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Model paints.

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magpie23/02/2020 22:15:26
463 forum posts
80 photos

I am hoping that someone amongst the many experts on here will know if there is any difference between the small pots of acrylic paint for painting plastic models, and the acrylic paint in tubes for artwork. There is a big difference in price, with the small pots costing around £2.00 per 18ml pot, whilst a box of 14 x 12ml tubes cost around the same amount. Being on the basic state pension I have to look after the pennies but need some acrylic model paint.


pgk pgk24/02/2020 05:20:16
2030 forum posts
290 photos

Speculation rather than knowledge:

I'd doubt that there is any difference in the 'chemistry' of the paints but artist v student artists paints vary on the quality/source of the pigment used. Artists colours usually come either as a buttery consistency for use as traditional oil paints are used.but that behaviour can be changed with appropriate thinners and glazes and artists colour sets will be in a typical beginners palette range. Artists colours are also available for so-called hard-edge techniques (using masks - fluids or tapes etc) in a more flowable presentation also can be cheap and more suitable for school-type projects. Model paints tend to be in the more flowable state and also pre-mixed for a wide range of repeatable colours and shades as opposed to trying to colour match your own mixes.

Other considerations will be whether you want a matt or gloss finish, a uniform colour or shade variation (as in making some model look aged with say rusty variations and dirt contamination looks..) and whether brushing or spraying or applying texture.

Yet another option to consider may be 'match pots' from the likes of Wicks or Wilco etc - usually either matt or silk finish in a pre-mixed range for projects needing larger volumes but I'd guess you'ld need an undercoat for it to stick well to a plastic base or to prevent seeding rust onto an iron base.


JasonB24/02/2020 07:04:54
19587 forum posts
2150 photos
1 articles

For a start your 12 tubes for £2 will be quite low quality so may have coarse pigment, not be colourfast so may soon fade, etc. even a half decent student acrylic from the likes of Daler or W&N would cost several times that.

Then there is the thickness issue, to get tube paint smoothly onto a model it will need thinning with the correct medium (water is not ideal) and this will make it less opaque, may get away with a colour on a white primer but they will not work well over a dark base coat.

The other liquid acryliks mentioned by PGK will again work best on a white background and even the so called "opaque" ones will need several coats to get solid colour.

If you want to go with acrylics then there are many small bottled ones available specifically for models though the colour range tends to be more aimed at military and fantasy subjects so you will have to gloss laquer them if on an engineering model. Makes like Andrea and vallejo do both brush and spray versions

Wout Moerman24/02/2020 08:03:56
47 forum posts
2 photos

I can imagine that artist colours aren't formulated for wear resistance and adhesion.

mgnbuk24/02/2020 09:45:22
907 forum posts
65 photos

I use these on plastic models & have tried the artists type for basic colours for similar reasons to your thinking.

I mainly airbrush & the thick, pasty tube type paints require a lot of thinning, which is where you find that the pigments are very coarse compared to the dedicated model variety. There is also the issue of the acrylic binder being diluted too far, so adhesion & coverage is poor & drying time considerably extended. This can be aleviated in part by using an acrylic thinning medium, which is a thin clear acrylic base, rather than a thinner - but more cost, hassle & the results still were not great.

Vallejo do two ranges - Model Colour & Model Air. The "Colour" paints are thicker & more suited to brush painting, but will thin to airbrush. The "Air" paints have finer ground pigments and are thinner to be used in an airbrush straight from the bottle, though I usually top up a new bottle with Vallejo thinner when I get one.

I've not had much luck Humbrol Acrylics, which are thick & require a lot of thinning. I got better results using an acrylic medium to thin these, but they are still hard work compared to Vallejo.

Revell acrylics get good reviews, but although I have a couple of specific colours I have not tried them yet.

You don't say what you want to paint, but non of the acrylics don't adhere too well to plastic & require a primer - I use Vallejo polyurethane primers. Airbrushing them also requires a different approach to enamels, as the paint is applied very sparingly in thin layers & should never appear wet. It took me along time to apreciate this - a Vallejo YouTube video on application techniques finally sorted me out. Those expensive little bottles actually go a very long way when used as intended - with the dropper bottles I can just put a couple of drops in the airbrush for small areas, so minimal wastage & easier clean-up between colours. Brush painting is also different, as the paint dries very fast & can drag if overbrushed - retarders are available to slow the drying time if required.


