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Triggerhappy
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Paint Reviews

#1

Post by Triggerhappy »

Okay, "paint reviews" is a bit boastful, really. "Random thoughts on different brands of model paints" would probably be more accurate. However, since this seems to be a topic that's frequently discussed here and hotly debated, I thought I'd add my couple of cents worth. Now, I'm not a great builder and still learning as a painter. But I have tried all of these paints myself, so I can speak mostly from experience rather than rehash "stuff I read on the internet". So here goes:

Revell Aqua Color (Acrylics)

Random Thoughts
These were the very first paints I tried. They are widely available here in Germany and pretty cheap. I did not like them much at first but have grown accustomed to them over time. They are rather easy to work with, both applied with a paint brush and with an air brush. However, you have to thin them properly first, and that's the reason I disliked them at first. Finding the right mix takes some practice, since almost every tone has a different cosistency and texture and requires a different amount of thinner. Some tones are rather runny, some more like a gel, some almost solid, difficult to stir and extract. Those little cuboids they come in are convenient to store but not very advantageous for the paints themselves. The lids tend to not close properly, so the paint dries in the container over time. To prevent that from happening, cut off those little "hinges" on top of the lids - they get bent and prevent the lids from sealing the containers. Since I store my paints in drawers, having the numbers and names written on top of the containers is quite convenient for me.

Thinning and Cleaning
While the Aqual Colors can be diluted with water (with a tiny amount of dish soap), window cleaner works better, especially for use in an air brush. Revell's own thinner (Aqua Color Mix) isn't much of an upgrade. All of the paints should be thinned and well stirred before use unless you use them for really small details. Thinner/paint ratio varies from 1:2 to 3:1, depending on tone and method of application. There are some tones that profit from a drop of retarder when used in an air brush, or they tend to clog the nozzle over time. Brushes and other tools can easily be cleaned with soapy water. Residue and dried paint can be removed with rubbing alcohol. Cleaning is fast and easy.

Handling and Results
Opacity varies from tone to tone. Some cover with a single brush stroke others require multiple coats. Air brushing Revell Aqua Colors is usually quite enjoable, if they are thinned properly. However, some tones need to be thinned so much that their opacity suffers quite a bit and the resulting watery mix tends to build up quickly if you're not careful. For brush coating, always use a primer first, air brushing often works well without a primer.
While they don't bond to the surface particularly well, coats with Aqua Color are usually reasonably rugged and you do not need to take special care while handling colored parts and models. Since Aqua Colors dry very quickly (dry to handle after a few minutes, hard-dried after a day), this makes for very fast working.

Price and Availability
They're widely available and pretty cheap. The range has expanded over the years and today covers most colors that are needed by military modelers. However, there are still some important shades missing, especially for modern equipment, and so these need to be mixed from other tones. According to various sources, the Aqua Colors match older standards like RLM very closely but tend to deviate quite a bit from more modern ones.

Conclusion
These are very good paints but they take some getting used to.

Vallejo Model Color and Model Air (Acrylics)

Random Thoughts
These were the second colors I tried. I got tired of mixing the Revells for use in my airbrush and was looking for colors that were "ready to use". I (mistakenly) thought I had found that in Vallejo's Model Air range. But while a few of these tones may be usable undiluted (for airbrushes with larger nozzles/needles, 0.3 - 0.5), the vast majority are not. In fact, thinning the Model Colors and Model Airs correctly is even more important than it is for the Revell Aqua Colors, because they will completely clog your air brush if you don't. Model Color and Model Air are very, very similar to each other in almost every regard, the main difference being the slightly runnier consistency of the latter. From what I've read, Vallejo's other ranges (Game Color, Panzer Aces and so on) also share many of their properties. I absolutely love the containers Vallejo's colors come in. Those little dropper bottles allow you extract exactly the amount needed, so there is very little waste. They also seal well so the paint remains usable. Only when you have almost emptied the bottles do they become difficult to handle, the paint difficult to shake and mix. You can use some thinner/retarder to prolong their expiration. Numbers and names are printed on the sides of the bottles. There is no way to recognize the paints from above.

Thinning and Cleaning
Both the Model Airs and the Model Colors can be thinned with soapy water. For use with a paint brush, you can use them undiluted, though I would recommend watering them down at least a bit. For use with an air brush a lot more thinner is needed (naturally even more for the Model Colors than for the Model Airs). Be careful, they do not take well to alcohol, window cleaner and similiar household remedies. Instead, use either soapy water with a bit of added retarder or use Vallejo's own bottled thinners which already come with added retarder. If you're using an air brush with a small needle/nozzle like 0.2 you will have to dilute the paints quite a lot, often using more thinner than paint. However, even with added retarder, Vallejo's colors still tend to build up on the needle and clog the nozzle over time (especially the metallic tones), so make sure you spray out the residue regularly (at least every five minutes) and clean the needle tip with a brush or cotton bud. Cleaning takes a bit more time than it takes for the Revell Aqua Colors. The residue is somewhat stickier and tends to form large clumps or strands that need to be removed. Vallejo's own Airbrush Cleaner works very well there and also allows you to remove dried paint.

