Last night I suffered a mild case of that wargamer’s nightmare, varnish failure. I had finished painting the next batch of Minden SYW British infantry, and gave them their usual brush-coat of Vallejo matt varnish. This is a varnish I have used on all my miniatures for the last few years as, after much trial and tribulation, it was the only varnish I have found that gives a near-matt finish.
Anyway, I applied the varnish just as I normally do, on an evening that wasn’t too hot, too muggy or too cold, and left them to dry. A half hour later, I came back to look at them, and was horrified to see that the varnish had dried to a milky white wherever it sat in a crevice (for example between arms and bodies, and in engraved lines separating belts from each other. The whole overall colour of the figures looked a bit washed out, too.
So for the next few hours I did a touch-up, inking in the crevices again and pumping up the colour with some re-coats of the bigger or more visible areas. All in all, I probably got them so most people won’t see the difference. But, as they are my figures, I know, and I’ll always feel a little unsatisfied with this batch.
I’m still not sure what went wrong. Up till now I’ve been very pleased with this varnish. I’ve only once had a similar problem, and that was definitely caused by trying to apply too thick a coat – I learned fast after that! I partly suspect the culprit in this case might not have been the varnish, but the brush. Although I did wash it carefully, I had used the same wide brush a week ago for dry-brushing the white gaiters (the part I hate most about painting 18th century miniatures!). Maybe there was still a microscopic amount of white pigment in the hairs.
Anyway, for the next batch, I’ll first varnish just one figure with a new brush, and monitor the results, before doing the whole lot.