Like most miniature painters, I have a love/hate relationship with matte spray varnishes. They are temperamental, inconsistent, and can sometimes ruin a perfectly good project. It is for this reason that I pretty much stopped using canned matte varnishes altogether. I've switched to airbrushing Vallejo's line of varnishes. In fact, if you use an airbrush, I highly recommend them.
This month was different, though. This month I ended up painting more than 140 miniatures for the boardgame "Myth". If I had used the airbrushing method it would have added a lot of time and effort to doing that final step. The problem is that the soft plastic boardgame pieces tend to fare poorly with most spray varnishes. The chemicals in the varnish will react to the plastic underneath causing the varnish to never fully cure. This will leave the minis tacky - which is not a desirable end result. It is because of this that I decided to order a can of Liquitex's Professional Matte Spray Varnish.
Like pretty much everything from Liquitex, this is a water-based acrylic product. This is why I wanted it for this project. No problems with tacky minis. My first quick test on one of the pieces confirmed this fact. Some other things I noticed right away about the varnish were:
- It really is matte! This is one of those hit and miss things about matte varnishes. One man's matte is another man's semi-gloss. In this case, you get true matte or flat.
- It dries pretty quickly. Honestly, it's about the same as other matte sprays I've used so at least there's no extra wait time. 20 minutes to a half hour after painting (on a somewhat humid day) and I could handle the minis.
- It smells like house paint. Liquitex calls it "low odor" but to that I have to ask, "compared to what?" It's not the odor one expects from a varnish. Instead, it reeks of fresh latex house paint. You won't be using this in the house.
I went ahead and coated the entire run of minis with this and I couldn't have been happier with the results. Well, I suppose I could have. With this style of mini I don't mind just a bit of gloss, but that's neither here nor there. The truth is that the varnish performed as well as I could have hoped and better than I expected. In the past my favorite spray varnishes have been Floquil's (now extinct) "Figure Flat" and Testors Dullcote (and sadly Dullcote hasn't been the same in recent years). I think that there's a good chance that this varnish is going to end up on the top of the list. Now I just need to try out the gloss and semi-gloss versions.