Figure Method

Well it being Winter here in Australia and living right down the bottom in Melbourne it is generally wet as well as cold, so being a creature of comforts who doesn’t like the cold, I paint the figures that I will use on any dioramas that I start in Spring, inside the house in my model room. I must point out that the actual making of the dioramas takes place in the work area in the garage which is cold and damp in Winter, and not ideal for drying paint so of course this arrangement works well for me and the paint, not to mention the fact that I’m a messy guy as well so all in all this is a wise move.
As I’m ahead with the figure painting, I thought I would show you the process I use to get my guys and girls up to the diorama placement stage. I’m sure a lot of you have seen or use some of these methods that I have picked up from various folk on the web, and to those people thank you for sharing. Even so there might be someone like myself out there that might pick up some trick they did not think of using. For example when you purchase a set of figures, there is always a set number of poses. This is fine for some, but for others like myself you might feel the need to change the same pose figures slightly or even more dramatically such as changing a figure walking to falling over.
When I started doing this I tried all sorts of methods, bending with pliers, heating with cigarette lighters, and then I even thought I would soften them up in the microwave oven … yeah, yeah I know, I am a simpleton! So as you can imagine the results, the figures snapped or melted and but showed no sign of softening. Then one day I just happened to be reading a review on the Plastic Soldier Review and they mentioned that even with the old boiling water method these figures would be hard to change! What the hell, I thought, why didn’t I think of that! (Or words to that effect were heard resonating from the work room.) So yeah sometimes the obvious isn’t so obvious to some! So what is the best method I hear you say? Well the old boiling water is the most effective.
I and most of you have no love of flash, with me it’s that something that attracts my eye straight away. I remember seeing a marvellous Western mini diorama some six years ago when I was getting back into it which was so well done, except for the fact that the flash seams stood out so much it ruined the effect of so much effort. I must say that even with my meticulous flash removal efforts, I sometimes will have finished a figure, painted it, given it the ok, placed it in position, only to see flash glaring at me when I have taken some photos of the finished dio! … bugger!
So to work.
First work out which figures you really need ,I don’t want to waste time on some that are useless, which in my case if relatively few as these can be used as filler because with the number I use they will just get lost in the mass.
Next I de flash them, and as John from (Just needs varnish) and I were discussing the other day use new sharp blades as it will make the job a lot easier, and of course do the obligatory nicking of your fingers, I’m sure I have left my DNA on most of my dioramas .When I ‘doing this I try to follow a pattern like up one side and then the other.
Then I select the guys to be boiled which is simply to drop them in boiling water in a saucepan for a few minutes (depending on the plastic hardness) and then removing one at a time and using my fingers twisting, bending and generally getting them into the pose I want and then plunging them in cold water .I have found that on the last set of Strelets Indians that they became a little brittle after this so beware. I have to say here that I’m so picky about this that I boiled a lot of the highlands on the Retreat from Corunna dio ,yeah I know why bother ,but that’s just me !
I now paint them with a thin coat of glue, using the White glue /PVA method (two thirds glue/one part water) and allowing them to dry.
Paint up to finish required ,no need to talk about this as we all have our own method and style ,I must mention my mate Marvin he paints the same scale /1/72 figures and like myself is a fan of the Strelets figures ,so do yourself a favour and have a look at his paint work ,I’m sure you will appreciate his unique style .I don’t consider myself a fab painter so enough said ,on we go .
One of the things I have struggled with is getting the last wash right over the years, fortunately some of you have helped me overcome this with the advice of the use of the brilliant Citadel products and I thank you for this and I have been able to ditch all my little concoctions I have tried in the past.
I have mentioned before that I now pin all my figures and have done away with the bury method I started out with, all I do is carefully slice the figures (yeah I know a lot of you are busy basing yours and here I am removing them) from the stand, drill a .5 mmm hole with a pin drill, dip my .5 mm steel wire rod in a little super glue and press it home and then cut the rod leaving about 1cm protruding.
To finish off, I just touch up any paint that might have been dislodged in the pinning process on the figures feet or boots, now they are ready to be placed on the diorama.

For those that missed my earlier blog on my bases I’ll just say that I use foam core with a thin smear of plaster over it thus allowing me to pin the figures on needing only a spot of superglue on the wire spike to hold them in place .
All right here are a few photos of the figures I have painted for the next diorama, there is a photo showing some of the pins I put in my figures and some of the effects one gets from the boiling method . There are also a couple of shots of the base these figures are going on, the same method as I used on the little WWII one. It is cheaper and a lot easier for my man that makes the Perspex covers for me. Just to go through it, I have cut my main base out of MDF and painted the areas that will show, then I have stuck the foam board onto a sheet of 3mm ply. I’ve done this as the foam board bows and I can make a mess of it without buggering up the main base.


