Thursday, February 9, 2012

An Alternative to Army Painter

I have been using Army Painter Quickshade 'dip' over the past year or so. In an ideal world I wouldn't, as I would much prefer to carefully shade my figures blah blah, but the realities of busy life at the moment means that a product that can shade and varnish does save me time.

Being used to working with acrylics though, I don't enjoy the fumes of the solvent-based Quickshade, and have often thought that there must be some sort of equivalent water-based product. Over the past month my tin of Quickshade has steadily been turning into a lumpy, thick disgusting mess, so I got myself down to Bunnings (a chain of hardware stores here in Australia) to find an alternative.

Here's what I'm trying out. It's a water-based polyurethane varnish with stain in it, made by Cabots. There are various shades of stain, and it is available in satin and gloss. I bought the walnut stain in satin.

To start with, the Cabots varnish cost about $25 for half a litre, as opposed to around $40-50 for 250ml of Quickshade. You do the maths.

Here's a comparison of the shade. The figure on the left has Quickshade Strong Tone applied with a brush, the one on the left has Cabots, also brushed on. I can't tell the difference.

Here's a figure after being painted with the Cabot's varnish, with a top coat of Vallejo matt varnish, and before highlighting.

Vedict? The water based stain from Cabots didn't smell, brushed on more easily than Quickshade, seems to do the same job of shading and is a quarter the cost. It may be that the polyurethane varnish doesn't form as strong a coating on the figure as the solvent-based Quickshade, but that's the only possible advantage I can think of for using it.

I would be interested if anyone knows whether the Quickshade is stronger. I tried a bit of scraping at the figures with my fingernail and a knife, but didn't notice much difference.


  1. That actually looks really good. Ill need to get myself along to B&Q to see if they have something the same.

  2. Not a big dipper myself, but I did the same and bought some Wlkinsons own brand poly varnish and got pretty good results.
    Definitely cheaper (and kinder to brushes and noses) than the AP product.

  3. Gets on the bike and pedals to B&Q...

  4. Love the idea but got stung before with the satin sheen not dulling even with dull coat - how shiny are these in real life?

  5. I use normal woodstain from B&Q on the rare occasions I dip, and have done so for more than 10 years, after all that is exactly what army painter dips are.
    You have done the right thing and the figure looks great.
    The only thing I do when I have finished painting is use testors dullcote to eliminate all shine

  6. Interesting article, my last tin of AP Strong Tone 'died' on me towards the end, but I am a ridiculously slow painter/producer of stuff... :)

  7. Well done that man....I´m convinced that all AP is is recanned woodstain/some sort of creosote anyway...recanned and repriced. Apparently some of the Ikea woodstains are as good..if not better than AP as well. You will not notice any difference...Lately a lot of people are waking up to the fact :-D

  8. Hmmm. I can't tell the difference or think that the water based looks better. Perhaps it's just how the details on the figure took the stain. The concept of "dipping" terrifies me. The videos I've seen did not help. But I used to brush on ink washes all the time, so I could get behind that. I guess I also need to rethink my technique order. Highlighting after varnishing, hmm.

  9. G'day mate,

    Yeah I was using this stuff a while back - see here from my old Geocities site - till I ran out. I shared the can out with some mates, only keeping a jar full for myself. Never tried a matt on it afterwards but...

    The figs I have done thusly have stood up pretty well. I expect that single based figs would stand up considerably better than untreated ones.


  10. I think it looks great, you can't tell the difference and more to the point its a hell of a lot cheaper!!!

  11. Well...

    I've been working with AP myself in recent day and Ill definately try some of this stuff out. Unfortunately im currently exiled from Australia so there nearest Bunnings is quite a ways off.

    Ill have to look into some water based stuff, I have to work outside with my AP and outside in Maine in the winter isn't fun.

  12. Hello chaps.
    Paul - with some matt varnish over the satin stain it loses all its shine. Certainly easier to get a nice matt finish that it is with the more glosssy AP.

    Sean - yes - never dip with dip! I just treat it as though I was brushing on Devlan Mud. I do find highlighting makes a difference, particularly on skin, metal and a bit on large areas of clothing colour or shields.

    Nick - I missed that one! Great minds eh?

  13. Looks like you have found a good solution. I tried a couple of the Minwax products available here (Canada) but never found a result I liked. There was a Mahogany shade that turned into dark red on figures, and never really "settled" into appropriate areas, and then a darker stain (Tudor I think) that was too overpowering. I found it looked better if I diluted it with three parts unstained varnish, but in the end I discarded the dip.

  14. Got myself a tin at Bunnos this morning and pretty happy with the initial results (although I was a bit heavier handed than intended). I found that the satin sheen is already mostly gone after a quick drybrush after dipping. I'll post up some pics when done.