Review: Liquitex Professional Matte Spray Varnish

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.

July Now Full

I never even had a chance to let people know that July was available for commissions before it was no longer available for commissions.

I've tried to schedule July a little light as I will be attending Gencon that month. I'll be doing demonstrations of Iwata Airbrushes at the Black Knight Games booth who are officially representing Iwata at the show.

I did this last year and it was a ton of fun. Gencon has really grown over the past 10 years. Demonstrations were pretty much non-stop through the entirety of the show.

I don't usually like to schedule things more than two months out so if you are thinking about having me paint for you be sure to contact me in June.

May Update

As May begins I'm still finishing up the last April project.  I expect that to be completed today - tomorrow at the latest.

I only have two projects for May. First up - the Tantive IV. This will be a repaint where the ship will be going from its White beginnings to a fully red finish - including some custom markings. Yes, I'm planning to do videos. Probably several.

The second project is a big one. I'll be painting the entire contents of the boardgame Myth. Lots and lots and lots of fantasy minis. This will be like painting a Warhammer army.

June projects are all set and I'm starting to think about July. If you contact me about work right now I'll be looking to fit you into that month.

Now - back to that final April project...

Now accepting June commissions.

Since we are now in April I am scheduling work for June. The months are getting booked up faster and faster every month so if you've been wanting me to paint something for you now is the time to let me know. The earliest of you might see your work done in late May.

Full Time Commission Painting - The first 4 months

Although I've been commission painting pretty consistently since 2010, it's only been 4 months since I started doing it exclusively and I thought it might be a good time to reflect on what I've learned so far.

Certainly my biggest mistake going in was scheduling myself to go to two conventions in February. This set me back almost two weeks even though I was able to get some work done on the large Malifaux project while at Templecon. I really shouldn't have done this as I'm only just now completely caught up from that misstep. Aside from being a little  behind for a month, this has left me in the dark in terms of learning what my capabilities really are in terms of scheduling work. I have a feeling that I can schedule myself a little more work per month than I've been doing. The fact that I was able to so quickly catch up on the work I had fallen behind on was encouraging. Still, I don't know if that was because I was pushing myself with long hours and no days off until it was done or because I just had more time available than I thought. Perhaps I should time myself better in the future.

Something else I've learned is that there's a lot more time involved in logistics than I thought. The e-mails, packing and shipping, supply runs... this all takes time and when you are responsible for everything all of those tasks take time away from painting. These are the things that I just didn't think about previously.

You never know where you work is going to come from. I've gotten huge projects by posting short comments on Reddit and Boardgamegeek. Not pitches, mind you - just short responses to people looking for painters with a link to my site. At some point I'm going to do some specific marketing related blog posts for those looking to do this kind of work, because I find it really interesting, but also because I see a lot of people who want to do this kind of work but clearly have no idea about how to market themselves. 

Probably the most important thing that I've learned (or maybe "confirmed" is a better word) is that I LOVE building and painting minis. It would be nearly impossible to do this if I didn't and it just makes me happy to know that, at least for now, I can make ends meet doing the thing that I love. I haven't been this happy in a long time.

Going to Templecon

So, it turns out that I'll be at , February 5-8 in Warwick, RI. I had originally intended to attend for a single day, but my son ended up having a spare bed in his hotel room so I'm going to be there for the entire show.

My plan is mostly to just take thing show in, shoot a lot of video, and maybe play a game or two. Thing thing is, I also need to be painting while I'm there (or possibly just assembling... all of those Malifaux minis aren't going to assemble themselves). My February schedule is packed full of projects and I can't afford to just be away from them for the whole time.

Anyway, if you're planning to be there and you see me, don't be shy. I'm hoping to meet lots of new people while I'm out.

February Commission Update

With my announcement of my move to full time painting my schedule has been filling up quickly, at least for the short term. February is getting full, but I think that there may still be time to get something in for the end of the month.

A Saga of Saga - Creating a Welsh army - part 1

I was recently introduced to the Dark Age skirmish game, Saga, by my friend KT. KT was the first of the group to pick it up back when it was released but it sat on his shelf for a number of years before it gained enough traction to start getting some play. Personally, I love it. LOVE it. It really pushes a lot of my gaming buttons all at once.

