OOTS Cleaning, Preparation & General Painting Information Guide
Odds are, if you are reading this, you already know what The Order of the Stick is. If you are unfamiliar with The Order Of The Stick, it is an award winning web comic created and drawn by Rich Burlew that parodies D&D, role-playing games and medieval fantasy.
First, we will discuss the tools used for assembling a miniature. I’ve tried to keep everything used in this article down the bare minimum for requirements.
List of items and paints used in this guide:
Loctite glue or if unavailable, a brand of superglue found in your local store, like Wal-Mart or in the UK, Tesco
X-acto knife or craft knife with sharp blade
Cheap dust mask (very recommended)
2 disposable plates, GLOSSY or coated!!
2 brushes: Size 0 for large areas and a 10/0 for fine details (smaller is optional, but you might want a second smaller brush too. When buying a brush, a good sharp point is important to have. )
Vallejo Game Colors White Primer
Testors Dull Coat Sealer Disposible cup or an unwanted coffee cup that can be dedicated only to your painting area for holding brush-rinsing water.. Do not use your good china or any other cup you will drink out of for any painting session.
Small/fine files (optional)
Aves brand epoxy sculpt (optional)
Some of these are listed as “optional” because you can get around with not having them. They can always be added to your toolbox later.
Additionally, some of these steps can be skipped based on whether you want to do them or not. I am assuming for this article that the reader is new to miniatures, so everything will be covered for all skill levels.
The paint I list in the individual tutorials are picked to not only match the comic, but because these paints are available worldwide through either local gaming stores or online. Feel free to use any brand of miniature paint you can find. Please note that the craft paints found in the local art and crafts stores do not contain the finely ground pigment that is in miniature paints and the large molecules found in craft paints may show up as grainy when used on a small miniature like the Order of the Stick Figures. BUT, if that is all you have, use it.
Cleaning your Miniature:
Here you can see the parts that make up a typical figure, in this case Roy is our example. He comes with a plain base, body/head, two arms, two legs, a sword and two eyebrow options.
The next step is to consider if you want to clean your miniature or not. These figures are cast in two part molds and have what we call “mold lines”. This is a line that each item from the mold will have around the spot where the molds join.
Having smaller mold lines is a very good thing because if you choose to clean them up, it’s less time and work or if you choose to ignore them, they are less visible. Because the Order of the Stick figures have stick figure limbs, this also means less rough handling or bending while cleaning. Metal is flexible but all metal has a fatigue point where it will break so you don’t want to excessively bend the miniature parts and do want to handle them gently.
Example of a mold line on a part:
If the mold lines on the figure are not a problem or distraction for you on your figures, then proceed to removing the limbs from the sprue section, see the washing section of this tutorial and then proceed to assembly!
If you’ve chosen to clean your miniature, the mold lines can be removed with the use of an X-acto blade if you do not want to invest in a file set. A file set is a bit faster, more efficient and general less dangerous to use.
Optionally, if you have micro files or want to use a small file set, those give a little bit more control over the amount of pressure you use and aren’t as sharp as the X-acto blade if you slip and hit your hand. If you decide to paint more miniatures, or buy more realistic miniatures, you will need a micro file set. I use a set available from Hobby Lobby that is really good and just the right size. If you have one in your area or shop there online, they put out almost weekly 40% off codes.
SAFELY FIRST WITH SHARP OBJECTS!!! I always recommend wearing safety glasses when using craft knives., specially if you are not used to using them. Like all objects with thin blades, they can break and you don’t want a blade flying into your eye. You also don’t want bits and pieces of miniature flying when using craft knives to remove items from sprues or metal/resin shavings getting in your eye.
This is also a good place to mention the dust mask. When you clean, you generate tiny resin and metal dust. It may not be a lot, but it’s still not something you’d want to accidentally inhale a lot or even a little bit of. Wearing a very cheap dust mask is a cheap and easy way to do that. It’s always a good thing for your health to be safe. I also clean my miniatures over a white disposable plate. That way I have a bright backdrop behind the figure while I clean, it helps to find any parts I drop and it helps collects any dust I generate while cleaning for easy disposal.
