What to watch out for when giving your model, figure, or 3D print a glossy finish. Knowing the correct procedure can make it easier and save you both time and frustration. Read on to see what to avoid as we prep the Lego Minifigure couple for their big day.
There isn’t any quick way to get a smooth glossy finish on a plastic model, the best results involve time and ‘elbow grease’. However the more effort you put into a base surface and priming coat the easier it is to finish the layers you put over it. For the wedding Minifigures it didn’t go as planned, resulting in days of trial and error. Each mistake blew out the timeline as it required the paint to be dry before any fixes could be addressed. A great first tip is to be patient, let your surface completely dry before attempting to fix it. Anything done to a wet painted surface will create a horrible sticky mess, and cost more time to then further fix.
When wanting a smooth even and glossy surface on your finished model, spray painting is a very cost-effective way to achieve a great result. Applied properly, spray paint can help hide irregularities and give off an even colour finish. With each positive there is however a negative, the nuances of spray paints are not always mentioned with how-to videos or the can’s labeling. Be aware that some colours of paint are oil based and some are water based, this includes ‘undercoat’ sprays too. If they are only touch dry when applying a second coat it can react and ruin your intended finish, or not adhere properly to the model itself. This even applies to different colours of the same brand.
One of the issues we faced was the reaction of the glossy top coat on the undercoat primer. The surface would ripple and look like a dry creek bed. After some follow up testing it was due to the incompatibility of the top coat to adhere to the primer. The result was to sand it down and spray again, and while the initial intention was to use enamels in order to get a high quality finish. With the increased drying time and complications of surface finishes we had with the whites and yellows, we ended up using a citadel paint and air brush, finished with an acrylic clear coat.
Traditionally when dealing with glossy surfaces and enamel paints the finished surface is left to dry and becomes a hard high gloss. However when working with so many irregular shapes there would always be a dust speckle or hair, or pool of paint on each part of the model. We even had issues with un-even drying that would result in fingerprints left here and there. The workshop didn’t afford a dust free environment and any fix would require recoating the entire piece. Our result, while more labor intensive, proved to be much quicker and not be so fragile. We sanded and polished each component instead of relying on the paint to cure without flaws. With a glossy paint applied each part would be wet sanded with increasing grit from 400 to 1200 and them polished on a buffing wheel with a mirror coat car polish.
This process gave a great and consistent result, as the more time spend sanding and polishing, the better the finished surface. This has now been adopted for all future projects as the go to for a high gloss and mirror finishing.