Saturday, August 8, 2009

When Good Models Go Bad

It’s a mournful Saturday for me and my proud Space Marines…

Today was the day that my local GW hobby center was hosting Armies on Parade.  I had intentions on attending to exhibit my army as well as get in a game or two, but to do such was not my fate.  My entire army has not been matte varnished and I thought I should probably do so before showing it off.  As you’ve probably already guessed and/or cringed… they frosted. 

frosty the marine

I did start with a test model that came out perfectly fine, so I proceeded to spray an entire squad of ten.  All of my hard work ruined.  The once brilliant red dulled and defaced.  See the originals.  I did recall a tip; to get rid of the frosting use rubbing alcohol.  Big Mistake!  The below is what rubbing alcohol will do.  It exacerbates the issue ten fold.

even frostier marine

There is actually two entirely different things which are both generally referred to as “frosting”  and these occur in one of two ways.  Cloudiness – After the varnish dries it takes on a cloudy or milky appearance.  This is an adhesion problem.  When the varnish does not properly cling to the model surface.  Frost (above picture) – After the varnish dries it looks like it was just removed from a deep freeze.  This is a surface issue where thousands of microscopic pits develop and refract light in all directions.  This could be due to the surface the varnish was applied to or an uneven coat.  To tell which is the case; take a clean brush with some clean water and go over the whole model.  If the cloudiness does NOT go away than you have an adhesion issue.  If the frosty look DOES disappear than it’s a surface issue.  The water fills all of the microscopic pits to create a smooth surface that light can bounce off of in a single direction.

If you have an adhesion issue than I’m sorry to say, it’s time to get the Simple Green and start over.  (Some have had success using rubbing alcohol to remove the cloudiness, but I strongly discourage this unless you have nothing to lose.  See the above picture.)  However, if it’s a surface issue you’re not entirely out of luck.  To try and correct the surface issue you need to fill in all of those tiny pits.  You can varnish the model again with a gloss varnish and then try a matte medium again or if the frosting isn’t too bad, you can try Microscale Industries Micro Flat.


Micro Flat is a liquid resin that dries crystal clear.  It can fill those microscopic holes and help get rid of the frosty look.  Here’s an example of a frosted Space Marine and then one I went over with Micro Flat.


Micro Flat does have a bit of a shine to it, but it’s not bad and could most likely be reduced if diluted with a bit of water.  I painted the above model with Micro Flat straight out of the bottle.  Micro Flat’s true design is actually a decal finisher.  If you’ve ever used decals you’ll know that once dry they tend to have a close to gloss finish.  Micro Flat can be applied to tone down the decals shine and seal it into place.

Unfortunately I’m still going to bin the whole squad that got frosted.  So the next couple of days I”m going to be in full throttle hobby mode trying to pump out another tactical squad so I can get this army back onto the table top.


  1. God damn it, Sorry man- you're like the 3rd guy this has happened too this month...I'm shocked that alchohol trick doesn't work..I picked that up from Drax/Ron at FTW and they said it worked for them..I have passed the info along to a few people...Gulp!, I guess its a crap shoot.

  2. Ouch. Another reason for me to never use any other varnish than brushed on.

  3. I have only had a frosting problem once. I managed to immediately wipe the problem away with a damp tissue before the varnish dried.

    In my case it was the specific can of varnish spray. They get something wrong in the mixture. I live in southern England which has a mild Atlantic climate so the weather is rarely an issue.


  4. Never ever ever use a spray varnish like purity seal. I will never make that mistake again.

  5. I am so sorry! I have to say I appreciate the full throttle approach to painting a new squad. I would be very tempted to lay them aside for a while. Good luck and we look forward to seeing the next crew. (Can this set be used as casualties or terrain or does it feel better to toss them?)

  6. In case 1) you MIGHT salvage the problem by spraying the figure with a 50/50 mixture of ethanol and balsamic turpentine.

    If it doesn't make it better just quickly wash it off in running water and no damage should be done.

    Works sometimes.

  7. I dont varnish my models because im scared of frosting or the model looking to shiny in natural light which means you cant see the details unless holding them right up close.
    tbh though i like the frosted look on your marine, its nothing like they were originally but it could be taken for weathering???

