What are the best ways to store miniatures?
Storing your carefully painted miniatures to stop them getting damaged and broken is easy once you decide what method to use. This post breaks down some of the most common storage solutions and the pros and cons about each one.
How to store, travel and protect painted miniatures
There are a variety of different approaches when it comes to deciding the best way to look after your miniatures. There's no perfect solution but the "best fit" from a number of options will come down to what you choose to use your miniatures for, whether you are really into competing at tournaments, want a quick and easy way to set up for casual gaming, or want to display your painted miniatures in all their glory.
Below, I'll run through a few of these options, pointing out some of the benefits and drawbacks I've found. By no means is this an exhaustive list, and I'm sure there are more solutions out there where people have discovered what works best for them.
Foam is probably the fastest and easiest solution to storing miniatures. When it comes to foam there are a lot of storage solutions. Sometimes the companies that produce the miniatures for board games and tabletop war games have foam inserts cut perfectly for the game. There are a lot of third party foam cutter companies that create inserts to fit inside the game box or come with their own box or travel bag.
Pick and pluck foam is a popular alternative to pre-made inserts. The foam is sliced into grids allowing you to pluck out what you don't need to fit your miniatures in the foam. You can always keep the waste plucked foam to pad and protect miniatures you don't keep in the foam.
You can always order a large piece of foam to cut around the miniatures yourself. I did this recently myself, lacking any tailors chalk I stuck pins around the miniatures and cut around the outline like a dot by dot.
The downside of foam storage is that rubbing on the painted miniature will occur if you take them in and out of the foam or travel with them a lot. High use will lead to the paint being slowly rubbed away after years of use.
You may find it slower to store the miniatures after each game if you can't remember if certain sized miniatures need to go in specific spaces. You can always take a photo of your perfect layout, print it and keep it with the foam. You can also label the bottom of the bases with numbers and write numbers on the foam.
We've all seen them in a variety of shapes, sizes and colours in hardware stores. Designed to store nails and random fixings these boxes have different compartments, some have moveable slots, others have draws and they are usually stackable and hardwearing.
Ornament boxes, tackle boxes, and screw boxes are all examples of these types of storage solutions, which have a number of small compartments which can be used, and usually have a handle to boot!
The boxes with wheels (or small trolleys) are perfect if you have a large collection you need to travel with, as will combining some of the other techniques mentioned above, such as magnets & trays, or foam inserts.
For storing one miniature, single figure display boxes (or display cases) are designed to have clear plastic to encase the miniature. These display boxes aren't great for travel but they will protect a miniature from dust sitting on a shelf. The downside to these boxes is the wide variety will make it hard to find the perfect case. Unless you buy a foam lined storage box, the interior will also need to be modified slightly with bubble wrap, foam or soft material, to stop the miniatures moving around freely and hitting the sides of the plastic case in transit.
Using a magnetic storage solution is probably the easiest way to travel with your miniatures without worry about them moving around and chipping paint jobs or bending parts of the models.
Glueing strong magnets into the bottom of the miniatures bases is easy to do and allows the miniatures to hold onto a magnetic metal such as a baking or biscuit tins.
The youtube video by Colour of the Gods shows Gus being brave enough to shake the magnetized miniatures upside down over his head.
Of course there are some downsides to using magnets. If you are travelling to friends, conventions or tournaments with your miniatures and have to go through an x-ray machine the magnets will look odd and your bags will be searched.
"The jumping affect" - For instance if you play Blood Bowl and you've magnetized the base and the ball and the magnets are too strong the ball may jump from one model to another when you're playing. So make sure you test the strengths.
The polarity of magnets having a negative north and a positive south may trip you up if you glue the poles into your models incorrectly so make sure you double check.
Most people will probably know this as vacuum forming plastic. Unfortunately I don't know of any companies producing custom solutions for board games or miniatures games unless the moulded plastic comes in the box. The plastic is perfectly shaped for each miniature and they fit snugly in the packaging they come in so don't throw them away! If you wanted to put a collection of miniatures in a travel storage solution, depending on the vacuum formed plastic, you may be able to cut the plastic to fit inside the compartments.A good example of this are Guild Ball teams. This miniatures came tightly fitted into the box like this, designed to be robust for transport from factory to shop, so these can make a great solution, if sometimes a little tight and fiddly in certain cases.
Laser Cut Wooden Inserts
Usually made from MDF and designed to fit very specific board games. Most of the time the wooden inserts are designed for quick set up in mind, having dividers or trays that are used on the tabletop. The miniatures usually have their own dividers or use the base of the model to slide into a ridge.
A negative part of dividers is that the miniatures may move around if you don't pack them with something like foam or bubble wrap. If they are using the slide technique, you won't be able to add elements to the base such as rocks, mud or grass as it may not fit or rub the edges of colour away.
Thin MDF is prone to snapping so it may not travel well if the game box is abused in transit.
An upgrade from a shelf in the dusty open air a display case lets you enjoy looking at your miniatures without dusting with a tiny makeup brush. There are many choices of cabinets to fit the space you have. You can get old fashioned wooden display stands or glass cabinets. You can also re-purpose memento shelving and box frames for baseball bats, keepsakes, shot glasses and watches if you only want to display and not play with the miniatures.
You can always put in leds to show off your favorite miniatures in all their splendor.
The case will need to be out of direct sunlight because over time the paint will start to lose vibrancy and some colours may yellow with age.