Painting miniatures for a wargaming army can seem like a daunting task. There can be hundreds of models that need to be cleaned, assembled, painted, and based in order to have a fully painted army. Luckily there are shortcuts you can use to paint miniatures quickly. One of the fastest methods is called "dipping" and it can mean cutting your painting time in half or better.
Dipping is a technique used to paint miniatures quickly by eliminating many of the steps usually taken to produce convincing shadows and highlights - a step that usually involves a great amount of time hunched over your model for hours. In essence, the models is painted in very basic flat colours and then coated in the dip - a liquid stain that flows into the recesses of the model and produces very convincing shadow detail while leaving almost no trace on the raised areas. It is essentially a two step process that does away with all the highlighting steps that take the most time to complete. This technique can be used on any scale, however the best results are usually seen on models 15mm or smaller. It is suitable for larger 28mm models as well although you may want to use an extra quick highlight step afterwards to bring out some of the extra detail.
What is the Dip?
The dip is basically a polyurethane stain usually used on wood in home renovating projects. Until recently most people used certain colours of the Minwax Polyshades line to achieve the effect, however a newly introduced line of stain called Army Painter Quickshade is now available that is specifically meant for painting miniatures quickly. It is available in three tones (Soft, Strong, and Dark) that you can use to achieve variable levels of shading depending on the colours of your models.
Step 1: Clean and prime your model as you normally would. White primer will work best in this case.
Step 2: Paint all the basic colours on your model. For example, if I was painting a Napoleonic British Infantry model, I would paint the jacket red, the trousers and crossbelts white, the shako in black, flesh colour on the hands and face, brown and silver on the musket, etc. Generally you want to use a colour that is a bit lighter than you want to end up with since the dip will darken it slightly.
Step 3: Apply the dip. There are two methods of application - one is to literally dip the model into the can of stain by holding it by the base with a pair of pliers. After submerging the models in the dip, remove and shake the excess off in an old cardboard box by flicking it back and forth. The other method is to simply paint the dip on with a cheap brush. I prefer the latter method since it is cleaner, and you can makes sure that the dip doesn't accumulate too much on the model. The dip can be applied liberally, just makes sure it is coated all over. The stain will slowly gather around the base of the model as it settles.
Step 4: Allow the model to dry for 24 hours at least. Don't touch it during this time! The dip is quite sticky and any handling will result in fingerprints and smudged areas.
Step 5: The dip dries to a very glossy finish. A quick application matte varnish or dulling spray will take off the shine.
Step 6: Apply your basing materials as normal.
While this method won't win you any awards, it is a perfectly good method for painting miniatures quickly that will result in a very respectable paint job! You will enjoy spending your time on the gaming table, rather than days on end at the painting table.