Scent of a Gamer

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The production line: painting miniatures in bulk, part 2: from assembly to undercoat

Here’s part 1 if you missed it.

Once the miniatures are assembled, it’s time for the undercoat. Spray paints are going to be your friend here. They are excellent for giving you an even undercoat that covers the models en masse.


It is really important that at this stage you already know how you are going to paint your models, specifically the colour scheme you are going to use. This will affect your best choice of spray undercoat.

For the purposes of this series we are going to split the colours over parts 3 & 4. When you approach your bulk plastics however, this is something you must know in advance.

2.1 Choose the right spray

As a general rule, if you want your finish to look light then go with white. If you want to go dark, go with black. Black is also good when you want to paint quickly. A black undercoat is more forgiving should you miss areas as you paint. In some cases painting over black can involve fewer brush strokes to simply suggest details, and le tthe viewers eye do the rest.

There is also the option of colour sprays. Consider these if you models is going to be dominated by one colour that a spray essentially represents. The Space Marines of Games Workshop’s Warhammer 40,000 universe are a good example of this.

In our example boxes I am using a white spray for the skeletons. I could have used a bone spray, as several manufacturers have these, but I’m more comfortable starting with white.

The Perry models will be painted over a black undercoat.

2.2 Have your colour scheme ready

Skeletons will be painted with sepia washes over white, and then the weapons and quivers will be picked out with leather, metal and wood hues. The white spray makes sense with this outcomes in mind.

The Perry Historicals are a little different. As a generic ‘European Mercenaries’ box there are a number of options for me. The Perrys made things easier by including some colour schemes on their box:


I decided to go with the Lucerne scheme.

2.3 Prepare

You will need a box or similar surface to spray onto. Spray paint doesn’t stop at the models and you need to consider what will catch the spray other than your models. You will receive not thanks for marking the wall of the house! You will also need your spray paints in the colours of your choice.

2.4 Avoid the ‘skittle effect’

Plastic miniatures are lightweight, which is great for transportation. However the air blast from a spray can can send them flying around your box and interfered in the coating process, like so:


This is bad, and to be avoided. You have a number of options to avoid this:

Basing: If you are a ‘basing first’ person having this done can give your miniatures the balance they need

Bottle tops: Balancing your models on bottle tops achieves a similar effect to a base, where the actual base you intent to use will be too small to provide balance.

Blu-Tak: or a similar adhesive product. This can stick your models down and keep them upright for the spray process. This is my usual method, unless I am basing first. A small amount under the base will suffice:


Whatever you use, make sure it is something that easily detaches from the model after spraying.

2.5 Don’t rush the spray

Take your time with this process, try to give each model some attention to make sure you don’t have large uncovered areas. Especially watch the sides of the models, where spraying front and back leave a line of plastic along the sides or arms and torsos. Also, give each model a quick spray from the top down to catch areas the spray may not reach.

Depending on your set up, being able to spray from below the models is good. Otherwise lipped areas (e.g. under folded arms) can also get missed.

Always spray in an open, well-ventilated area, otherwise known as ‘outdoors’.

In terms of distance from can to models as you spray, err on the side of distance. Too far away, and the models don’t get completely covered. Too close, and you’ll have a blob of paint with some plastic in there somewhere. The first is easier to remedy.

2.6 Leave to dry

Most modern sprays will dry to the point where you can pick up the models within a few minutes. With my sensitive nose I find that sprayed models tend to vent fumes for around 24 hours after being coating. Where I can I will leave them outside for this period of time.

2.7 Finishing the job

Some parts of some models will be missed, it’s inevitable. Now its time for the brushes to come out. This part is great for older brushes that are otherwise not usable. Get black, white, or whatever colour you used to spray, and quickly go through the models one at a time. Lift them, turn them, and any areas with the plastic still showing, give them a quick dab of paint.

Again, leave the models to dry.

pl024_done2 pl023_done1

In part 3, we will look at getting some colour onto our models.


One comment on “The production line: painting miniatures in bulk, part 2: from assembly to undercoat

  1. Pingback: The production line: painting miniatures in bulk, part 3: from undercoat to base colours | Scent of a Gamer

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This entry was posted on April 18, 2015 by in Miniatures, Painting & Modelling and tagged , , , .
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