Stripping miniatures, part 1

This will be a disappointment to some of my readers* but this post is about stripping paint from figures.

Whether you are buying second hand figures, or rehabilitating figures that have wear and tear, or just re-doing figures you painted before, your best option is usually, but not always, to remove (“strip”) the old paint.

In fact I have been able to salvage a decent paint job out of many figures my brother began painting and decided were “finished” to his standards but not to mine (I like to make sure no bare metal is showing anywhere, details are done, and bases are painted). He often used interesting color schemes and did a good job with metallic paints so it did not make much sense to strip off what he’d done; I just “finished” the job. With pre-painted plastics like MageKnight and WotC D&D figures, the paint is not very thickly applied and you might as well paint over it too. But if you have a figure that’s been painted in enamels or thick, sloppy layers of acrylics, or an old-school figure with shallow, subtle details that could be lost in a few excess coats of paint, primer, and sealer, you should strip the old paint off.

In the case of plastic miniatures, I have almost no experience stripping them. Most of the ones I own have very pronounced details and would take a second coat with little to no loss of detail. Also, because there are so many kinds of plastics, I assume that they may not be safe in the stripping agent anyway and could dissolve right along with the paint, or be chemically altered by the process.

There are many choices for paint stripping:

  1. Acetone (nail polish remover)
  2. Brake fluid
  3. Pine oil based cleaners like Pine-Sol
  4. Isopropyl alcohol (“rubbing alcohol”)
  5. various hobbyist products sold for stripping models (Chameloen, Dio-Sol, etc.)
  6. Oven cleaner spray (Easy Off is the brand I have seen recommended the most)

Acetone also takes off super glue and is the main ingredient in “super glue removers” as far as I can tell. But it evaporates quickly and can be absorbed right through your skin, so I am leery of it. I have not used it much.

Brake fluid has been very variable in my experience, taking off some paints very fast but not affecting others. Also, it smells bad, and is very very toxic, so I wouldn’t use it again.

Pine-Sol has worked the best for me. It is not toxic, and smells ok, and does a super job on enamel and acrylic paints.

I have tried the alcohol, and it was not so good– you probably need a fairly pure laboratory grade solution rather than the drugstore version. If you need to dissolve epoxy glue or epoxy putty, it is perfect, but if you’ve done any conversion/repair on the figure with epoxy putty you won’t want to use it!

I did try the Easy-Off once too but I can’t really remember how well it worked; it is something you only want to do outdoors though.

In my next post on this topic I’ll walk through stripping with Pine-Sol, and then maybe try other methods.  I’ll definitely skip the brake fluid though.

*A recent Google search that brought a visitor to my blog: “Treant porn.” No, really.  Think about that, but don’t visualize it, ok?

Published in: on June 6, 2010 at 8:49 am  Comments (5)  
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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I’ve been soaking minis in Simple Green and cleaning with a toothbrush. Works perfectly for both enamel and acrylic on the old metal minis! Probably equivalent to your pine sol method…

  2. Can you tell me where the picture for this article comes from?

    • That’s the treant illustration from the 1st ed. AD&D Monster Manual. David A. Trampier did it. Tramp is one of the greatest illustrators TSR ever used. I put him up there with Errol Otus and Jeff Dee.

  3. I have never stripped. Miniatures.

    Chgowiz always spoke highly of Pinesol though – looking forward to the next messy post on the subject.

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