Greetings from Michigan,
At some point, I’m going to post my own tutorial on painting the pieces, but in the meantime here is my advice:
These are plastic pieces that we are painting so we are getting into the realm of scale modeling. Fortunately, I have quite a bit of experience in that arena since I’m heavily involved in that hobby. Cleaning the parts prior to painting is a good step to take as that will get any oils from your fingers as well as mold release off the pieces. So, go ahead and do that as its an easy step to take. Use an old tooth brush to scrub the pieces a bit. Use a quality primer!! My primer of choice for anything model related, including miniatures for A&A is Tamiya gray or “Fine White” solvent based (not acrylics) out of the spray cans. In fact, I do not like to use acrylic paints (including Tamiya brand) because I find that they just are not durable enough, despite what they or others may claim, especially for pieces that are going to be handled, such as game pieces. If its a show piece that I’ll shelf and it won’t be touched, then acrylics are fine. Otherwise use solvent (enamel) paints! There are a lot of quality brands, but Testors “Model Master” line of paints are fine to use and come in a wide variety of colors, both flats and glosses. I spray with an airbrush, but I believe you can get some of the “Model Master” flats in spray cans too, although I have not used those so I cannot confirm that they will work just as well as the paint out of the capped bottles. Also, avoid putting a “hot” paint over top of a “cold” paint, such as a laquer paint over a water based paint, like acrylic. You can put cold on top of hot, but not hot over cold. Best practice is to just try and keep all primer and paint of the same base, be it laquer, enamel, acrylic, etc. Even better is if you can keep all paints and primers of the same brand as well, although that is not always practical. Most important is that the paints and primers need to be compatible and play nice with each other. A lot of people overlook this and then wonder why their paint job looks “funny”, flaking, or whatever. When painting the pieces, avoid using your fingers to handle them while painting, as the oils from your fingers will get on the pieces. I glue (super glue) each piece temporarily to a toothpick in an inconspicuous location (on the bottom of the piece is a good spot) on the piece so that I never have to touch it during painting. I then stick the other end of the toothpick in a block of clay or cork so that the piece can be set down without it laying down and touching anything, plus that gives me something to handle while painting the piece. Last but not least, be sure to allow the paint to fully cure before handling. This is another important step that is often overlooked. There’s a difference between “dried” and “cured”. When spraying enamels, wait a day and then put the piece to your nose and sniff it. If you can smell any trace of enamel, then the piece is not fully cured yet. With flat enamels, the paint can be dried in a matter of minutes depending on how thick you applied the paint, but can take a week or better to become fully cured when left to cure at room temperature. You can use a heat lamp to help speed the process, but be careful with this as you would be surprised by how very little heat is needed before the piece begins to melt. I once used an incandescent lamp to speed the paint curing process on a fully assembled and painted model, just to come back the next morning to find the model partially melted in one spot, although I didn’t think there was much heat on it at all.
Some additional step that may help ensure maximum durability:
1. After painting, spray the piece with a high gloss clear coat to give the piece a protective coat. After that has cured, you can go back and spray a dull coat back over that if you want it a flat finish, which is what I prefer (flat finish).
Apologies if this was too much of a long read for some, but hope it helps.