Varnishing your models without frosting

For too long I've seen post after post about how somebody's worked tirelessly on a centerpiece model, finished it after hundreds of hours and then went to varnish only to have it frosted. The photo above belongs to Pit of the Oni, it's what happened to him.

I don't think there is anything more demoralizing and frustrating as that. Makes you want to just up and quit quite honestly.

No more, here are a collection of horror stories AND solutions if you find yourself in this very situation.

From Pit of the Oni: Purity Seal
My entire army has not been matte varnished and I thought I should probably do so before showing it off. As you’ve probably already guessed and/or cringed… read the whole post.

From Hogs of War: Purity Seal
I bought a new can of Purity Seal this week and I just went to seal my Forgeworld Khorne Terminators and it ruined them. It looks like I sprayed them with white primer... read the whole post.

From My Dice Hate Me: Krylon Matte Finish
In the past I had come across the problem of frosting after using a spray varnish. I asked around my gaming club on how to fix the issue and what caused it... read the whole post.

From Pathfinder: Plastikote Clear Enamel
First up, I feel I must explain my varnishing. Unlike most modellers, I'm still a bit fan on a gloss or satin finish on my models... read the whole post.

From Rogue Pom: Army Painter Varnish
I am currently using Army Painter Anti Shine Matt Varnish. I have used two cans and had good results.
The dregs of the second can gave me some slight frosting but I gave the models a second light dusting and this completely removed the frosting.

From Warpstone Flux: Gloss Floor Varnish
When I was assembling and painting up my renegade Warp Hornets chaos space marine chapter, I decided to dip all of the finished marines in a glossy varnish... read the whole post.

From Regiment de la Garde: Gloss Floor Varnish
Once I'm done painting; I dip them into the wood varnish (color: oak) it creates a first layer of protection while making a nice shade.
The problem is that the figurine remains very brilliant...
The next day I spray them with matt varnish. See some finished examples.

From Weemen: Gloss 'Ard Coat over the top
Although he did have a bad frosting experience when it came to Purity seal varnishing him - I blame not shaking the can enough. He was somewhat re-touched with ... read the whole post.

My own personal experience: Krylon Matte Finish
I use this stuff exclusively. Mainly because of the price and it doesn't alter the colors after drying. I've learned to always shake the can well and try a new can on a test model first before using it on an entire squad at once. Some cans work and some don't. I don't know why that is but if the can "frosts," I simply return it for another one that won't.
In the event I do get "frosted," I use a Q-Tip dipped in fingernail polish remover and rub the affected area gently. This will get almost all of the frosting off.

If you've got a horror story with a warning for others or a happy ending because you were able to fix your model, let me know about it so I can include it here for everyone else.

Thanks guys.

Ron, From the WarpIf you've got any questions about something in this post, shoot me a comment and I'll be glad to answer. Make sure to share your hobby tips and thoughts in the comments below!


  1. I have had a lot of luck with a brush on matte varnish from the art supply section. I may have to check back on exact brand, But brushing on the varnish as opposed to spraying it on really gives me a lot more control. My friends think it has a bit more of a satin finish than matte, but i really enjoy it.

    Their has yet to have been any frosting, no matter how much i put on... Your only real concern is to make sure you brush all air bubbles out, which can still be fixed with IPA if you miss one or two.

    The stuff I used I love. I have a Night Lords army, And the varnish really makes the colors pop out at you, everything on the model just seems brighter.

  2. I find the secret is to do a very quick thin coat on both sides of the fig. If you miss a spot wait an hour before hitting again. If you try and spray a second coat on before it dries completely you get the frosting.

    I use the Army Painter sealer and only had one frosting due to trying to make the coat too thick or if I hit the fig a second time right away.

  3. Testors Dullcote. Its cheap, its a small can so requires minimal shaking, and over 500 models I've used it on has no frosting. The empty 30+ cans in my spray room attests to that.

  4. According to the list of problems with other products, I think the moral of the story is this: Use.Testors.Dullcote.

  5. I have had this happen before, and the advice I got from a friend was to recoat the model with a high gloss spray, then recoat again with a matte spray.

    It worked great on a whole section of my Gondorian LotR army. I originally sprayed them in the Arizona summer (bad idea to begin with) and the spray was drying before it hit the model. Anyways the gloss spray took out the frost, then the second matte coat took off the gloss (which I don't like at all)

    So, hope that helps someone out there.

  6. Great article. Glad to see others share my pain as well.
    Well GW's purity seal is really like rolling the dice at a craps table or playing Russian Roulette, the first time had a problem with frosting was with some characters I painted last year for a small Hammers of Dorn force. The models were ruined and I had to strip and repaint them. Still, I continued using the GW purity seal in hopes it was just that can....

    Each can was different never consistent, and just recently I needed to varnish a huge chunk of Ork army and many of the models were frosted, despite a good five minutes of shaking and pretty decent weather.... Never again.....Never again will I use GW's purity seal...

    I know others swear by Testors and have seen that it hold true....plan on buying a few cans this weekend at my local hobby shop.