Handling and Results
Opacity varies a bit but is generelly pretty good, the lighter colors like Yellow or Orange being and exception. Despite their name, the Model Air colors actually work quite well with paint brushes too, though not quite as well as Revell's Aqua Colors. The need to blow out and clean your air brush regularly makes them a bit tedious to handle for larger scale models but in 1/144 you rarely have to cover huge areas, right? Vallejos colors work well without a primer, even applied with a pait brush. They dry almost instantly (dry to the touch after a few minutes, dried through after a day or so). However, adhesion isn't very good and you have to be really careful handling models, not to scrape off the paint (especially if you didn't use a primer).

Price and Availability
Not as widely available or as cheap as the Revell Aqua Colors here in Germany but still reasonably easy to get. If you do not have a dedicated model shop near you, you might want to keep a look out for games shops (tabletop and board games), who tend to carry the Vallejo stuff quite often. Vallejo offers hundreds of tones for every conceivable use, including special glowing, metallic or other effect paints. However, according to my own impressions and some reviews I've read online, Vallejo's military colors often differ wildly from the original colors (Sky Blue for Soviet fighter cockpits, really?), so you have to do quite a bit of mixing to get it right.

Conclusion
Good paints all around though a bit tedious to use with an air brush.

Gunze Sangyo Mr. Hobby Color (Acrylics)

Random Thoughts
I've started to use these only recently, so my experience with them is somewheat limited. Howver, I've come to really like them. They're pretty much perfect for air brushing though comparatively hard to use with a paint brush. Their major downside is their ridiculous drying time; even after a week touching a surface might result in visible finger prints. So be patient and always use gloves while handling these paints. By the way, Gunze Sangyos naming is a bit confusing. Next to the Mr. Hobby Color line (also known as Aqueous Hobby Color), which are acrylic paints, there's also the Mr. Color series, which are enamel paints, and the Mr. Color Super Metallic (also enamel). The enamel and acrylic lines are fundamentally incompatible with each other. Do not try to mix them! Do not try to thin Mr. Color colors with Mr. Hobby Color thinners or bad things will happen (curiously, thinning Mr. Hobby Color paints with Mr. Color thinners works quite well).
They come in little glass jars which are easy to store but often don't seal properly (take care that the plastic lid inside the main lid doesn't get lost or doesn't seal). Numbers and names of the colors are written on the sides of the jars. However, the lids are big enough to at least write the numbers on top of them (which I do using a Sharpie).

Thinning and Cleaning
Most of these tones are actually thin enough to use them in an airbrush without the need for further dilution (even in my 0.2 model). However, I still do use Gunze's own thinner (Mr. Color Leveling Thinner), since it makes handling smoother and reduces the build up of residue. The Mr. Hobby Color thinner works too, of course. Rubbing alcohol or window cleaner are useable substitutes. If you have to remove dried paint, use Gunze's own Thinner. While there is less residue than with Revell's or Vallejo's paints, the residue that does build up is much harder to remove. Cleaning your stuff from Gunze paits takes considerably longer and requires more care.
Unlike the Revell and Vallejo Colors the Mr. Hobby colors are not water-based but rather solvent-based acrylics. That makes it a bit difficult to apply a second coat or do touch-ups with a paint brush, since every new coat bites into the one below. Really, there are much better paints for brushes.

Handling and Results
The Mr. Hobby Color paints are incredibly smooth and convenient to handle. There is almost no build up of residue while spraying, so no need to blow out your airbrush every few minutes (I still do it once in a while, just to be safe). The flow and control is fantastic. You can draw incredibly fine lines and small dots with this paint. After some trials I am starting to think I might actually be able to do mottling and other camo patterns free-hand with this paint. When I make mistakes, it's usually due to my shaky hands, not the paint. Really, the flow is just so much better than for example the Vallejo Model Air's, Gunze colors are perfect for air brushing. Opacity is also very high, even the lighter colors like yellow and white usually cover with a single layer. Sprayed, the Hobby Color paints work quite well without a primer though they do profit from an undercoat. Adhesion is very good, these colors can take a rougher handling than Revell's or Vallejo's. But! As I mentioned, the dry time really is something else. After some really bad experiences with finger prints and scratched paint work, I generally leave all models I paint with Gunze colors to dry for at least one full week before I handle them again. This is a major drawback for someone as impatient as I am.

