Tool Tips 06 – Lighting, Holders, and Sealer

Tool Tips 06 – Lighting, Holders, and Sealer

Whew, been fighting a bug going around these parts, but hope to get caught up in the blogosphere soon! Last time (Tool Tips 05) we talked about Priming. A crucial step before you actually start to apply paints on the miniature. This time we’re going to tackle a few odd topics, saving more room for bigger articles on painting.



Lighting – in the past I’ve painted in various lighting conditions. From daylight coming through the window, dimly lit entertainment rooms, under LED lamps, to daylight bulbs. The latter is where I ended up recently. Last year I picked up a lamp with a good adjustable arm. Then outfitted it with a daylight bulb. It didn’t necessarily improve my painting, but it probably saved my eyes a bit. I’ve really been quite happy with it and would recommend to anyone, get a nice adjustable lamp and slap a daylight bulb in it. You could go with something more expensive like this one: Daylight U32500 Triple Bright Lamp. But until I have more money to burn, I will stick with what I have for now. Of note, the lamp in the picture and that I linked to above, looks similar to what I bought but isn’t the exact same. I’d recommend trying it out in a store and/or reading up other reviews before making your lamp decision.

Reading Glasses – while I don’t wear glasses normally, I’ve noticed that my (old) eyes are having a harder time seeing the tiny, tiny details on minis that they used to. I also thought ‘Hey, if I’m magnifying my mistakes, they shouldn’t look as bad at a regular distance! I originally bought the following:


Yoctosun Head Mount Magnifier

A really nice set, with multiple lenses of different magnification levels. It also has a small LED light, but I never really used that. I tended to swap between two different powered lenses depending if I was just painting or doing detail work. But after using the goggles, I would have great big marks across the bridge of my nose and/or forehead where the contraption rests. I tried getting some gel pads, and that seemed to help a tad. The gadget sadly, was just a bit too heavy. Then one day while checking out the talkfantasyfootball forum, “Digger Goreman” mentioned reading glasses. It was truly a “DUH!” moment for me. Reading glasses (as pictured and linked above) are very cheap and come in just the right magnification for me, plus they are light and super comfortable. I bought a pack off of Amazon, and had some spares to give to my Father-in-law! Plus I don’t look like some crazy mad scientist/jeweler when I’m painting. Now I just look like a crazy old man playing with little plastic toys. So much better.

Miniature Holders – I’ve gone through various methods on this one. Beginning with the ‘hold mini or mini’s base by fingers’ to ‘use mounting putty to attach mini to top of paint bottle’ method. I have to give a shout out to Mike C and his infamous: Painting Stand. I think he found a really nice solution that worked quite well for him. This further inspired me to find my own solution.

I ended up picking up some prescription bottles, as they seemed a perfect dual purpose solution. I could store the mini parts inside, but also use the top to attach the mini to while painting or priming.

Those worked and they didn’t. For small to medium sized miniatures, I could pretty easily get all the mini parts in there after trimming/washing. Also useful for keeping track of sub-assembled parts after priming. But for larger or wider minis, I had to pick up a different set of prescription bottles. All in all, I wasn’t too happy with what I thought would be the perfect one size fits all solution. I mainly just use the bottles to attach minis to the top of, when priming.

So, let’s back up and look at some of the criteria and reasons for having a miniature holder in the first place. The most important reason is to make sure you are not touching area where you have just painted (or primed) the mini, as the paint will smear or come off, and possibly get said paint on other areas of the mini or your clothes or your nose. So here are the basic criteria I’ve been trying to meet in this quest.


Something to hold instead of directly holding the mini while painting/priming – Pretty much anything you attach a mini to with glue, mounting putty, etc. should allow you to hold it without directly touching the mini, so that’s a pretty easy requirement to meet.

Mini should stay firmly attached, yet be easily removed – The second one has been problematic, as some types of mounting putty didn’t stick firm enough (or are like bubble gum and a pain to get off)

Great at sticking, tough at removing!

and allowed the mini to wobble or completely fall off during painting. This is even more problematic with larger, heavier metal minis. Outside of a mini holder that firmly clamps the mini down, the issue appears to be mainly with the mounting putty itself. Further research on different brands will hopefully alleviate this problem.

Comfortable weight and size in hand – I’ve found that holding a plastic mini by itself, just seems too light in my hand. I seem more likely to drop the mini as well, as I tend to hold it a little more gingerly. So a holder that has a bit of weight to it is ideal. Not too much weight, as then I run the risk of tiring out my hand. I could probably weigh certain objects to see what really feels comfortable, but for now I’m just going by feel.

Doesn’t get in the way of painting – Most of the ‘mount mini on a cylindrical surface with mounting putty’ will accomplish this. The only time I’ve ran into issues is when the base of the holder is too wide and it makes it difficult to paint undersides of the mini when turning them over. The prescription bottles I originally purchased, don’t seem to get in the way too much, so that’s about the right size lid. This is the one concern I have about a lot of the commercial products I’ve seen made for holding minis, as they all seem to either have a wide base or a stem that obscures part of the mini. At some point I might try out some of these to see what I think.

