Working With Reaper Bones
This is part two of a series on Reaper's Bones lines of figures. The previous article,titled "What's the Deal With Reaper Bones?" concerned itself with a brief history of Reaper Miniatures and their Bones lines, and what their differences are. This article is going to describe how to get started cleaning and painting your Bones once you've figured out which ones you want. Some of the info in this article is linked to the previous one, such as the differences in removing mold lines between the three lines. This is because I felt it was better to cover such detail in a direct comparison article. So without further ado, crack open those blister packs and follow along.
How to Handle Bones
Washing Your Bones
All three Bones lines need to be prepared similarly. Once you've opened the packs you need to wash them in soapy water. This is because they still have some of the release agent residue that is used to remove the models from the molds on them, so it's good to get that off. This is simply done by filling a bowl with water and some dish soap (like Dawn, Sunlight, etc.). Let the model sit in the soapy water, give it a bit of a stir, and then grab a toothbrush and give them a gentle scrub until you see a lather. For this I use a crummy toothbrush that I bought at a dollar store solely for working with models as opposed to teeth. Rinse the model off under tap water and you're ready to move onto the next step.
Straightening Your Bones
If you see any bits of the model that are bent, you need to get them back into position by submerging them, alternately and carefully, in hot, and cold water. Some models take to this method better than others, and I can't say I've had the patience of a saint with every figure I've tried to bend back. I have a skeleton with a spear that simply does not want to straighten no matter how many times I've tried this method, but for other figures I've found this to be successful.
First I grab a bowl and fill it with boiling water. I drop the model in, and wait about five to ten minutes. I carefully grab the model using tongs or chopsticks and bend the pieces to where I want them to be with my fingers. I then submerge the model in a second bowl that is filled with ice water, and hold it there for another five to ten minutes. This process may need to be repeated, but should eventually yield a straightened model. I noticed that this is more necessary with Bones, than Bones Black, or Bones USA, but your milage with all three ranges may vary.
Cleaning Your Bones
After the model is completely dry from washing and straightening I begin removing mold lines. The differences between the three lines in this respect are detailed in their sections in the previous article on Bones.
Painting Your Bones
After the model is cleaned and ready to paint, I dig right in. There are three methods you can go about doing this, and I'll talk about them in order of least to most recommended:
Spray priming is not recommended, though you can do it. The material on Bones and Bones Black don't take aerosols well, and your models can be tacky to the touch after the primer dries. Just don't do it.
That being said, I noticed that after a decade of sitting in a figure case, the models I did spray prime when I first got my Kickstarter in 2012 and didn't know any better, seemed to lose most of their tackiness. However, I doubt anyone's going to want to wait ten years to paint their figures.
Slapping some paint on to your figures is perfectly acceptable. This method is pretending your model is already primed and just painting it like you would any other primed figure. There are some caveats to this, though:
You should begin with an undiluted, un-thinned, paint. Don't add water to your palette, don't use a wet palette; just take your paint straight from the pot/bottle, and paint it on. This goes against everything I've ever known about painting, but the Bones materials are very hydrophobic. If you add water to your paint, it will bead on the figure.
Once the Bones material is fully-covered, you can begin washing, shading, highlighting, and/or blending like you normally would, because you're painting onto the base coat of acrylic paint as opposed to the material. This actually leads us to my preferred method:
Hand-applying a paint-on primer. I used Vallejo Surface Primers, and Warcolours' Nostalgia '88 Smelly Primer, and while they felt tacky when they first dried, after twenty-four hours they felt normal, and were ready to paint. As described above, this doesn't actually need to be an actual primer, either. I also used some cheap craft acrylics that I bought at Michael's, and they worked well. I used Plaid's FolkArt Matte Pure Black (479), and Pale Gray (6463), and while they were a bit chalky, they worked fine, and are cheaper than Vallejo's paint-on primers. You could also just use a regular ol' acrylic paint in a neutral color, or in the main color of the figure, and work from there.
The reason I like this third method is that it still provides that primer-like experience, and helps define the details of the model for when you start painting. Using the second method I described (just painting right over top the Bones as if it were already primed), I found it was a little tough to figure out what part was what on the model, and led to some paint bleeding over from one element of the figure to another. Obviously this is more of an issue with the original white Bones, than the gray Bones or the other two materials. If you keep this initial, all-over, coat thin yet water-free, it should create a great base over which to paint.
No Bones About It
So that's it! A little different than the way we're used to working with models, and a few more considerations to take in when doing so, but in the end you'll find that these models are satisfying to paint, and look great on the table. Like I said in the previous article, I love these figures, and though they've become more-expensive to get here in Canada, this won't affect my enthusiasm in trying to find the perfect, tiny, avatar for my role-play characters by combing through Reaper's catalog.