This is my disclaimer. ALWAYS use the craft knife in a way that keeps it pointed AWAY from you. If you are cutting, angle the blade slightly away from wherever your finger or face is. If you are cleaning a miniature or scraping with the blade ALWAYS do it in a direction that is away from you, NEVER towards you. Bad things can easily happen if you don’t follow the golden rules of “point the sharp end away from yourself and all appendages; if you need it facing you never, ever move it directly towards any fleshy part of the body, always away.”
When you take your miniatures out of the package, do so with care. Tiny parts have a tendency to go flying without you noticing. You have two choices to consider before assembly. Do you want to clean off the mold lines before assembly or do you not care about the lines and want to skip this step? If you opt to skip this step, go straight to removing the parts from the sprue and washing them.
Some figures can also vary in the texture of the sculpt from smooth to some roughage. So if your miniature has a few rough spots, sandpaper is recommended. The higher the number for sandpaper, the finer the grit and less scratches and smoother surface it gives you. I usually start with a 320 grit and go up from there until I’m happy with the surface.
For the Order of the Stick figures, I would clean the majority of the sprued parts ON the sprue first. A sprue is a long rectangular tab of metal that multiple parts are attached to for casting. For the sprue with the arms and eyebrows options, this is a nice boon as it also helps give a nice little handle to touch while cleaning. I hold these by the spur and carefully use the side of the Craft knife to gently scrape along the mold line in an “away from me” direction. What this does is remove that small bit of upraised metal from the mold that is the mold line in a way that doesn’t gouge chunks out of the metal and is gentle on the part. I scrape all around the parts that have a line visible. Then I scrape, scrape, scrape the mold line for both of the leg pieces.
This is repeated on the body as well. Use gentle pressure on the body, a very light touch is good for the reason that resin parts are softer than metal. Also, if you use files, be aware that it’s better to craft knife scrape clean a part like the body, unless you plan to use extremely fine specialty sand paper to clean up the gouge marks. Files leave scratch marks that show up very well on resin, which is not a desirable texture on a part that should have a smooth body and head.
Occasionally it will be necessary to trim the tabs (the metal bits that fit into the slot on the base to help the figure stand) as not every base has the same sized tab slot so sometimes timing tabs to fit figures into bases is needed.
Some of the Order of the Stick figures have longer leg “sticks” than is needed to allow for pinning or to reposition the feet in a more dynamic position.
Likewise the arms are also longer for pinning into the sleeves, or if you don’t wish to do to that, you can just use the exacto or a trimmer to cut to length and then glue them on.
I deepen the holes of these figures for the arms and legs slightly with a pin vise (hand powered drill) to help hold the stick hand and legs more securely. This can also be done with the tip of the craft knife by putting the tip of the blade in the hole and rotating the blade in a circle.
Now it’s time to wash these! Not only is it a good idea to remove any lingering resin or metal dust, but giving these a fast wash will also remove any remaining mold release agent from the figures that would hinder painting. I clean small parts like these inside a little round tea bag soaker. I can put it under running water without fear of accidentally losing a small part. For these I would make sure the hole in the sink is closed or covered, then hold the parts, one at a time, under a small trickle of running water for a few seconds. For large figures, it can be a good idea to either scrub or use a very, very small amount of soap to clean, but I’ve found just water is more than sufficient for small figures.
I then place the parts on a piece of paper towel to dry.
Once dry, I use the craft knife to cut the small pieces from the sprue. I cut ON the paper towel so I don’t damage the surface under me. I would strongly recommend not directly cutting on the good dining room table or any wooden or prized surface. You might not have a good day after it gets marks up and your significant other or other family members notice.
Now its time to move onto assembly! See each individual figures assembly/paint guide for information and then continue below after you have assembled.
General Information About Basing of the Order of the Stick Figures:
All of the Order of the Stick figures come with a plain base, so I’ve chosen to give them all a dungeon crawling type stone base. This is also a very simple base to do, but fits them very well. I’m using Aves Apoxie Sculpt for this, but Kneadite (commonly known as “greenstuff”) is also a good choice, as is Pro-create putty. All are two part air drying epoxie putties that are activated by mixing equal parts of A & B. All three have good working times before they set up. They all cure faster under heat, so working times vary based on where you are and the room temperature. The set time is slower in the cold, but it will still set up even in the freezer if it’s been mixed. For something like this, I like to use it as soon as I’ve mixed it and I have about an hour of good working time if I need to take that long before it’s too firm for my taste. I mix a small amount of parts A &B together for about a minute, then I fill in the base with the putty. To smooth the surface I dip my finger in water and run it over the surface. Since all three epoxy putties clean up with water, water also works well to “rub” the surface smooth. After it’s smooth I take the craft knife and just press the sharp edge into the putty to form random sized stones.
