17 June 2010

Varnish experiment

There has been an obstacle to my finishing of miniatures lately - varnishing. I have been unable, for some time now, to use spray paint/primer/varnish due to the fumes and also the lack of a proper place for spraying. The primer problem was solved long ago - I now use either gesso or Reaper Master Series Brush-On Primer. But varnish has been a thorn in my side, until now.

Coyote, on his blog The General's Tent, advocated the use of Pebeo Matte Varnish. I was intrigued by this, as this varnish is water-soluble - not solvents or spirits for clean-up. So, I finally ordered a bottle and gave it a go.

Here is a pic of the test subjects:

These are some 15mm Essex minis, HYW or early renaissance, that Taeklonn had painted a long time ago. These have been coated with neat Future floor wax - gives them a nice glossy sheen which some people like. I don't mind it if on certain subjects - In The Grand Manner/Charge-style games with massive battalions of 18th century troops looks good with this approach - but not for most of my stuff. I am using it for a protective coat, and the ultimate test of the matte varnish.

Now, with the matte coat:

Quite a difference I do say! This is using neat Pebeo; it could be diluted slightly with some distilled water for better coverage; I might try that in the future. NOTE: This pic is only about 2 hours after the application of the matte varnish, it might be even more matte after 24 hrs.

A close-up of the sword-and-buckler on the right:

I deliberately left half of the shield untouched by the Pebeo just to see the difference.

The Pebeo product seems to work very well!



  1. It's a pity you cannot use spray varnish. There are nmany brands available and you'd surely find one suiting your needs.

    For my gaming models I've been using the trick discovered by my friend: first I apply a layer of glossy car varnish (you can buy it in any hardware store here) and when it's dry (some brands take even 24 hours to dry) you kill the sheen with a layer of matt varnish (I also like to use car varnish here, but often use airbrushed varnish too, particularly when quality matters).

    Gloss varnishes are more durable than matt varnishes, so they're a great protective coat. The matt varnish is applied only to remove the unwanted glossy finish.

    We tested durability of this combination, and my friend was so sure of his method that he even threw some older models against a wall. Even if some of them broke into pieces, the paintjob was still protected :)

    But this also means you need to prime your models well so that the paint doesn't fall off with the primer ;)

    As for brush-on water solutible varnishes, there are many of them. I used Pactra and Vallejo and was satisfied - especially with the latter.

    Chest of Colors: All About Miniature Painting