So I keep getting asked periodically at my gaming club about what varnish I use – mainly because I have lots of metal Valhallan models which don’t chip very much (or at all, really).
I use this stuff:
It’s Wattyl’s Matt Interior Estapol, ostensibly for wood surfaces but works fine on acrylic paints as well. Since it’s a matt varnish (it also comes in Gloss and Satin, but I haven’t used the Gloss so I don’t know what it’s like), you have to do at least two coats to get sufficient protection (a single coat gives you the finish, but doesn’t really stop the paint chipping off miniatures.
This prevents the paint from rubbing off from fingers or foam transports. You can still chip the paint off, but it requires quite a bit of effort – fingernails probably won’t manage it provided you did a decent undercoat.
Technically, people recommend that you do one gloss coat to protect the miniature, then a matt coat to provide the finish you want. I haven’t tried this myself, coz I’m too lazy, so I don’t know what the finish looks like.
This can was $18 or so from Magnet Mart (unfortunately, Bunnings stopped selling these a while back, because I think they stopped stocking Wattyl products).
As for these two – who were the only remotely (no pun intended) similar miniatures I have where one is varnished and the other isn’t – the one on the left is not varnished, and the one on the right is. If you look closely, you can spot the shine from the wash and glaze layers on the left (unvarnished) one – for example, on its left foot (our right). The matt varnish dulls these down and removes the shine.
Right, now I can just point people to my blog when they ask about what varnish I use!