Snow Day

Snow DaySo here you are, looking out the window at a world that looks like its been freshly primed. Ahead of you on the table is a line of freshly painted figures just waiting to be varnished. You reach for your can of varnish but wait! The instructions on the side of the can say not to use in the cold, but why and what do you do now?

Why not spray in the cold?

There a three main reasons not to spray in the cold (by cold I mean below 10°C (50ºF):

  1. The cold makes the paint thicken and reduces the effectiveness of the propellant in the can. Especially when spraying primer this can cause loss of detail.
  2. The paint will dry a lot more slowly and can sag if applied to thickly. Same problem as (1) above.
  3. The paint can pick up moisture making it fog or bloom. Nothing worse than spending hours painting a figure only to have it ruined by the varnish going foggy :(. This is small bubbles of moisture trapped in the varnish, a good reason not to spray in the summer when the weather is very humid as well.

All of these are bad or potentially disastrous things to happen to your model.

[Note: don’t be tempted to spray indoors. The over-spray will settle on everything and you will become very unpopular with everyone you live with due to the unpleasant smell of the propellant. The propellant is also harmful so do spray in a well ventilated area. Always read the can people!]

So what can I do about the problem?

So you know what the reasons are not to paint in the cold, now what can you do to get around them?

  1. Check the weather forecast – it might be warmer in a couple of days, if you can wait.
  2. Thin the paint – this is to compensate for the thickening of the paint due to the cold. Simply put the can in some warm (Not hot, definitely not hot!) water for a few minutes. Do not leave it unattended whilst you are doing this and if the can starts to pop or deform take it out immediately and run it under cold water. The paint will now be a lot finer and the propellant will work better. This is also a good tip during warm weather as well, unless you live somewhere exceptionally hot anyway.
  3. Keep the figure warm – try and return the figure to a warm environment as soon as possible. So the sooner you can get the figure(s) back in a nice warm house the better. Now I know that a freshly sprayed figure can smell pretty nasty but if you give it a minute or two the worst of this will be gone from the figure itself. Failing that a sealed container like a food storage box can reduce a lot of the odour  Whenever possible try to keep the figure in the house before you spray as well, only taking it outside to spray. This is especially important for metal figures as if the figure is too cold before you spray it returning it to a warm environment can cause condensation and fogging (see Reason not to spray 3. above).
  4. Make a drying chamber – give the figures somewhere to dry off with no condensation. This can be as simple as a box with a hole cut in it and an old hair dryer pushed through the hole. Don’t put the hairdryer on ultra hot, just warm. Get the box nice and warm and dry by heating it for a few minutes before you spray. Then spray the figures on a tray or piece of thick card so that you can lift them into the drying box without touching them.
  5. Don’t spray your models – in cold weather I often use a brush on clear varnish. The technique is much the same as using a shader dip. Make absolutely sure that the paint and any inks or washes on the figure are thoroughly dry as some varnishes can make them flow slightly again.

Well these are just a few tips and techniques I’ve used over the years to keep me painting during the cold weather. I hope they help a little.

Keep on gaming 🙂

About Jarec

Long term Wargamer and dice hugger. My preferences tend towards Fantasy and Sci-Fi but I have a strong interest in the WWII and Vietnam gaming eras.
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