The proverbial can of…
Posted by Martin on May 4, 2011
Nope, not worms.
There is an unwritten law that states that when ever two or more figure painters gather together, at some point in the proceedings the conversation must turn to the frustrating topic of matt varnish. And so it has been for me on two such occasions recently. Why? Well, I’ve had a nagging feeling for quite a while that the matt varnish I’ve been using isn’t matt enough. And for me, “enough” means seriously dead flat matt.
The offending item is Winsor and Newton’s Galeria acrylic matt varnish. I used to love it. It was matt enough, it was easy to use, it was easy to clean the brush afterwards, it dried quite quickly and it didn’t smell too bad. But then something happened. My head was turned by seeing just how truly, deeply matt some other painters’ figures were. And the doubts set in. And they gnawed away at me. And they kept gnawing until I just had to do something about it. And I had to do that something to the Westphalian Landwehr casualties that I’d painted as a commission. Now these no longer looked matt enough and my pride wouldn’t let me post them to their new home until I’d put things right.
So who were the wicked people who sowed these seeds of doubt? Well, one was David Imrie at Salute when we were chatting about his ECW demo game; the other was Peter F. on a visit to Calpe Towers last Bank Holiday Monday (more about that visit in another posting soon). The outcome of the conversation with David was that he’d tried all sorts of different matt varnishes over the years and never found the perfect one. At present he’s also using Winsor and Newton’s Galeria but he seems to get much better results than me – grrrr! So no solution there. Peter F. informed me that he’s always used Humbrol enamel varnish (Code No. 49). At this point I should interject that, like me, both David and Peter F. gloss varnish first and then apply a coat of matt varnish to finish and both use brush on rather than spray varnishes. Peter F. says it’s always worked for him but that you do need to keep stirring the tin thoroughly at regular intervals during a varnishing session to avoid the dreaded white patches and streaks.
I came away from Calpe Towers inspired to try the Humbrol enamel matt varnish (after all, the gloss equivalent has long been a standard part of my process, so how hard can it be?). On Tuesday, I used my lunchbreak to visit the local model shop. Curses, there was no Humbrol matt enamel varnish in stock! I was about to slope out of the shop in a fit of despair when I noticed a display rack of Revell enamel paint tins. A closer inspection revealed that the rack was marked up with Humbol colour code equivalencies. Lo and behold, the Revell enamel matt varnish (Code No. 2) was marked as equivalent to the Humbrol enamel matt varnish. So I decided to chance it.
Last night, I carried out my evil experiment in the painting laboratory (mwhahaha!). I was very cautious and shook the tin thoroughly for about five minutes and then I opened it and gave it another five minutes of stirring with a cocktail stick. Only after that, did I feel brave enough to dip my brush. After coating the three casualty figures carefully and evenly, I placed them under and upturned tub to keep the dust (and the cats) out while they dried overnight. Then I gave the brush a deep clean – I use liquid poly for cleaning varnish off brushes and it works a treat.
The outcome? Total success! This morning I was greeted by three terrifically matt figures. Conclusions? Yes, these sorts of enamel varnish do smell heavily of sovlents so make sure you work in a well ventilated area. In passing, I should mention that the smell reminded me of happy boyhood days painting Airfix tank kits with enamels. But I digress…
The other big conclusion is that things will go fine if you follow the instructions on the tin to the letter. And then do them some more for good measure. I especially mean anything to do with shaking and stirring because that’s the only way to be sure that you’ve mixed in the matting agent thoroughly to avoid white patches and streaks. Lastly, I want to note that the fact I used Revell enamel matt varnish rather than the Humbrol variety doesn’t seem to matter a jot.
So I suppose that means I’ll need to update my Kitbag page now…