Wednesday, 18 September 2013

How many shades of grey..?

This week's Sprue Cutters' Union subject is paint, specifically "what paint(s) do you use?". The picture below shows a random selection from my motley collection of paints – as you can tell, I've had some of them for decades.
For the first twenty years of my modelling life I used enamels exclusively, because that's all there was: Airfix in the little glass bottles and Humbrol in the tinlets. Having learned to brush paint fairly well, it wasn't until I got my first single-action Badger airbrush in my late teens that I was able to achieve a reasonably smooth, consistent finish (after lots of practice and many ruined kits). At some point I made the change to acrylics, which wasn't a smooth transition as I struggled to find the right consistency that wouldn't clog the airbrush, dry with a grainy texture or blow off like dust from the model's surface. After lots more practice and some more ruined models I found the ratios and paints that I liked. Then, a few years ago a friend introduced me to Gunze lacquers which were by far the easiest paints to handle, requiring fewer ruined models before a satisfactory finish was achieved. So, in order of favourite brands:-

Gunze Mr Color lacquers: spray thinly and evenly, dry fast and a good range of colours. They have two main drawbacks. Firstly they're difficult to find in North America, and now many Far East mail-order outlets won't ship them either. I amassed quite a collection of them some years ago so I'm OK for a while, except for the second drawback – some colours seem to dry up in the jars very quickly. 

Tamiya acrylics: readily available, spray superbly (especially when thinned with lacquer thinner) and dry quickly. Main drawback: there aren't many aircraft specific shades, so if I'm looking for a particular FS or RLM match I usually end up mixing it from several colours.

Xtracrylix: great range of accurate aircraft colors, dry quickly and semi-gloss (perfect for decalling). They're not the easiest to use – some colours seem to dry on the needle tip, and I've found a primer coat an absolute must or they peel off along with the masking tape. Despite these idiosyncracies I use them a lot.

Vallejo Model Color acrylics: these are the ones in the plastic bottles, and I use them for brush-painting details. They're really opaque so cover well, and I like the convenience of the little squeezy bottles.

At the end of the day, although those are my preferred paints, if I need a particular shade and I have it in stock, I don't mind whether it's acrylic, enamel, lacquer or what brand it is. 

Now, achieving a good, gloss finish is another matter. If anyone reading this has a foolproof – i.e. not Future – method for gloss coating, please share...

Other Unionist posts:-
The Eternal Wargamer
Jay's Scale Model Adventures


  1. Did you know that you can revive the dried Mr. Color by adding Leveling Thinner? I've done this quite a few times with no issues, though they do have a new product call Mr. Color Replenisher which is supposed to be even better.

  2. Great post and it's a relieve to know I'm not the only one who has had trouble learning to use an airbrush!

  3. It's nice to read that all of us have the same common background on what we use. Even after using an airbrush for over 10 years I still have issues, nice to know I'm not alone....