Thursday, 27 September 2012

Tutorial: Stripping Plastics from Acrylic Paints

Finally I decided to strip the wrinkled horses and paint the anew. I searched the WWW for tutorials how to strip plastic miniatures and found various techniques from brake fluid to alcohol. Additionally some of my appreciated readers gave good advice from their experience.

After all I decided to try ethyliv alcohol and it worked rather well.
But please judge the result yourselves:

1. The Victim:
In course of the painting of my Napoleonic 2nd KGL Hussars the horses met a fateful chemical reaction. Somehow the Armypainter Quickshade and the matt varnish seem to have reacted and made the painting beneath it wrinkled and nasty (read the complete post here).

After all attempts of repair failed I decided to strip and repaint the miniatures.
2. The Solvent:
Ethyl alcohol was very easy to get. At least in Germany it is well known for several field of applications. Unfotunately the unatured alcohol is not suitable for internal use, but it widely known as solvent and fuel, disinfectant. In addition it's rather non-hazardous compared to other solvents.
But be careful it might at least irritate skin and eyes. So you should always wear protective gloves and maybe glasses as well. And make shure to work in a well ventilated area since ethyl alcohol evaporates rather heavyly. Fortunately the pollution flies away pretty fast.
3. Soaking:
Then I put the horses into a preserving jar with a sealed top cover. I let the first horses soak for about an hour but meanwhile I discovered that even three hours don't harm the plastic.

4. Swabbing the paint:
Afterwards the paint had dismantled from the miniature. I took and old toothbrush and swabbed the old paint off the horse. From time to time I moistened the toothbrush with alcohol to get the paint in the little corners off.
Finally the horse looked clean more or less. There was a little shade of white remaining and some remains in concealed corners where the toothbrush didn't reach in.
5. Undercoat:
Finally the horse is done. I put on a new undercoat and I'm really happy with the result.

By now I have all twelve horses stripped and didn't experience any problems. Although I'm still peeved about the lost time, I'm rather confident that the horses will look well when they're painted properly at least.
6. Alternatives:
Because everything went well with ethyl alcohol and because it's easy to get here in Germany and because it's cheap, I will remain with it for stripping miniatures.

But some of our fellow bloggers recommended some other solvents and their advice shall not be forgotten:
  • Simplegreen: Some kind of household cleaner
  • Dettol: A disinfectant
  • Aceton: An agressiv solvent for paints
  • Household Bleech
I've not tested those things yet and with plastics I would be really careful with acetone. I stripped metal miniatures once in acetone and it disintegrated the bases...

Last but not least a link to Stryker's blog and his cleaning experiences: Here.

So I hope the second try will bring a better result. However this misfortune give me the chance to use modern equipment next time: I'll spray the brown fur colour with my airbrush gun. Last time I didn't use it because I thought of painting some horses darker or lighter brown...


  1. Nice one!

    Glad it worked out so well in the End!

    I'll try stripping some old plasitc minis as soon as I get home!

  2. Looks like a positive result in the end. Mind you putting horses in preserving jars does sound a bit like Damien Hirst's work!

    1. I didn't this artist but Google enlightend me. But my horses need smaller jars...

  3. Hi, Monty: thanks for the info re-stripping funky paint off of plastic figures. BTW: I've used brake fluid to strip model railroad box cars and it works great, except that it is an "oily" product. Aerosol Easy-Off oven cleaner works very well...spray, wait, and just wash it off!

    Looks like your perseverance has resurrected the horse flesh. Good job, Sir.

    1. Thanks for the other advice. Only that break-fluid has the reputation be be harmful and even cancer-causing...
      But oven cleaner is a nice idea...

  4. Nice one Monty, I'll try to remember this method, luckily I've had no mishaps.......yet!

    1. Your time will come, young Padavan!

  5. It's great to see you found an effective method of cleaning up your mishap. I'm going to take your advise and not use brake fluid and use your method instead. I appreciate all your research and hope this solution is not needed again for a very long time.

  6. Thanks I may need o use his technique

    You never know when

  7. I really like your blog, especially your tutorials !!

    I put your blog on my blogroll and I welcome you on mine :

    See you ^^

    1. Thanks for the kind feedback.
      Really nice pictures on your block but unfortunately my French is too bad to understand any of the posts. :-(


  8. Don't worry about your french language ^^ I've put a translator on the right in my blog. Even my japanese wife can read my silly posts ahaha ^^

    A bientôt !!