Saturday, April 6, 2013

Layering on the Clear Coat, WHY?

Today in this post, is something someone mailed me about and I realized that there's actually more to layering clear coats that most people think. I'll try to explain it, at least, in the way I learned and understand it. Read on.

First off, I know it's been a while that I have written on the blog and it's mainly because I get so busy (Adepticon coming up peeps! WOOT!) and sometimes I just get so busy with writing in other area's that I don't have time to write here. Right now, a lot of my writing efforts is going to my RPG Campaign Setting. So apologies about that.

Anyways, I did get a very interesting question about layering clear coat in the painting process and why some people do it. At first I thought he was talking about layering down the gloss coat for an oil wash but it was a deeper question than that. It made me realize that this information might be good to share. He writes:

"Not oil washing, there's plenty of info on that here on youtube (including your tutorial as well as APJ's, which are both great).

What I'm referring to is something else. I've noticed in many tutorials painters will varnish the model after, for instance, airbrushing (but not getting ready for oil washes, or any washes for that matter).Then they continue on to normal acrylic brush painting. I can only get fleeting half responses as to why they do this. Most of the big names on youtube can be difficult to get an in depth response from (you, thankfully, are an exception), but I have gathered it's done to "more easily fix mistakes." I assumed that meant creating a shield so that solvents could be used as an eraser, but that didn't go so well when I tried it :/"

So this brings on WHY we do it. Is it merely for the reason of just protecting the work underneath? When I was replying to him, there's actually way more to it than most people now think.  Now remember, this is WHAT I learned coming from scale modeling and if you say ask Hugo from Ichiban Studios (he comes from the scale modeling side of things as well) you might get a different answer or for that matter, if you ask any other scale modeler out there.

My Reply:
"OH, for me I do that to protect my work underneath. To SEAL in my work. That stems from my scale modeling techniques. But I usually use the matte coat for that so that the paint on top will adhere better as gloss, the paint sometimes flow if I use a brush.

Most of the time if you airbrush over an acrylic gloss coat, you're not going to be able to clean it off easily [after it cures] without eating up the varnish. Even with a brush.

Also it's situational and probably why more painters don't know how to explain it. For example I might lay on a paint and it dries gloss or satin. To paint over that (brush or airbrush) might make the paint smear [rather, easily able to wipe off a glossy surface] because it takes longer to dry. So I would lay a matte coat on top as the paint on top will dry "into" the surface.

If you really want to lay a gloss coat on top to "start" over if you mess up, you HAVE to let the gloss coat cure (24 to 48 hours) and to make sure it will work you NEED to use a different medium. 

For example, if you use acrylic paints, then gloss with a enamel or lacquer varnish. Alcohol or water usually don't eat through enamels or lacquers.

It's the same concept from an old scale modeling idiom of using the different layered medium to paint your model. Primer enamel, base acrylic, modulate with enamels, gloss with acrylic... etc. It's an OLD idiom that didn't last very long as now a days, most everyone is using acrylics because of the dry time and it's less potent on the health and the techniques changed.

Those are the reason why I do it. I don't know what the other painters think or why they do it. I think some do it because the picked it up from the Scale Modelers and don't understand why it's being done or simply just to seal in the work underneath.

Most advanced painter now a days don't usually have to worry about messing up as they have their techniques and painting down. And if they do, they end up using test models lying around as I usually do to test techniques out.

Hmmm, I should probably make a video on this. There's actually more to this than most people think.At least they way I learned it.


Again, this is all from what I learned from scale modeling stuff.  It's common knowledge (as far as I know) from that side of things, at least, for me it's common knowledge.  It could be I'm just talking out of my ass here. haha

I know most of you have heard me preach about this before.  There's SO many techniques floating from from scale modeling that gives you great results.  I thinks this is why companies like AK Interactive or Secret Weapons Miniatures does so well in the wargaming world.  It seems like they are selling magic in a bottle.

It's the same reason why people like Hugo that comes from the scale modeling world or people like Les who pays very close attention to that world seem to pull rabbits out from their magical asses with their models.  They ween from those techniques.

Go Google some scale modelers, you'll definitely find a lot of things that you never heard of that can be added to your painting knowledge encyclopedia for the wargaming hobby.

Anyways I hope that helps.  I had this other whole thing written about the differences about scale modeling and miniature painting (specifically the wargaming miniature painters) written here that's better left for another time.

Thoughts? Comments?  Leave em here or in the shared posts on facebook/google+. As always, love you all and have happy wargaming.


  1. I agree with you what you typed Chung...!!!! I am a scale modeller who love it to paint also wargaming / Sci-Fi minis...I think it is not a bad Idea to watch a little bit to the left and to the right and try to discover the scale modelling world because there are a lot of good tips / answers for ppl who paint wargaming / Sci-Fi miniatures / vehicles. And there are a lot of good products outside what you can use for a good chipping and dusting or how to paint realistic tracks / wheels.

  2. As with any technique it's part of a process. You gather information by research and asking experienced users, you then apply these techniques. Once learnt, you will inevitably go through your own testing phase to see what you like and what you don't. In the end you'll have a similar technique but more tailored to your own person style. This is usually the painful process we all go through but in the end it's worth it. What people need to understand is there's usually never an open and shut case with any technique, no matter how many people you ask and that developing your own specialized technique is part of the fun that is our hobby :)

  3. The Vid covering this would be nice. :O)

  4. This article makes some good points. I also started with scale models, and have noticed a lot of techniques that are so common place there, haven't made it to miniatures for whatever reason. Even though the work brilliantly!

    This has also got me to thinking about an issue I've been having with Vallejo Urethane Primer. I love most things about it, but I have noticed the paint doesn't grip as well as it should, and can rub off fairly easily. I may still be too heavy handed with it, or it could just be the white version but I think a quick spray with varnish would help avoid that. Mostly it happens after I've let my mini sit for a few days between painting sessions. Maybe someone can add advice for me with the primer, but I think this may just be one other reason to layer in clear coats.

    I use a lot of Future, both as a thinner and prior to oil washes, but I think it would work here too. It's quite durable, and although glossy, I've not had any issues with paint smearing like one would expect from other glosses.

  5. For me, because I use artist acrylics, a lost of my colors go on very glossy, especially airbrush colors. So I use a quick layer of matte varnish to give the subsequent layers of paint a better grip.