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Experiments with Translucent Bones Models.

Gary Pryor

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In a post Bones IV world there are lot more translucent miniatures in circulation. You may have had the same reaction I had, where I thought they were neat, but had no idea what to do with these things. Well, today was the day I decided I was going to try a few different experiments with painting these things to see what would happen. I did try an experiment once before with some purple translucent modes from bones 3, where I put a black wash over them. I was not happy with those results. They turned out looking opaque black with purple highlights from a distance, and translucent against a light or if you looked real close. Not a strong enough effect for table play. So this time, I did a bunch of research (mostly on this forum) and was told about using a clear coat and ink to add definition and maintain translucency. Looked good in the pictures, so I thought I would try some variations on that.

First thing I wanted to experiment with was testing something I read here that said something to the effect of "the clear coat actually makes them more translucent, because it changes how they reflect light" so I thought I would try a matte clear coat and a gloss clear coat and see how they compared. The following are a very light black ink wash (from the Reaper Ink triad) and then Tamiya X-22 gloss clear (on the left) and Tamiya XF86 gloss matte (on the right).

These models were not very translucent to begin with, but both coats did really make them appear more clear. The gloss was very shiny, had a distinctive wet look, and makes the model look like a clear piece of hard candy. The matte coated model appears to let about the same amount of light through, but is less reflective than it was before I coated with anything. With less reflection the model looks a little less ethereal, but also less like a plastic toy.

I decided that I didn't want wet looking spirits, so I decided to go with a black ink wash and the matte coat. Here are those results:

Much better than my last attempt, which were only transparent when held against a light. They are still reflective, but less than out of the box. I also tried a red ink instead and it had a very striking effect of red against the blue (the colors didn't blend at all like I thought they would) but it wasn't what I was looking for, so I washed it off.

Here is a comparison of a painted and unpainted model:

So really, I would say not painting them at all is totally viable. I like having the details show, but if they are ghosts, maybe it is okay that it is hard to see without taking a very close look.

I also did a matte coat on some crystals (no ink) and it improved the translucency greatly, though it is hard to capture in a photograph.


I learned I prefer that matte coat to clear, (but both are cool). Inks work well, where standard acrylics did not last time. Clear coats do make them more clear. and they transparent models look ghostly and cool already, so painting them isn't giving you that much really, if they are only intended for table play. maybe this information will be useful to someone. I wish I could have found it all in one place when I was puzzling over what to do and what to purchase.





Edited by Gary Pryor
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I needed some shadows so I took the cheap invisible minis from the various D&D prepainted sets (the ones are like 1 or 2 bucks single prices) & sprayed them lightly with Tamiya's smoke from their lacquer line. I ended up going a little more, to make a gradient on the color. The top being allot more solid then the feet. 


It turned out quite nice. I didnt want to screw it up so I tested Dullcote on a model car window sprayed with the smoke ( T smoke is glossy). The dull coat prevented the transparency effect so I had to leave em glossy. It kinda annoying but I'd rather have the transparency that I was going after in the first place.

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42 minutes ago, Madog Barfog said:

@op Did you thin any of the washes with water? Bonesium is known to not like water-thinned base coats. I'm curious if the translucent plastic has the same effect.


I like how these turned out, thanks for sharing!


The translucent plastic is the same material and will still be hydrophobic. If you want to use thinned washes on them, you'll probably need to put a coat of lacquer on them that isn't hydrophobic to prevent beading.

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On 8/14/2019 at 1:47 PM, Madog Barfog said:

@op Did you thin any of the washes with water? Bonesium is known to not like water-thinned base coats. I'm curious if the translucent plastic has the same effect.

I did not thin the ink. Previous models I did with a wash combining Reaper paint and an acrylic medium to thin into wash also worked but also tinted the color of the entire model making them much less translucent and dulled the purple. The inks run similarly to a wash without diluting, and didn't tint or stain the model, which is why ink works so well on translucent models. For the pictures here, I just did a quick scrub with a toothbrush, dish-soap, and hot water; let them dry; then ink-wash, dry again, then the clear coat.

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Late post, but I needed some wraiths for a Song of Blades scenario I'm testing for Juegorama's miniature set, so stripped the Bones I green translucents and experimented with Tamiya Clear Green, applied only to the front. I had some Tamiya Clear Thinner handy. Results looks promising (looks better in person, but you've heard that before), but you can't just slop the paint on the miniature like you would a wash, so there's a learning curve somewhere. You can see the details better than unpainted, and the paint, as someone said earlier, makes the miniature look more transparent. If you apply the clear paint to the back as well, you'll have more difficulty seeing the front because the miniature is, well, translucent. 


Unfortunately, from a distance, you can't see the details, and the miniature is pretty unidentifiable. You can see them on the tabletop in this thread (scroll to "The Dragon's Lair" scenario.)







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