Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Doing the Dirty Dip

I'd always looked askance at the idea of dipping. I saw it as "not proper painting". More specifically it generally seemed to be aimed at the type of wargamer who saw having a painted army as a necessary evil, rather than a thing of joy in its own right. Promotion for dipping always seemed to emphasise that it was all about speed and getting an army on the table fast, and made reference to "tabletop standard" - all of which seemed to me to aim it squarely at people who actually don't like toy soldiers very much. An example would be the recent article about a Viking army in WI, an article which (to my eye at least) did little to show either the Army Painter products or the Gripping Beast models in a very good light. Yes it was quick, but it looked it. And I happen to know that Bo is a very talented painter and that the GB Vikings are nice models. Maybe it was the photography but I remained unconvinced.

To me it's the soldier that's the important thing, I like how they look and feel and appreciate the skill and talent that goes into making a good one. Therefore my object in painting it is to enhance that beauty and lavish such skill as I possess to make the model look as good as I possibly can.

However some other painters began to give me pause for thought. Scrivs has been churning out some lovely armies at an alarming rate, and Saxon Dog has had some great results too. However both of these guys have been doing more than simply "dipping" the model. They've gone back and added highlights and the like, all of which seems to move right back to “proper" painting and be pretty much the same as the more traditional basecoat, wash, highlight method that I already use, with the added complication of having to use a "wash" that needs 24 hours to dry. So you’re left with a method that's either quick and looks a bit nasty, or the same as traditional painting but more complicated.

Then, last week I bought some cheap grey primer (I was making a Gandalf costume for my son to wear on Book Day at school) and I began to think about my "stalled" ACW project and my "not even off the starting block" Napoleonic project. Couple that with suggestions from the Warhammer forum that cheap proprietary woodstain was the same as the Army painter stuff and I was ready to experiment. Spray Grey, a few other colours and then dip might give me something I could live with. Had to be worth a go, right?

So I grabbed one of the Warlord ECW figures I got in my grab bag at the Derby show and set to work.

Here he is sprayed with cheap Grey Primer from the £1 shop, then painted with Tallarn Flesh, Bestial, Khemri and Calthan Browns, Mechrite Red, Skull White, Boltgun Metal and Dheneb Stone.

Next Stage was to Dip. I took some Wilko's own brand Walnut Woodstain and applied liberally. Then left it to dry for 24 hours:

Uurgh shiny!

So I followed the prescribed method and sprayed with Army Painter Matt Varnish:

Much better.
And so finally I based him:

I'm actually reasonably happy with him as a test model. The face in particular has come out well. Cheap, and although the individual took as long as a regularly painted model once I start doing batches it'll be quick, and  think I can live with that as a standard for my ACW models - though I suspect characters and the like will get more attention.


  1. Nice result, I have a truck load of ECW figures, maybe its the way to go.
    I tend to chop and change painting styles (ie stains/washes & traditional methods) depending on what I'm painting at the time. Ive found the staining method only suits certain colours, and Ive used it predominately on darkage figures.

  2. I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who was dubious about dipping - I always thought you could get the same, or better, results just using the traditional paint/ink wash. That being siad, yours has turned out rather nicely :-)

  3. Nice result..but dipping is not for me...I screwed it up once and never agian. I also don´t really like the idea of using so many more layers of brand product (at the prices they demand) to achieve a result and then have to use brand product to get it matt again..
    One of the best and clearest examples of how this owrks..good one.

  4. I use the army painter dip - I paint it where I want it. It works well for some purposes.

  5. Very nice. The figure looks very nice after the matt varnish.

  6. A great job, looks like the dip worked very well!!

  7. I also don´t really like the idea of using so many more layers of brand product (at the prices they demand) to achieve a result and then have to use brand product to get it matt again..

    Not sure that its compulsory if you dip to use brand products - is Wilko Woodstain a brand product though? (well Wilko brand but you know what I mean) Much cheaper than Army Painter as its for staining doors etc

  8. Thanks for all the feedback gents.

    The Wilko's stain was less than £4 for a 250ml tin - which I believe compares favorably with the AP prices ;).
    I use the Army Painter Matt Varnish for all my matt varnishing needs, so I didn't have to buy it seperately. Other matt varnishes would work just as well. The stain leaves a shiny gloss finish which needs matting down, but unless you're in the "no varnish" camp you'll have something suitable lying around I'm sure.
    This was a "quick and dirty" solution. If I hadn't had to buy the grey undercoat spray then I'd not have bought the stain. As it is I'm happy wth the results for my grey men, but I'll not be going over to wholescale dipping of all my armies.