Nigel B

magpie24/02/2020 10:23:09
463 forum posts
80 photos

Thanks for your thoughts on the subject gents. A bit of info on the project might be helpful. There is an ad for a model spitfire on TV that, should you be daft enough to attempt it, will take you 2 years to complete and cost around £1200.00. A very poor attempt has been made to provide some movement to the model, and it was this aspect of it that got me thinking that I could do a much better job for about £50.00. I have many hundreds of small motors with which to animate same, so in order to assess dimensions I bought a Revel model spitfire with a 351mm wingspan. I now have everything I need except the paint for the spitfire. The stated requirement for painting is 15 colours, many of which need only cover about 2square mm, but will still need an outlay of around £2 per colour, more than the cost of the model kit. Once mounted the model need never be touched, so I am thinking I will go for the cheap option and take the risk. Health problems place severe restrictions on workshop time and the size of the projects I can tackle these days and this one needs very little time spent standing at the lathe and mill, so it should keep me from going mad watching daytime TV.

Cheers, Dek.

More info was posted whilst I was typing this post, so I thought I would mention that I intend air brushing most of the model and I will now have to rethink my approach. sad

Edited By magpie on 24/02/2020 10:29:48

Jeff Dayman24/02/2020 11:36:18
1976 forum posts
45 photos

Just a thought - if you painted the model in one of the Royal Navy's blue or blue/grey paint schemes, using less colours than RAF camouflage, it may save some money. Or maybe consider a "just built, pre-paint" bare metal or zinc oxide primer scheme, as the aircraft was at the factory?

Another thought - there may be a chapter of the International Plastic Modelers Society near you somewhere. One of their members may be able to share some paint. I'm in Canada but if I were closer you would be welcome to share some of my old stock, still perfectly usable. I'm sure many modelers in the UK have usable paint surplus in their shops. Maybe put up an ad at your local hobby shop asking for surplus paints from other modelers.

Neil Wyatt24/02/2020 11:58:23
18416 forum posts
718 photos
78 articles

I have found them very different to use.


Ramon Wilson24/02/2020 12:19:06
930 forum posts
156 photos

Dek, Hi,

As someone who spends too much time plastic modelling at the expense of ME can I assure you that the Acrylic tube paint is not the path to take for spraying your model. As has already been said the pigment is far to coarse for it to be thinned to the viscosity required for an airbrush.

There is an absoute myriad of (acrylic) paints out there to bewilder anyone new to the hobby - Humbrol, Hannants, Revell, Tamiya, Gunze Sanyo, Mr Paint, MRP, Vallejo, AK interactive, Mig Ammo, Hataka etc etc There are two kinds of acrylic too - Polyurethane based and Lacquer based. Either work fine but it's best to stick to one or the other when spraying a model - for the first time

As with anything, all who participate in this great hobby will advocate one paint over another - another myriad of choice. Personally I would not say one is vastly better than another though I do have my preferences - like most it's down to individual choice. That said, given this is your first attempt I would suggest you consider using Tamiya Acrylic paint and Tamiya thinner for the spraying. It's readily available in the colours you will require, sprays exceptionally easy and dries quickly. Lacquer based, unfortunately it does not brush paint that well but is okay for very tiny parts - the Vallejo or similar paints are ideal for this.

What I would strongly recommend however is that you practice on something before spraying the model itself.

Priming is important - I prefer a lacquer primer to the Acrylic ones mainly do to drying times - Tamiya do an excellent one in an aerosol - another is Alclad 2 'Fine Grey Primer and Micro Filler'.

I'm afraid what you have discovered is that plastic modelling is not such a 'cheap' hobby as many think - buying the kit is the first stage - what and how far you go with it after that is very much how much extra one is prepared to pay. 'Drip fed' it can drain a wallet very quickly indeed !

Good Luck with your model whatever you chooseyes


Regards - Tug

Edited By Ramon Wilson on 24/02/2020 12:19:50

mgnbuk24/02/2020 13:30:12
907 forum posts
65 photos

Revel model spitfire with a 351mm wingspan

1/32 scale - which version ? I have the IIA Battle of Britain era version in my "stash" & the Revell website shows only 5 basic colours required for that - Dark Earth, Dark Green, Sky, Black & Yellow. Revell only show their own paints in their instructions & their range is limited, so some colours are only obtained by mixing & some may only be used for very small parts that may well be not glaringly obvious (or visible at all !) on the completed model.

Like Ramon I have also used Tamiya acrylics, which airbrush nicely & adhere to unprimed plastic quite well but have a fatal flaw as far as Mrs B is concerned - the smell. While nowhere near as pungent as enamels, they still have a noticable alchoholic "whiff" that isn't present with, say, Vallejo. Laquer paints are total no-no for me for that reason. I started off with Tamiya when I returned to plastic modelling but investigated other options when the complaints began (and continued after I got a spraybooth with extractor fan & hose out of the window ) . Humbrol were readily available locally but, while I have sort of worked out a way of working with them, they are not that easy to use & unless they do a colour that I can't get elswhere they are not my first choice.

