More Blood Bowl Humans: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Gloss Varnish


2 blitzers, a thrower, and 2 nothings (sorry… linemen)

(…with apologies to Stanley Kubrick.)


These were painted some time back, but due to every toy soldier painter’s worst nightmare (Matt Varnish) their debut into the wider world has been severely delayed.

In toy soldiers there are 2 vigorously pursued topics. What counts as “power-gaming” and what doesn’t. And, how to avoid disasters with matt varnish.


Up until recently I had been relatively lucky. As a youngster I only really had plastic miniatures, and they were poorly painted, at best. They needed no varnish. As my painting developed I discovered a method (which has now been commercialised through Army Painter strong tone, and Devlan Mud before that) of base-coating the model then covering it with Chesnut Ink (oh how I wish GW still made the old Inks!! Nothing they have made since has been anywhere near as good and anyone who thinks it is better is just plain wrong!) and gloss varnish. Models were glossy, but they looked great.


Then matt varnish sprays came along. The GW version was rubbish. I think I still have a can, which was used once and never again. The same went for Army Painter when they released an aerosol version. They both left a slight frosty finish and have just been used for terrain until they ran out.

My problems were all solved, or so I thought, when I discovered Testors Dullcote, though its cancer causing properties have seemed to make it only sporadically available ever since. And the last time I used it, the dreaded frosty finish resulted.

I have experimented with artists matt varnishes to mixed effect. The brush-on varnish of choice in the UK seems to be Daler Rowney (which is not easily available in the Antipodes) however the need to decant it seems to be too much faffing about to me.


Eventually, I tried Vallejo brush on Matte Varnish and on an experimental figure I slathered it on as thick as I could, and it came up a treat. I did the same for these chaps, however, and disaster struck; after the varnish dried, they were all covered in a thick white film!

Number 10 linesman was subjected to all sorts of debased humiliations as I bathed him in various different solvents to try to remove the outer layer of varnish whilst leaving the paint underneath unaffected; all to no avail!


Eventually, I discovered that if the model was re-coated in gloss varnish the white stuff would be dissolved and the model, albeit now high-gloss, totally fine! Huzzah! These figures seemed cursed as 2 other methods of matt varnishing also failed. In all, these figures have about 15 coats of varnish on them! The colours have been slightly affected by the many layers of varnish the light must reflect through.

The white stuff, I gather, is matting agent. Basically talcum powder or something similar dissolved in the carrier. It works by making the surface of the model (imperceptibly) rough, so light is absorbed instead of being reflected. Gloss varnish creates a perfectly smooth surface hence light bounces off. I guess this is why people decant their matt varnish, to get the ratio of matting agent perfect.

Instead, I discovered Tamiya Flat Clear in aerosol cans, and if they ever stop making this stuff  I will just live with super-shiny models. I have used Tamiya Flat Clear in all sorts of inappropriate conditions with no ill effect. It is the most flat varnish I have ever used. In all, it is perfect. That being said, I have noticed it seems to be taking more and more coats to cover up the gloss effect and sometimes the models still have a slight sheen (see my Estalians for example)….. damn! Does this torture never end?

The whole team so far


Anyway, my current method is as follows: coat the figure in 3 coats of Feast & Watson high gloss polyurethane varnish leaving at least 24 hours between each coat. Always buy the smallest tin possible because it seems to go yellow if left in the tin unused for a long time. After that, spray with one or two coats of Tamiya Flat Clear.

I have tried Feast & Watson matt polyurethane as a brush on matt varnish and it was fine except that it seemed to be somehow even more glossy than the gloss varnish. The same phenomenon was observed with Wattyl Matt Estapol which was recommended on WargamerAU. Hmmm.