  8. I have beened burned with Purity Seal. Army Painter's spray varnish seems to be much better.

  9. Unfortunately I went against my better judgment and used the GW Purity Seal. A mistake I will surely never make again. If I decide to try and varnish my models again I'll most likely give the Testors Dullcote a go, but at this point I'm very hard pressed to try and varnish anything ever again.

  10. Oh God. I'm sorry the rubbing alcohol didn't work for you, mate: my heart just sank.

    I feel bad.

  11. @Drax - No worries, mate. These things happen. :)

  12. Oni,
    I've never had a problem using Dullcote, but Purity seal I have had issues with in the past. One thing to remember about Dullcote is to let the room you leave them in to dry thoroughly ventilate afterwards, as the fumes from it are just plain nasty.
    Also heard good things about Micro Flat, but never had a reason to use it, good to see some photos of how it looks when dried.

  13. I am so sorry this happened to you, It happened to me for the first time a couple of months ago. I ruined an imperial guard commissar. I tried to use paint thinner to wipe the frost away, but it ended up removing too much of the paint. I had to go the simple green route. How many of the miniatures were you able to save? Given that I have painted over a thousand miniatures over the past decade and this is a new phenomena , is there something different about the gw matte varnish these days?

  14. @Drathmere - I'm not sure what's wrong with the GW spray, but a lot of people hate it and now I understand why.

    I couldn't save any of them. The Micro Flat helped immensely, but couldn't restore them completely. I cut my loses and binned the whole squad. Bin mean bitz box, not garbage by the way. I may strip them down later, but for right now I'm just starting a whole new squad.

  15. I'm a beginner who's just starting his first army. As you can imagine, I paint very, very slow. Because of this, I charish every single unit that I complete. I ran into the same problem with the first models that I tried Purity Seal with, two of my Blood Angels tactical marines. At first I didn't know what was going on, so I applied even more of the stuff, but only to see it get worse.

    I ended up soaking them in brake fluid for 24 hours, brushed off as much of the paint as I could manage (with protective gloves and an old tooth brush), then blasting them with a garden hose. The results were stripped marines with a thin residue of their original primer. I was relieved to find that I could reprime them without any trace of this disaster.

  16. Oni,

    I've gotta agree with an above poster. I've sprayed the heck out of models before with Testors Dullcote and I've never had frosting issues. At the same time, if you've had a can sit for a while... buy a new can. that can always screw with folks.

  17. Heck, being frosted might be kind of a cool thing to add to a cold-weather chapter, I might do it on purpose.

  18. I just found your post and I'm sorry you had some issues with the spray. Man, that stinks, but thank you for passing along the tip with the Micro Flat. That is good to know.

    I'm trying to find out if WG has any other matte sprays OTHER than Purity. I found Purity Spray to be awful as well and very unpredictable. The Matte Varnish #62-03 was the BEST! Nice tooth and perfect matte coverage. I have used WG sprays since 2000 on model horses and nothing compared to how amazing that matte WG product was. I feel lost now cause Testors doesn't have the tooth like WG had.

  19. frosting terrifies me... every time i spray matt varnish i know i could be about to ruin a good model....

    my best practise if using spray matt varnish and it seems to work so far, is shake the can till your arm goes dead then switch and shake till your other arm goes dead too... and then shake the can some more...

    my best friend had a problem with frosting and he was one of the lucky ones that managed to fix it with rubbing alchohol.

    good post mate.


  20. I ruined up a Death Company squad and an assault squad this morning...i used for the very first time the purity seal from GW, and the frosty look appeared after 4-5 minutes...i was going to scream, they were so perfect :(

    Tomorrow i will buy the micro flat and i will try that solution...otherwise i will have to start everything over another time :(

  21. @Tommaso - I am so sorry to hear. Best of luck with getting them back to their once lustrous state.

  22. Thnx Oni, i will let you know if the solution suggested have worked or if i will have to paint them once again...

  23. just been stung with this my self, half my army is ok th other half is fogged

  24. I always avoided varnishes because I ruined every model I ever attempted it on.

    HOWEVER, I've recently varnished every one of my models, with this:

    It's pro varnish, meant to be painted on real art.

  25. even Army painter spray matt varnish can frost. It's just happened to me!!


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