Speed painting and dipping Space Rangers

Recently I was looking at the website The Army Painter which sells fast-painting supplies for miniature painters.  Basically their stock consists of “specially developed” spray paint and wood varnish, all for a pretty hefty price.

Well, I’m all about frugal wargaming so I wanted to see if I could make a dent in some of the miniatures that I already own and not sink a ton of money into new painting supplies when off-the-shelf spray paint and wood varnish might work as well.

I have, buried deep in the pile, a box of ICE Space Rangers.  These figures are now available from em4 miniatures.  They are plastic, and have an odd, glossy chrome-like finish.  They come in five varieties:

  1. short, stubbly weapon (bolter) guy
  2. zappy ray-gun (meltagun) guy
  3. long las-rifle guy
  4. generic long weapon (missle launcher) guy
  5. sergeant with pistol and sword

The box holds over thirty of these guys, so I’ve got plenty of guys to waste experimenting.  Good thing too…

For varnish, I already owned a can Olympic All-in-One Varnish “Special Pecan” but I thought it was pretty light so I bought a can of Minwax “Bombay Mahogany,” the darkest one available because everyone I read said darker was better.  Later I learned that you can still get the premium option “Tudor” at Ace Hardware.

I owned lots of cans of spray paint, although most are glossy.  But I figured I’d be able to come up with something.

My plan for speed painting was simple.

  1. Prime the miniatures white (to cover the chrome-gloss plastic)
  2. Spray the miniature the base color
  3. Paint the guns, armor details, visor, and base
  4. Dip the miniature
  5. Spray with matte varnish
  6. Add static grass

For my first outing, I went with red spray paint and the Bombay Mahogany varnish.  The red turned out to be a little glossy, and the Mahogany seemed a little dark.

Hell's Own Space Ranger
Hell's Own Space Ranger

I thought it might look good for a later Chaos Space Marine army, and my son really liked it, but I wanted something a little more traditional.  So I went with gray primer and mahogany varnish.

A member of the Exxon Valdez Space Ranger chapter
A member of the Exxon Valdez Space Ranger chapter

Big mistake!  I don’t know what happened here but he looks like one of those ads for getting your oil changed in a timely manner.

Finally I went with gray primer and the Pecan varnish.  Here’s the result.

Not a Space Marine.  Really.
Not a Space Marine. Really.

Much better.  Here’s the whole squad.


My friend Artemi asked about mess.  Frankly, I think dipping is a lot like cooking–it’s as messy as you let it be.  I tried to keep things neat and tidy and while I did shake the miniature over newspaper in my gravel driveway, it wasn’t splattering all over the place the way I’ve heard some tell it.

Let’s be honest, dipping isn’t going to give you high-quality paintjobs, but the fact is that I could probably bang out ten Space Rangers in a day if I wanted that’d look pretty fair on a gaming table.


  1. Those gray ones turned out really nice looking! I think that red one might look good for something like demons, maybe? It kind of has the look of exposed muscle, which seems to be popular for them.

    This is basically what I’m doing with my ‘nids, when I get back to them, but with a wash. I’m painting them white, washing them with a brown, and then putting some quick detail work on scales, teeth, and bone. Though, this might be better, perhaps. You’re using a matte varnish, so I assume the shininess on that black one is from the varnish itself?

  2. Let me be clear about this, because “varnish” gets used twice. There’s the wood stain, which leaves a very glossy finish to the miniature, and then I spray with with matte varnish. I didn’t bother spraying the black one because I could tell it was a wreck.

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