterious stranger :)

Kuffeh said...

I agree with you when you say dipping feels like cheating. I have never been a fan of how they look when dipped, I have seen a few nice armies but overall I like the look of a non-dipped army.

That said, the orc does look good and I can see its application in speedily painting up some big old list of things. I'm just not a fan.

07nickiek said...


once again innovative stuff coming from you! I purchased a bottle of quickshade mmedium and it was no where near dark enough for my liking... tried to do the same for woodelves etc. (cant return it either... 15 quid!! =/ ) any ideas on how i can modify that quickshade can to make it darker?

Otherwise i might go radical like you. once more.

Thomas said...

hey nickiek!

If you do not plan on using that quickshade anymore and are willing to experiment a little, I would say try adding some super-dark wood finish to it.

The wood finish is cheap enough to be worth the experiment I think.

Let me know if/how that works ;)


Jason said...


Thanks for posting this little tutorial. I have the same box o' orcs problem that you do and seeing that arrer boy turn out table top quality with out much effort has given me the motivation I need to get those damn green skins finished. Now I'll only need to give the front ranks a time consuming painting and the rest of the boyz can just take a dip :)

James said...

I've seen a lot of dipped armies. Frankly, I don't agree that they look any poorer than full-painted ones. Of course, the dipped armies I have seen went a bit further than this tutorial, yet, for shading, sometimes, I have a hard time telling the difference between full painted or not. I guess it depends on the dip to a huge extent. Good review.

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Anonymous said...

Anyone who enjoys gaming more than modeling should buy a colour printer, create or buy paper miniatures (e.g. One monk paper miniatures) and bypass painting entirely.