It seems like all my gaming buddies are talking about Fallout 4, all the time. While I haven't succumbed to the urge yet (heck, I haven't even replaced my XBox 360 and PS3 for the latest versions, and my PC would probably struggle to run Donkey Kong or Pac Man), I fondly remember collecting bottle caps as currency in the earlier versions of the game.
Thinking about Fallout inspired me to do a quick writeup about one of my favourite painting tools, the humble bottle cap. While not a hardcore drinker by any stretch of the imagination, I do enjoy a good craft brewed beer with dinner every so often. While I started drinking beer back in my university days (really crappy mass brewed stuff... Budweiser, Molson Canadian, and Molson Dry mostly), when the craft beer scene started taking off locally in the late '90s, I started expanding my drinking range, and found myself actually enjoying beer for its own sake, rather than just as a social lubricant. My business partner in Sorcerer Studios (my old miniature painting studio) and I would often each nurse a bottle of the good stuff on particularly long work days (a nice light hefeweizen during a hot summer day, or a rich dark porter or stout on a cold winter day), and when my brother-in-law became a brewmaster, that pretty much cemented my appreciation of quality beers (he even had a beer named after him).
And so, returning to the topic of bottlecaps and how they relate to painting, I seem to have plenty of them at hand whenever I need them. Granted, some are dented or warped a tiny bit from prying them off the neck of the bottle, but they are still perfectly serviceable. People who drink beers from a can may not have a good supply of them, but they don't have any taste to begin with in my opinion (beer from a can tastes like licking the inside of a metal pipe... it's shit. Craft brewers know this, which is why quality beers are not sold in cans).
So how do you use a bottlecap for painting? The most common use that I've found for them is as a throwaway painting palette.
Have you ever seen the type of dry painting palette that has spoon-like divots in it?
They are there to contain runny paints, and keep them from trying to get nasty with your other colours. If I'm mixing watery inks, glazes, and washes, I may grab a bottlecap and mix my colours inside one. Once it's done, I toss the cap.
I also use it for mixing oil paints. Thinning oil paints to find just the right consistency requires mixing it with some sort of thinner (linseed oil, as an example). It comes from tubes in a consistency thicker than toothpaste, which sucks for painting miniatures. Mix in a little linseed oil, and you've got yourself something you can work with. After I'm done with that colour, I toss the cap.
Bottlecaps are also great for "portion control" of glues, mediums, and other liquid substances. When basing, I often squeeze a bit of white glue into a bottlecap, and then use a dropper to add some water to it. Swirl a ratty old brush in there to mix it up and thin it to the exact consistency that you're looking for, and simply toss the cap away afterwards.
I've mixed up modelling snow in them (usually either baking soda or Secret Weapon crushed glass and clear resin water effects). I've filled them like tiny cups with liquid brush cleaner and swirled my brushes in them to get all the old paint residue off them. Thinning brush on primer or brush on clearcoat can be accomplished inside a cap. I've also mixed plaster in them, and other modelling mediums too.
In fact, for just about anything you want to use, but you figure is best to keep away from the paints on your regular palette (dry or wet), I suggest using an upturned bottlecap. Disposable AND renewable (so long as you enjoy good beer), what's not to like?
On a similar note, perhaps I should write a companion article regarding the many uses of wine bottle corks in miniature painting. Nah... better not. People might think I'm a lush that spends more time drinking than painting...