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The DIP Method: A Step by Step Guide to Painting Miniatures
Andrew C
United States
San Marcos
California
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This geeklist is meant to help a beginner get started painting miniatures using a 'quick and dirty' method called "The Dip." Painting figures this way won't get you award winning miniatures, but they will turn out well enough that you will be proud to play with, and display, them. And if you're like me, well painted miniatures will greatly enhance your enjoyment of almost any game game.

If you are just starting with painting, or if you, like me, lack the patience to paint multiple layers of shading, or you simply want to paint a large army fast, you may want to consider this method.

When viewed at normal game play distance, 'Dipped' figures look great. As an additional bonus, figures painted this way are very durable as they have two layers of finish on them. When not in use, I throw my figures in a bag or box together, and I even let my young boys play with them like action figures.

Fellow BGGer Paul goldenboat O'Connor taught me this method, and inspired me with his painted Battle Lore set. I created this geeklist to pass that knowledge along.

Please feel free to offer more tips or strategies to help the newbie, or show and describe your own advanced techniques and results.

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1. Board Game: HeroQuest [Average Rating:6.96 Overall Rank:492]
Andrew C
United States
San Marcos
California
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Trim off the flash

The first thing you should do is trim off any extra pieces of plastic. Often, there are small lines along seams. I usually ignore those, but I do remove any obvious lumps or bumps that will show up when done. For better results you can really smooth all the little seams, but my method is about keeping it simple, fast, while acheiving solid but not spectacular results - its up to you how much time you want to invest in each figure.
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2. Board Game: Doom: The Boardgame [Average Rating:6.94 Overall Rank:553]
Andrew C
United States
San Marcos
California
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Prime the figures

I think pretty much any basic white primer from your game or hobby store will do. I haven't tried anything from a Home Depot or other home improvement store - perhaps someone who has can chime in. (For me the few exrta bucks for hobby paint is no big deal, you don't use that much primer anyway.)

I use white primer. Since the dip tends to darken the figures, you want to start with bright colors. I've never tried it, but I've been told black primer makes the paints a bit richer and darker, but again, that's what I use the dip for.

Do this outside, or at least through down a lot of newspaper, because there will be overspray.
To prime the figures, first set up a large batch. If you are painting many similar figures, do all of one time (for example, all the infantry from Battle Cry or all the bestmen from Descent) in one batch.

Here, I'm painting the figures for Heroquest.

Line the figures up on cardboard, leaving a few inches between each one. Spray the paint from 12 to 18 inches away, and keep the can moving back and forth. Spray front, back, and each side quickly. A light coat is enough. If you still see some color poking through, that is okay, as long as at least a dusting of primer covers the figure. (Don't worry if armpits and other hard to reach areas aren't covered.)
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3. Board Game: Space Hulk (third edition) [Average Rating:7.61 Overall Rank:120]
Andrew C
United States
San Marcos
California
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As another option for true quick and dirty painting - you can skip the priming step if the plastic figures already are the base color you want. The results are not as good, but it is quicker since you skip the priming step and have to paint less surface area on the figure. I used this technique for my Space Hulk game, and the results were not bad.


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4. Board Game: Age of Conan: The Strategy Board Game [Average Rating:6.71 Overall Rank:963]
Andrew C
United States
San Marcos
California
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Set up a comfortable, well lit work area

Ice cold Guiness is optional, but highly recommended.

If you have a space where you can leave everything set up all the time, that is even better. If you're like me, though, you put everything away between painting sessions, and you'll want to keep everything in one place and well organized. I recently bought a 'lazy susan' from Walmart ($10) to hold my paints. It's great because it rotates so I can get to any color very easily.

You also need a cup of water and a sheet or two of paper towel to wipe your brushes.
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5. Board Game: Dungeons & Dragons: Castle Ravenloft Board Game [Average Rating:7.02 Overall Rank:420] [Average Rating:7.02 Unranked]
Andrew C
United States
San Marcos
California
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Brushes and paints

I tend to use whatever is cheap and easy to get. For brushes, I go to Michael's (a craft store chain) and buy their brushes...they are a few bucks each. I use the smallest brushes they have: either 5/0, the even smaller 10/0, and their tiniest 18/0. It makes it much easier to reach the small nooks and crannies you will find on the miniatures.

After a while, the brushes get frayed or more frequently bend (see pictures). At that point, toss them (or save them for dry brushing or the dipping step) and start with a new one. I'm sure there are better brushes out there, and they may even help get better results. But again, I'm going for quick, cheap, and solid results.

