Miniatures: Painting & Modifying Techniques

I've been experimenting with some different techniques, so I thought I would create a page dedicated to the modifying of miniatures, gaming or otherwise, for use in both fantasy RPG's, as well as fantasy miniatures games.  Read on for directions, and examples of what can be done inexpensively, and very quickly...

Project #1:  Hell Hounds and their Flaming Breath Weapons.

I discovered that the Mage Knight Demon Spawn figures are quite accurate to D&D's Hell Hound -- literally, a hound, of sorts, from the Planes of Hell itself!  I re-based around a dozen, or so, of these inexpensive MK Demon Spawn figures, without repainting any of them.  They are as they came from the MK maker.  Their base was painted with wetted PVA Glue (I manually stirred in a couple of drops of Dawn Dish Soap, to break up the Glue's surface tension, so it would not bead up as much, when applied to vinyl floor tile basing material), then I dunked them in fine, black craft sand, from Michael's Store (use whatever sand you like, but with this sand product, no painting was necessary -- I wanted an all-black base, with texture).

Here is what the Demon Spawn figures looked like, after re-basing:

MK Demon Spawn figure next to another MK Knight in full armor.  Here you can see the MK Demon Spawn/Hell Hound figure, standing on three legs, without his flaming breath weapon shown.   I have figures both with, and without, the gouts of flames shooting from their mouth, as I thought it would be fun to swap the figures, after the first time the PC receives the 'warm welcome', up close and personal...

Two MK Knights, in full armor, learning first-hand that these are no ordinary Hounds...

Making/Failing a Saving Throw?...

The blue-plate special?  Roast Human, well done only -- sorry, no substitutions, please.

Figure has been re-based, this time in a 3-paws-down position.  Note the
gout of flames -- this puppy ate some bad Habenero salsa -- on steroids!

The yellow craft paint was applied all over the flame sheet, as a base; next, orange paint was applied, while the yellow was still wet, to allow dynamic blending; lastly, some red was carefully added, in small amounts, to give this fire some magic...  It was, however, necessary to go back and add in more yellow, as the blending is dynamic, so it is a bit of trial-and-error to get it the way you will want it to be when it dries.  Note that this dynamic blending is difficult, it takes a few tries, to get the final result of all three colors blending properly.  It works, quite well, if you exercise some patience.

A view of both sides.  You can clearly see the leading edge of the flame front is jagged.  There are even some tiny tendrils of Hot Glue, so it really has a dynamic look to it.  This was a happy accident, more than conscious effort.
The flames were made using DM Scotty's techniques from his video, here.  Instead of using firm, clear plastic packaging, I tried cutting up a plastic sandwich baggie:  this soft plastic does curl when melted Hot Glue is applied!  It was necessary for me to get a Dixie cup of cold water to dunk the V-shaped plastic into, to get the Hot Glue to set up quickly, and it a mostly flat form.  I dunked the hot work piece, then I flattened it out, to get it to stay mostly flat; I repeated this process on the opposite side, which made it fairly flat, indeed.  With firmer, clear plastic packaging material as your substrate, you will not have these curling issues.

In summary, DM Scotty's technique is to apply Hot Glue to a plastic substrate, in a linear fashion, to replicate the 3D flames.  After the Hot Glue has cured, you can, if necessary, trim the flame shape.  I pre-trimmed my plastic, so I did very little trimming after the Glue had hardened.

After the V-shaped flames were made up, I put a small drop of melted Hot Glue into the mouths of the figures, and then I inserted the V-shaped flames, holding them in proper position, until the Glue hardened.  Be careful of the angles, as these figures' heads are rotated to their left side.  I had to angle the flame sheet to match the angle of the head.  Easy enough to do, just remember to get proper alignment, is all.

Once the Hot Glue in the figure's mouth had hardened, I began the painting process.  The plastic substrate should be a clear plastic so that light, from any angle, can shine through the paint, and the plastic,  When backlit, it gives a nice effect, making the flames seem to glow, just a bit.

For painting, I used strictly inexpensive craft paints.  I laid down a base of a brighter yellow.  Then, while the yellow was still wet, I blended in a bit of orange.  While these two colors were still wet, I added a small amount of red paint.  I had to add more yellow, and more orange, and even a bit more red!  It took a couple of minutes to get a blend which I was satisfied with, but it wasn't very long, and it certainly was not difficult to achieve.

The end results speak for themselves.  This technique for making flames can be used for nearly any type of flames needed:  torches, campfires, braziers, Burning Hands spell effect, Wall of Flame, dragon's breath, etc.  I hope this proves useful to you, and your gaming needs.  Cheers!

Project #2:  Building a better Fire Elemental...
Building on a technique espoused by DM Scotty, I wanted to make some customizable Fire Elementals.  According to canon, they come in up to four different sizes:  8 HD, 12 HD, 16 HD, and the biggest and the baddest, at 24 HD!  In my mind, the only real difference would be size.  With this in mind, I put my idea to the test...

I wanted to do something more interesting than the traditional vertical sheet of flame, with two eyes -- this just doesn't look like a creature.  Instead, this looks like a sheet of flame with two eyes stuck in it near the top -- Blech!  So, to the 2nd Ed. AD&D Monstrous Manual I went, in search of a good-looking outline to copy.  Enter, the Wraith drawing:

I took a clear piece of plastic packaging material which was large enough, and I laid it over the page in the MM to trace.  After tracing the outline of the image on the scrap plastic packaging, I then cut it out.

The next step was to apply texturing to form the 3D surface of the Elemental's skin, if you will.  This is where I used my Hot Glue Gun.  I laid the plastic cut-out on top of a piece of Parchment Paper, which Hot Glue will not adhere to.  This is critical as I wanted to be sure to be able to safely remove the figure without damaging it, when the Hot Glue had hardened.

Clear plastic packaging material with Hot Glue texture applied.

Reverse side of the clear plastic packaging material with Hot Glue texture applied.

I created the wisps of flame from the head, and the fingers, by putting a small blob of Hot Glue at the top, then pulling away.  It peeled off of the Parchment Paper easily.  After one side was completed, I flipped it over and applied Hot Glue to the other side in the same manner.

The next step was to apply paint, using Yellow, Orange, and Red, adding colors while the bottom layer Yellow) was still wet, which allowed for blending all three.  I tried to create a pair of eyes with Red paint, but feel free to try other things, such as beads, if you like.

The base is simply two square pieces of vinyl floor tile, glue sides together.  I Hot Glued the Elemental to its base, then I painted on PVA Glue, dipped it into a bowl of sand, for texture, then I painted this, after it had dried completely.

Here are some photo's of my scratch-built model, alongside of a D&D pre-paint, and an old Ral Partha figure dating from the 1990's:

Three different Fire Elemental figures for size comparison, with a D&D pre-paint Crossbowman figure, far right.

Here are some photo's showing the various models with two D&D pre-paint Crossbowmen figures:

Scratch-built, 16-24 HD Fire Elemental combating two Human Crossbowmen.

D&D pre-paint model of a 12-16 HD Fire Elemental combating two Human Crossbowmen.

1990's model of an 8 HD Fire Elemental combating two Human Crossbowmen.


  1. Really cool build. I like the concept.

    1. Thank you, Chad. I hope you find it applicable for your game table and modeling techniques. Cheers!