Scent of a Gamer

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Mythbusters: Bones

Mythbusters: Bones

Bones, the new soft plastic material from reaper, has its share of detractors. Noisy detractors in many cases, who manage to pop up on any discussion about Bones to repeat the same old stories about how bad the material is. In most cases, these stories are entirely false, or simply the result of stubbornness bordering on stupidity.

Let’s look at some of the most repeated Bones myths:

Myth: Paint won’t stick to Bones, it beads

Bones will repel water quite efficiently, which means that if you water your paints too much, it will repel your paint. The answer naturally is to work to the strengths of the medium, and paint with thicker paints than you might normally do. In practice this means you thin less than normal. Once done, your painted will go on and stay on.

Status: Busted

Myth: You can’t remove mold lines from Bones; the material is too soft

Again, consider the material you use. Take a needle file to the arm of a metal model and you’ll have no problem. Take the same device to the arm of a Bones model and you will have trouble keeping the softer plastic still long enough to get an even finish. The answer is to use a different tool for the different material (who knew?). In this case a nail file will suffice, and these come in a number of sizes and levels of abrasion. Get the right tool, and you can remove those mold lines without great difficulty.

Status: Busted

Myth: Bones lacks the fine detail of lead or white metal models

Bones models hold a decent amount of detail. Compared to white metal though? The easiest way to compare is to take those Bones models already available in metal and take a look.

I don’t know about you, but looking at a plain white model is not the best way of bringing out the detail. A black wash would show things as they are more accurately. However, looking at the armour on the metal orc, there is an additional sharpness of detail on the metal model.



The level of detail on Bones is fine, but here at least, white metal is sharper compared with the unpainted Bones model. But is this simply an artefact of looking at unpainted white plastic? There’s not the same light reflection as you get on the metal model. Looking at the painted version, I’m not so sure there’s any detail missing.

Here’s another painted example of a Bones plastic and a metal model. I won’t say which is which. Again they seem comparable, but I believe a very close look will reveal the sharper detail on the metal version.


Status: Maybe?

Myth: Bones is fine for beginners or basic paint jobs, but you can’t do anything advanced with the material

As low cost models, Bones are a great drawcard for beginner painters, and so we see a lot of beginner paint jobs floating around. The idea that this represents the limit of the material is simply not true. You can do anything with Bones that you can do with hard plastic or white metal. Here’s an example:


This one comes from prize-winning painter Victoria Lamb.

Status: Busted (and how!)

Myth: Once bent, Bones material will never straighten

The last time I attempted to straighten a bent halberd shaft on a white metal model, it snapped. It’s a hazard of the material, but not one I’d call a reason to reject the material entirely. Bent resin tends to indicate a model that cannot be salvaged; it’s a real issue. Bones, though?

Travel to a place in the house you may never have been before. It’s called the kitchen. Food comes from there. What you will need is: a pot, a stove, and some water. You will also need a jar of very icy water. And possibly parental supervision.

Take the bent part of the Bones model an immerse it in boiling water. When in the water you will see the part or model straighten out. Once this is done, dip the model straight into the ice water, leave it there for maybe 30 second.

Your model is now fixed. Assuming you aren’t in the habit of leaving models in a car in the sun on a hot day, you won’t have any issues.

Here’s a video of the process.

Status: Busted

Myth: You can’t use an undercoat with Bones

Another pervasive myth is that you must paint directly onto Bones. Certainly the manufacturer recommends this. You don’t have to follow that recommendation, and many painters are more comfortable giving the model a light white spray before painting, as was done with the painted orc above. The answer here is: you can if you want to.

Status: Busted


So as we can see, with the exception of a sharper level of detail, all the myths above are easily busted. Turns out, if you work to the strengths of the Bones material, you will get a better result than if you just stick out your lower lip and complain that what works on white metal won’t work here.

Buy Bones if you like; it won’t damage you or make you a lesser painter. Working with a new material requires an adjustment, just like moving from metal to resin, you don’t use all the same techniques, and yet the experience and the result will be similar.

6 comments on “Mythbusters: Bones

  1. Azazel
    July 25, 2015

    Firsthand reply from someone who has a ton of Bones from both Kickstarters and spends quite a few hours per week painting and modelling.

