Safety for miniature painters


We miniature painters work with a lot of paints, putty and mashines. I as a chemistry student want to shine some light into some safety problems we have to face with such a hobby or profession. It is perfect to have a wonderful task like painting a miniature but you should always keep an eye on your health while doing what you love. And some stuff we are dealing with is pretty dangerous and it doesn’t need us to notice that…

Sometimes, it is just the heat of the moment, I know these times, you lick your brush or just grab an airbrush withour breathing mask. Always think before you do those things and just ask yourself: is it worth it? Well how can you know that? You have to know about the dangers to avoid them or to accept them. For this decision I want to give you some thoughts and insights.

Always think before you work 🙂

Safety symbols and sentences (GHS)

I think all of you have already seen safety symbols. There is a globally harmonised system of them which makes this job easy for me now. I will show you the symbols and tell you what they can mean.


This means: explosive! Don’t smoke or make fire, never put into the sun or heat.


That means flammable. Again no smoking, heat sources, open fire. You can often find this symbol on cleaners, paints, airbrush thinners etc.


You won’t find this very often. It means supporting combustion or oxidizing. Never burn it. Never try to extinguish a fire with this! It makes it even worse… Dangerous stuff.


You find this symbol on gas bottles you can use for an airbrush. It tells you that there are gases under pressure here. Be very careful with them. Don’t drop or kick a gas bottle. Also be careful with spray cans, they contain gas under pressure as well.


Materials with this sign are very corrosive. Don’t touch or breath it, don’t eat it. If you accidentally swallow it, never vomit, call a doctor. If it gets into your eyes, wash with much water. Call a doctor afterwards. Take out contact lenses!
Wear glasses and gloves!


You should know this sign, it means highly toxic. Don’t touch, smell or eat it (of course…). If you have an accident with a toxic chemical, take the chemical or the empty container with you to the doctor. Call an emergency and be prepared to tell exactly what you have been poisoned from.
Never work with toxic materials!


Materials with this sign are not deadly toxic but harm your health as well. It can be toxic for reproduction or causing cancer for example. Handle with a lot of care! A poison is only toxic over a specific concentration in your body while a chemical causing cancer can do it with just one molece.
This sign should not be on anything you use!


A simple sign with a simple meaning: danger. This danger can be of any kind, mostly it is defined next to the symbol in a seperate sentence. Things with this sign can be a little bit irritant for sensitive skin or cause vomiting when swallowed. But they are not very dangerous.


All things wearing this pretty sign are very dangerous for the environment, often especially for water organisms. Some blue pigments should have it, if they contain coppersalts. Recycle them in an extra bin and bring them to a special recycling station, don’t put them in your waste water.

With these symbols you can pretty much see how dangerous a thing is and what you should wear when working with it. Sometimes there are also special safety sentences telling you which special danger a thing has to offer. The sentences give you further information about the risk, for example whether an irritating substance is irritating for skin, eyes, when breathing in etc. And they can tell you what to do to protect yourself.

Protection needed!


Einmal-Handschuhe aus Latex, groß, 100 Stück,p-81653m,s-700.jpg

A – normal latex gloves                   B – nitril gloves                          C – PVC gloves

As a principle, you should only wear gloves when you need them. The reason is they make the skin very soft and sensitive. They also seem to protect but sometimes they don’t.
Example: you strip paint from a miniature and use acetone for this. You wear simple latex gloves. You think you are protected and get some aceton on your glove. Fact is: it doesn’t protect you. It is only a water resistant glove! The aceton can go through the glove, stay underneath and has all time to go through your skin and irritate it. You should simply wear no gloves and be careful. If you get some acetone on your hand now, it will dry quickly and you can wash it away.
Always think before wearing gloves. And never wear them too long (never longer than 4 hours). If you need them for preparing some putty, wear them. But afterwards get rid of them 🙂
You can protect your hands from organic fluids like alcohols with nitrile gloves (yes, nitril, no mithril gloves, a shame, I know! ) and from acetone with pvc gloves.

Breathing masks

A – simple breathing mask                      B – fine dust breathing mask (Category P3)

When using sandpaper and airbrush you should wear one! But which one? There are these simple white ones. They are not for painters… They should just protect from smells, infection etc. We need something to filter paint and wood/resin dust! If you want to save money, at least get a mask with an active coal filter. You are safe with this one 🙂


A – glasses                               B – glasses for spectacle wearers

Protecting glasses should fit your face and protect your eyes. They should be closed at the top, bottom and sides of the eyes. You can get them in any hardware store. Always remember: you only have two eyes and they are essential for painting. Please protect them!


Always think of the other members of your household as well! Never use spray cans or an airbrush in a room where a pet lives. Their bodies are so small, they are poisened very easily! The same goes for babies and small children. Store your paint, glues and other painting things in a place pets and children can not reach.
Respect your animal’s health. I cannot use some techniques in my room as well because I have a hamster living with me. I work at the opened window or outside.

Materials we often use, tasks and their dangers


Of course, sandpaper is absolutely harmless 🙂 But wood or resin dust is not. It can cause lung cancer just like asbestos. Wear a breathing mask while sanding.


Most putties are irritating for the skin. I would not recommend wearing gloves the whole time while sculpting but if you have to mix big amounts of two component putties you should wear gloves for that. For example if you want to put a lot of milliput on a base.


Always wear glasses when cutting metal and resin pieces with your pliers. Often the small piece jumps away and even if you hold it away from yourself, it can get into your eyes. You could blind yourself with that when not wearing glasses.

Paint and thinner/other mediums

Please do not lick your brushes after painting or washing them with thinner or brush cleaner. You can use a wet sponge for wiping off paint when wetblending. Don’t paint on your thumb to test the paint. Use an unpainted area of the miniature or an area on the figure holder. Or glue a white plastic sheet to your figure holder where you can test. Paint and thinner can get into your organism through your skin. Also beware the sign on the paint. Some paints contain heavy metals like Cadmium and are toxic. Be extra careful with them and never put them in your airbrush! (Paints are for example Vallejo Model colour Lime Green and Deep Yellow)


Many glues are irritant. A very big risk is superglue. Strange things can happen, be very careful to not glue two fingers together or your finger to the miniature etc. Keep glue away from children and pets.

Airbrush / spray cans

Wear a breathing mask while airbrushing. If you have to use it inside, get an airbrush booth. There are some booths on the market which are not very expensive and effective as well as not louder than a compressor.
Another danger with the airbrush comes from the pressured air. Always read the instructions and handle your airbrush with care. Clean it after working with it and check on the compressor from time to time to be sure it works properly. If a part is broken, replace it with a working spare part.

Knifes and scalpels

People say “Always cut away from yourself”. Sometimes you can gain more control when cutting towards you or towards your thumb. Be very careful with hobby knifes and scalpels, they can cut deep! Cut with as much control as possible even if that means cutting towards you. Don’t get me wrong if you have a cut to make and you can get in a perfectly good position to cut aways from you prefer that! Keep your knifes and blades away from pets and children and be careful when replacing the blade. If you put an old blade to the trash, wrap it in paper so noone will be hurt (not even the guy who takes care of your trash after throwing it out!). For very dangerous tasks (like cutting glass for example) there are special cutting protection gloves available but I think you won’t need them.


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