Firstly there are a couple of reasons for this post about how to strip paint off miniatures. One is because I consider myself to be a mature beginner. As a kid, I would strip mini’s using my mum’s nail polish remover. Only because it’s what I could get my hands on. Now I earn an income I can buy whatever I want the wife lets me. So I can spend my time as a reborn beginner (with some money) practising different techniques with lots of different products to see what works best. Two is because of all the posts I have made, the more popular ones are nothing to do with my painting (maybe I’m not as good a painter as I think I am) but they are the posts that show people the outside of the box modeling techniques, I mean seriously, my most popular post ever was how to pour paint from little bottles into different little bottles. With everything I have used, I can say hands down this is the best product you can use to strip paint off miniatures by a clear margin.
So, depending on where you are from you probably use or have been recommended to use one of the following products to strip paint off miniatures.
- Castrol Super Clean / Purple Power (Thanks Bruce)
- biostrip 20 (Thanks Rhyd)
- Mum’s, Sisters, Aunt’s, Daughter’s or your own nail polish remover
- Brake Fluid
- Methylated Spirits
- Elbow Grease
Well, ignore all of that, please.
The main reason for this is that most of the products here are very country-specific. Even the generic products like brake fluid and nail polish remover. People tend to want to see the ‘exact’ product used in other people’s examples and buy that exact product to get the exact same results. The issue here is that in your country, you’re probably subject to entirely different brands than those shown in the example you see. So you won’t get your hands on that exact one you want. The best examples I’ve seen are somewhere between SimpleGreen and Super Clean. You can’t get these in the UK, the best thing you can get in the UK is Dettol, an antiseptic and disinfectant which works for me but it’s really expensive and makes a hell of a mess!
Instead of using one of several products where the best in each category have a single brand. There is one product you should be using and it may have several names.
Isopropyl Alcohol, IPA, Isopropanol, Iso,
Note: I originally included Rubbing Alcohol in this list, however, I was corrected in that rubbing alcohol is generally 70% isopropanol, or at times 90%, but not 99+% (Thanks Olaf)
Now, I want to stress that I am no chemist, but from what I understand copied from (from Wikipedia) IPA is;
Isopropyl alcohol (IUPAC name propan-2-ol; commonly called isopropanol) is a compound with the chemical formula C3H8O. It is a colourless, flammable chemical compound with a strong odour. As an isopropyl group linked to a hydroxyl group, it is the simplest example of a secondary alcohol, where the alcohol carbon atom is attached to two other carbon atoms. It is a structural isomer of 1-propanol.
So yeah, that’s what it is. I am pretty sure this stuff is in most, if not all of the individual products listed above.
What I do know is that it strips paint off mini’s like nothing else and it’s bloody cheap for an absolute load of it!
As I’m not a Chemist or Medical Expert I do need to caveat this post with a warning and story of my own experience so here we go;
How to Strip Paint Off Miniatures – WARNING!
The text above is a heading font, it’s in red and it is underlined, so you should bloody well read this bit!
Like other chemicals, Isopropyl Alcohol has warnings involved, and before buying it I suggest you go and look them up. It’s highly flammable for one. and from what I’ve read (from the icon on the bottle) can pose a health risk if you do not take proper precautions. You should avoid prolonged skin contact, you should avoid inhalation and certainly don’t be a twat and drink the damn stuff, you can die. But I assume the same can be said about the other items on the list above.
I always use nitrile gloves when handling this stuff, and wear my airbrush face mask to avoid inhalation. You need to be careful stripping minis as the pointy sharp bits on them can pierce your gloves and before you know it you’ve been soaking neat alcohol through your skin for several hours (maybe get some marigolds if you’re that worried). And just to be extra precautious, I don’t drink the damn stuff…. because that’s just dumb!
I don’t want to scare anyone off the stuff, I can’t imagine it’s any worse than using neat bleach, some people use this stuff to clean wounds. But during my first experience using it I was so happy with the results I persisted in stripping minis for a good 6-8 hours solid. With latex gloves and no mask, sitting over the mini I was stripping, breathing in the fumes almost constantly. Also, I was in a poorly ventilated garage and at the end of this, I learned I had pierced a hole in my gloves so I had been absorbing it through my skin.
