Pertís guide to dipping.

Dipping. What is this enigmatic way of painting figures? How does it work? Well, thatís what Iím going to try to explain for you.

Basically, dipping involves the painting of a figure in its base colours, and its immersion into a type of stain to add depth and definition to the figure. Actually, itís a lot more complex than that, but thatís the essence of it.

So how do I get ready to dip? Well, the first thing you have to be aware of when you are going to dip figures, is to make sure that the figure is completely free of all flash. Any flash left on the figure will become very visible. This is important, since when the figure is dipped, there is little you can do with touching up the colours with paints. So it is best to get it right before you start.

Iíll run you though my Kroot warriors, and show you the various steps that I have taken in order to get an army done.

First off, the figures were built, and cleaned for flash. I mounted them all on inverted flying bases, with the pole pointing downwards. This is just a painting quirk that I had, but it proved to be quite useful. Iíll show you later what I mean. Irrespective, it allows me to put a unit of figures onto a 2x4 with holes drilled into it whilst painting/drying. It also keeps the figures upright, and allows you to move them into a dry/warm/dust free place in one go without them falling over.


Once they were built and mounted, I sprayed them white. I made sure I got the undercoat as smooth as possible. Once that was done, I painted the figure in flat colours. There were no highlights, there were no shades. It was raw paint that was out of the pot.

At this point, it is worth mentioning the whole thing about choice of colour. Before you dip, there is a visible difference between colours that have a similar tone, such as Bleached Bone and White. As such, in a pre-dipped state, the two areas can be seen easily. After they have been dipped, they tend to become very similar. Of course, this is dependent upon the colour of the dip, and the viscosity of it, but as a rule of thumb, similar colours will come out even more similar after they have been dipped. So in order to make sure that you get enough contrast on the dipped figure, it is worth using colours that have a stronger contrast next to each other on the figure.

This might sound rambling, but it is worth remembering. The first kroot I did had desert yellow bodies, bleached bone bellies, and white claws. They all come out a very similar tone of light brown, and really didnít look too convincing.

So once I had done the basic colours, I had to let the figure stand and dry totally. I let them stand for at least several hours, if not over night. It is worth mentioning that at this point, I had painted everything on the figure. Not only the ďbiologicalĒ parts, but also the metal parts had been painted.


Now comes the interesting part. The part you have all been waiting for. The dipping!

This stage requires a few things in preparation. Firstly, you have to be ready to catch spills and splashes of dip. Secondly, you have to be prepared for dropping figures, or figures breaking. Thirdly, you have to have everything you need to be within armís reach of where you intend dip. Lastly, you must have a cloth near by, and make sure you do not wear clothes that you are too fond of.

After opening the can of dip, I took each kroot and submerged it into the dip until only the base was above the dip surface. I held onto the flying base pole (hence it was a good idea to mount them up like that in the first place). Once the figure was dipped, I lifted the figure out of the dip, and let it drain back into the can, kroot down.

Once the figure was not running dip any more, I lifted it quickly over into my spinning area. This spinning area is a cardboard box that I have cut the top flaps off. Holding the figure kroot down still, I revolved the figure by spinning it between my thumb and finger. This spun off much of the excess dip. I did this until there was no marked splash that was coming off the kroot. Then, the kroot was turned the correct way around, and the flying pole was then inserted back into the 2x4 mount (good eh?). The rest of the kroot unit was done in the same way.

Now, there are several ways of shaking off the excess dip. I opt for a manual spinning process. Others try swinging the figure at an armís length. Iíve found that this puts more strain on the figure, and may cause it to either break, or fly off the base. It also can give you some serious elbow problems (I had a tennis elbow for weeks after my first attemptsÖ). Meanwhile, others use electric drills to spin their figures. Iíve also tried this, but in my opinion and experience, it removes too much of the dip form the figure, thus lessening the effect of the dip. In addition, unless the figure is balance almost completely centrally, and the drill rpm is too fast, it will fly off a flying base. You have to attach it some other way.

Iíve refined the flying base system a bit now, and have resorted to a spinning stick. I have mounted the flying base pole into a garden cane, with the narrow end. The wide end is sticking out of the stick. Then, I drill a hole through the base of the figure, as close to the center as possible, that fits the wide end peg snugly.I then insert the peg into the base, dip the figure, let it drip off, and spin the figure by turning the cane between my hands (like a boy scout lighting a fire). Then the figure can be popped off the peg, and the next one mounted. Actually, I have several canes and pegs, so I can make a production line out of itÖ

Anyway, it is worth remembering that at this point, that if you wait too long for the dip to drip off the figure, before you shake/spin it, the dip will start to air dry, and you will get less dip off the figure. Wait too long, and the figure is likely to end up wasted.

The drying time of the figure depends on the type of dip. But in general, I leave them to dry for about 24 hours. You must leave them in a warmish place, and dust free. Also, be warned that the dip might smell, and might be toxic, so you have to leave them well ventilated.

Once the dip was dry, all that remained was to do the bases.

Presto! Here is the final result.


I used the following dip. ďLiberon Bistrol LakkĒ in a light walnut colour. It is a polyurethane based wood stain. I have yet to find a water based stain that works, since the polyurethane base has a higher viscosity (itís like syrup), and is much more sticky!

Iíve tried to dip many types of figures. Iíve had most luck with ďorganicĒ figures, such as Kroot, Tyranids and Lizardmen, and clothes (such as Empire clothes, orc rags etcÖ). Iíve also done all metallic figures, such as Necrons, and Iíve done Space Marines with large surfaces.

Plastic figures are easiest, since they are lighter and simpler to mount. Metal figures are trickier, but still simple. Make sure that if you are doing a multi part metal figure, that you try to pin as much of it as possible. This is to make sure that the chance of breakage during spinning/shaking is as low as possible. Resin presents different problems. It is brittle, and can break unexpectedly. Larger things are really hard. Some large models can be dipped in stages. I dipped a carnifex in parts, and then assembled the figure.

The rule of thumb is really that it is worth trying. Although the larger the surfaces that will be dipped, the more difficult it will be to get a smooth finish. Sometimes, that is what you want, other times it isnít. So I would recommend trying it out first, before committing an army to it.

Pros of dipping.

It can produce lots of figures quickly to an apparently high standard.
It is a simple technique that anybody can try.
It can produce stunning horde armies!

Cons of dipping.
Itís messy.
It can smell.
The dip can be costly.
Dipped things look, well, dipped.
It can break your figures.