Price and Availability
These cost considerably more and are a lot harder to obtain than all the other paints I use. I have to order them online, since no shop in my vicinity carries them. The paint selection is good enough for military modelers: World War I naval colors, World War II air force colors, Cold War ground force colors, there is just everything you need, often carrying the original designation (RAL or FS codes, for example). Gunze colors are said to be pretty true to the originals, though they don't get as close as Revell's. I can't really comment on that myself.

Conclusion
Love the paints, hate the dry time.

Games Workshop Citadel Base and Citadel Layer (Acrylics)

Random Thoughts
These are often disregarded by military model builders as "toy paints" for their use in table top gaming. While it is true that you will not find any military tones in Citadel's range (at least not under their original designation), these are still worth a look if you're looking for the perfect brush paints! Finding the right ones is a bit complicated though, since Games Workshop's range is convoluted, to say the least, and their naming policy borderline idiotic. What you'd most likely be interested in are the Citadel Base and Citadel Layer ranges. These are the "normal" colors, albeit with strange names (color charts really help you identify the tones you need). You can disregard Glaze, Air, Dry and all the other crap they carry, maybe with the exception of Citadel Shade, which are usable acrylic washes. The containers they come in are very convenient to store and use, even featuring some tiny "throughs" in the lids to soak your brush.

Thinning and Cleaning
Soapy water works perfectly fine, although, in my experience, they already come ready to use with a brush and do not need to be diluted any further. They are not intended for air brush use and I've never tried to use them that way - I already got other colors for that. For cleaning, water is good enough. To remove driend paint, alcohol is the way to go.

Handling and Results
No other paints I've ever tried are as convenient, easy to use and deliver such great results as Citadel paints when applied with a brush. Painting white on black? Not a problem, the first coat completely covers the surface. Trying to paint these tiny details on the landing gear? Not a problem, these paints do not run but do not clump either. They dry very quickly, so you can work very quickly, adding layer on layer within minutes.

Price and Availability
Citadel Paints are available in all Games Workshops shops, of course, but also often in stock in toy stores. They are stupidly expensive. (Seriously, does Games Workshop even *try* to attract young players anymore or do they completely concentrate on nostalgics with too much money to spend?)

Conclusion
If you're looking for the perfect brush paints, these are it. Not having any military tones in their range is a major inconvenience. If you wanted to use Citadel Paints as your main paints, you'd have to carefully cross-reference and mix dozens and hundreds of tones. What I recommend instead is to buy a couple of base colors (back, white, red, yellow, green, blue, brown, and maybe some metallics) and use these for detail work.

Hope that helps to answer some questions that regularly pop up in this forum. I'd be happy to answer further questions, to hear different opinions and to discus my findings.

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smeg1959
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Re: Paint Reviews

#2

Post by smeg1959 »

Highly informative, Triggerhappy. ;)

As a teenager, I used to swear by Humbrol enamels. Later in life, acrylics have become the norm for me. Now whilst I can buy Revell, Vallejo and Mr Color locally, I tend to use a combination of Tamiya and Lifecolor acrylics, with a smattering of Humbrol acrylics for specific colours like Oxford Blue. All three brands airbrush well after thinning with water, the specific company's thinners or, my new favourite, Future. The main downside of Lifecolor paints is that they dry very quickly and have a tendency to block the airbrush nozzle. Oddly, certain colours seem more susceptible to this; yellow and orange are particularly bad. This problem is slightly less apparent for either Tamiya or Humbrol. As goes hairy stick application, I find Lifecolor the best of the three. It goes on thinly so you do need at least two coats but I find it gives a smoother finish with less chance of brush marks - the bane of my life, both in modelling and renovating the home.

Re: using thinners, I would never use, say, Tamiya thinners with Lifecolor acrylics. I tried it once and small lumps started to form in the paint. Whilst these may all be classified as acrylics, formulations vary dramatically and some solvents can interact badly with the pigments.
OTB ...
GB13 - Late 298 (Aeronavale), Bf109E-3a Strela (Bulgarian AF), ČKD LT vz.38 Praga (Slovakian Army)

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Jonathan
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Re: Paint Reviews

#3

Post by Jonathan »

Nice piece of work! thanks for your thoughts.Image
I have been interested to try Vellejo and Gunze for some time, now that Pollyscale is gone forever(and so I am forever boycotting all Testors products), so your advice is very valuable.

Wege
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Re: Paint Reviews

#4

Post by Wege »

Sometimes I wonder if paint review hould be by geographical location as I suspect that some paints work better in one place than others.

