One of the best things you can do to ensure a smooth and tidy paint job on your figures is to invest a little more time in preparation of the miniatures prior to painting. Removal of mold lines - the unsightly raised "flash" that encircles each figure (or each piece of multi-part castings) where the two halves of the mold come together during casting/pouring - is very important to the overall look of a finished model. There's nothing more annoying once a paint job's been finished to discover an untouched mold line, and nothing that screams "sloppy modeler" than leaving mold lines, venting tails, and the like completely untouched.
The most common and expedient method, especially with plastic figures, is to use the edge of a hobby knife dragged backwards across the mold lines at roughly a 45° angle. For this type of work it's always best to use as sharp a blade as possible and to take extreme care not to cut or stab yourself, generally by cutting away from you. Another common method - a little more involved but producing smoother results, I feel - is using needle/hobby files to smooth out the flash and other irregularities in the figure. Personally, I seem to get the most use out of my Flat, Half-Round, Round, and 3-Square (triangle) needle files. A combination of knife "scraping" and filing produces the best results, but this all depends on personal choice, the tools available, or maybe more importantly: the actual mold of the miniature.
If you're looking for more worn but straightforwards notching than you get with a hobby knife blade on things like sword and axe blades, I'd recommend using a 3-Square (triangle-shaped) hobby file - it's got nice sharp angles and a little bit of filing will get you a solid, nice-looking notch with a minimum of fuss. Another bonus of the 3-square file is that it's excellent for filing off lengthwise mold lines from ribbed power cable sculpting and the like without deforming the ribbing.
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