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This is like asking if you're a Rangers or Celtic fan. Modellers/wargamers are divided on the topic, often for reasons of personal taste.
My opinion (so only valid for me) is that gloss gives an unrealistic, 'toy soldier' effect.I'm looking at trying to create a degree of what I like to call 'realism' so it's matte.
I should also add some friends who are very much "Old School" & are into Imaginations (that is, made-up SYW armies), use gloss on their delightful old figures.It is a style that looks good with gloss.
Having said this, I have experimented with Vallejo Gloss Acrylic Varnish. I've used it on horses, armour that might be polished & varnished (eg ECW black armour) & on paper flags.
I think the bottom line is that whatever suits your aesthetic is the right choice.
Satin varnish is half way between matt and gloss.
To get some of the best features of both matt and gloss I sometimes use both.
A first coat of gloss gives that harder protective quality and then a second of matt gives a more realistic finish.
I am like Donald, for my Napoleonics, it's a matte finish I am aiming for, unless an item specifically needs some sort of metallic-shiny look to it (swords, armour, bayonets etc).
So its various Vallejo acrylic matte paint (or as mentioned metallic for specific items), then a dark colour wash of sorts, (mostly dark earth, sepia or flesh), any required highlights after the wash again in matte paint & then a matte varnish simply to act as protection.
I will always do a test figure 1st (normally a unwanted pose within the set I am working on) when using new finishes etc to make sure I get the look I am after. Sometimes even matte varnish has dried with a bit of sheen, as has some matte paint....regardless of how much it has been mixed/stirred etc. So I always check beforehand.
I might have to try out that Vallejo varnish Roger. Your approach to it seems very effective. I suppose I’ll have to experiment with it a bit. I appreciate everyone’s input though. Some good feedback for sure👍🏼
It is very much a matter of choice, partly driven partly by what you are intending to 'do' with your model soldiers.
Once upon a time, a long time ago, I painted my figures in Humbrol matt enamels and then gloss varnished them. The reason was that I wanted to retain the brightness of the colours (which gloss varnish does) and add a hard-wearing protective coat over the paint, as my figures were being handled on wargames battlefields.
I then realised that this was - as donald observes - making my figures look a little too much like 'toy soldiers'. So I stopped gloss-varnishing my figures. And soon after that, I 'retired' from the hobby for about 20 years or so!
Having returned to painting figures in the last 10 years, I now find that (a) really high quality acrylic paints have largely replaced enamels; and (b) my figures are now for my collection and occasional display, rather than as active wargames units. I no longer varnish my figures, although I do have a need to do so with one large consignment that I am painting which will be for a bigger project and may well need a coat of something 'protective' over the matt acrylics.
I do routinely use a well-known artistrs acrylic Silk varnish for horses - it gives a good sheen. I'll be using the same manufacturer's matt varnish for the project mentioned above. But gloss varnish is now only very rarely used for my figures.
I certainly appreciate the "protection" factor of a good gloss varnish.
However, all my wargaming figures are on bases & these are what's usually handled: not the figures.
Plus my pals & I treat all our figures with due respect and rough or grubby handling does simply not happen.
Thus the protection-factor is largely irrelevant for me.
Many years ago when I was painting LOTS and lots of Revell 30YW figures I finished them in gloss varnish, mainly because I didn't trust the paint to stay on. I hate them now, the problem is that I also don't trust Matt Varnish sprays enough to ust give them a squirt all over.
I was told many years ago - even before the 30YW figures, that a coat of gloss, followd by a coat of matt actually makes the colours 'pop' more. But I'm not sure that this applies any more considering the strides we have made in colours and techniques since then.
Ah the good old times when there were just those enamel colours. Still got lots of those and use them on occasion. Way back then I gave my figures a coat of gloss varnish because I had the impression it would protect the tiny parts, bayonets etc. and the colour was less likely to flack of. And I still think it somehow might have protected the older figures from crumbling to dust.