So what does resin casting have to do with putting LEDs into miniatures? One way to include LEDs in miniatures is to have the LEDs directly visible, such as in vehicle headlights, or drill holes so they are visible, like drilling out eye holes in plastic helmets so an LED inside can be seen. However my preferred method is to recast the component that I need illuminated in resin. This is because resin can be a great diffuser of light – when you use the right type of resin of course! This means that the light actually appears to come from the surface of the resin, rather shining out of an obvious hole you have drilled in the miniature. To achieve this effect you need a cream or beige resin, not a clear resin. This is simply because with clear resin the light is not diffused very well and a lot of the time you can just see the LED inside!
Designer’s Notes: Morality of Resin Recasting
Before I go any further I just want to say please don’t use the following techniques to go on an unnecessary recasting spree of GW components, or anyone else’s components for that matter. Recasting eats into the profits of your favourite miniature companies and harms reinvestment and expansion. I only recast the individual components I need to achieve the LED lighting effects. To be honest this is probably still a legally grey area, but I figure as I have to physically buy the original components/models to actually recast then, and I’m recasting on a one-to-one basis, then no-one is going to get too upset. Plus let’s not forget about the rule-of-cool, although I’m not sure that’s a legal argument that would stand up in court…
I intended to start this tutorial by saying “there’s no point in me doing a long winded tutorial on resin casting when there are plenty of tutorials on YouTube”. But, having now looked, I couldn’t actually find any that exactly matched my technique.
I think that this excellent mould making and resin casting tutorial series from YouTuber Xander Xereus is probably the closest to what I do, and will get you perfectly suitable results. I’m definitely not saying that my technique is definitive by any means! To give you an idea of the difference, here’s a picture of my muzzle flash sprue. As you can see, I’ve created my own sprue from 3mm and 1.5mm plastic pipe, but you could reuse an existing sprue, as shown in the video.
So let’s talk materials in a bit more detail. As mentioned above, clear resin doesn’t look as good for LED projects because it doesn’t properly diffuse the light. In my experience cream or beige is the way to go. I particularly recommend TOMPS Polyurethane Fast Cast Resin; its what I use for all my casting and LED effects. I also use TOMPS Value RTV Silicone Rubber for the actual moulds, ideally with a hardness of Shore A20 – A22, depending on what is available. If you don’t want to buy direct from TOMPS, you may also find some good deals on eBay. Both the rubber and the resin can be substituted for the materials in the tutorial video linked to above.
Designer’s Notes: Forge World or Citadel Finecast Resin?
If you don’t want to recast, can you use existing resin components? I’ve found that you can indeed make it work, but as they’re both apparently less optically transmitting than the TOMPS resin you have to drill the holes inside the helmets (for example) a lot closer to the surface, and the effect still isn’t as good. But if you really don’t want to take the trouble to recast components, then the option is there. The model shown in the image to the right used a Forge World resin helmet, for example.
All these tutorials are entirely free; the only payment I really need is seeing everyone’s awesome LED armies on the battlefield! Having said that, if you found these tutorials useful and you’d like to buy me a coffee to say thank you (or help keep my supplied with LEDs and website fees so I can post even more tutorials) then please click the button above. Thanks very much in advance.