  7. I use gloss then matte. If its because the gloss coat i dont know but ive never had a model frost.

  8. I've never had a model end up with a hazy finish, either. I used to use a few light coats of Testor's Gloss Cote followed by a final coat of Testor's Dull Cote on finished pieces - if you spray them within about an hour of each other you don't run into any problems, but once they start to "firm up" it might be a good idea to let them sit overnight (or however long it takes to fully dry). I've since moved on to Krylon Gloss followed Krylon Matte, more for the cost than anything, but for a special figure or display piece or something, I still have a can or two of Testor's Dull Cote. Although I don't play 40K much, a trick I picked up is that by using two different finishes, once your figure starts to look glossy in parts through wear 'n' tear, you know it's time to re-protect it again.

    I also am very attentive to the heat, cold, and humidity when I spray, but by and large this isn't a problem for me because I made a mini "spray booth" in our basement with a shop vac, microfiber filter, duct tape, etc. and my spraying is more or less "climate controlled" as a result, with the added bonus of minimal paint odor.

    I will say that the only problem I've found with Dull Cote (from the standpoint of painting display or competition-quality figures more or less exclusively) is that it works too well, completely obliterating the depth of color and contrast out of any metallics on a piece. I generally then go back and brush over the metallics again with thinned-down Future Floor Finish to bring back the "depth" - once the slightly refractive finish of the Dull Cote is smoothed back out again, the metallics look as rich as they should.

  9. Tinweasel: I never thought about touching up metallic parts to get a good look. I've gone back with a brush on gloss for things like gems and such but never messed with the metals.

  10. Man this is weird timing as I've just varnished my whole by brush...

  11. I for one am glad that this came up when it did, I had a big model in my army that I sealed and it frosted. Normally a little frosting worked well for my army, they are themed around the cold north. But this one was a little too frosted to pull it off. I had used the Armory sealer (could be the issue but its what I could find and it worked at the time), anyways after that ran out I was told to get the Krylon matte sealer. I used it on a couple other models and it worked great. After reading this post though I decided that I was going to see if another coat of sealer over the original one would help out the frosting. And it did, it was great the model looks like it just came out of the cleaners. Which is fine since it is a used once in a while model in the force (both for me and in the fluff of the model). Thanks for putting this one together.

  12. I've heard people get good results from Krylon Matte spray.

    Supposedly you can't tell afterwords that it was clear coated.

    Anybody use that? I've only ever put it over drawings on paper.

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  15. I like to gloss coat first, and then later on (24 hours) do a matte coat.

    In the event that I do get frosting, I use a 4:1 mix of water:Future Floorwax to fill the microscopic pitting (as future self-levels) and then 24-48 hours later, I respray for matte.

    So far has worked wonderfully.

  16. Krylon can be good if used in thin layers - but also worth checking out is the GOLDEN acrylic varnishes from art supplies.. you can get them in matte, satin, gloss, semi satin, semi matte and semi gloss. they also come in different consistencies. These varnishes are excellent and you can buy a smaller pot to test them out. So far when I've used the satin and matte there is NO evidence of the mini having been varnished - it looks exactly like it did when the paint job was finished, colours still true etc.. It also makes them almost impossible to chip of otherwise disloge the paint job! (O:
    Again, always always TEST stuff on a painted sprue or model your not fussed about.
    (You can also get polymer varnishes that are very good - these will all need to be brushed on tho, so perhaps not practical for massive armies..

  17. I've had problems with Humbrol Matt Cote, so brush on varnishes aren't always failsafe. When it does work however, it is completely matte, and so metallics and the like do need repainting or revarnishing.

  18. Another way to fix this problem, if you have a airbrush, is to spray the frosted miniature with Tamiya Acrylic Paint Thinner. One or two coats should do. I think it works because the paint thinner melts the tiny particles responsible for the frosting.

  19. phiq: Very interersting. The thinner doesn't affect the paint and then dries leaving the model "clear" huh?
    Very cool to know, thanks!

  20. I used some Humbrol matt varnish spray on a cold night and ruined a set of Warmachine merc figures. They frosted up and it also went on really thick.

    I tried using another lighter coat (it re-activates the lower layer) but it failed on two figures.

    However some diligent touch up painting, extra washes with GW inks and finally a hand painted matt varnish using Valejo worked and saved them. You would have to look really close to spot the frost in the odd area.

    I will never use the Humbrol again and not on a cold winters night in the garage. I now tend to give very light coats of purity seal or use Testors dull.

  21. inrepose: Thanks for the insight. At least you were able to repair/salvage the majority of your damaged work.

  22. I've had great results shooting Dlaer Rowney Soluble Matte Varnish out of my airbrush. Thinned with a little mineral spirits, it gives a very matte finish and I've never had a problem with frosting. Also really cost effective!

    Nice article and blog- I'm now a follower! :)

  23. deathkorps: Excellent. I really need to get an airbrush and start expanding my hobby skills.

  24. After having a major problem with a varnish accident i decided not to use the purity seal stuff from gw ever again!!!

    From now on ill be using brush on waterbased and shoot it with my airbrush works 10 times better. only problem is that you have to take apart the airbrush afterwards

  25. Elzo: At least you have a workable solution now. Taking apart the airbrush to clean it seems like a small price to pay to know you're safe from frosting from here on out.
    Glad you found a solution.


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