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Metal or Plastic miniatures

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Hey all, I looked for a thread about this but didn't see one. Anyway, what do people prefer to paint, metal or plastic minis? I just started painting and have only done plastic. I've seen pictures of some metal ones and they seem to have crisper details. I see they offer both options for a lot of minis on the reaper store, wanted to see what people think? Thanks!

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Posted (edited)

A very common question...and one you will literally hear a hundred different opinions about.  Most people will probably say they can work with either, many have a preference as to which kind, some are proponents of the "If it ain't metal, it's crap" school of thought. I started painting myself with the Bones minis and I have also now worked with metal minis.  I do think that metal offers crisper details like you said and since my main goal in painting is "display quality", I at this point do slightly prefer metal minis. Personally I think Bones plastic is a great way to start painting since they're very inexpensive and you can experiment and learn before investing more time and money.

 

The larger Bones minis do hold their details more and are way less expensive so I wouldn't hesitate buying a large plastic mini (like the crazy over-sized dragons that are very popular among the forumites).  Many people here paint on to "table top" quality however and thus the Bones plastic is the PERFECT medium for them.  They don't worry about details as much as others and the plastic offers them an opportunity to get way more for their money.  

 

There have been postings comparing identically painted plastic and metal minis and some artists have the skills to make anything look stunning and most couldn't tell the difference.  A lot of us just move back and forth, especially if there are minis that are produced solely in either plastic or metal at this point and we love the sculpt. 

 

In the end, it comes down to your wants, needs and means as a painter.  Don't agonize over it; you don't have to "pick a side". (Seriously, because I REALLY did when I first started painting and it was pointless) Just enjoy painting and your own preferences will evolve as your skills do. 

Edited by Baldur8762
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Yep. Both have their strengths and weaknesses. 

 

If you are painting for play or new to painting and want a lot of figures to practice on, I recommend Bones. Especially for demos and conventions when I'm playing with strangers who might abuse my metal miniatures. It's happened to me. 

 

For display, metal does have crisper details though bones get better each generation. However, bones have their uses there too. Bones are good for trying out techniques and wonderful for modding. I don't mind throwing out a $3.95 bones demon or angel that I just chopped the wings off of. (Though to be honest, it goes in my scrap drawer.) And the lighter weight of the wings means your new dragonfolk/demon/Angel/whatever is less likely to fall over backwards. 

 

Play around and see what works for you. 

 

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My take:

 

Metal: More variety, crisper details, harder to modify, better feel in the hand, lower durability, fairly expensive.

 

PVC (Bones plastic): Less variety, details a bit muddy, harder to clean up but easier to modify, lightweight (for good and ill), higher durability.

 

Polystyrene (plastic model plastic): Intermediate detail, easy to clean up and modify, limited availability (mold costs are very high), intermediate to poor durability, lightweight, quite inexpensive.

 

Resin (which usually means two-part casting resin when used about minis): Superior detail, quite fragile, relatively easy to clean up and modify, but the casting gates can be very difficult to clean, expensive, short run (because of mold durability issues).

 

It's horses for courses, really.

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Using Doug's wonderful description above here are mine in order from greatest to least:

  1. Resin: I enjoy the high level of detail, the almost feather weight and the ease of conversions.
  2. Metal: Detail is nice, durability is outstanding and sometimes I just enjoy my 25-28mm piece being super heavy. Especially with metal bases... that reaper doesn't carry anymore ::(: 
  3. Polystyrene (Plastic Model): I feel less pressure about messing these up, throwing them away and starting over. This is mostly due to the cost being cheaper than resin and the miniatures come in batches. Unless it's Game Workshop and there stuff is super expensive.
  4. PVC (Bones): The detail is not great to what I like. The miniature is way to flexible and feels cheap. In my mind Bones are meant for mass troops; rats, thugs, etc. Although, I vaguely remember something about Bones getting a new formula so they are a bit stiffer(?) 
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Doug basically summed it up for me.

 

I prefer metal when I can get it. 

 

Bones are have a steeper learning curve on prep, but are super cheap and I have many.

 

I do not mess with Resin. It is amazingly detailed, but I'm super clumsy. I love seeing well painted resin minis, but I have enough problems with painting without adding fragility and the frustrations it will bring me.

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Here's my opinion, for what its worth:)

 

Metal: Much more models out there to choose from, pain to convert, sometimes pricey, especially when the mini gets bigger, built in weight, good details.

 

PVC (Bones plastic): Not as many choices due to mold costs, detail sometimes not as crisp (and until primed, hard to see),easy to convert. I have seen people say that they are too light and hard to prep. As far as weight, I use fender washers, which give it enough weight to equal ANY metal mini. And once its based,primed and painted, no one can even tell its a washer. As for prep, I first do whatever needs to be fixed (due to it being flexible) using the boiling water/ice bath method (and 99 percent of the time, the fix SHOULD hold forever), then I give it a good scrub with an toothbrush (specifically for clean up) and soapy water. Let it dry overnight (usually), base it (on a washer usually), texture base then either brush prime or airbrush. The key is either airbrushed or an undiluted prime, as bones HATE diluted paint as the first coat. If it is a clear/translucent mini, I use brush on varnish.

Polystyrene (plastic model plastic): I am assuming these are those new wizkids or GW, so I do not have any experience with them (though I do want to try the new wizkids). I know models in plastic have great detail, but that's another animal:)

 

Resin I have only worked with models in resin, so do not have an opinion either way as far as mini's.

