Varnish your models



Varnish comes in 2 types of medium. The liquid and the propelled. It is used to seal and protect your miniatures from a number of things from detrimental methods to knocks and bashes of table top warfare.

In this article I will introduce you to some of the varnishes and what the effects are on your loved miniatures.


Gloss varnish is a medium that leaves your miniature with a smooth wet/shinny look to them. This can help when using oils, as it helps it run into the crevices and act like a pin wash. As your miniature has had a coat of varnish any thinners used with the oils will not damage your paint work underneath, and enable you to remove excess with out pulling the paint from it.


Satin has the property’s of varnish in protection but leaves your miniatures with half the amount of shine of a gloss. This is a great sealer for paint work and in practice a good varnish for use on terrain and other table top uses. This is personally only used for a quick seal on areas getting more abrasive methods after this layer.


I use matt varnish mostly for works that have more matt paint work than the gloss paint. Its great at creating a single protected matt surface, and allows a certain amount of grip if you are using pigments. It can make a surface powdery if using a propellant based product if held too far away or smother details if too close.

As its a varnish it will also protect your models from those hard flung dice rolls and a certain amount of bashing. If you have used it as a final coat you can always go back in with a liquid medium gloss varnish to pick out those lenses and screens to give them added shine.

Liquid Varnish.

Liquid varnish comes in bottles of various sizes and are of a varied price. Usually what you pay is what you get here but not always. I personally use the Vallejo range of varnish and the high end artist varnish by Daler Rowney in this liquid form.

There are many others out there and come in many sized bottles.

Painting varnish onto your miniatures takes a lot of time and a few coats to get a nice even layer. As I use a airbrush I love the Vallejo acrylic varnishes not only is it easy to apply but costs a fraction of the price over the aerosol variety.

The Vallejo brand can be thinned down with water and flow nice through the brush. Just remember to clean it after wards though as It is hard to clean when it is cured.

Using the airbrush I seal the miniatures I work with a few times before the final seal is placed. Protecting your work half way through is like hitting the save button on the computer (back when there was no auto save)

vallejo varnish artist varnisharmy painter quick shade

Aerosol propelled varnish.

There is a amazing amount of variety here, with each leading paint supplier providing a brand of their own. In my past I have used Humbrol, testers, Plastikote, Montana, Army PainterĀ  and many more.

Now I use the simple Humbrol cans for most of my work. I find these to be most cost effective for miniature use and a ready supply found locally. They give a nice coat, matt is matt and gloss is gloss. They do exactly what it says on the tin. The draw back from these is the over spray and harmful nature of aerosol sprays. Use a mask if you like your lungs regardless of brand and a spray booth unless you like dusting.







Testors is a great product but in the uk it is hard to come by. A few places stock it common ground games in Stirling have a regular supply but sells fast. Also Marionville models is starting to stock it as well. Costing about the same as other brands this product is matt in the truest form. The product is extremely harmful and is band in the state of California due to this fact. The smell lingers for man hours and ventilation is necessary.



There was a old method of using pledge floor polish to give your miniature a fast seal. This is something I have not used but a few of the older folks will know of this method. It may be gone now but it will not be forgotten.

Montana gold make a great varnish although its rather pricey and designed for their brand of spray paint it is of good quality.

Top tips

  1. To avoid frosting of your miniatures let your paint dry. Allow your miniature to dry fully for 24hrs in most cases. Paints although touch dry are not fully dry for many hours after, oils take even longer. be patent.
  2. If your using the liquid don’t let it dry on your brushes. clean them with the guide lines on the side of the bottle. Some just require water others methylated spirits.
  3. Only use in thin coats, you can add more but you cant take it away, mucking up your final protective layer and your starting from scratch after you have stripped your hard work from the miniature.
  4. If your using a can make sure you shake it well. You need to mix the chemicals inside.
  5. Room temperature cans work best.
  6. Varnish in a dust free area, there is nothing worse than your work being ruined because your work space is covered in resin dust that was kicked up with aerosol propellant
  7. Always read the label. There is usually a guide for use included some where on the side.
  8. varnish before oils, pigments, decals, detail work.
  9. Always wear a mask, and kick the family pets and family outside and open the windows, the stuff stinks and if you can smell it your sucking it into your lungs too.

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Richard Elliott

Cheers Rich good article.