    On Details – Bones sometimes has far less or softer details than the metal equivalent. It’s very much related to the specific sculpt or figure. Some are just as good, some are horrible, and most are somewhere in between.

    On Cleaning – sometimes due to the location of mould lines, a file just isn’t going to happen. Even if you’ve got those angled ones from Army Painter – which I do have. Sometimes scraping is the only real option to remove mould lines without destroying details. When this happens on Bones models, it’s very problematic.

    On Bent and Warped models – I’ve hot watered and cooled MANY a Bones model at this point in time, and unfortunately WAY too often the PVC slowly bends back over time. You’re better off cutting out spear poles and lances and such and replacing them with wire. Or just not bothering since they’re just cheap bones figures. “Restic” PVC is actually FAR better behaved for the boil and cool method than “Bones” PVC.

    On the other hand, I’ve got a figure I washed and rinsed very carefully, then started to paint with GW foundation paint (no primer) and the figure has been tacky ever since. It’s far from a perfect material, and it’s not nearly the equal of metal or resin. But it’s cheap. I find that watered-down liquid green stuff makes an excellent primer for bones and other PVC figures (such as the D&D Boardgame models). Spray primer is bad news, however, while airbrush is ok. (Something in most can propellants doesn’t agree with Bones.)


  2. marinealrose
    July 26, 2015

    I have similar findings on both sides. I tend to think that the pros definitely outweigh the cons, especially for the price, and even moreso if you get the KS pricing.
    I think that deciding on a mini for a specific job is the biggest part of many of the conversations I’ve heard about bones. No matter what medium you use, picking the right model is the priority. I saw several bones minis make it to Reapercon and do well. Some molds have significantly less detail, and some don’t. I do find that the first run through was the worst on that, and that Reaper got the mixture right with the second KS. I have high hopes for the minis I’ll see in a year, for sure!
    I also find that it’s a lot easier to try out techniques for competitions or tabletop with bones, and not feel like I’m wasting money.
    On the money topic, there are some minis that aren’t economical in metal. Look at Tianot (Ma’aldrakar). There’s just no way. And there’s no way I would ever buy him at a pewter price. The hill giants are $40 in pewter, and will probably be $12-15 in bonesium.
    As far as priming goes, I just don’t. If I do anything to prep a mini, it’s use brown liner to more easily see some of the details.
    I know I’ll keep buying them as long as they’re making them.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. daggerandbrush
    July 29, 2015

    Thank you for the write up. I add my own 2cent to the discussion:

    I agree with Azazel that some of the flash is really hard to get to, but with a very sharp scalpel and fine files you can prep it properly. One does not achieve the refinement I can achieve with metal (but that is me not having mastered the material yet).

    Some sculpts did not translate well, but that is ok for the price. Most of the dwarves and the bigger models are just superb and even the miscasts can still be used or conversions etc. For 50 cent a piece via the Kickstarter you can’t beat it. If I want a display model I go for one of the Tom Meier sculpts by Dark Sword miniatures or for a nice Bones miniature, if it came out as it was supposed to be.

    When the abse colours are applied any shading or highlights can be applied as usual, so there is really no problem with paintign them.

    With the primer one just has to use the right brand that does not react with the PVC.

    Bones are really awesome for what they are and make it really easy to field a large army of RPG archetypes.


  4. davekay
    July 29, 2015

    Wow, thanks everyone for your comments, they were all interesting and informative! I was writing from the heart on this one, since I see a lot of repetitive comments about Bones, especially on /r/minipainting, that are simply not accurate.

    Every material has its good and bad points to be sure.


    • Azazel
      August 2, 2015

      Absolutely, and re-reading my post it comes across as I dislike Bones. I think they’re fine for what they are, and especially good for (some) larger models. They’re just not the same quality as Resin or Metal to my mind (most of the time) but they have their own benefits and drawbacks. I’ve got a ton of them at this stage, though – and I backed KS3 so I’m happy with them as a product overall (most of the time!) Models that play to Bones’ strengths like the (Purple) Worms kick arse, though.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Bones update 12 | Scent of a Gamer

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