The reason I decided to stop after this 6-8 hour period is that whilst stripping, I suddenly vomited into my mouth a small amount. Then like the worrier I am, I even called an emergency medical helpline to ensure I hadn’t poisoned myself. (I hadn’t, and I was advised to stop worrying). The next day my thumb went really tight and stiff where it had been absorbing the alcohol and it took a few days to recover.
But, the moral of the story is, I didn’t die. So please don’t anybody out there go and die from using this stuff.
- Wear Gloves
- Wear a Mask
- Be in a well-ventilated area
- Do it for a couple of hours at a time, not 8+
- DONT DRINK THE DAMN STUFF
Good? Ok? Warning over
Update: Methylated Spirits (Denatured Alcohol) has also been highly recommended as an easily available product that does the same job, however after a quick read, I cannot recommend Methylated Spirits as it is known to leave a greasy residue, whereas IPA evaporates. Isopropanol is also one of the primary additives of Methylated Spirits. so again. why bother with Methys when you can just go straight for IPA. See more detail on the internet’s most trustworth source of information – Wikipedia
How to Strip Paint off Miniatures – The Tools
Isopropyl Alcohol (99.9% Pure)
The best thing about this stuff to strip paint off miniatures is that it is the same everywhere. No matter your locale, IPA is IPA, I normally buy about 5 litres at a time as the more you buy the cheaper it is. I got 5 litres in 5 separate 1-litre bottles for £5.
- Click Here to buy IPAin the UK
- Click Here to buy IPA in the US
- Click Here to buy IPA in Australia
- Click Here to buy IPA in Canada
Click Here to buy IPA in the UK, this picture is the exact product I bought.
Click Here to buy IPA in the US – Same Stuff
Click Here to buy IPA in Australia – Same Stuff
Click Here to buy IPA in Canada – Same Stuff
- Click Here to buy IPAin the UK
- Click Here to buy IPA in the US
- Click Here to buy IPA in Australia
- Click Here to buy IPA in Canada
You’ll need a stripping pot, a water pot for your brushes and a rinse pot.
You can buy these online as they are super cheap and come in various sizes. As an alternative (the way I do it) order a takeaway and one of your local vendors will probably use these to bring your food in. If they don’t, complain. Just save these up if you haven’t done already. You can buy expensive Tupperware but you really don’t need to trash good containers for stripping paint. These are useful not just to Strip Paint off Miniatures but as various containers for parts and basing materials.
Don’t have a local takeaway that uses these.
- Click here to buy Storage Containers in the UK
- Click here to buy Storage Containers in the US
- Click here to buy Storage Containers in Australia
- Click here to buy Storage Containers in Canada
You Can’t Really get this Wrong, I’ve used Latex and Nitrile without any issues reacting with the IPA. The only risk is that when you are handling the miniature, the spikey bits can pierce the gloves. See the warning section above for how this went wrong for me. Latex gives you more tactile response when handling the minis (and it’s kinky, because Latex). But constant use with some latex products can cause a skin reaction that makes your hands itch and peel. Nitrile removes this issue but you can’t feel the model as easily through them. Whatever you get, don’t get powdered gloves as they will powder your mini. Powdered is fine for stripping, but don’t use them for painting as you will get the powder all over your paint job. If you want to make sure you don’t get any glove piercings, slap on some marigolds. Gloves come in various sizes, so ensure you get the right size. make sure they are nice and tight, there are plenty of sizing guides online.
Again these aren’t just useful to Strip Paint off Miniatures, they are great for keeping your greasy mitts off the models during painting and give you a better finish. Also to test how loaded your brush is before applying paint to your model.
- Click here to buy Latex Gloves in the UK
- Click here to buy Latex Gloves in the US
- Click here to buy Latex Gloves in Australia
- Click here to buy Latex Gloves in Canada
Nitrile Gloves (this is what I use, I would prefer Latex but my skin reacts to it)
- Click Here to buy Nitrile Gloves in the UK
- Click here to buy Nitrile Gloves in the US
- Click here to buy Nitrile Gloves in Australia
- Click here to buy Nitrile Gloves in Canada
There are a few options here, do it outside, open all the windows but risk your house smelling IPA with others breathing in the fumes. If you have an Airbrush extractor turn this on. Or my personal Favourite Use an airbrush face mask if you are planning on stripping models for a few hours.
Once again this is not just useful to Strip Paint off Miniatures, if you have an airbrush you should use something like this in the least.