When I "saw the light" on how to use Vallejo, painting became much more straight forward, more reliable & more fun. Lifecolor works very well also using the same application techniques - possibly even better than Vallejo. These paints put on such a thin layer that no suface detail is lost. The Vallejo polyurethane primer takes a bit of getting used to (this needs to be put on with a visible "wet" layer unthinned from the bottle or it tends to dry rough), but get it right and it dries to a lovely smooth satin surface of seemingly negligable thickness.

Things have certainly moved on from the 2/- Airfix kits from Woolworths that I built in my youth, brush painted with Humbrol enamels.

Nigel B.

Derek Lane24/02/2020 13:56:36
373 forum posts
77 photos

I have used both types of paint, even though they are both acrylic does not mean they are the same it is just the that they tend to be water-based paints but the mixture is totally different.

As Jason mentioned artist acrylics need a flow aid or reducer. If you use water it will quickly make opaque paints transparent.

I use airbrush paints, artist paints and also the model paints in acrylic and would not consider artist type paints for a model.

It is all down to how each is manufactured and for the material they are designed to work on.

So as you can see from the many posts here they are not all made equal.

Ramon Wilson24/02/2020 14:04:40
930 forum posts
156 photos
Posted by mgnbuk on 24/02/2020 13:30:12:

Things have certainly moved on from the 2/- Airfix kits from Woolworths that I built in my youth, brush painted with Humbrol enamels.

Nigel B.


Just turned 75 Nigel, we must be close in age - I well remember the ubiquitous 'blue' Spitfire in the poly bag from 'Woolies' as my first venture into 'plastic' - couldn't afford the paint at first though! (Thinks, wasn't it 'Britfix' before Humbrol?)

Re the smell of Tamiya - I guess it's all relative but it does not have that effect on myself or my wife who is often in the workshop. Alclad and to some degree the new AK extreme metal paints do however - I do have to wear a mask with those even with a good extractor going. The new AK Real colours, similar to Tamiya and again lacquer based, have even less smell - to me. (These are the original Tamiya paints, not the newly released alternative version)

All of the paints I mentioned above are good - in some eyes some will be better than others but given the amount available its hard to make that first choice if you are not certain. I think it would be fair to say that not all paints are equal. I'd overlooked Lifecolour, another excellent paint but I suggested Tamiya for one basic reason - its a basic 'standard' paint with which success, especially for a newcomer, can easily be achieved. From that one can move on to explore other options.

I too have a 1/32 Spit in the 'stash' - HobbyBoss MkV - but currently finishing a same scale FW190D using the new AK Real Colour paint.

Too many ideas too little time




Edited By Ramon Wilson on 24/02/2020 14:07:47

magpie24/02/2020 16:49:24
463 forum posts
80 photos

I must say that I am surprised to find so many plastic model fans on this site, and going back to my youth, such things did not exist. Small model planes were carved from blocks of balsa and the plans included templates to check if you were getting the right shape. I had lots of them hanging from my bedroom celling on bits of cotton. Getting back to the paint side of things, as the plane itself is not really the main object of my plan, I think I might just take Jeff Dayman's suggestion and go for the "strait out of the factory" look and just paint the plane in a mat silver.

Tug, you hit the nail on the head. Too many ideas, too little time.


mgnbuk24/02/2020 20:06:58
907 forum posts
65 photos

Just turned 75 Nigel, we must be close in age

You have seniority Ramon - I turn 60 next month. I started modelling when I was 8 or 9 - can't remember if the first Airfix Series 1 Spitfire came before or after the "Battle of Britain" film, but the film was definately the catalyst to what has become a life long interest - watched it again the other evening & like most remastered films it seems to look better each time I catch up with it. While I have subjects in all the scales from 1/144 to 1/24, I tend to find myself drawn to the 1/72 scale that I mainly built first time around - there were the Revell 1/32 aircraft in the early '70s, but they were not pocket money friendly & 1/48 didn't seem as popular then. Is your 1/32 "Dora" the Hasegawa or Trumpeter kit ? I built the 1/48 Tamiya version fairly soon after I restarted.

Dek - if you want to paint your Spitfire in NMF then there is a precedent see

I have not worked up to attempting a natural metal finish yet - supposedly a bit demanding of your build abilty, as it shows every imperfection.

I started again to give me something to do over the winter when I didn't feel like freezing in the garage & had not yet discovered YouTube !

