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I stripped the old layer of the paint off of my Nendoroid and Figma PVC action figures and want to repaint them. I don't want them to be flashy and reflective and look dopey, however.

Is there any technique I can use to give them a matte finish as close to the original as possible?

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  • With "repaint", do you mean you want to touch them up, or remove the current layer(s) and start from scratch? Can you identify the material the figures are made of? – Joachim Mar 10 '20 at 11:28
  • @Joachim I stripped the old layer of the paint of and want to repaint it. It made of PVC. – user8966 Mar 10 '20 at 12:08
  • I think the easiest way to do this would be take it apart, paint it, then use a matte clear coat/finishing and re-assemble. – DripKracken Aug 10 '20 at 13:39
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  • First, if you haven't already, disassemble the figures. This will allow for easier reach of those parts that are usually obscured, a more even application of the paint, and a cleaner colouring around the joints.
    You can carefully use a blow drier to make the plastic a little less rigid.

  • Wash the figure or parts with a little soap to get rid of any dirt that might prevent the paint from adhering to the surface.
    This might also be a good time to trim or sand excessive plastic (like edges).

  • It's not always necessary, but I suggest priming the figures with an acrylic ground layer, preferably sprayed on (using an airbrush and NOT cans, as they contain solvents - an exception being Duplicolor Vinyl & Fabric, as a user on the thefwoosh forums suggests, as this apparently does work on soft plastics) to retain a smooth surface, but at least applied in thin, diluted layers. Apart from allowing the paint to have a stronger bonding, this will also form a neutral 'canvas' to see how the colours work together, and to ascertain the colours won't differ a lot from how they are advertised (you can also try out the paints on similar material or parts that will be hard to see on the finished figure [like the soles of the feet]).


  • Now you can paint your action figure using matt(e) / flat acrylic paints.
    You can find those in your local hobby store, or online.

OR

  • Use regular acrylic paints, and seal them off with a matte finisher.
    And again, if by hand, instead of using an airbrush, always paint in thin, diluted layers. Also make sure the sealer can be used for soft plastics/PVC, as some people experienced the layer getting tacky again after a while.
    Noteworthy is that that same poster mentioned earlier suggests not using any sealer at all, as they always have a certain amount of sheen, even if advertised as matte or flat, with Testors Dullcote being the sole exception in that user's experience.

Always make sure you work in a dust-free environment.


Some additional resources to browse through for some advice:
https://www.reddit.com/r/ActionFigures/comments/5unmtp/best_paint_for_marvel_legends/
https://myfigurecollection.net/blog/7299
https://forum.rebelscum.com/threads/question-about-what-paints-to-use-to-custom-paint-figures.1089439/

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The answer is yes, and theoretically, there are a number of options. But as a practical matter, you will probably need to find paint with the desired characteristics.

Background

Glossy vs. matte is a characteristic of the finish. Glossy has a very smooth surface that reflects light uniformly. Matte has a surface that is irregular at a microscopic level and scatters the reflected light.

Paint is a mix of pigment, which is a very fine powder that doesn't dissolve, and a binder. The pigment isn't necessarily all a colorant; some can be for other purposes, like the texture of the finish. The binder dries to a smooth layer. If the pigment concentration is low, it doesn't affect the surface and the result is a glossy finish. If there is a high concentration of pigment, the particles make the surface microscopically bumpy and the paint dries to a matte finish.

Theoretical Solutions

  1. Use paint that dries to the degree of "matte-ness" you want. If you can't find exactly what you want, you can make paint more matte by mixing in more pigment. "Clear" powder can be added without changing the color. But if you need tiny amounts of paint for a few action figures, this may not be too practical. If the available matte paint is too matte, you can make it less matte by mixing in some glossy version of the same paint.

  2. Use glossy paint to get the desired color and then coat it with a matte clear finish. This is a clear material with added fine powder. It's hard to keep a clear finish clear with a lot of added powder, so these won't be as matte as it is possible to make paint. If you want an extremely matte finish, you will probably need to use matte paint rather than rely on an overcoating.

  3. Start with glossy paint, then knock down the gloss after the fact by making the surface irregular. There are several ways to do this:

    • Lightly scuff the paint surface in random directions with fine-grit sandpaper (if they all go in the same direction, it will have more of a brushed appearance than a matte one). For small action figures, it will be hard to get a uniform matte result this way.
    • Lightly pit the paint surface by gently "sandblasting" with a soft abrasive. The paint must be fully cured and well bonded, so this requires good preparation before painting.
    • Chemically etch the paint surface after it's cured if it's not latex (water-based) paint. Depending on the paint, you can use products sold for deglossing, or wash it in a strong TSP solution, or rub it with alcohol. Don't try this approach with latex paint as it will strip the paint.

Practical Solution

You may be able to "fine tune" the finish to some degree, but assume that the result will be close to the characteristics of the paint you use. So manage your expectations based on the paint you can find available. If you want to experiment, do it with some spare action figures you don't care about to see the potential results before investing the effort on the important ones (and the practice will help you refine your technique and identify any issues before hand).

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How glossy or matte a paint is after drying depends on the chemical composition of the paint alone. There is no technique that can make a glossy paint look matte or vice versa.

That said, you should use "flat" or "matte finish" paints to paint your action figures or coat them with a matte varnish after painting them.

There are some additives (especially for acryllic paints) that can change the finish of paints, like gloss medium or matte medium, but these work only to a limited degree. In my experience, making a matte paint glossy seems to be easier than making a glossy paint matte, so I propose buying matte paints to begin with.

Many paint manufacturers give information about the properties of their paints by printing symbols on the paints. Here's an example of Schmincke paints:

enter image description here

In this example I expect the transparent / semi transparent colors to have a smooth, glossy finish and the opaque colors to have a matte finish, but sometimes you can't count on this correlation.

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Use a good matte finish once your paint is completely dry/cured. Remember to test on a "sample" like a button or something painted with the same paints you used on the figurine, to make sure the finish is to your liking (and see how many airbrush or spray can layers you need).

Haven't done this myself in years, and never with Nendoroids, but I used to use all sorts of lacquer, acrylic and/or enamel paints on models, depending on what we could get in South Africa at any given time, then just finish of with a good matte finish after letting the paint dry/cure for a few days. Just remember you can paint enamel on top of acrylic and acrylic on top of laquer, but not the other way round (except for very, very careful, thin layers of lacquer airbrushed onto VERY well dried/cured paints). So I went looking around to see what the recommended way is - Seems they still do it that way.

There are quite a few good hobby sites, or you can google the specific figure you want to recreate and usually get a very good selection of advice, tutorials, YouTube videos, etc. fom people who have done it before. I picked the link below, because I figured if they're using these paints, tools and techniques to do commercial figurines for sale, it should work well enough, even if the blogger isn't a pro themselves.

See Kahotan's Blog at Goodsmile: https://mikatan.goodsmile.info/en/2013/02/27/final-painting-a-nendoroid-expression-part-10-adding-a-matte-and-blush/ (I've linked to the final instalment, as it shows the face before and after the use of a matte finish). It goes from very shiny to quite a decent matte finish just from using the spray.

In the 10 part series of blog posts you see an amateur working with the same paints and tools used by the professionals to paint a Nendoroid face with helpful advice and inputs from the pros working around them. It also shows the paint brands (although I don't know if they are available outside Japan).

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  • Also, slightly off-topic, this tutorial shows a decent way to make "extra" figurines - Making custom Nendoroids (and keeping the originals): myfigurecollection.net/blog/30037 - this way you can get extra xp and do custom designs. – Gwyn Aug 10 '20 at 4:09

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