The Waving Flag: Painting Tips #7 - Varnish Recovery Technique

Sunday 28 April 2013

Painting Tips #7 - Varnish Recovery Technique

I've written before about improving commercial matt varnishes. Despite this there are still occasions when I have the odd "less than ideal result" usually just before I apply one of the fixes I've uncovered over the years.

One such occasion occurred this morning whilst varnishing some 15 mm Swiss halberdiers for my renaissance French army. The problem was only obvious on the red and blue jackets of the figures which retained a slight satin sheen.

Experience has taught me that another coat of Matt Cote doesn't help and, for some reason I can't fathom, neither does using other varnishes like Windsor & Newton Acrylic varnish. I know some of this is caused by the nature of the final paint layer (all Vallejo in this case) but I usually get around this by matting susceptible paints with a touch of talc - see Painting Tips #5 & #5a. In this case the paint layer was a true matt so the problem must be with the varnish mix: it's now been diluted with a touch of white spirit ready for next time.

Even so the Swiss still needed a true matt finish. By far the best way I've found to date is to use Flat Future. This mix of Tamiya Flat Base X-21 and Future floor polish is well known in modelling circles and I followed the recipe given by FichtenFoo for a Flat/Dull finish:

As I wanted to "repair" or refinish the figures, I simply painted the 30:70 mix of X-21 and Future on to the affected parts. I used the Flat Future mix sparingly, almost wet brushing it on, to avoid it pooling. If used in excess the "super flat" mix I have at the moment can leave a white residue in folds, and silvery flakes on flat surfaces. This is why I don't use it as my varnish of choice.

Its main advantage is that it dries really quickly and you can see one portion dry matt before moving on to the next; even on 15 mm figures. The strength of the Future layer is a nice additional feature. It drops the colour intensity a notch but that's to be expected as matting anything reduces the light reflected from the surface.

Let me know if this helps you.


Tony said...

I have been using a similar cocktail except I use Galleria Matt Varnish and Tamiya X21, see this post for more details:


Vexillia said...

Interesting mix. I have some water based W&N Acrylic Matt Varnish that I've never been happy with so I might try this.

Hands said...

I've been struggling as of late to get a dead flat/no shine matte finish on my 28mm US Moderns, and found your blog. Do you recommend adding a layer of straight Flat Future, and then building matte varnish on top of it once dry? Or doing a 30/70 blend on the first pass and repeating similar mixtures until the flat/no shine look has been achieved?

Vexillia said...

Layering matt varnishes has never worked for me. Plus Flat Future offers enough protection. Read my article "The Unvarnished Truth" to see why.

I suspect that your final paint layer is porous hence the shine even after varnishing. I've seen this with reds, blues and some greens. Somehow you need to seal it first.

At the moment this I'm adding talc to my paint (see Tips tab) and to my varnish (likewise). This seems to work reliably for me.

Perhaps you might get away with adding talc to your current varnish but do test first.

Hope this helps?

Hands said...

Thanks! That helps a great deal. So that I'm sure I understand, your recommendation is to talc my varnish directly? Skip the Future entirely?

Hands said...

I'm an exclusive Vallejo painter, so lots of greens, grays, and browns... seems in line with your excellent piece on your Swiss with reds and blues.

Vexillia said...

With regard to adding talc to your varnish it depends on the varnish you're using.

There are two ways to improve some matt varnishes as outlined in Painting Tips #1 - Humbrol Matt Cote.

I know it works with Matt Cote and I've seen others recommended it for other spirit based varnishes but water based ones are a different matter altogether.

To be clear the best solution is to matt your paints with talc & improve your varnish. If the figures are already painted and varnished then flat future is the way to go but you need to run tests for the best mixture.

Hands said...

I appreciate the advice. The figures are painted amd attempted varnish using Army Painter Anti-Shine unfortunately, so moving to one of the varnishes you recommend.

I appreciate the help.

Vexillia said...

You may get lucky: the spray varnish may act as sealant. Good luck & let me know how you get on.

Hands said...

Its all brush-on. I live in Arizona, so between 100F+ outdoor trmperatures and negative humidity (tongue in cheek), I tend to stick to brush on.

ALTHOUGH you saying that leads me to an interesting possibility. I had employed Testors Dullcote spray on a model straight, without any varnish prior, and the model is the only one thus far that went dead flat with no effort via brush-on Anti-Shine. Comparatively though, the same hasn't worked for different models employing the same method.

I'm going to try the Flat Future/Tamiya blend, Humbrol w/talc, and Dullcote Spray + Anti-Shine brush-on on some dummy disks and will follow up.

Thanks again for the advice Martin!!

Hands said...

I'm all moved in to my new plsce, and I can confirm the 30%/70% blend of Tamiya Matt and Pledge Floor Polish works. Minimal sheen after one layer, zero sheen after two.

Thank you Martin... you have singlehandedly made my life easier.

Vexillia said...

Glad to be of assistance and thanks for letting me know the outcome.

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