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The Many Minis: Best Miniature Material

Depending on when you got into tabletop gaming, and what game it is you play, it’s likely the type of miniature you started with is going to be drastically different than what others have started with. If you started in the ’80s, then you were likely to have started with metal. Mid to late 90’s and early 00’s? You’d see the shift over from metal to resin. Start recently? You’re going to see plastic becoming more and more common in most miniatures.

After working with several of each, I think I’m ready to pass on my knowledge to both newcomers to the hobby, and long time enthusiasts who are considering working with a new type of material than what they are used to.

First up, we have our plastic kits.

Plastic often gives the impression of a lower quality, because it’s a cheaper material, but in my experience it’s one of the materials that offers the most visual detail pre-painting. Given that I work almost exclusively with plastic products from Games Workshop, this could very well be a difference from manufacturer to manufacturer. These have been the easiest kits to work with as they have almost non-existent mold-lines left over after production. They respond well to most types of hobby adhesive, and tend to cure the most quickly, resulting in quicker build times.

That being said, plastic kits do seem to take quite a bit more finesse for custom poses, as unlike Resin and Metal kits, you can’t apply too much heat to make the material more flexible, as it’s much more prone to melting. Plastic kits are without a doubt the best place to start in general for someone new to the hobby, as they are the most forgiving for newbies.

Next up, we have resin kits.

The steps to working with resin are a bit more strict in some aspects, as well as more generous in others. For example, with Resin you want to use super glue over plastic cement. I can’t stress this enough, they are not the same sort of adhesive. Plastic cement will damage resin. When working with resin, using superglue, it will not always cure immediately. Be prepared to hold pieces together for a few minutes or more while the glue cures and apply enough pressure to encourage bonding, but not so much that you crush small bits.

Once your resin miniature is assembled, you’ll want to hunt for mold lines and file them down so that they don’t stand out. After that is completed, you’ll want to wash your miniature in soap and water before you paint to ensure that there is no lingering release agent from the creation process of the kit. This is a step I made the mistake of trying to skip, and as I was warned, the paint-primer didn’t stick properly and I had to strip it, clean it, and do it again. One more thing I learned when working with resin is that if you need to adjust anything, you can soak it in warm water and gently move it into a position you desire. This is especially useful on small bits like bent gun barrels or melee weapons.

Finally, we come to metal.

Most metal miniatures come in single pieces, but some are separated and for that once again it’s just a matter of using some superglue. At first glance it seems like metal miniatures will be tabletop ready immediately, but there’s a crucial extra step compared to resin kits, and that’s to carefully inspect them for stray metal strands. You’ll want to remove these strands before washing and painting the miniature, as they really stand out and mar the otherwise good looks of the mini. Metal also has the luxury of being a bit easier to bend, with or without heat, as needed on the small bits, which comes in handy when there’s a weapon or cape that’s just slightly out of place. As with resin, before you paint be sure to wash your miniature in soapy water.

There you have it, you now have the basic tips and tricks to working with the three main types of materials used in tabletop gaming miniatures. Working with different materials isn’t as daunting as it seems, as long as you approach it carefully and understand that each of them have different methods of handling.

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  1. RanchRifle on June 14, 2019 at 1:15 pm said

    I like plastic minis. Namely, I like to 3d print plastic minis. Sadly, I just don’t have the patience to paint them, so I they just end up whatever color the filament is in the printer at the time….

  2. Andrew Lee on June 14, 2019 at 8:01 pm said

    When I first started 40k the minis were half and half metal/plastic I think just before they went with white metal.

    Started 40k again 3 years ago and I am loving the detail they can get on the new plastic models as well as how easy it is to lop off an arm if you fancy some converting.

    Warhammer resin is something I really dislike though. I’ve found 3rd party sellers tend to make better resin models than Citadels. Stronger, more detailed less bent out of the packet and less work to remove flash and lines. No idea if thats fact or not, just how its worked out for me.

  3. Ive recently gotten back into tabletop wargaming, particuarly historicals. The range & quality of plastic model kits you can get today is AMAZING.

    Check out Victrix, Gripping Beast or Warlord Games. Superb plastic kits with figures coming in at 50p each or so.

  4. BrigandBoy on June 18, 2019 at 6:29 pm said

    A bit of advice for all of these materials (but most especially the metal); score your bits before you glue them together.

    What I mean by this is you should take a hobby knife (or metal sharp object) and scratch lines all over that armpit and bare shoulder before you attach it with your adhesive. This is especially true for metal, because it is both heavier and the material doesn’t like superglue OR rubber cement very much. If a smooth surface is what you are working with, the glue won’t stick as well. To illustrate this, it’s the difference between clasping your hands together with your fingers interlaced as opposed to just pressing your palms together. The scoring offers the glue a vertical surface to adhere to, which strengthens the bond.

    It only takes a few seconds, but it helps immensely.

    Also for metal, if you can, get some sort of epoxy and tape/poster putty the parts together temporarily while the epoxy cures, because almost no glue I’ve ever used (especially fast curing glues like CA superglue) last very long.

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