For paint, again, I simply get what they sell at my local store for about $3 each: Citadel Color. I'm sure there are better paints, but these work fine for me. I began with a Starter Kit which included 8 basic colors, and have been adding colors ever since. I like to have 2 to 4 shades of every primary color (red, blue, green, browns, skin tones and metallics) along with one or two other colors (orange, yellow, pink, purple, etc) You really don't need this many colors, since you can simply mix colors together. I find the extra colors worth while, though, since I can paint faster without slowing to mix colors, and if I need to recreate a mixed color later, it can be hard to match.
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6. Board Game: Runebound (Second Edition) [Average Rating:6.93 Overall Rank:483]
Andrew C
United States
San Marcos
California
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Choose colors

I find this one of the hardest steps to painting - picking the color pallete for each figure. Luckily, many games come with color cards of the miniatures, and I generally do my best to simply match those colors. This take the load off my rather anemic creativity, and has the added benefit of making it easy to match up miniatures to cards (especially important for Descent Heroes if you have all the expansions!)

Another word about color: always pick a shade lighter than you think you need. It will darken up significantly after dipping. The lighter the shade, the more the dip will darken it. Note the picture with thr three green skinned figs. The lighter color on the left looked crazy bright when painted, but really mellowed after the dip.

One drawback of the dip is that you won't get any whites to hold up as white, and even yellows darken up a lot.

On the other hand, dipped figures end up with a very natural tone to them, almost an antiqued look, that I really like. And things that should be white (like skeletons) look dirty and still look white in contrast to the darker colors.
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7. Board Game: DungeonQuest (third edition) [Average Rating:6.71 Overall Rank:888]
Andrew C
United States
San Marcos
California
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Paint the figures

This was the most intimidating step to start. Don't worry, using the Dip Method its easy since you don't have to be perfect.

The best tips I can give are:
1) steady the figure and your hand by bracing both against the table
2) just go for it - make confident strokes.
3) paint from the inside to the outside
4) "paint your first colors in large, simple blocks of color. There's no need to try to be very detailed. In fact, that's the beauty of the dip method. The dip will take care of the detailing for you."

(#4 is qouted from David below - he makes a great point that I should have listed, so I added it here. Thanks David!)

Also, trust me on #2 - if you mess up you can easily wait 10 minutes and either paint over it or simply touch up the edges where you went over.

Regarding painting from the inside - do the eyes (if you bother to do them at all - for smaller figures I don't) mouth, and then skin, first. Then do the clothes, and outer layers.

Even if you have little spots between colors that where a tiny bit of white pokes through - don't worry, the dip will cover it. You can simply paint one color for each part of the miniature - no additional layers or shading needed - the dip will take care of the rest. Again, we aren't going for professional results here - just a good solid paint job that will look good on the table. The results will be better than Heroscape quality minis by a large margin.

Regarding bases - I've seen some beautiful figures on BGG with really great bases. I've never tried to flock my bases, but feel free to try it! I simply paint mine black, as it's quick and easy, and I'm happy with the way they look on the game board (they tend to 'disappear' in my mind's eye.)
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8. Board Game: Cyclades [Average Rating:7.53 Overall Rank:102]
Andrew C
United States
San Marcos
California
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Paint on the dip

As you can see, I use wood stain for the dip: Minwax PolyShade, Antique Walnut color, Satin Finish stain and polyurethane in one. (Home Depot, around $11.) Get the satin finish as its the least glossy (and even the satin comes out pretty glossy)

This stuff is great because the brown stain works like miniature paint 'inks' and flows to the low points and crevices of the miniature and really brings out the depth and detail. This is my favorite step, because as soon as you paint on the dip, the difference is amazing and the figures really come to life.

Be sure the dip is well mixed, particularly if you just bought the can or haven't painted with it in a while. The brown tint tends to settle in the can, and if you don't mix it up very well, the dip will be too light.

Use a crappy brush, this will kill the brush, particularly since it's oil based and won't clean up with water. You can use thinner to clean the brush, but I buy the really crappy ten for a few bucks brushes at Michaels for this step, and toss the brush when done.

Shake up the dip can well, then just slop the dip on (use a larger brush than when painting so it goes faster). Cover everywhere you painted, including the base, to protece the paint so it won't chip later. If you see bubbles while brushing, don't worry they will go away. Don't leave too much on the figure or it will end up too dark and clumped. Brush a bunch on, then when the brush has less dip on it, brush over whereever there is too much. Basically, you want some dip in the crevices, but not too much on the high surfaces.

