CoolMiniOrNot Forums - Priming Reaper Bones Figures
  • Priming Reaper Bones Figures


    I've decided to write a series of articles here on CMON in the anticipation of a bunch of new painters coming online when the Reaper Kickstarter orders start going out March 2013. This first article is going to be discussing the statement that Reaper has made that they don't need any primer. Straight out of the package and paint 'em. But many of us still like to prime, and I believe that there's some benefits to that. But let's test that theory with the actual product. I'm taking a Bones set of three identical minis and painting them exactly the same except for the underlying primer, or lack of. In addition, I'll only be using the paints that come with the optional Paint Set 1. I already had all the colors, so it was a happy coincidence.


    Let's start with three identical Bones figures. As the flood of new minis hasn't occurred yet, I've settled upon Reaper's Orc Spearmen (#77003).

    Let's leave one unprimed, prime one black (Krylon Flat Black Enamel), and one gray (Krylon Automotive Primer). There's a problem right there, which I forgot, and we'll discuss in a minute. But let's see the results.

    The issue, if you're wondering, is that the flat black enamel isn't primer. I have found that it doesn't really matter with metal minis. Makes a difference with PVC. It didn't exactly dry, and it cracked the base coat. Or, I maybe didn't let it dry long enough. Either way, automotive primer is probably the better choice.

    At this point, the white (left) and the gray (right) look nearly identical, but the gray does show the features a lot better than the white. Point for gray.


    Now that we've got them primed, let's start off with the skin. This article isn't intended to be a How To Paint, but I'll jot down the colors for information. Mixed equal parts (4 drops total) of Green Grass (9014) and Yellowed Bone (9143) with a drop or two of water to get it to be the right consistency (my paints are older and have dried quite a bit).

    The same number of coats over all were done. The white figure shows the primer through quite a bit, while the gray is better covered in my opinion. The black looked best, but do you see what happened? Flat Black Enamel does not equal black primer! It didn't really dry over the figure, and when painted, the acrylic figure paint cracked. Look at the figures leg for the best view. I had heard about this problem on Reaper's forums, but forgot. Oops. I'd correct this a little by going over with some thin wash of bright green, trying for a vein effect. But, that's an extra step that won't be done in this article. I'll wager had I actually used black automotive primer, things would have been fine. The gray from the same company didn't have the issue.

    Next, I mixed three parts Pure White (9039) with one part Pure Black (9037). The black overpowers the white quickly, which is why it isn't a 1:1 ratio. The paint set doesn't come with a gray, so had to make one.

    Nothing really special here. Later, I'm going to come back with a wash that will make things pop just a bit. And so we'll continue on with straight Blood Red (9003); no mixing. This is where it gets a little interesting.

    Both the unprimed and black minis both show through, but the gray doesn't. Now this is easier, since I didn't mix the paint, to go back and do a second coat.

    Two coats of the red, and everything is covered fairly well. The black shows through still, but that can be useful.

    Two coats of Tanned Leather (9031) on the straps.

    And Oh NOES! The white figure has a spot of red on his elbow. That's a quick fix, but I caught it rather late after more steps were done, so the spot will disappear in later pictures.

    I then worked the boots with Tanned Leather (9031) and Muddy Brown (9028) to get a different color from the straps.

    What's nice for this is that the white figure's boots look like they've been highlighted already. But that's just two coats of paint over the boots. The gray works as well, and not as stark. But the issue with relying on this to do the highlights is that there's no control over where it gets thin and looks like a highlight, so I'd not recommend it as a practice to get into. But I'll not discard it entirely either.

    I finish up by doing the second to last large unpainted area of the mini, that being the spear handle. Done with Muddy Brown (9028) and Grass Green (9014), simply to get a brown that didn't look like the two I'd already done. I'm reserving straight Muddy Brown (9028) for the base. Perhaps.

    At this point, I'm very disappointed with all the missed paint spots that show up in white and gray. The black primer is able to hide it just a bit and make it look a little natural and not as sloppy. Point for black primer.

    Worked up the base. One coat of 1:1 mix of Muddy Brown (9028) and Pure Black (9037). If the spears look bent, it is because they were in storage over a holiday trip, and didn't protect them well enough.


    Painted the skull on the belt with Yellowed Bone (9143). I intended to highlight it in Pure White (9039), but decided not to in order to keep things simple. In addition, I found that I'd missed a lot of the gray armor around the skulls, so had to remix that color gray three times before I matched the shade more closely.

    Finished up with some minor details. Sunlight Yellow (9008) for the eyes, dotted with a brush tip of Pure Black (9037). Then used Yellowed Bone (9143) for the crescent at the end of the leather straps, as well as the little knob things on the leather straps. Then more Yellowed Bone (9143) for the teeth. And the minis are, for our purposes, done, at least with what is going to come with the basic paint set from the Kickstarter.

    There's one little thing I'm going to do that uses something other than the basic set, and that's whipping up a little wash. Many names are used for the wash, and the main ingredient which is Future, or acrylic floor polish. It helps to break up the surface tension and get into all the little cracks.

    Here's the pictures with the wash that was applied. This is an extra step that I personally would do for tabletop figures, but not as much with display figures. But that's a different article. Washes are fast, but they lack the subtleness needed for top notch display models. For a hack such as myself, trying to quickly bash out three table-top quality minis, it does the trick.

