Friday, 24 May 2013

Salvaging sanity from a moment of madness

In my previous attempt at painting up a Kingdom Death miniature, a bad chalky and powdery white undercoat meant that subsequent paint layers were a challenge to lay on smoothly. While the final result was better than I expected, it was still not what I was aiming for. With that weighing on my mind, a moment of madness saw me taking a hobby knife to the second Kingdom Death miniature that I was painting - the Pinup Saviour - in order to scrape away the undercoat as well as initial layers of skin tone I had applied up to that point. Try not to wince when checking out the following photo.

Early stages of the butchery done with my hobby knife

It started harmlessly enough with me thinking that I could smooth out the rough paint texture by lightly and carefully scraping the hobby knife over the painted areas. Soon enough, some frustrated flicks of the hobby knife saw even the white undercoat paint coming off thus displaying the plastic beneath. The madness soon took over as I found myself using the hobby knife to take out nearly all the paint from the miniature. I tried to salvage the situation by painting a light undercoat comprising a mixture of Chaos Black and Skull White (see below) but it just didn't feel right.

Even more damage to the Pinup Savior

Pleading ignorance wasn't an option as more seasoned hobbyists had advised putting the miniatures in a Dettol-Water mixture to remove the paint without damaging details. But at that moment of uber craziness, it never crossed my mind to use the antiseptic disinfectant. After a lot of hands-on-the-head moments, a semblance of sanity prevailed and out came the Dettol. I decided to put another early work-in-progress miniature of Gandalf into the mixture as it also had a badly applied undercoat.

Gandalf the Grey has a case of chalky and powdery white undercoat
Both the Pinup Saviour and Gandalf were dumped into a mixture of Dettol and Water

Luckily enough, I stumbled across a very good guide on using cleaning products to strip paint from a miniature on an online forum. As Gandalf only had a light coating of Skull White spray, it took just a few hours of soaking in the mixture before some scrubbing with an old toothbrush removed all the white undercoat. In comparison, the Pinup Saviour needed to be soaked overnight to remove about 95% of the paint. Some stubborn paint layers embedded into small crevices could not be removed. Sadly, some scratch marks were obvious due to my butchery with the hobby knife.

White undercoat removed easily using the Dettol-Water mixture
With most of the paint removed, the Pinup Saviour did not escape unscathed with her left hand breaking off the main body

So with paint successfully removed from both miniatures, the next task was to find an alternative primer/undercoat spray. While I think the Citadel Skull White spray-can is still perfectly usable for miniatures painted to table-top quality, or even beyond especially when applied in very light coats, I have found results too varied especially in the hot and humid weather where I am at.

That being said, the Citadel Chaos Black spray-can is still by far the best black undercoat spray I have used to date. But if I am going for a lighter undercoat, I now mostly use the Tamiya Fine Surface Primer (Light Gray).

I have observed experienced painters using the undercoat/primer spray-can in two ways i.e. either applying an extremely light "dusty" coating of the undercoat/ primer - sometimes just one to two passes of the spray can on each side of the miniature, OR applying a light even layer of primer/undercoat which involves perhaps up to five passes or more. I decided to go the middle path of somewhere in-between.Which of the two (or three) methods above gives you the best results?

Gandalf primed with the Tamiya Fine Surface Primer
Kingdom Death Pinup Saviour primed with the Tamiya Fine Surface Primer

Lessons learned from this undercoating/primer mishap:
1.Spending more time prepping a miniature is always a good thing, even to the extent of going back with your hobby knife to remove mould lines that become evident after an initial light primer coat.
2. Never underestimate the importance of a good undercoat or layer of primer. Your future layers of paint will thank you for it.
3. When you are itching to slash and butcher your mini with a hobby knife, take a deep breath and step away. After a short time away from your mini, you would be able to think more clearly.

That's my misadventure for the week. Hopefully the hobby gods are treating you more kindly.

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