Dust Mask (this is the exact mask I use)
- Click Here to buy a Dust Mask in the UK
- Click here to buy a Dust Mask in the US
- Click here to buy a Dust Mask in Australia
- Click here to buy a Dust Mask in Canada
Airbrush Extractor Station (this is the exact model I use)
- Click Here to buy an Airbrush Extractor in the UK
- Click here to buy an Airbrush Extractor Station in the US
- Click here to buy an Airbrush Extractor Station in Australia
- Click here to buy an Airbrush Extractor Station in Canada
There are a couple of things you need here, Toothbrushes and Pipe Cleaners.
The ones pictured below are not the ones I used but when I looked for images to go in this post I saw these and they looked awesome. You can get them from here. You just need a basic toothbrush with bristles only. Nothing with those plastic bits for cleaning your tongue. Just a classic toothbrush. If you have one an ultrasonic toothbrush would do a better job. Just Buy a Normal Toothbrush
- Click here to buy a Toothbrush in the UK
- Click here to buy a Toothbrush in the US
- Click here to buy a Toothbrush in Australia
- Click here to buy a Toothbrush in Canada
When I say Pipe Cleaner, I don’t mean the things kids use for creating fuzzy characters, I mean Ye Olde Pipe Cleaners, the actual ones for cleaning pipes. you’ll have a better chance of finding these nowadays if you search for Pipe Brushes. Blame your childhood for changing the name of what these actually are.
- Click here to buy Pipe
BrushesCleaners in the UK
- Click here to buy Pipe
BrushesCleaners in the US
- Click here to buy Pipe
BrushesCleaners in Australia
- Click here to buy Pipe
BrushesCleaners in Canada
I can’t really list an Item here, I keep my IPA in a Metal Cabinet in my garage. Know that it is flammable and hazardous to health. keep it away from kids and somewhere fire retardant. As far as I know, it can’t spontaneously combust……….. As far as I know.
An Old Towel
Again, I can’t really list anything, I had a load of Microfibre Towels laying around so I use those. You just want something large enough to cover your work surface to avoid getting as much of the paint away from your usual work surface as possible. As you brush the paint will fleck off and end up in places you don’t expect. Protect what you can.
Tissue Paper / Paper Towels
I don’t need to display this one either if you have a home, you have this. it’s the roll of tissue in the kitchen, use it to dry off and wipe off the paint build up you’ll get.
How to Strip Paint off Miniatures -The Process
There isn’t much in the process to Strip Paint off Miniatures but based on my experience using this for a number of years now there are a few things to note. The first of which is that your results (and amount of effort you need to put in) will vary based on how the miniature was initially prepared and what type of paint is on it.
The first thing you need to do is fill pour some IPA into a container, this needs to be enough to submerge the model or part you are going to strip.
Then just put the model in and submerge it for at least 20 minutes. I’ve found that 40 minutes is the sweet spot for the first pass. This allows the IPA to penetrate deep into the paint and eat away at it.
I normally pop the lid on at this point, the IPA will evaporate really easily. In order to prevent any loss and to prevent smells, this is the best way forward.
To actually Strip Paint off Miniatures wait about 20-40 minutes, pop on some gloves, ensure your ventilation is good and/or if necessary, put on your ventilation mask. Take one of the models or pieces you want to strip out of the IPA pot and put the lid back on. Then, Dip your toothbrush in a separate pot of IPA to load it up and start to brush the mini. Do this over a towel so that you don’t get specks of paint all over your normal work surface
You should see that the paint easily comes away, Keep brushing and rinsing your brush in a separate pot of IPA until you can get as much paint off as possible. It’s likely you won’t get it all off in this first pass but get off as much as you can and get into the recesses where possible. before you put this back into your initial pot of IPA with the other parts you are stripping. use your brush pot of IPA and brush the model until it is clean. Otherwise, you’re going to get specks of paint in your original pot and things start to get messy. You’re gonna get some in, but its best to keep it as separate as you can our you end up with a pool of black IPA.
You should see that unlike the other products, IPA doesn’t gunk up, It turns most of the paint to fluid and just drips away, use paper towels to catch the excess and wipe the model clean. Your results will vary depending on what the model is undercoated and painted with. With the models that were undercoated in Vallejo or Stynylrez I was able to get them completely back to base plastic. Models that used the typical Chaos Black rattle-can weren’t as easy. It’s still possible to fully strip but it will take much longer. I had some eBay models I tried to strip in order to rescue them, but they were based in some kind of enamel primer which would not budge. But at least I got them back to the primer. You won’t get better results with any of the other products above.
