Welcome to my tutorial on how to seal acrylic paint for action figure customs!
In my previous tutorials, I have talked about the importance of prepping customs to avoid paint rub. Sealing the paint is also a very important part of keeping your beautiful paint work from getting scratched off the first time you move your new custom’s arm or leg. Without sealing, the paint is left vulnerable to surface scratches and abrasions. In this article I will discuss the method I have found to best seal acrylic paint on a custom action figure, and keep paint applications protected as well as possible.
My first line of defense in protecting paint is Testors Acrylic Spray Lacquer. When I finish up a section of paint, I spray it with Testors to protect it. It comes in an aerosol spray can that should only be used in well-ventilated areas (preferably outside). This will help keep the paint from getting scratched by fingernails, being pulled off by masking, or any other type of surface damage that could happen. Remember, nothing is completely preventable, so you still need to be careful and not assume this spray lacquer will make paint invincible.
The second advantage to sealing, after finishing painting a section, is it provides a way to “erase” future mistakes. Once a layer is sealed with Testors, any paint that is applied over that layer is easily wiped away with a little water, airbrush cleaner or other light cleaning solution, without smearing or destroying the sealed paint layer.
Testors comes in “Dullcote” and “Glosscote.” They both come in identical cans. The only way to distinguish them apart is the UPC label on the cap. As implied by the names, Dullcote dries in a dull finish, and Glosscote dries in a glossy finish. I suggest Dullcote for most normal customs. Glosscote should be reserved for pieces you want to look shiny, like certain types of armor and bladed weapons.
When spraying, hold the can approximately 6 inches away, and move the can back and forth, around the piece, very quickly. Do not hold the can in one position and spray heavily onto the figure.
There are a few mistakes you want to avoid. The first is spraying too much. It can cause many issues, such as making your figure look frosty, or covered in a wax-like coating. A few quick sprays are all that is needed to effectively seal. It is always best to go light and add more coats if needed, as opposed to going heavy and ruining your hard work. The second is to make sure the spray lacquer is completely dry before touching it. Don’t try to wipe it off or do anything with the figure until it is completely dry. It will cause the paint to smear.
My second method to seal acrylic paint is Mod Podge. It is a brush-on sealer, that is similar in consistency and appearance to something like Elmer’s glue. I use this to seal parts and pieces once I am completely done painting. It is thick, but dries clear and will protect your paint better than Testors if you need to choose one over the other. However, the process for applying is more labor-intensive than Testors. I also wouldn’t recommend using more than one coat of this due to it’s thickness. It’s best used in conjunction with Testors, reserving Mod Podge for an overall seal, after painting is complete.
Like Testors, Mod Podge can be painted over, and works as an “erase” button should you mess up paint applications on top of a paint layer you’ve already sealed.
Mod Podge is great for protecting paint on areas like shoulders and the tops of thighs, or any area where paint rub is most prominent on customs. That said, it will never replace proper prepping. Prepping and sealing should be used together to produce a piece that is as free of paint rub as possible.
As a side note, always remember to seal any disc/wheel articulation, like Marvel Legends shoulders, elbows or ankles, on both sides. Brush Mod Podge onto one side first, let it dry, and then move the disc to the other side and reapply the sealer.
Mod Podge comes in matte and gloss finish, along with many other finishes like “extreme glitter” and “sparkle.” I use matte finish for general customs, where gloss is reserved for pieces that should be naturally shiny, like armor and bladed weapons. Keep in mind, even matte finish dries on the shiny side, so more often than not, gloss finish is unneeded.
To apply Mod Podge, use a decent sized brush, and get a very small amount of Mod Podge on the tip. Do not drench the brush, as Mod Podge tends to dry very quick, and get clumpy, once it’s on the brush. Get just enough to apply a few strokes to the piece you are sealing.
Brush Mod Podge onto your custom in thin, even layers. Use as few brush strokes as possible, preferably only one or two strokes per area. The more you brush, the more the Mod Podge will clump and pull, leaving nasty looking areas on your custom.
Be especially careful to apply smooth, thin layers when brushing over points of articulation, like the lower leg swivel in the picture above. Too much Mod Podge could result in a slight bonding of the joint, causing the paint to crack when articulating the joint after the Mod Podge dries.
Mod Podge will also show brush strokes if not applied evenly, so keep this in mind. The best course of action is to apply a light, even layer, and then articulate the joint a few times while it dries. Remember, Mod Podge is very thick, so it doesn’t take much to seal the paint well. Less is more.
Since Mod Podge dries in a shinier finish than I prefer, I always follow my Mod Podge application with a coat or two of Testors Dullcote. When all is said and done, my paint applications have at least 3 or 4 layers of sealer on them. Again, even this does not replace proper prepping. Prepping and sealing should be used in conjunction with one another. I cannot express this enough.
Brush-On Super Glue
Don’t use it for sealing. Seriously, it’s the best advice I can give you. When I first started customizing, I stupidly followed this advice, which more often than not led to other issues that I had to fix. Things like permanently bonded joints, discolored paint, and nasty-looking brush strokes. All of these things are what led me on the search to finding Mod Podge. It will protect nearly as well as super glue, with a fraction of the risk and heartache of ruining your custom. I learned this the hard way after having to completely strip a custom and start the painting process over from scratch.
The only time I would ever recommend super glue is possibly for weapon handles and the insides of hands. Areas that will be very high in unpreventable rub, where you can apply the super glue safely, without the risk of gluing anything together, or destroying an entire paint application.
Protecting paint applications is always the trickiest part of customizing any figure. This is the best method I have found at this point in my customizing. I’m sure as I progress as a customizer, I will find better, more effective methods to seal customs. If you have other tried methods for sealing acrylic paint on customs, let me know in the comments below!
Thank you for taking the time to read my tutorial on how to seal acrylic paint, and don’t forget to check out my other “how to” articles!
Also, make sure to check out my Marvel Legends database!