I put together a few documents related to using Bones. I've submitted these to the Craft section of the website, but as it may be a little while before Reaper has the time available to add them, Bryan suggested that I post them here.
Bones - Frequently Asked Questions (this document)
Bones - Preparation (mould line removal, glue, putty, etc.)
Bones - The First Coat is the Difference (primer, primer alternatives, paint durability)
Bones Miniatures: Frequently Asked Questions
What are Bones Miniatures?
The Bones material is a polymer plastic. It is light-weight and slightly flexible, and is very durable. You can paint a Bones figure straight out of the package, and that paint job will also be pretty durable. Bones figures are as detailed as metal figures, for a much lower cost. Bones miniatures are produced with integral (built-in) bases, but it is easy to cut the miniature off of the base if you prefer to put it on something else. It is also easy to cut the figures apart to convert them into different poses or change weapons.
What is the bare minimum I need to know to start painting my Bones right now!
If you want background on why these are the recommendations or what other alternatives might also work, read the rest of this document, Painting Bones Miniatures: Preparation and Painting Bones Miniatures: The First Coat is the Difference.
Remove Mould Lines
Remove by slicing just under the mould lines with a hobby knife, in a similar motion to paring vegetable or hand-sharpening a pencil. Files work best if you file in one direction, then remove burrs by filing in the opposite direction.
Reshape Bent Parts
Dip the misshapen piece in boiling water for a minute or two, remove and move into desired position, then immediately hold in ice water for a few minutes. NOTE: Read additional information in this document for safety recommendations!
What Glue to Use
Superglue aka cyanoacrylate works best to glue Bones to itself or other materials.
What Putty to Use
All major brands of putty tested work with bones. (Green Stuff, Milliput, etc.)
What Works as a Paint Stripper
Soak figure in Simple Green Concentrated All Purpose Cleaner for 12 – 24 hours, then scrub it with an old toothbrush.
None. Start with a first coat of undiluted Reaper Master Series Paint, then paint as normal from there. This is the best choice for durability and a good painting surface. Other acrylic paints that work with miniatures should have similar results. Paint can be applied with a brush or airbrush (diluted paint seems to work with an airbrush.)
Best Primer if You Want to Prime Anyway
Reaper Master Series Brush-On Primer in black or white, or Folk Art Glass & Tile Medium (also brush-on.)
Best Spray Primer
Many aerosol primers will not cure completely on Bones. Reaper forum members have reported good results with the Army Painter sprays.
How to Do a Wash Directly on Bones
Thin your wash with one of the following mediums and just a small amount of water if necessary: Master Series Brush-On Sealer, Folk Art Glass & Tile Medium, Delta Ceramcoat All-Purpose Sealer.
Can you really paint Bones miniatures straight out of the package?
Absolutely! However, if you’ve ever painted metal, resin or plastic figures in the past, you may notice some differences in how the first coat of paint behaves. Paint diluted with water (even just a drop or two for a thinned base coat) may bead up and pull away from crevices. The more water you add to the paint, the more you’ll notice this effect, so water-thinned washes used directly on the Bones material don’t really work. That first coat of paint may also take a little longer to dry.
Most people find that the paint applies a little better if you first wash the figure. Just scrub it with a little dish soap and a toothbrush and allow it to dry before you start to paint. Another alternative is to apply a primer or another surface preparation that works with the Bones material as the first coat.
Once you get that first coat on, you can use highly thinned paint in subsequent layers and it should behave pretty much the same as on any other figure.
For more information, methods to use thinned paint directly on the Bones surface, tips for quicker drying and a list of primers that do (or don’t) work with Bones, please see the Craft document Painting Bones Miniatures: The First Coat is the Difference.
What kinds of paint work on Bones Miniatures?
The Bones material is designed to work with Reaper’s Master Series and Master Series HD lines of paint. Internal testing and feedback from customers suggests that Bones also works well with the other major miniature paint lines, including Reaper’s discontinued Pro Paints, Vallejo Game Color, Vallejo Model Color, Privateer Press’ P3 Paints, and Games Workshop. Artists’ acrylic paint are also likely to work on Bones.
However, please note that Reaper does not offer any guarantee or assurance that the Bones miniatures will work with any particular paint other than Master Series and Master Series HD. You are advised to test your preferred paint on a Bones figure to decide for yourself how well it works. If your paint does not work well on bare Bones, you can prepare the surface with a coat of Master Series paint and it will likely work over that.
How do I remove the mould lines from a Bones figure?
Like all miniatures, Bones figures have small mould lines as a result of the manufacturing process. You do not need to remove these to paint or use a Bones, but many people prefer to remove them for aesthetic reasons. You can remove these with the same tools you would use on a metal figure – hobby knife, files, and/or sandpaper. However, you may find that you need to use these materials in a slightly different way.
Hobby knives work best if you slice under and along the mould line in a paring motion rather than scraping them along the mould line. With files and sandpaper, file in one direction perpendicular to the mould line. If you find you have burrs of material remaining, lightly file those off moving the tool in the opposite direction.
How Durable is the Bones Material?
Bones figures are remarkably durable, and not just in comparison to metal and resin figures. People have dropped Bones from a height of one storey, ground them underfoot, driven over them with a car, carried them loose in backpacks and pockets, and they’ve sustained no damage.