I then set the base aside to cure for a few hours before I prime the figure.
The skies and imagination are the limit on basing. You can putty up the holes and paint stone if you don’t want to sculpt it, or putty the hole and use some hobby grass or rocks on the base and have him outdoors, etc.
General Information About Priming:
You need to prime your miniatures if you are painting them, especially if you want to game with them. Primer helps the paint adhere to the metal and resin and “grip” that surface. If you do not prime, the paint might not stick and if it does stick, will be far more likely to rub off easily as well as chip off. If you are taking the time to paint your figure, that’s certainly something you don’t want to happen to your hard work!
I hand prime all of my smaller figures with brush-on prime. It gives me more control over how much primer goes on and I can get thinner coats and reach all the tiny areas than using spray bottle priming . The Vallejo brand primer cleans up with water, so cleaning out your brush is easy. You want to have either a disposable cup or a cup you do NOT plan to use for drinking again for your cleaning cup. Even if paint or primer products are marked “non-toxic”, it’s not something you want to drink out of again. Better safe than sorry. You will need to wash out your brush every few minutes while both priming and painting, so you will need something to hold the water. Priming and painting are steps where you will also need your glossy disposable plate and paper towels. The glossy or coated plate is a must. This will function as a disposable pallet for your paint and primer and if it is not coated or glossy, your paint will soak into the plate and onto the surface under it. That is both messy and not cool. The paper towels are to dry the excess water off your brushes and wipe the water off the brushes while cleaning, as well as removing the excess paint from the brush while painting.
Even though the base is black and I want it to be black, I primer it anyway. That allows me to be a little sloppy when doing the stones and it is quicker to paint the primed base black than it is to take the extra time to be careful to not get paint on that section of the miniature.
General Information About Painting:
All of the paints used are water based acrylic paints. This means that they thin with water and clean up with water with no messy or fume-creating solvents needed and they dry fast. For painting OOTS, they are all good to use right out of the bottle with no thinning required. Because these are acrylics, they also give you flexibility if you don’t get all the paint “inside the lines” the first time. After the paint is dry in an area, you can go back and correct any color mistakes with the correct color.
Your disposable paper plate makes a great place to put your paint for your brush. You won’t need more than a drop or two of each color at a time. If it dries out, then add another drop in another spot in the plate. Because acrylics dry fast, only put the color you are working on at the time on the plate. If you put a little of everything on the plate when you start painting, the other colors can dry out before you get to using them and wastes paint.
I would recommend washing out your brush in your water every few minutes by swirling it around in your paint water and always before putting new paint on the brush. That will keep paint from drying out in the brush bristles or causing problems with transferring lumps of dry paint to the miniature. You don’t want either because dry paint in the brush makes it harder to use and can ruin it. The paint lumps give unwanted texture and spots to your figure and do stand out. Each time you rinse your brush out in the water, get out the extra water by rubbing it along its side on the paper towel. Never push the tip into the paper towel and rub. it will ruin the brush and you won’t be able to paint with it again except to use it to dry-brush.
I use the 0 brush for the large areas like the head, main body of armor/clothes, weapons and stone. The 10/0 I use for the smaller details like the belt, eyes, arms, legs, eyebrows, etc. After I dip the brush in paint, I touch the tip lightly on the pallet to remove any extra paint. This helps “unload” part of the brush so you can control how much paint goes on the figure at the first touch without flooding an area with too much paint.
After you have assembled, primed and painted your figure, you will want to protect it. After I make sure the paint is fully dry, I seal the miniature with Dullcoat. This dulls down any shiny paint and helps to protect the paint job from rubbing off with handling. You can also spray him with the Glosscoat from Testors and then spray the Dullcoat over that to remove the shine. The Glosscoat is a stronger barrier for handling, but it can take quite a few rounds of Dullcoat to get the figure matt (not shiny) in appearance again. If you are handling mostly from the base, then several coats of Dullcoat should be sufficient. Never use a glossy spray varnish by itself unless you want a Spandex look and are looking for an overall shiny effect.