Portable to and from priming/painting areas – this beckons back to Mike C’s solution. Something that I could attach the mini to. Take them down to the garage for priming and later bring back up to the office for painting. The prescription bottles sort of fit this bill, but I tend to take the minis off the prescription bottles after priming and use another tool for handling while painting.

Can store parts inside for sub-assembly – this was again, something born out of the prescription bottle handle idea. Since the bottles are a container, one could store parts inside them during the process of getting them painted. As mentioned above, it kind of works for most of the ‘human’ sized minis in my collection. Though I found that cylindrical containers are not as easily stored as plastic bags. The cylinders end up taking more space and are easily knocked around.

A solution, of sorts. While looking around at various options, I eventually came across a couple that sort of work for me:

Corks (#18) – these were just the right size (glad I guessed right for once!). I cut a small indentation across the bottom of one, and I can slide a tabbed mini in there and it holds firmly enough that it won’t drop or wobble while manipulating it during a painting session. The smaller end is just the right size that it doesn’t interfere when painting the bottom of a mini. I’m pretty sure a large metal mini would still wobble or fall off. It won’t store parts sub-assembly wise, but most solutions don’t. The only thing I’m really not crazy about is the weight. Cork is pretty light. I could try removing the core and adding some metal to make it heftier. Maybe at some point.

Rubber Stoppers – similar to the corks above, these were just the right size in my hand and don’t get in the way of painting. I tried cutting a slot in the top of one, but unfortunately they don’t ‘self heal’ like cork does. Which means I can’t just slot a mini in and expect it to hold. This solution relies on mounting putty. Again, it also doesn’t hold parts as a container. However, the feel of the rubber stoppers is just right. Very comfortable in my hand, the rubber helps with grip and the weight is perfect. This has been my preferred solution when painting so far.

The above pic shows how the two stoppers ended up working for me. The cork has a nice sturdy slot to it. The rubber stopper needs some putty to keep the minis secured.

Will there be an even better solution in 2018? If I had to guess, it might be a weighted version of the cork stopper. Only time will tell for sure!

Stirring stick – I use a plastic palette knife to add drops of water and stir up my paint. This is a bit of dumb preference on my part. I guess it’s nostalgic, as I had one in the past and became fond of it. The advantages are that it washes off easy. The point isn’t too sharp that it will damage or scratch any palette papers you might be using.

I likely got mine in some paint kit when I took an art class, so it was probably a lot cheaper than buying it individually. The main thing, is you want something to stir your paint up, either to add water or mix colors. Something that is easy to clean or disposable and something that won’t scratch if you’re using palette papers. Also you don’t want to use something that will splinter or shed pieces off into your paint.

Sealer – normally this would be the last thing I would talk about, as it’s typically your final step in miniature painting. However, I noticed that this is getting long and I still need to talk about paints and brushes, which I’ll have to save for a later time.

The one I linked to and that is pictured is “Gloss Cote”. I actually use “Dull Cote”, also by Testors. Some people use Satin Cote, which is inbetween the sheen of the Gloss and matte of the Dull Cotes. The Dull Cote will darken the colors slightly, so it is something to keep in mind (and likely test out).

I’ve had the same 3oz can of Dull Cote for years, and only just recently had to crack open a second bottle. I don’t know if that says something about how long the bottle lasts, or (more likely) how seldom I feel like my minis are done enough that I can apply sealer! Although I just recently learned that you can paint over a mini that has been sealed with Dull Cote, so I guess I could keep fixing a mini forever! At any rate, this will help protect the paint on the mini. It’s not foolproof, but something is better than nothing. It smells like hair spray when you spray it, and will change the color of your paint a bit. All stuff that you just have to get used to, if you want to protect your mini.


So we got started on some of the tools that are useful during the painting process. Next time around I hope to tackle palettes, paints, and/or brushes.

Next up: Tool Tips 07

9 thoughts on “Tool Tips 06 – Lighting, Holders, and Sealer

  1. Thanks backtothehammer! I might end up checking one out eventually, as they are not terribly expensive. I think the base might be too wide for my purposes though. Maybe it’s just the Dwarves that I’m (perpetually) painting, but I find I often need some room to paint the undersides.


        1. Nope, I looked first thing. I think your posts auto-approved at this point. After someone has had their posts approved a certain amount of times, the system just auto-accepts.


  2. Good advice as always. I have to admit that I usually just hold my miniatures by the base. Do you think that there is much of a benefit from mounting them on (e.g.) a cork for painting purposes?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yea, I definitely find that I have more stability, less dropping, and fewer wet paint touches when mounting to a base. The base can be just about anything. Some people stick them on top of a paint pot. That works pretty well too.


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