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This article appears in Spanish on the Vallejo website. It has been translated with permission. No unauthorized duplication is permitted without the permission of TimeLines and/or Vallejo.

Painting with Acrylics: A Beginner's Tutorial
Translated by Lou Masses

Preparation of Metal figures

Before going onto painting, we will start by discussing the preparation phase, which every figure will need prior to the application of paint. For the majority of miniaturists it turns out to be almost always an annoying, bothersome, dirty task... an authentic "Pain". That's why itís sometimes done quickly and carelessly. That's a big mistake! Experience demonstrates that by paying a little extra attention and care during this process, we will achieve a better finished product (e.g, how the parts are arranged, whether there are errors or a little damage, where one is going to need reinforcements in the assembly, etc.). This will simplify the job of painting and it will help us to obtain a better finished piece.

First of all, we will check all the parts in order to verify:

  1. that nothing is missing.
  2. that there are no incorrect or duplicate pieces.
  3. that the above mentioned pieces do not present any serious problems.

1. We will begin removing the mold lines, eliminating them with the top of a modeling knife.
2. Later, we will be revising and leveling the areas with the help of different thin files.

3. Finally, we will polish the whole surface softly with a steel wool.

4. We will apply the cyanoacrylate glue (super glue) in small quantities with the help of a sharp, pointed object.
5. As soon as the piece is placed, we will hold it firmly for a few moments.

6. To fill small gaps, we will use putty that we will apply with help of a small spatula.

If everything is correct, we will begin removing the mold lines. These lines, known popularly as flash, are excess pieces of material that, like seams, form on the pieces there where two halves of the mold join. Depending on the quality of the molds and on the casting, these may appear in different grades of intensity. If they are easily seen, we will eliminate them first with a modeling knife and then we will smooth the surface with the help of small thin files ("mouse's tail", triangular, etc). If they are barely visible, we will use only files or a bit of wet sandpaper. Later we will need to polish the entire surface using a steel wool.

The next step is to study which pieces can be attached now and which can be attached later. This decision will be based on how much trouble a part will give us later during painting. Normally we will leave off accessories and weapons (i.e., rifles, swords, cases, knapsacks, etc.). Also, it is advisable to separate certain headgear that for this piece would make the painting of the face difficult, or any other pieces that would make painting inconvenient. To facilitate handling during painting, the piece can be held with pins made of plastic or wire.

Lining up the head and arms generally offers no problems, however, sometimes there is the need for further support. For example, widespread arms supporting a rifle, a hand clutching a sword, a head with a very large hat, etc. At times, it will turn out to be necessary to reinforce the joints of the head and arms, for which we will drill a few small holes and insert small pieces of metal paper clips (or another similar material). We will continue this same procedure for the heel (or heels) of the figure, to strengthen the later attachment of the figure to its permanent base.

For an adhesive, we will use some type of universal instantaneous glue such as cyanoacrylate (super glue). With a sharp, pointed object (a paper clip, a pin, etc.), we will deposit a small amounty of adhesive in the joint, and will hold the piece in place and keep it pressed in this position for a few moments. The use of cyanoacrylate is simple and it will not be a problem whenever we are careful and follow manufacturer instructions. If we need a stronger bond, we will use an epoxy glue, such as 5-minute epoxy.

7. Immediately afterwards, we will smooth the putty softly with industrial acetone and a synthetic brush.
8. Once dry, we will smooth the joints using a small piece of wet sandpaper.

9. In order to facilitate painting, we will put the figure on a temporary stand.
10. The last step is be to prime all the pieces with a layer of light grey acrylic paint.

11. Here we can see all of the parts that compose the figure prepared and ready to paint.

If the joints between pieces do not turn out to be perfect and we see small cracks or gaps, we will fill these with epoxy putty and smooth it using a small spatula-like tool (such as a thin screwdriver, an old hobby knife, etc.). Then, diluting it with industrial acetone that we will smooth the putty with a synthetic brush.

Once the putty has fully dried, we will clean the joint with a bit of dampened sandpaper. To fill large holes or gaps between pieces, it's preferable to use two-part epoxy putty.

Once the piece is ready, we will put it on a temporary base (we can improvise using an old base, a piece of wood, an empty paint jar, etc.) in order to be able to manipulate it comfortably during painting.

Before beginning painting though, the final step will be to prime the figure. This is something that is always advisable, although not essential, and itís principal purpose is to ensure that the acrylic paint "grips" onto the surface. It's recommended to use something like light grey Tamiya primer, which we can apply by brush when diluted with water, or better still, with an airbrush.

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