Keep stripping all the parts you have, and repeating this process until you get around to the last one. you’ll probably notice that some parts come apart too as the IPA will also break down superglue. It won’t have much of an effect on parts that are bonded with plastic glue as the plastic will be fused together. But the superglue will likely come away. during the cleaning process. If any remains you can normally pick this off with a dental pick quite easily.
Now just repeat the steps for a second round, pull out a mini that’s been soaking in IPA. load your brush with IPA and scrub. At this point, I normally find that some pipe cleaners do a better job of getting into those tight spots.
You may need a third round or more, it really depends on how thorough you are, what paint types are on the mini and how much you care about cleaning every detail. The main image of this article was after 3 rounds of stripping. It was pretty much finished after the first two, it was only after I took the photos when I noticed some spots I’d missed. Most of the time though, the IPA and brushing will thin the paint enough that your next primer coat wil cover anything left over. and you wont even notice it was there.
If you want you can pop your model into soapy water to soak, but the IPA evaporates quickly so I just leave them on a towel to dry naturally. This means they are immediately ready to paint. Unlike other products. there’s no further gunk clean-up necessary.
You can pour your IPA through a sieve back into the bottle. The sieve is just to catch any solid flakes that came off your model.
See below for examples of the results of IPA.
How to Strip Paint Off Miniatures – Plastic Deathwing Terminator
This was one of my first Deathwing models and my first attempt at shading bone coloured armour. Suffice to say it did not go well. This was the one that gave me the idea to write a blog called How to Strip Paint off Miniatures. I was using an old ForgeWorld Paint called Typhon Ash (which you cant get anymore, damn ForgeWorld). Painting layers on this built up far too thick and I wanted to start again on the whole model. There was far too much texture on the surfaces. This was Primed with Vallejo Grey primer and painted with Games Workshop Acrylic Paints.
The initial bath in IPA and brush got most of the paint off as you can see, but some of the recesses still had thick paint. I wasn’t happy about this.
Another 20 minutes in the IPA and this model was brushed with pipe cleaners, as you can see it’s looking good as new. (I’m not sure what the blue blur is in the middle of this image, I’ve started getting this on pictures. I need to check my camera lens.
How to Strip Paint Off Miniatures – Metal Scyrak The Slaughterer
This model is 20 years old, and 20 years ago is when it was primed. Scyrak the Slaughterer was a conversion model with instructions on how to build him on The Citadel Journal Issue #20. For anyone who remembers that book. I built the model back at the time when you could order metal Parts from Games Workshop individually. This is the second time I’ve stripped him too. He was primed with Chaos Black Spray and Painted with Games Workshop Acrylic Paints. Sorry about the photographs of this one. I wasn’t intending to display him as one of the models in the guide and just used the in-progress shots to show an example of cleaning a model primed with Chaos Black Spray and left for 20 years.
The first round was not as successful as the Deathwing Terminator above. this has removed all of the acrylic paint but the Chaos Black Spray needs a lot more elbow grease. Elbow Grease is £3.99 a tub on eBay.
Another bath and this is as far as I could be bothered to go at this point. Even the remaining black is now thin enough to be unnoticeable after another base coat. Another option for this guy is to drop him in an ultrasonic bath of IPA. Which I’ll probably have a chance to do before I paint him. At some point, after I do this I will upload new pictures to show off how far I get and just how much the remaining paint really doesn’t matter.
How to Strip Paint Off Miniatures – Plastic Khorne Bloodreaver
This is the How to Strip Paint Off Miniatures headline model. As you can see, the before image shows a terrible paint job. I was painting this up as part of another blog tutorial and it came out very poorly. To top it off, I dropped him. I struggled to get the flesh layers down and then went far too heavy on the wash. This was primed in Vallejo Black Airbrush Primer and painted with Games Workshop Acrylic Paints.
Again with the blue in the middle of the image, Time to check my camera lens. As you can see here, my scrubbing caused his head to fall off. There is still some cleanup to do again but I can get this easily with another pass of soaking and scrubbing.
Finally the after shot. This was with pipe cleaners again and you can see that this looks almost new. It’s come up so clean that even the scratches I added to the axe head are clean. you can even see where I accidentally drilled too far through the foot to pin him, which was covered up with the primer. I stuck his head back on with blu-tack just for the photo (can you spot it?).