Anyway, KT has just started blogging his creation of a new army for Saga on the Greenfield Redshirts group on Facebook (Greenfield Redshirts is our local miniatures gaming club). He's agreed to let me repost his blog here. So, without further adieu...

A saga of saga.

It's probably pretty obvious by now that I am a huge fan of Tomahawk/Gripping Beast's Saga game.

Jason, Jay and I have been really enjoying it, and the deeper we get into the system, the more and more we like it.

We have already mentioned in other posts what the game is more or less about, and people should have an idea at least of what a game of saga looks like. And from those posts there is a, perhaps tentative, but growing interest, not only from the Redshirts, but folks who have come into the store on days we were playing it.

Only a few of the group have a lot of "traditional" miniatures game experience, and fewer still have historical miniatures game experience. So for those new to miniatures gaming, looking at a game of Saga, and hearing people talking about it may seem a little overwhelming. Or perhaps they have skewed sense of the time and money commitments required to get into Saga, or the miniatures gaming hobby.

That said, I'm working on a new project, that I hope will not only help to generate more interest and enthusiasm for Saga, but perhaps miniature gaming in general. Over the next few weeks, I am going to post a stage-by-stage "blog" of the purchase, assembly, painting, and finally gaming with a Saga warband.

Before I go into how I selected and purchased my minis and dice, I would like to first say that given the opportunity, I would have ordered these through Greenfield Games. There is a strong possibility the product line will be available from our favorite brick and mortar soon, so definitely check in with the folks in the know before purchasing. I'm sure that if and when it becomes available through GG, we will post here with much fanfare! So, the first installment.....

The first step before taking the plunge a slapping down your hard-earned cash on a mess o' minis is: do your research. Be sure you are either familiar enough with the game, or have knowledgeable people of whose brains you can pick beforehand. Nothing blows more chunks than buying a bunch of minis it turns out you can't use for the game. Again, the rulebook is a good place to start. However, an experienced player may be able to provide with with more saavy army building advice that the rule book can.

Since I am touting this project as a low-cost way for a new player to get into Saga, I have chosen the Welsh army as my subject. For all the right reasons: Their list is in the core rulebook. So no need to purchase any ancillary supplements. Indeed, so long as no one in your group is running the same army, you could probably borrow the battleboard from someone who has the rulebook. There are three core rulebooks in the hands of group members at the moment. And one "Crescent & Cross", and one "Northern Fury". Initially, there is no real need for a new player from our group to get the rule book. At first 

A quick aside on Saga Rulebooks: There are really two rulebooks to choose from when you get into the system. The original is Saga. It includes the core rules and the army lists for the Vikings, Anglo-Danes, Welsh, and Normans. The other option is Crescent & Cross. This covers the armies of the Crusades. And has army lists for Christian and Muslim armies of the period. Both books include essentially the same core rules. The C&C book is hard cover and all together a higher level of production quality so is more expensive. But if you know you are going to do a Templar force or something, that's the book you would want.

So, if I'm borrowing the battleboard what do I need? Well, minis and Saga Dice.

Architects of War are the US distributors for all things Gripping Beast/ And a perusal of their somewhat oldschool site will make it clear that Saga is well represented. With all the books, minis, dice, measuring sticks and what not you could want/need. You don't need most of it.

So let's take a look at what I do need, and how to most efficiently and economically put it together.....

The Saga dice. You just need them. Could you make your own? Yes. Do you want to? Probably not. A set of dice, of which you will only need one set for whatever warband you are doing, costs $19.00. They are available from,, etc...... They are almost always 19.00. There is no need to pay more than 19.00. Some dice, like the Viking dice, may be hard to find at the moment. If you are jonsed for a set of dice like that, you can always get them from the UK where they are nearly always available. Like

So, I went to (fast shipping from Long Island  ). Added one set of Welsh dice to my cart. 19.00. "in-stock" Cha'ching!

Next the minis. When you go to (Saga HQ USA), you will see all these super dope starter warbands. They are sweet, but can get spendy. Word to the wise: if you like cavalry, your army will cost more. Something to be remembered is that these starter sets are made of GB's metal miniatures, and the price reflects that. So, looking at the Welsh starter set, it comes in at over $70.00. But no worries! Plastic makes it possible!