21 thoughts on “Figure Method

  1. Marvin

    It’s always an eye- opener for me seeing other’s approach to their figures. I guess we just find our own way and then tend to stick to it without wondering if we could do it better or differently. I have this instinctive resistance to boiling or otherwise amending the plastic figures – feels like vandalism somehow! Something that I really need to get over, I guess.

    I think Strelets are particularly well-suited to winter coat infantry and I like these ones a lot. The painted figures are looking great so we’re all eagerly awaiting seeing them in situ now! As for me, I’m tacking more Strelets figures too at the moment…

    Anyway, you’ve given me food for thought with that pin method. I should check out some of the washes too as I generally make my own as and when I need it but I do stress about it!

    Many thanks for referencing my work too – much appreciated and rather humbling. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. patmcf

      I’m glad you got something out of all that waffle ,a bit long winded for so small amount of information ,but that’s me .I love your comment” vandalism “that made me chuckle I never thought of it like that but yeah I can see where you are coming from .Before I got back into dio’s I did decoupage and my themes were Fantasy art and I used to buy all these expensive art book and cut them up and mix them up and make my own pictures ,to me it was a salute to the original artist but some folk felt it was wrong and even might be illegal .I checked the coy right stuff out and no as long as I didn’t make prints of them and sell them I’d not be breaking the law ,but it is food for thought, and interesting how one looks at these things .
      Argh ,the washes I made did work but it was as you say stress full trying to make them the same each time as I’m lousy at taking notes of what I do except when I’m making my beer .I had to mention you mate ,as it’s good for the folk to see master painters works and not just average guys that can hide there dodgy painting in the masses .As I said it’s painting time and having done the 1812 figs I’m now painting up some Strelets ACW skirmish guys to use on a dio about Berdan’s sharpshooter ,another mob I really like ,there in green to like my 95th boys ,but I’m really putting more effort into them as there will be no hiding them on this one .

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Marvin

        Every artist takes from other artists and mixes and reinterprets their work to create something new, so in that sense decoupage is just a literal expression of that process. As far as figures are concerned – its only bits of bloody plastic and I think I need to get over it! 🙂 I think part of me respects what the sculptor has done and wants to do it justice. But that shouldn’t stop me changing or improving it of course.

        Very much looking forward to your 95th guys and their dio. My boys will be cheering them on!

        Liked by 2 people

      2. patmcf

        Yup are right mate they are just plastic but Made into great prices of work and I take my hat of to the guys that sculptor them but I’m sure the could understand our desire to change them a little as they themselves would probably love to produce more poses themselves but of course they have to draw the line on how many somewhere. Bit of a bugger having to away for four days partying ,I rather be at home painting ,heavens I must be getting old !


  2. Mark A. Morin

    WOW, that’s a hell of a lot of figures to drill! Nice read Pat, and if you ever get the chance try the Army Painter washes – I like Citadel stuff, but I think theirs are superior and come in a dropper bottle. Looking forward to seeing your progress!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. patmcf

      Thanks mate but as our mate Marvin says no reply is late ,the thing that amazes me is it took so long to find out about boiling ! .Ge mate that is so good ,so life like ,just shows how much talent is out there,great hope for mankind,thanks for popping it up I’m sure TIM will like it .

      Liked by 2 people

  3. patmcf

    No reply is ever late our mate Marvin says ,I’m just amazed I took so long to find out about it ! That is a bloody great doozy ,My first thought was hang on this is real ! So much talent out there it’

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Azazel

    Nice write-up Pat – and interesting to see how your workflow goes. Mine has some in common, where I save the larger terrain-type projects for summer when the weather is warmer, days are longer, more light, time off work, and it’s just all round easier to get he big stuff done (and sprayed!)
    I first found out about the Boiling Water trick years ago when I actively collected Star Wars figures as a way to “reset” bent/warped figures and weapons. It’s also commonly used with resin miniatures.


    1. patmcf

      Oh and one feels so much more alive when one is warm mate ,just call me reptile boy ,what you say is so true !
      I only wish I had known about the boiling effect earlier on ,you surprise me there mate I wouldn’t have thought I would work on resin ,see what we learn when we blog with a great bunch of people ,I get cleverer every day ,well I’ll say that although the wife would probably disagree !!


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