Finishing our Pieces

Glorious Twelfth original designs are available for purchase through Shapeways. For FAQ’s about our pricing, process, and etc please read this; for information about how to get the most out of each and every Glorious Twelfth piece, read on! 3D printed miniatures can seem intimidating at first but, truly, with a few tips and tricks they can be finished just as easily as any other piece!

First thing’s first: these minis are plastic. They’re not the exact same kind of plastic as, for example, the plastic used in a Chrysnbon kit but luckily for us they can be finished with the exact same materials. The same steps, in the same sequence, are also important: prepping, sanding, priming, and, finally, painting! But where Chrysnbon bedevils us with sprue, 3D printed minis arrive…sticky. This is as a result of the 3D printing process; Shapeways does a fairly good job of cleaning each piece before it’s shipped but we still need to clean them.

For pieces that feel pretty clean to the touch, a bath in warm (NOT hot!), soapy water is ideal. I usually let them soak for 5-10 minutes before scrubbing them, gently, with a soft toothbrush. I then let them dry 24 hours before progressing on with my primer. Most of these materials are, to some degree, porous and thus rushing ahead too fast can lead to poorly adhered primer (or even mould) down the line.

For pieces that feel a bit gooier, I recommend a bath in food grade mineral oil. This works to de-bond the goo, which is actually a kind of wax, from the underlying structure. I submerge the piece for an hour or two, then attempt the warm bath procedure above. To the extent that there’s any good remaining, we rinse…and repeat. As this oil is a bit spendy, after I’m finally done–whenever that is–I pour what I’ve used back into the container so I can re-use it later. I also, and this is important, mark it as for art use only!

If sanding is necessary, now’s the time. Generally I don’t sand details; they don’t need it (and I don’t want to accidentally destroy them!) Rather, I concentrate on any smooth surfaces the piece might have such as the top of the mantelpiece on a fireplace and etc. That’s where I tend to find ridges, which are yet another annoying byproduct of the creation process. I find that I have the best success with wet sanding, starting with 180 grit and working my way down to 1.000 or even smaller. I periodically give the piece a rinse in the sink, as with tough sanding jobs grit tends to build up in the crevices. I also, when I’m working, rely on my fingers far more than my eyes; a surface can look smooth, but still feel rough to the touch.

Once the piece is completely (as in has dried for 24 to 48 hours, depending on humidity) dry, it’s time to prime. For airbrush, I recommend Vallejo. For spray, I recommend Tamiya Fine Surface Primer. I do not recommend any brush-on primers. Craft paints, Gesso, etc, are gloppy and won’t adhere. One rule always holds true, though: two or three or even four thin coats beat one thick coat every time. Apply your primer in a clean, well-ventilated area and then, another 24 to 48 hours after that….

We’re ready for paint!

For piece-specific tutorials, please check out our tutorials page. This ever-expanding collection is full of techniques, troubleshooting, and inspiration. For even more inspiration, please visit the gallery and, of course, Instagram. We’re always a few dozen tutorials behind where we want to be, as we design faster than we paint; if you’re feeling impatient, please contact us with requests! We always try to prioritise what we know people want to see.

Happy mini making!

The “Kelvin,” a faithful reproduction of a cast iron kitchen range produced by Henry Thomas Ironmonger during the reign of Queen Victoria and available for purchase in 1:12 and 1:24 scales through our shop
close-alt close collapse comment ellipsis expand gallery heart lock menu next pinned previous reply search share star