Speed Painting -- The Dip Method

Back to SeanKReynolds.com home

This is a stub showing how you can use "the dip method" to create finished minis faster. It's basically a way to add detail to a quickly-painted mini and seal it with a hard protective coat all in one step, and get pretty good results.

"The dip method" is simple:
1) Pick 2-3 colors for your miniature. These should be bright colors, as the last step tends to darken the colors, so if you want the end result to be a medium red, pick a bright red (like Reaper's Firehawk).
2) Prime your miniature. If you have primer that matches one of the final colors you want the mini to be, even better (in other words, if a mini is going to be tan and red, and you have tan primer, you can prime it tan and just paint the red parts with a brush).
3) Paint the miniature simply with your chosen colors. Don't worry about drybrushing, inking, or shading. You can ignore small details that you might fuss about if trying to do a higher-quality job on the miniature. For example, if the mini has a belt, just paint it the same color as the pants. Or paint his shirt and pants the same color.
4) Let the paint dry.
5) Open a can of varnish, such as Minwax Polyshades "Antique Walnut Satin." Using a cheap brush (but not so cheap that bristles will come loose and stick to the miniature), brush the varnish onto the mini, thick enough that you can see the color of the varnish pool in the crevices of the mini, but not so thick that you have puddles everywhere and excess varnish dripping off it. OR... dip the miniature into the varnish and shake it a few times (not near anything the varnish can stain, like carpet, furniture, etc.) to get the excess varnish off.
6) Let the varnish dry.
Optional: 7) Spray the miniature with a matte finish to take off the shine of the varnish. If you don't care that the mini is shiny (for example, it's a slimy monster), don't bother with this step. Testor brand Dullcote is the best at removing shine, but it is expensive.

I'm going to put more in-progress photos here once I finish my current batch, but for now here are two examples.

Darius the Blue from Reaper Vampire Spawn from Wizards of the Coast
Darius has four colors: Fair Maiden (face, hands), Dove Gray (beard, staff), Sea Foam (robe, hat), and Dragon Blue (cape, boots, dragon). If I were really lazy I could have ditched the Dragon Blue and painted all of those parts Sea Foam but I wanted a little variety in his colors. Notice how the varnish accentuates the flowing parts of his sleeves, cape, and robe, and accentuates the detail of the circles on his had and the spiked back of the dragon. I didn't even paint his eyes, the varnish went into there any brought out the sculpt lines around his eyes, nose, and cheeks.

This mini looks decent at this close viewing (if I were painting it as a PC miniature I'd go back and do the eyes, put some color on the hat-dots, and maybe draw some runes on the hem of his clothes). But how does it look when you're looking at it on the gaming table? Here's a shot of it from three feet away, not using any zoom on my camera. It still looks decent.

The Vampire Spawn has four colors: Fair Maiden (face, hands, feet), Aged Red Brick (robe), Firehawk (cape), and Woodland Brown (hair). Okay six colors, I cheated and painted the mouth black and the teeth white. If I were really lazy I could have painted the mouth and teeth with the Fair Maiden and let the dip do all the work, and could have painted all of his clothses with the Firehawk (looking back, Aged Red Brick was probably too dark, you can't see a lot of detail on it). Notice how the varnish accentuates the flowing parts of his cape and brings out the wrinkles and muscles on his face, hands, and feet. As with Darius, I didn't paint his eyes, that's just dip darkening the sockets. If I were really lazy I could have just painted him Fair Maiden on the flesh parts and a light brown on everything else and let the varnish do all the work.

This mini looks decent at this close viewing (it looks like he has a medallion at his neck that I might want to paint gold eventually). How does it look on the gaming table? Here's a 3-foot shot of it, no zoom. Still recognizable, still looks good on the tabletop.

Other Advantages of Dip

The Disadvantages of Dip

Other Ideas For Using the Dip Method

The Conclusion

The dip method won't win you any awards, and many "traditional" mini painters consider it cheating, but if you're in a hurry, or don't have the time to learn how to paint well, or you're not aiming too high, the dip method can save you a lot of time and hassle.