Lots of great plastics have been hitting the market of late, and the Dark Ages has not been overlooked. And in fact, most of these plastic sets feature superior miniatures to the various aging lines of metal miniatures out there. Gripping Beast and Wargames Factory both make affordable plastic sets that can build anywhere from 32-40 figures per set, ranging from 25.00 to 35.00 a set. Not bad. However, can one of these sets make a warband? Yes and no. There are not enough plastics on the market to cover some of the more "esoteric" Dark Age armies, but you can do quite few. Off the top of my head, with the plastics available you could make: Irish, Scots, Anglo-Saxons, Anglo-Danes, Vikings, Jomsvikings, Hiberno-Norse, Norse-Gaels, and of course - Welsh. There re pitfalls with the plastics, as you will want to be certain the sprues included will allow you to equip your troops as you want them to be represented. In most cases, you will end up needing to either get a second box of plastics, or a blister or two of metal minis to fill in the gaps.

For my Welsh I chose Gripping Beasts plastic "Dark Age Warriors" set. $35.00 retail. It can be used to build up to 40 figures, but more importantly for a Welshman, it also can make a whole Welsh warband from a single box. That's half the cost of the metal starter set from AoW. (AoW also of course carries GB plastics so no skin of their teeth  ).

Here's what I can make:

Warlord w/ hand weapon
4x Hearthguard w/ hand weapons
8x Warriors w/ Javelins
8x Warriors w/ Javelins
12x Levy w/ slings or bows


Warlord w/ hand weapon
4x Hearthguard w/ Javelins
4x Hearthguard w/ Javelins
8x Warriors w/ Javelins
12x Levy w/ slings or bows

There are a couple of other ways I could probably put them together, but you can see how with a single box of models a complete force can be built. So, add one box of GB "Dark Age Warriors" to the cart "in-stock"'ching. Checkout!

There it is..... Models purchased. If all things go well I should have them by Freya's Day or Saturn's Day, when I'll post the "un-boxing" and assembly of the individual figures etc....

All said and done, I purchased all of the figures and dice needed for a Saga Warband for $54.00 plus shipping and handling. These are retail prices, so should be the same through brick-and-mortar with tax replacing shipping - so you'll not only be supporting an FLGS but also lining the pockets of our Bostonian Robber Baron Overlords - Woot!

There are other costs to consider when one is getting into miniatures gaming completely from scratch: paints, brushes, hobby knives, glue etc....I'll go over some of that next time. But if you are already more or less set up to build and paint figures, getting into Saga is easy!

I'll let you know when everything arrives! Happy games! You died as you lived - in a flash of the blade!

More posts as they happen...

Full Time in 2015!

When I started doing commissions in 2010 I had all the time in the world to paint, but very few commissions. Eventually I started working full time at my game store and did the commission work on my days off. This worked well enough for me. The fact that I love to paint meant that I didn't mind spending my "free" time on it. Still, things were going to have to change eventually.

Over the past four years I've realized how much I love painting. The fact that I could continue doing commission work even though it limited the amount of time I had to hang out with friends, take trips, or even just get outside showed me that. What that means to me is that maybe this is what I should be doing while I can do it.

So, starting February 1, I will be devoting all of my time to commission painting work. I believe that it's time to make the move. I have a lot of repeat business from a number of clients (you all know who you are) and I'll be spending a lot more time looking for new ones. One of the luxuries of my old schedule was that I didn't actually need to look for work. It tended to show up when needed. On the other hand I know I've lost some jobs because I didn't have the capacity to get all of the work done in a short enough time span. As I expect to be tripling the amount of time I spend painting that should not be an issue.

At the moment I have all of the work that I'm likely to be able to complete before the end of January, but once February comes I'll be taking all of the work I can get. If you've been thinking about asking about my services, please do so. I'd love to chat with you about it.



Space Hulk for Sale... soon




When Space Hulk was re-released back in 2009 I immediately picked up a copy. I don't think that I started painting the minis until 2010 but not long after that I started doing commission painting work and the time for my own projects pretty much dried up.

Well, here we are several years later and I'm about to wrap up this project. The funny thing is that now that I'm almost at the end of the project I find that I would prefer to be playing other things. On the positive side, that means that if you are interested in obtaining a fully painted Space Hulk (2009) set you are in luck.

If you think you might be interested in purchasing this set before it heads to eBay please contact me immediately. In the meantime, click the librarian above to see some examples of the painted mins. The first few photos in the list are actual minis from the set. The later photos are from earlier sets that I painted. I'll have more pics up soon.