The light weight of the material means drops and falls hit with much less mass behind them. The give of the material means it’s much better able to absorb impact, where a brittle material like resin will likely break.
They’re not indestructible, but they can take an impressive amount of damage. We had several Bones figures out at the PAX Prime 2012 convention for people to examine and abuse. We bounced them off the floor, and invited dozens of people to step on them. One of the small kobolds with narrow diameter legs did break at one ankle on the third day. Another figure suffered a very small area of damage due to the friction generated by someone’s shoe grinding it across the floor.
If Bones are so durable, is it hard to cut them up for conversions? What glue should I use?
The Bones material cuts easily with a sharp hobby knife. Cuts have smooth edges and do not deform surrounding material as often happens with metal. So it is an easy matter to swap a head from one figure to another, or cut off an arm and reposition it slightly so you can customize individual figures within a unit. All it takes to glue them back together is regular superglue (cyanoacrylate). You can also use superglue to adhere Bones to metal or wood. Green Stuff and other two-part putties work well if you need to fill gaps or sculpt on additional details. Pinning is a good idea when attaching metal parts to a Bones miniature, as the added weight of the metal will otherwise make the join weaker. The plastic parts are quite stable when glued together, but pinning doesn’t hurt in plastic-to-plastic conversions, either.
How durable is a painted Bones figure, though?
Bones miniatures painted with Master Series and Master Series HD paint are surprisingly durable. You probably don’t want to grind one underfoot or drive over it with your car, but you’ll be amazed at what they can handle. Figures are unlikely to experience notable damage to the paint from regular handling, bumping against each other on the table, or getting knocked over, even when playing with the most ham-handed of players.
My painted test figures survived being tossed unsecured in a plastic box with a bunch of unpainted Bones that was carried around two conventions (PAX Prime and Gen Con 2012). They were handled by hundreds of people and literally and repeatedly thrown onto tables from heights of several feet. They have some dings and chips, but the bulk of the paint jobs survived. The paint on these figures had not been coated with any sort of protective sealer.
The durability of other brands of paint may vary. I have not done the same sort of extensive testing with other brands of paint. In my limited testing of how well other brands of paint apply to bare Bones, I did notice that Vallejo Model Color paints seemed to rub off the figure pretty easily. I did not notice that happening with the other brands I tested. (P3, Vallejo Game Color, Pro Paint, Adikolor.)
Can you remove unwanted paint from a Bones figure?
Sometimes painting a figure doesn’t go exactly as planned. If you would like to strip the paint from a Bones figure so you can start from scratch to paint it another way, just drop it into a dish of Simple Green Concentrated All Purpose Cleaner for 12 – 24 hours, then scrub it with an old toothbrush and it is ready to paint again. Some paint colours may leave a stain on the Bones material, but should not leave any texture or affect subsequent layers of paint. Simple Green in an eco-friendly cleaner sold in most hardware stores and some grocery stores. Brake fluid also works, though is a much more toxic material.
Are Bones figures less detailed than their metal counterparts?
Bones figures are bright white, which makes them hard to photograph. A number of people who have lacked confidence in the product quality based on the photographs in the online store have been pleasantly surprised by them once they can look at one in person. However, there are also a few people who feel the quality of the Bones is a little less than that of their metal counterparts. When available, Reaper’s online store includes photographs of painted versions of the figures that may give you a better idea, but looking at Bones yourself in person is really the only way to find out how you feel about them.
I compared one of the smaller Bones, Dwarf Warrior 77011, against his counterpart, Fulumbar 14146, under magnification. The only real difference I noted between the two was that the texture of the chainmail loin cloth and the laces on the gloves were a tiny bit shallower on the Bones figure.
You can see a comparison of a Bones and metal figure of the same sculpt painted identically in this thread on the Reaper forums:
Do Bones have sharp edges on weapons?
Weapons and the like on Bones figures are cast at pretty much the same thickness as similar parts on Reaper’s metal figures. However, since Bones is a flexible plastic material, you will never be able to shave or file down an edge or a point to the same sharpness that you can achieve with a metal figure.
Are the photographs of Bones figures in the online store and catalogue the same figures as the ones for sale?
The online Reaper store and catalogue photographs of Bones miniatures are taken of production run figures – the same figures that Reaper packages up to sell.
Can I do anything about a bent spear or sword on a Bones figure?
You may find that sometimes the thinner parts on Bones, like spears and swords, will look a little bent. Or the figure might be leaning back or forward too much on its ankles. If you want to straighten those out, hold the figure with tongs or in a colander, and dip it into boiling or near boiling water for at least a minute or two. Remove it from the water, reposition the part, and immediately dunk it into a bowl of ice water for at least a minute. It should hold in the new position. If you expose the figure to heat at a later time, it may revert to its original position. For this reason, if you want to wash the figure with soap and water prior to painting, you should use cool water or wash it before you heat it to reset a warped part.
Important safety notes: Please exercise caution! The Bones material may get hot when dipped in boiling water, so you should use protective gear rather than touching it with your bare fingers. The Bones material might be damaged or damage your pot if placed in direct contact with the pot surface. If you are under the age of 18, please ask your parents for permission and have them read this section before boiling Bones figures.
Are Bones made in China or the United States?
All Bones figures made prior to March 2013 were produced in China. In March 2013, Reaper installed the machine necessary to produce Bones in its factory in Texas, and began the process of transferring production in-house.