Below is the side-by-side of the before and after so you can directly see the detail difference.
How to Strip Paint Off Miniatures – Resin & Finecast
It’s been only 4 days since I published this post and it’s already received quite a lot of interest. in fact, it has been the most popular post on the blog since I launched! There have been a few comments and questions about resin.
When writing this post I took a spare resin part I had, just to test it. As the post was so long I decided not to add this part, but I’ve since realised it needs to be covered.
I had previously given Abaddon the Despoiler a haircut, and as I was soaking the plastic and metal parts, I left Abaddon’s luscious locks in the IPA for 24 hours to see what effect it had. I have previously stripped Njall Stormcaller with only a minimum amount of detail lost on the pointiest edges. Abaddon’s hair was not so lucky.
Most of the hair points have been brushed off, the tip of the hair has completely snapped off and the teeth of the skull have also lost their points
On the rear, you can pretty much see the same, app the points and tips have come away. The hair strands have lost their detail, most noticeable toward the bottom left corner. and I even pushed my thumbnail across the hairline to see what damage it would do. This crease was permanent.
The resin came out really soft, and the brushing took the highest points of detail away. However (and I’m sorry I never took photos back when I did it, but Njall Stormcaller didn’t have this much detail loss. nowhere near. Honestly, resin is so soft, you could dip a toothbrush in water and you’d have a fair level of detail loss. IPA, like most paint strippers, will make the resin a bit softer. But if you work in 20-minute intervals, you’ll get the best results. It works about as well as anything else, just take it steady and don’t leave the resin mini’s soaking in IPA like you could with plastic or metal.
How to Strip Paint Off Miniatures – Additional benefits to having IPA
IPA is a fantastic cleaner, from Brushes to benches it gets everything back to squeaky clean. With the added benefit of disinfecting whatever it touches.
I use it for multiple purposes in my hobby.
- First of all, the best part of IPA is you can use it to clean the containers you stripped your models in so you can keep using them over and over. if you are pouring your Games Workshop paints into dropper bottles, you can clean your funnels.
- Although most won’t recommend it, it’s great for cleaning brushes. I wouldn’t soak it like a mini, but when you are finished with a colour, give your brush an initial rinse off in IPA to ensure any paint that has started to dry is broken down. then rinse it in the water to get the IPA off and stop it breaking down the glue holding in the bristles. I have Windsor and Newton Brushes that are like new after 3 years and I strongly suspect it’s because of this. (And The Masters Brush Cleaner and Preserver (UK Link))
- Clean your desk. At some point, you may have spilled paint or in the least flicked some paint flecks on it. Just like your mini’s, this breaks down the paint. every few weeks I like to let it soak into a small microfibre towel and rub the desk down with it.
- Clean your Airbrush with it, Whilst I wouldn’t soak your whole airbrush in IPA as it will likely break down your rubber seals. Dropping IPA in an Ultrasonic Bath along with your metal airbrush parts will clean them up very nicely. You can create a safer mix with some Distilled water which will be better on your seals and just submerge the lot if you want
- You can make all manner of thinners or drying retarders for your paints, I’ve not looked into this too much myself but mixed with a few other chemicals and household products you can apparently make some great support fluids at a fraction of the cost of what they sell for in stores. I’ll have a go at this for a future blog post. Just make sure you have some dropper bottles to store your mixes in.
How to Strip Paint Off Miniatures – Final Thoughts
IPA really is a lesser known but necessary tool that every modeller should have in their armoury. For the price of it, it’s surely worth picking up at least 500ml just to have a go?
But maybe don’t strip the paint off your minis at all? Yeah, that’s right, you just read all of that and now I’m advising you not to do it. At least not to all of your models anyway. When I was a kid and on a budget. I stripped everything and In most cases, I never even got around to re-painting them again. Also, I now don’t have any of my old models to look back on and see how far I’ve come since my first model. This really upset me recently when #MyFirstWarhammer started trending on Twitter after Games Workshop encouraged it on their website. It was especially disappointing as I was the guy who gave Games Workshop the Idea for this hashtag back in 2017.
Well. I don’t know that for certain, but you see the evidence and make your own mind up
— FauxHammer (@FauxHammerBlog) July 4, 2018
— FauxHammer (@FauxHammerBlog) July 4, 2018
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