You see metal miniatures in shops—those tiny packages with white metal figures. When you're starting out, look for metal castings with crisp, clear detail lines, as well as clean mold lines. Examine castings for excess metal mold lines and flash, as the extra metal which will need to be cleaned off before you can finish the miniature. Finally, make sure the miniature is the correct scale and matches the range of other figures or display pieces you intend to use it with.
Choose metals that are safe to handle. Make sure your miniature is not cast from lead. Miniatures should be cast from white metal, pewter, or other metals that are safe to handle.
Equipment / Tools
- Fine files
- Craft knife
- Dentist's tool
- Small paintbrushes
- Magnifying eyewear (optional)
- Fine-grit sandpaper
- Metal-filling epoxy, such as Milliput
- Soap and water or rubbing alcohol
- Base coating
- Acrylic paint
- Overcoat finish (matte or gloss)
Clean the Base Casts
Remove any extra metal, using fine-grit sandpaper, fine files, and a craft knife or a dentist’s tool. File and sand off any irregularities in the finish, and use a magnifying glass to see small details.
Fill the Base Casts
Fill any imperfections in the figures with Milliput or another metal filling epoxy. Use fine sandpaper to sand any filled areas down to blend the filler into the surrounding metal as much as possible. Use a dentist’s tool to recreate lines, if any, in the middle of a filled patch.
Clean the Base Cast Again
When the finish is correct and all extra metal has been removed, clean the miniature figures carefully with soap and water or rubbing alcohol. You don’t want any traces of oil from your fingers adhering to the miniatures.
Apply a Base Coat of Paint
Once the figures are clean and dry, apply a thin base coating of an appropriate undercoat. This will adhere to metal and allow you to paint on top with acrylic paints. Allow the miniature to dry in a dust-free environment.
You will usually get a better finish using spray undercoats. Choose the undercoat color based on your intended paint scheme.
Apply the Base Paint Colors
To choose your color scheme, set small amounts of acrylic paints on your paint palette. Choose paints that complement each other. Using small brushes, fill in the general color areas as evenly as you can using an appropriately sized brush.
Avoid painting adjacent colors until the first color is dry, then go back and fill in the areas between the colors you painted first. The detail comes later, so just try to concentrate on getting one or two thin even coats applied. Set aside to dry in a dust-free environment.
Apply Details to Your Metal Miniatures
Adding fine detail to your miniatures, such as pupils for the eyes, lines in the deep creases of clothing, teeth in open mouths, and details of costumes. When you have finished the fine detail, you may want to add a very thin wash of color like burnt umber to add a bit of depth to the deeper details.
Make sure you have a steady hand and good light for these steps. Magnifying eyewear is very useful.
Another technique that brings out highlights is dry brushing. To do this, load the brush with a lighter color and then blot the brush on a paper towel to remove most of the paint. With the brush now mostly free of paint, drag it lightly over the figure and the detail will pop out. Try it on the darker areas of clothing, then use it on lighter areas if you like the effect.
When the figure details are painted to your satisfaction, set the figures away in a dust-free environment to dry.
Overcoating Painted Metal Miniatures
Apply a fine overcoat finish (matte or gloss, depending on your preference) to your miniature figures to protect the acrylic finish. A spray coat is advisable, but you can use brush-on coatings if you prefer them. Apply any finishing details you want to the bases of your figures.