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9. Board Game: Descent: Journeys in the Dark [Average Rating:7.39 Overall Rank:167]
Andrew C
United States
San Marcos
California
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How the Dip Method gots its name

This is alternative way to get the dip on your figures. Just dip them in, take them out, and brush off, shake off, let drip off the excess. Personally, I don't do this, because its too messy and not any faster for me. The problem is the figure comes out with too much dip on it, and you end up spending several minutes with a brush wiping off the excess. If you need to do this (I once dropped a figure in the can by accident) simply put on a paper towel, brush off excess, wipe the brush on the paper towel to get some dip off of it, then wipe the figure with the dry brush. Repeat.

I suppose if you had a place to hang them upside down and let them drip this might be faster, but I've never tried.
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10. Board Game: Descent: The Well of Darkness [Average Rating:7.78 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.78 Unranked]
Andrew C
United States
San Marcos
California
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Let dry at least 24 hours

I had a hard time capturing the before and after difference of the dip step, its more dramatic in person. The dip brings out the detail and depth nicely, and hides lots of imperfections. The figures come up somewhat glossy. The orcs are before and after, but check out the tail of the green figure, its a more dramatic difference, in depth, detail, and color tone.

In any case, let the dip coat dry at least 24 hours - it's pretty sticky.
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11. Board Game: Descent: The Altar of Despair [Average Rating:7.80 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.80 Unranked]
Andrew C
United States
San Marcos
California
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Spay a matte finish over the dip

This step is optional, but I do it. I like my figures with a matte finish, not a glossy one. I find the flesh and cloth looks more realistic (but armor may be better slightly glossy). Its up to you, but one thing to keep in mind is that the extra later of matte finish acts as a second layer to protect your miniatures.

I tried Testors Dellcote but found it actually was too matte, and settled on Game's Workshop Matte Varnish. With just a very quick single spray over front and back, it dull the gloss down just enough.

The pictures on the bottom row show a Heroquest orc, with no dip, after dip, and after dip and matte spray. The red Chaos warrior is shown before and after matte spray.

One other benefit of the matte spray: you can make last minute touch ups on mistakes! On the orc on the right, I forgot to paint his tusks white. The paint will stick on the matte finish, so I will simply repaint the tusks white, dip the tusks only, and spray on the matte again. I've done this with other figures and cannot tell the difference. (I haven't tried touching up on the dip coat alone, I don't know if the paint will stick.)
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12. Board Game: BattleLore [Average Rating:7.44 Overall Rank:151]
Andrew C
United States
San Marcos
California
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These figures are durable

One of the real benefits of this painting approach (aside from being easy and fast) is that that figures are really tough. You can bend the swords and weapons and the paint won't crack. You can store them (literally throw them) into a bag or box and they will hold up well. As mentioned previously, I even let my boys use them like action figures and I've yet to have any chip at all.
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13. Board Game: Descent: The Tomb of Ice [Average Rating:7.91 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.91 Unranked]
Andrew C
United States
San Marcos
California
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The dip is relatively fast, with good results, even for a beginning painter.

The best thing about this method is that it allows a talentless hack like me to paint tons of figures and get results I am happy with. Check out the picture of Nanok of the Blade up close (the picture in the game's picture slot for this geeklist entry). Look at the muscle definition - I didn't do anything to achieve that - the dip did it all.

And its fast: it takes me probably an hour per figure for Descent Heroes (unique figures with lots of small detail) and less time for multiple figures of the same type. I started painting less than a year ago, and have already painted nearly all my Descent figures (including every expansion) as well as HeroQuest. I'm working on Battle Cry now.

If you've always wanted to paint, but thought you wouldn't be able to, try it. If I can do it, you can too.

But we warned - it takes time and every one of your games with unpainted miniatures will start crying out to you, "paint us, paint us!"

Below are some of my results using this method:




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14. Board Game: Beneath the Lily Banners [Average Rating:6.81 Unranked]
Jim O'Neill (Established 1949)
Scotland
Motherwell
I aten't dead yet...
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To reinforce Andrew's excellent article, the above regiment is an example of one that was painted and then had dip applied by a brush.

Jim
Est. 1949

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15. Board Game: Last Night on Earth: The Zombie Game [Average Rating:7.10 Overall Rank:343] [Average Rating:7.10 Unranked]
Timur Tabi
United States
Austin
Texas
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I just want to link to this excellent forum post, which shows how nicely the DIP method works with zombie miniatures.
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