 

Bottom line for me, if I want a show quality mini with great detail, i'll probably go metal. For everything else, BONES!

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I haven't used the resin or the polystyrene models yet, so I have no opinion there. Someday I'll snag resin ones I think. 

 

I like metal for the feel and the detail. They're easier to prep too. 

 

I like Bones PVC for the price. I also like that material for Big items, as the cost/detail is good, and some of those dragons would be prohibitively heavy and costly without being in that material. I distinctly dislike Bones figures with long narrow bits that get bent and require boiling. I'm lazy and want to work it with my fingers into place. But... cheap figures for farting around on? Bones can't be beat. 

 

I have painted lead metal figures. They're softer than the pewter, and heavier. I prefer pewter. 

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1 hour ago, Cyradis said:

I haven't used the resin or the polystyrene models yet, so I have no opinion there. Someday I'll snag resin ones I think. 

 

I like metal for the feel and the detail. They're easier to prep too. 

 

I like Bones PVC for the price. I also like that material for Big items, as the cost/detail is good, and some of those dragons would be prohibitively heavy and costly without being in that material. I distinctly dislike Bones figures with long narrow bits that get bent and require boiling. I'm lazy and want to work it with my fingers into place. But... cheap figures for farting around on? Bones can't be beat. 

 

I have painted lead metal figures. They're softer than the pewter, and heavier. I prefer pewter. 

Ooh I forgot to make that distinction about metal mini's:)

I LOVE lead metal miniatures, because they are heavier and do not feel like they will "snap" from bending like pewter does. Another thing I have found with pewter, they seem to oxidize over time. I have many pewter mini's that are now gold/yellow instead of silver after being exposed to air. I have not seen this on my lead mini's.

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Huh. I only have one pewter figure that's showing signs of that. And it is very likely that I spilled something on it long ago. 

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4 minutes ago, Ratmaster2000 said:

Ooh I forgot to make that distinction about metal mini's:)

I LOVE lead metal miniatures, because they are heavier and do not feel like they will "snap" from bending like pewter does. Another thing I have found with pewter, they seem to oxidize over time. I have many pewter mini's that are now gold/yellow instead of silver after being exposed to air. I have not seen this on my lead mini's.

 

Lead oxidizes to a white powder (lead rot), eventually destroying the model.  I forget the physics of what causes the oxidation to start, but it's not good

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The yellow tone of some lead-free white metal minis is typically an indication of the figure being a very early casting for that mold (info from a friend who used to have a local miniatures casting business). They will often have better detail and fewer casting problems than later figures. Given a choice between one of those and a more typical casting of the same figures, I'll always take the yellowed one.

 

Lead minis, though they feel easier to repose, actually take fewer repeated bends before breaking. (And I agree that the crunching sound that tin makes when you bend it is disconcerting.)

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Posted (edited)

Do you mean yellow upon casting, or yellow that appears later?  Because the yellow that appears later is usually skin oil tarnish from handling.  Ralidium, in particular, is notorious for this sort of tarnish - even to the extent it may appear "rusty".  If it's got a yellowish tint and it's real fresh it could be from early casting (this isn't something I've heard of before, but it sounds plausible enough as an explanation). 

 

This later tarnish isn't harmful to the mini, though.  It's easily cleaned off with a bit of brasso/silvo gently applied, and it can even be painted over without issue most times.  My Takhisis had a lot of it and I couldn't be bothered to clean most of it off so I just primed over it.  Just be sure if you do use a metal polish to wash the mini well before you get ready to paint it because any polish residue will cause flaking.

 

 

Edit to add:  As for the metal/plastic/resin question, I got into the hobby when metal was pretty much it for choice.  I find resin brittle and fiddly, so I generally stay away from it.  So with the introduction of Bones, generally if I'm painting to have something in my collection then I will choose metal.*  If I'm painting for game use, I will choose Bones.  Bones have the advantage of being cheaper so you can bulk out troops and horde monsters, as well as being robust so they're harder for any... dexterity-challenged... players to mutilate. 

 

*In some cases, metal is not an option.  Yephima the cloud giantess I would love in metal, but she's unlikely to appear in that form.  And things like the gelatinous cube, well, Reaper doesn't cast translucent metal.  In these cases I would buy Bones for the collection.

Edited by buglips*the*goblin
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1 hour ago, Clearman said:

 

Lead oxidizes to a white powder (lead rot), eventually destroying the model.  I forget the physics of what causes the oxidation to start, but it's not good

 

It's the same process used to turn lead into lead carbonate (a white pigment).

 

You start with an exposure to acetic acid - common vinegar. Acetic acid is naturally outgassed by wood and wood-pulp cardboard, which is why lead artifacts should never be stored in wooden drawers or display cases or cardboard boxes.

 

Once the process starts it is self-sustaining until all the lead metal is consumed.

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Here is one of the better articles on lead oxidation; http://www.navsea.navy.mil/Home/Warfare-Centers/NSWC-Carderock/Resources/Curator-of-Navy-Ship-Models/Lead-Corrosion-in-Exhibition-Ship-Models/

 

Its very unlikely to occur unless you are buying miniatures cast in the 60s, 70s and 80s which were mostly lead as opposed to the tin alloy (pewter) used today. And even then the conditions do have to be right for it to occur.

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