The best part about doing YouTube videos

I started creating painting videos on YouTube in 2010. The original idea was to promote my new commission miniature painting service while providing some tips and tricks for painting minis. As time went on I realized that I really just enjoyed sharing my techniques with people and people seemed to be interested in what I had to say about painting.

Of course, the BEST part is when somebody shares something that they've done based on a technique that the learned in one of my videos. For example, Aaron Utley painted these TIE Phantoms using the techniques that I shared in this video. I think that, in some ways, his execution is better than mine. I see a little more subtlety to the crackling energy that I didn't quite get (painting on that texture is rough!).

I never get tired of hearing how I might have helped encourage you all to paint. It's very motivating. It makes me want to continue to paint and share what I do.

I'm Doomed!

When I first started doing commission painting I assumed that I would spend 90% of my time painting Warhammer 40k models. I mean, it's the biggest game out there with the most players it would only make sense. That's slowly turning out not to be the case at all.

Sure, I started out painting a lot of 40K models. Warhammer fantasy models were well represented also, but something interesting happened along the way. That interesting thing was Doom. Doom miniatures, to be more specific. I'm not talking about miniatures from the board game Doom published by FFG. No, I'm talking about the miniatures originally produced by Reaper Miniatures back in the 1990s. I got a commission to paint a set of them. As is my normal procedure I photographed them and put the resulting photos up on my Flickr site. That part was all pretty normal. No, the weird thing happened after that. When people started to discover the photos of that set and began requesting that I paint their Doom miniatures as well. We're talking about miniatures that never had a game to go with them. Miniatures based on a video game. Miniatures that are VERY hard to come by. These miniatures started appearing more and more on my "to do" list.

I'm not complaining. The fact that I have a continuous stream of work is fantastic. To be fair, I don't ONLY paint Doom miniatures (it only seems like it sometimes). I get a fantastic array of miniatures for different games from different companies so I don't ever get bored. I've been working on stuff for Super Dungeon Explore, Dropzone Commander, Mercs, Descent, Warmachine, Hordes, Dust... (wow - I just realized how many games I've painted miniatures for). I still do stuff for Warhammer 40K too, but not nearly as much as I expected to be doing. 

So what's the point? Well, mostly to share with you the odd way things tend to go sometimes. You expect one thing and you get another. Who would have thought that I'd be painting more miniatures from a line that no longer exists and that never had a tabletop game to go with them? Not I.

As seen on CNBC

Back when I was doing PR work it was not uncommon for me to be quoted in articles on game related websites. These days, not so much. So when I got interviewed for CNBC (by my good friend Chis Morris) it was a pretty cool experience.

The article is about turning your hobby into a career - which is something that I've been doing for my whole life.

I entered a contest...

Back in the day I used to enter a lot of painting contests. I would win awards at local shows and such but I always found the experience to be... odd. I'm not sure that I liked the feeling of waiting for somebody else to tell me how good they thought my work was. So, even though I did win a lot of awards I eventually stopped doing it because I didn't enjoy it.

My contest entry

My contest entry

I recently let a friend of mine talk me into entering Privateer Press' painting contest (P3 Grandmaster something something). I think I mostly did it so that I would have an excuse to push myself a little further than I normally do. With all of my painting mainly going to paying clients I'm always balancing quality with time. This is the mini that I entered.

Overall I'm happy with it. I didn't lavish as much attention on it that I might have, but it did get a lot more attention than anything I've painted in years.

On the first day I watched the entries as they came in. I was the first one in so I had a lot of time to consider the other entries. Not too many showed up on day one. I was feeling pretty good about my chances.

By the end of the second day it was clear that, while my mini was good, there were a lot of other good entries. By by the final day it was clear that all of the best painters waited until the last minute to do their entries. Holy cow... some of those minis were incredible.

My bronze medal

My bronze medal

In the end I got a bronze. I'm actually pretty happy about that. With all of the great painters in the competition it was nice to be recognized at all. In the final hour before the prizes were awarded there was a lot of milling around the booth of the other painters who were participating. Many of them knew one-another. I didn't know anybody. It was nice to talk with these painters about their work and feel like we were all in the same boat even though some were clearly on another level entirely.

I would say that this was a pretty positive experience for me. I'm already thinking about next year - assuming I go next year.