Nigel B

magpie24/02/2020 22:53:17
463 forum posts
80 photos

We have a similar problem with the cold workshop Nigel, and being the wrong side of 79 I really do feel the cold.

Interesting to see the metal finish spitfire and it means if I get any comments about mine, then I can refer them to that one.

My biggest problem these days is that I sometimes get the shaky hands. Never a good condition when trying to do delicate work. Soldering fine wires was a problem until I made a small hand rest to keep my hands steady.

The iron would be describing a clockwise circle, while the solder an anti clockwise one, neither of them anywhere near the items to be soldered. Quite comical to watch o


JasonB25/02/2020 09:15:24
19587 forum posts
2150 photos
1 articles

Would they have come out the factory in bare metal? Would have thought that green/yellow zinc chromate colour etch primer more likely.

Edited By JasonB on 25/02/2020 09:16:25

mgnbuk25/02/2020 10:26:42
907 forum posts
65 photos

Would they have come out the factory in bare metal? Would have thought that green/yellow zinc chromate colour etch primer more likely.

How they came out of the factory is not relevant to the particular aircraft mentioned - from the book linked to :

Following the D-Day landings, Battle of Britain hero Tom Neil was assigned as an RAF liaison to an American fighter squadron. As the Allies pushed east, Neil commandeered an abandoned Spitfire as his own personal aeroplane. Erasing any evidence of its provenance and stripping it down to bare metal, it became the RAF's only silver Spitfire.

From limited reading, Spitfires seem mainly to have been primed light grey, but the extent of the priming applied seems to have depended on which factory made it and when it was made. Some American manufacturers stopped priming later in the war as it reduced weight, reduced build time and, as the priming was mainly for corrosion resistance, the aircaft didn't last long enough in action for corrosion to become an issue.

Nigel B.

Ramon Wilson25/02/2020 12:46:23
930 forum posts
156 photos

Dek, I believe the later Mks of Spitfire were painted in 'high speed silver' after the war (?) but an early version Hmmm? Nigel is right about Tom Neil and the 'Silver Spitfire' though so you would be pretty close to reality if not exact Mk - if its a 'test bed' for animation a spray over with Humbrol silver rattle can will do just fine yes

I too suffer with shaky hands at times, not the best of attributes for this kind of modelling - controllable for the most part but they can be a real pain when at their worst so can empathise.

Nigel, when I returned to 'plastic' in 2003 it was a completely different world from when I left it around 1970. It all began (again) when I made a Lancaster for my cousins husband for his eigthieth birhday. I went on to armour then settled on 1/48 scale aircraft for a while. I saw a 1/32 scale Trumpeter F8 Crusader (one of many 'favourite' aircraft) at a show and decided to do one. Far too big I concluded I would not build another in that scale but a not to be missed bargain of the same scale F100 at another show sealed my fate. I have built 1/48 since but much prefer the larger scale even if the outlay is a lot more.

I think your Spitfire must have been a second generation as I was eleven when I first had one. I was newly married by the time BoB was realeased. Incidentally, while filming for that was going on I was walking to catch the bus when a Heinkel? flew directly overhead - it was a stange feeling seeing those crosses. A few days later I saw about three or four Hurricanes flying very low down across fields at the back of my house. Friends saw a lot more but I worked away at the time so missed most of it.

I find plastic modelling a very relaxing if time demanding hobby. No, I'd be the first to agree it's not the same as machining but it's just as absorbing and requires skill of a completely differing dimension to do it justice

Regards - Tug

Meunier25/02/2020 15:08:11
393 forum posts
5 photos
Posted by magpie on 24/02/2020 22:53:17:

snip/ My biggest problem these days is that I sometimes get the shaky hands. Never a good condition when trying to do delicate work. Soldering fine wires was a problem until I made a small hand rest to keep my hands steady./snip.

Dek, I have seen a suggestion for shaky hands.
Take a length of non-stretch fabric, something like an arm sling, tie the two ends together, put round neck then insert hand in the loop and take several turns round wrist. This gives something to 'push' against and gain stability.
I imagine a length of cord would work, if not so comfortable on the wrist.

magpie25/02/2020 15:47:00
463 forum posts
80 photos

Thanks for the tip DaveD. The hand rest I made for soldering would not be easily adaptable for the job of putting together the spitfire. I suppose I am lucky that it is not a problem most of the time, but sod's law says it will strike when you least want it to.

Many years ago when I last made some plastic models, putting on the transfers in the right place was one of the hardest parts. I note that the cockpit transfers for the spitfire are very tiny and I can see those being great fun to fix.


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