    The wash was done with three parts Muddy Brown (9028), two parts floor polish, and then four parts water. The water is adjusted to make it runny enough for my taste, yet still able to have enough color to shade things. I didn't want to go with Pure Black (9037) simply because I was trying for a bit of a dirty look to the figures. This would be one of those personal decisions, I feel.

    The next thing I'll note is that the figures were held upside down so that the wash would flow into the undersides of all the surfaces. One other bad thing about the technique is that it does tend to pop up all the flaws in the mini as well. Still, can be useful.


    And here's the final result. So, which style should you go with? There's an easy formula that solves this dilemma. Open the photo in an editor, and sample the lower left eyelid of each orc. Get the RGB code for each orc. Divide the red number by the green, then add to that the color for the blue. Then take all three numbers and compare. The one with a seven or eight at the end will be the better way to go.

    That's a joke, you see. Throw out everything. There's no "right way" here on primer. Personal preference and final intent reigns supreme. The white/primer-less orc (left) is a brighter than the black (middle) or the gray (right). A common technique is to use the brighter colors for heroes and darker colors for villains. Or, you could just paint things brighter.

    My personal preference would be to go with the grey. I can get the bright colors I want with a little work, as well as being able to see the details via contrast better. And I think it overall looks the best of the three. If I were speed painting these for a D&D session in three days, I'd go with black. Areas that I miss by accident with the brush can be passed off as really dark shadows. And if anybody complains, drop a Suddenly A Dragon Appears encounter on the group. Serves 'em right.

    So there you have it: no happy ending, just an ending. Pick which one makes you happy and get to painting!
    Comments 12 Comments
    1. TrystanGST's Avatar
      TrystanGST -
      Well done! I bought a few of the currently available Bones to experiment with myself, and found that the claims to be able to paint directly on the mini were true. Didn't think to be as thorough as you.
    1. Byteknight's Avatar
      Byteknight -
      Interesting, I painted mine with a red cloth as well 5 years ago:
    1. Pentrago's Avatar
      Pentrago -
      Thank you for your review! I can't want t get my Bones from the Kickstarter campaign. I noticed the bent spears on your orcs: Wheren't you able to straighten them or did you just not care?
    1. PegaZus's Avatar
      PegaZus -
      Quote Originally Posted by Pentrago View Post
      Thank you for your review! I can't want t get my Bones from the Kickstarter campaign. I noticed the bent spears on your orcs: Wheren't you able to straighten them or did you just not care?
      I did attempt to straighten them, and they were mostly straight. But then insecure transport over the holidays and their natural shape memory thwarted that effort. As it wasn't needed to be perfect for the article I pressed forward rather start over. If these were bound for the gallery, I would have made the second attempt to get it right. Actually, it would have been my fourth as it took three times to get the water hot enough and bend the spears past the point I wanted them to end up at.

      From reading the Reaper forums, it appears I didn't get the water near hot enough to do it right, which is boiling or near boiling temperatures. I had been using just hot tap water. It will be something to keep in mind for the real Bones.

      Of course, now I'm thinking the whole "reshaping Bones" would probably be worthy of an entire article in of itself. But I think I'm out of them, and have too many other articles going to complete another one before the big box drops. If nobody has done one by then, and I've got the time, I can work one up. But, hey, community effort! Someone has a chance to step up here!
    1. Pentrago's Avatar
      Pentrago -
      Thank you for your answer!
    1. Dain Q Gore's Avatar
      Dain Q Gore -
      Good work on a short timeline! I especially appreciate your conclusion
    1. PegaZus's Avatar
      PegaZus -
      Quick update: All three are now sticky. The clear matte I used, Krylon Matte Finish (1311), had acetone! And I didn't think that it would hurt things after all the primer, acrylic mini paint, and non-acetone based clear gloss. But, the three tacky orcs in my display cabinet prove otherwise. On the search now for non-acetone clear matte.
    1. Shady Character's Avatar
      Shady Character -
      The cracking actually looks rather cool. Not appropriate for 99% of miniatures but if you were doing a stone golem or statue it might work good.

      As for your acetone, give it some time. I stripped some Wizards of the Coast Star Wars miniatures with it and it they were soft and sticky for weeks, but did come good in the end.
    1. PegaZus's Avatar
      PegaZus -
      Time will tell I suppose. Took six months for the two to become sticky so maybe another six to work that out? Then again, that first sticky one has had six months already and remains that way.

      In either case, I'm painting my Bones acetone-free.
    1. redlethe's Avatar
      redlethe -
      Have you tried gesso? I know a lot of people (including me) use it to prime metal minis, and it might work well for Bones since it doesn't have acetone, etc. Me, I haven't been priming my bones, though I have considered it since details can be hard to make out when it's glossy white.
    1. PegaZus's Avatar
      PegaZus -
      I had not considered the gesso. I do have a bottle of it, but wasn't enthusiastic about the results when I used it on the metal mini. But, if that's what you normally do, I can't see any reason it wouldn't work. Other than trying to paint white on white.

      I feel after doing a set of pirates in Bones that I do want to prime them just to see the details. I'm considering doing a "speed painting" video of one of the Bones figure, and priming will be skipped for that. Even after priming, it seems it's always towards the end of a project where I find that I've missed some small detail (which is why I recommend writing down exactly what paints you've used), so maybe that priming step won't be that important in Bones.
    1. PegaZus's Avatar
      PegaZus -
      Three year update! All three still sticky.
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