Not to be overlooked, the first step of coloring in any Gamescience or precision edge numbered dice is to choose a color. I find that asking for suggestions in the DMC can lead to ideas that never crossed my mind. But then, every once in a while I get a set that inspires me enough, and no suggestions are required. So for my discussion on inking Gamescience, I’ll be showing some examples of inking an orange set with a couple of stray green d20s.
Cleaning the Dice
I have a confession to make. I don’t clean my dice before I ink them. I know it’s a common practice in painting miniatures as well as dice inking. But the only time I’ve cleaned dice before inking them was with a visibly dirty old bunch of Windmill dice. Otherwise, I’ve never bothered. So while some dice-inking veterans would start with this step, know that it isn’t a dire requirement. It honestly has to do with your own preference and how clean the dice are to begin with. If you do decide to ink them, the preferred method seems to be lukewarm water and dish soap then setting them out to dry.
Tools of the Inking Trade
One of the most common questions in the DMC are “what do you ink dice with?” As you may have seen in Part 1 of this series, even crayons will work. So I encourage anyone wondering that question to instead think “what do I WANT to ink them with? When I ink Gamescience, Windmills, or Diamond Dice (or if I had Armory), I use Uni-Posca paint markers with an extra fine tip. I like how they feel when they ink the dice. However, I used to use Sharpie paint markers with an ultra fine tip, and they’re very similar. I have had great success using regular Sharpie permanent markers (not paint) on acrylic dice, but I personally prefer paint markers for precision edge.
What else can be used? Some DMC members have used gel pens, regular pens, regular markers, and jars of acrylic paint. My recommendation is to start with something you already own. If you don’t have anything available or wish to move onto something else, I recommend finding a craft store with a simple color of sharpie paint marker like gold, silver, white, or black – something you might use often. Try them out. But if you already have gel pens or something felt tip – try it out. Just try it on dice that you’re not attached to – something that can be messed up, just in case.
To clean up after myself, I use 90% rubbing alcohol and paper towels when using paint markers. But that’s with my own ink. I’ve never had to remove ink from a polymer set. For that, I’d recommend trying rubbing alcohol first with either a toothpick or q-tip. ALWAYS test any chemical solution on a die you aren’t attached to. Some DMCers have used acetone or nail polish remover, but with mixed results.
It’s honestly hard to explain how to ink dice. For one, it’s something you have to do to understand. For another, there’s no widespread consensus. I, personally, slop my paint marker on the numbers without concern or care. I especially don’t try to be “pretty” with d20s because the numbers are smaller, and there’s no sense in fussing over it when it wipes away so cleanly. However, there are some exceptions.
First, d4’s – they’re sometimes a little more shallow, making it easier to wipe off paint. With practice, it’ll be easier to clean up without wiping the ink out, but when starting out, being careful on the d4 will save you some headaches. Second, d24’s – they’re the absolute worst to ink. If you’re focusing on regular polyhedral dice, then you don’t have to worry about this at all. But if you have Zocchi sets of Gamescience, be very careful with the d24. It’s the most difficult die to clean up after. Sometimes it’s worthwhile to very carefully ink the numbers and not clean up at all. So inking the d24 is more of a skill. Finally, the d3 can be a bit of a challenge. The numbers are fine – very easy to ink. But the letters (R, P, S for rock, paper, and scissors) are less deep. This takes some practice, and I’d rate it more difficult than the d4 but not as difficult as the d24. Again, if you’re working with standard polyhedral, it’s not a concern.
So, how do you actually do it? I, personally, slop the ink on. It doesn’t have to be perfect at all because it’s easy to clean up:
I then put some rubbing alcohol on a piece of paper towel. I try to make sure it isn’t soaking, but I make sure there’s a decent amount. When I wipe off the number face, I sort of visualize just wiping off the surface. It’s not about pressing down, or you’ll get the alcohol into the groove, which isn’t what you’re trying to do. I just wipe away from myself, flat, as though I’m wiping just the surface and nothing else. If you do wipe a little too much off, that’s okay. You can do touch-ups after the ink dries a little.
It takes some practice, and the paper towel can’t be drenched. Also, you can only do it so much before you need another paper towel piece, especially if you’re working with a bright or metallic color, and especially if you’re not being careful with the inking (like I’m not). I can do a die with a little piece of paper towel, maybe two. But I usually get a new scrap of paper towel after a d20 or anything really messy.
There you have it! This is by no means a comprehensive or advanced look at dice inking, but it’s a thorough overview with some advice for people new to dice inking. Remember if you’re interested in using crayon on the number to check out Part 1 of this article: Gamescience Numbers Part 1: Crayons. Though part 2 completes this pair of articles, I’m a bit of a Gamescience fangirl, so there will certainly be more precision-edged dice articles to come.