Gamescience Numbers Part 2: Paint Markers

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.

Removing Ink

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.  

Technique

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.

Conclusion

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.

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Gamescience Numbers Part 1: Crayons

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Photo by Tom Hack

One day in the DMC, Tom Hack said that he couldn’t be the only one who uses crayons on dice. Jon McDaniel contributed an expertly crayoned Gamescience set using white crayon. The thread was inspiring, with many dice maniacs providing advice on crayoning.

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Photo by Jon McDaniel

I’ve used crayon before, but it was on early polyhedral dice from AD&D sets that were rough looking to say the least. Back then, the junk crayon use was a formality to get the numbers colored in just enough to read. They weren’t pretty. It was like coloring a beach ball with chalk.

Fast forward a few decades later, and why wouldn’t I try crayoning my Gamescience? Because of a gaudily-garbed druid NPC named Lucynil Font, I had an ever-growing set of “ugly” opaque Gamescience, and many in that expanding set still needed some coloring. So I set on my task to try crayoning in the numbers on precision dice.

Lessons Learned

IMG_3785Effort: Technically speaking, crayoning dice is much more hard work. You need to press down hard to get the wax into the crevice, and sometimes you need to go over it multiple times to replace wax that comes out. You need to get at the grooves from different angles. At first I was trying to “color” in the numbers, but I soon realized that it wasn’t a matter of filling it in. It was more like scratching off a lottery ticket.

Technique: In addition to mastering the different angles and applying more pressure than paint markers, I also had to learn how to clean up the waxy mess. With ink, I usually made a hot mess with the paint and cleaned it up with some rubbing alcohol on a paper towel. Being a parent, I turned to wipes to clean off the wax. That was a mistake. Wet cleaning does NOT work on wiping wax clean as well as dry paper towels or napkins. In fact, I soon learned to place the die on a napkin or paper towel and wax away. Then throw the wax-covered napkin away and replace it. Then keep it on the clean napkin while cleaning it off with a new one – and repeat. The idea is to keep the napkin clean because if it’s too covered in wax, it gets right back onto the die.

IMG_3825Tools: The only crayons I had on hand were Crayola and Playskool. Crayola seemed to cause less of a mess, and there were obviously more color options there. Playskool seemed to go into the grooves much easier (with less pressure), but the chunks also came back out of the grooves more often. So Crayola wins that battle. I didn’t notice any difference in ease of coloring between colors of the same brand.

Zocchi: Much like with inking, certain dice were more difficult to master than others. Just like with inking, d24s are a pain. I actually gave up on the d24 and opted to ink it instead. It was a dark purple, and colors wouldn’t show up with waxy crayon as well for some reason. The d3s took some finesse to learn, but it was actually easier to crayon in the R, P, S letters than it was with paint marker. Zocchi d5’s were comparable with crayon as with ink – no problems there. The d14s and d16s seem easier with ink; those are super easy to do with a paint marker. But chunks of crayon seem to come back out of the deeper grooves for those.

Fun: The first night I tried out crayoning, I accosted my 6-year-old son’s box of crayons. I set out a bunch of colorful dice, and of course he wanted to be part of it. So we sat there and colored in the dice. He had trouble coloring in the whole thing, so I kept him to d6s and dice with less sides. He wasn’t as patient with the process as I was, but he had a lot of fun helping me choose “ugly” combinations. I couldn’t let him color in with ink, or I’d have a huge mess. But the crayon is more kid friendly, and without the lingering smell of rubbing alcohol when it’s clean-up time.

Conclusion

I will not be forsaking my paint markers for crayons. Even though wax is a fun alternative to paint, it’s a lot more difficult. However, I will be returning to crayons eventually. They were a good fit for the “ugly” dice theme because they offered more color options. Putting tan crayola on permafrost felt deliciously heretical. And the nostalgia factor is real. I haven’t crayoned dice since the 80s. But I would recommend limiting crayons to a single color on a single set to minimize effort and mess. Keep in mind that it does take more pressure and time to wax in the numbers and clean up the mess than it does with ink.

How does inking differ? Stay tuned for part 2!
Want to write an article of your own on your precision-dice inking experiences? Contact Joss Hevel in the DMC.