Hello, fellow figure painters. I believe I have finally found the perfect "wash" for miniature figures. A few weeks ago I admired some Boxer war figures of local painter here in Southern California. "Dow the Programmer" told me how to make his "Magic Wash", and I have been trying it out recently. I am stoked by it. Magic Wash blows the doors off of every other wash technique I have ever used! And it is so inexpensive as to be negligible! And it is easier than most other wash techniques!
Here is the recipe:
Buy a bottle of "FUTURE acrylic floor finish for non-wax and regular floors" by Johnson & Son. In the U.S. it comes in big 800 ml (27 ounce) clear plastic squeeze bottles for about $7, and was available in both supermarkets I checked. This is more than I can probably use in a lifetime. The clear liquid inside is slightly more viscous than water. I imagine there are similar products in other countries, and I recommend that we identify them.
Pre-mix some of the FUTURE, one part of acrylic finish to four parts of water. This is the Magic Wash stock. I made mine up in a liter sealable milk bottle. Making a clear stock up ahead of time allows the small bubbles which can result when mixed with water to subside over time.
Devote one brush to be the Magic Wash brush. I don't know if this is really necessary, but it seems safer to me, since the formula of the FUTURE finish is different from those of our acrylic paints.
When you are ready to use it, mix a little of the Magic Wash stock with a small amount of your chosen pigment. Stir it with your brush, don't shake it. I have successfully used inks and acrylic paints as pigments.
Brush over your figures and allow to dry. It dries just about as quickly as acrylic paints.
It sucks the pigment right down into the crevasses and keeps it there. Doesn't let it "osmosis" back up. And the high areas remain remarkably clear ! I have used black, dark brown, and light tan (for white marble).
And Magic Wash even gives a hard protective coating !! It's not too shiny, but a final coat of dullcote often makes the figures look better to my eye.
What DON'T I like about it? Well, I've mentioned the little bubbles, with a method for avoiding them. The only other "problem" is that, if you tend to lick your brush while painting, the stuff tastes TERRIBLE !! So I have given up that habit when using Magic Wash.
Update 7/23/11 - In the US (maybe elsewhere as well) Future Floor Polish is now called Pledge with Future Shine.
Future is available only in the United States. However it is sold under other names, or there are similar products, available in other countries.
United Kingdom: Klear or Krystal Klear
Netherlands: Pronto Wax for Wood Floors or Parket Plus
Germany: Erdal Glanzer
Australia: Pledge One Go
Xtracolour, which makes military hobby paints, make "Acrylic Gloss Clear" which seams to be repackaged Future.
If your country is not listed, check your local supermarket for a clear, acrylic-based floor polish.