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  • Perfect Matt Varnish 2

    This is the second time I've submitted this article. I don't know what all the style tags mean, so if this is still ballsed up, sod it!

    I have, in the past, read many posts and mails on the subject of varnish, and it is clear that attitudes toward varnish and its use are as varied and subjective as painting styles.

    If you a looking for the perfect matt finish for your figures, there is a varnish out there that can help you achieve it. The varnish is called Blackfriar clear polyurethane, and if used correctly, this stuff is the best matt varnish that money can buy.

    However, before you all start getting excited, let me clarify two things. First, Blackfriar is a British company, and it is difficult to find their products in shops, even in the UK. So if you’re in the US, you may find this product impossible to obtain. Secondly, the varnish isn’t formulated for models, it’s industry / trade standard, and as such it needs to be prepared, (see preparing the varnish).

    If you’re lucky enough to find this stuff, then I’d recommend that you buy several cans at once – you may as well, it’s really cheap.

    Before you start.
    Before you use the varnish there are several things that you must do.

    1. Store your cans upside down. This allows the thicker matt agent to settle out on the underside of the lid. This usually takes about 6 weeks, so you have to be patient.

    2. Have a supply of good quality gloss varnish. Humbrol gloss is the best in my opinion.

    3. Have two or three test miniatures at hand. These minis need to be painted and gloss varnished. I’ve had the same test minis for months, and I re-gloss them after each test run, (see testing the varnish).

    Preparing the varnish.
    Before you start preparing the matt varnish, it is imperative that the miniature you intend to seal is gloss varnished first. The gloss varnish does 3 things:

    1. Protects the paint.
    2. Creates contrast and enriches the colours.
    3. Creates a flat seal for the matt varnish to adhere to.

    The gloss varnish must be completely dry before you apply the matt, so give the mini 24 hours to dry just to be safe. Once the mini is completely dry you can prepare the matt varnish; mix the matt varnish using this ratio:

    2pts matt agent from the underside of the lid,
    1pt varnish from the tin,
    2pts thinner.

    Now test the varnish.

    Testing the varnish.
    You’re not guaranteed to get the mix perfect first time, so it is imperative to test the varnish before applying it to the finished figure.

    Mix enough for the job and apply it sparingly to a TEST MINI. Use a hairdryer to dry the varnish – it should literally take seconds. If the finish is still too gloss or satin, add a bit more of the thick stuff from the underside of the lid. If the finish is streaky and uneven, add a bit more of the thin base from the tin. In both cases, you don’t need to add too much, just a little blob will do. Keep testing until the finish is perfect, and remember, add thinners if the mix begins to dry.

    When you’re happy with the mix, apply it to the finished mini. Keep the varnish thinned out and apply it sparingly. If you let the varnish pool in the recesses it will dry as a cloudy mass. Use a hairdryer to help the first coat dry, and if necessary, apply a second coat. You may still get some streaks on flat black surfaces, if this happens just apply a black glaze to hide the streaks.

    Once the varnish is dry you will be left with a fantastically matt finish to your figure – even better than Testor’s Dullcoat. The varnish is very strong and will never go yellow. The whole process of preparing the varnish may be a bit of a chore, but I can assure you that the results are worth it. Again, I can not state the importance of applying the varnish sparingly. If you daub it on the figure you will ruin your masterpiece. Be very careful.

    This technique for using Blackfriar varnish was developed by Kevin Dallimore, and as far as I’m aware it’s used by several professional painters here in the UK and Europe. Kevin is a painting machine who takes his craft very seriously. He has clearly spent a lot of time experimenting with various varnishes and mixes and endorses the use of Blackfriar matt. The reason that I’m writing this article is simply because Kevin has never really written a concise article of his own. There was one on the Foundry website once, but it was vague and useful details about mix ratios, thinners and using a hair drier were missing.

    I hope you find this article of use. If you can’t find Blackfriar varnish, why not try something else. There are so many matt varnishes out there and they all use the same basic formula. It’s all about experimentation.
    Comments 1 Comment
    1. oitoitoi's Avatar
      oitoitoi -
      Hi, thanks for your great article. I was hoping you could tell me which humbrol gloss varnish you used as well as what thinner you use when preparing the blackfriars varnish. Cheers!
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