As an example, Gunze Aqueous doesn't take a week here in Perth, in winter, to dry but a day or so. I apply and massage pure dishwasher detergent into the brush before rinsing the bristles and ferrule in running water.

I have used 98% ISO alcohol as a bit of thinners but the pain then dries a bit faster. I have not had much success with feathering this paint ala Luftwaffe mottling.

I have also found Humbrol can vary in both drying time and consistency of paint depending on batch and manufacturing country. As an example, I have a couple of tins dating back to the 80's that are perfectly fine yet a tin of Dark Earth Brown bought 5 years ago is dried out already. I think I purchased some recent RLM but I don't remember what it is like to use.

I often have to have either a brush dampened in thinners or make a mix of thinners and paint to use. I have used standard turpentine and Humbrol's own thinners with equal success.

Tamiya. I use their oil paints often thinned with Humbrol's thinner or turps. This paint can be quite thick but I personally find their white to be better than Humbrol. The jars are nicer to use too. Will edit in more later as I have to go to work.

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Jonathan
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Re: Paint Reviews

#5

Post by Jonathan »

it may well be that what continent you are on and what decade you paid money, indictates what you got in a jar of paint.

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smeg1959
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Re: Paint Reviews

#6

Post by smeg1959 »

I'm going to temper some of the nice things I said about Tamiya paint after a bit of a disaster last night. A few days ago, I airbrushed XF-73 as the equivalent of Dark Slate Grey on one of my Avengers in the Group Build (the one being built as an FAA Tarpon). OK so far. Last night, I used Maskol over the top of the XF-73 to mask off areas in preparation for the XF-77, substituting for Extra Dark Sea Grey. Airbrushed this and some issues with a grainy finish in places. I let the paint dry, gave the offending area a fine sand, then resprayed. Not brilliant but better. This morning, I removed the Maskol and used a piece of Tamiya tape to remove any fragments left behind and clean up the edges as I always do. Lo and behold, sections of XF-73 came off with the tape and, near the tail, a slab of XF-77 as well. Expletives deleted. :evil:

OK, perhaps I should have left the XF-77 longer (it was around 8 hours drying, part of which was spent in the direct path of a heater fan) but that certainly doesn't excuse the XF-73. And this isn't the first time I've had adhesion issues with Tamiya acrylics. What makes things worse is that all the colours were applied over Tamiya's own undercoat/primer. To date, I've never had that issue with either Lifecolor or Humbrol. I have since patched up the damaged areas, albeit using a hairy stick and not the airbrush. Looks passable from a distance but you don't want to get up close and personal or the repairs become apparent. I'm hoping that the semi-gloss clear coat that will be applied prior to decal application will prevent any further loss of XF-73 from the surface and reduce the visibility of the repairs, and that decals will hide a couple of less-than-sharp demarcations between colours. Believe me, the contrast between the two dark colours and white couldn't highlight issues any more if it tried.

I will post photos of the "before" and "after" in the relevant GB thread tonight.
OTB ...
GB13 - Late 298 (Aeronavale), Bf109E-3a Strela (Bulgarian AF), ČKD LT vz.38 Praga (Slovakian Army)

Triggerhappy
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Re: Paint Reviews

#7

Post by Triggerhappy »

Wege wrote:Sometimes I wonder if paint review hould be by geographical location as I suspect that some paints work better in one place than others.
True. I'm located in Germany, which isn't known to be a particularly sunny country. However, when I started using the Gunze paints this summer, there certainly was an unusually big heat wave. The hot and humid weather might have prolonged the drying time somewhat. Still, after my first experiences with their paints, I'm reluctant to handle (touch, repaint, mask) any painted parts without at least some days of drying time. (I do not use any "accelerators" like blow driers.) That is a lot more time than I grant parts painted with Revell or Vallejo acrylics - these can be worked with almost instantly after application. Of course, this isn't only influenced by the weather but by a lot of other factors too: The paint/thinner ratio, the thinner itself, the surface and primer, the thickness of the coat and so on ...
Tamiya. I use their oil paints often thinned with Humbrol's thinner or turps.


I presume you mean enamels/alkyd resin? (Chemically similar to oils but not the same.) Over here, Tamiya only offers acrylic paints, which do have a good reputation but I've never tried. Not sure if their rattle can colors might be enamels. Don't know much about these.

Wege
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Re: Paint Reviews

#8

Post by Wege »

OOps... sorry.. Enamel/resin thingy... In the small bottles. :)

Their aerosols (which I think they have two different series?)... one of them is a lacquer and the other (I understand) is acrylic- I have only used the lacquer. Open and ventilated room, airflow needed etc. Brain cells will be destroyed otherwise. Potent 'smell'. :O

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JBr-Decals
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Re: Paint Reviews

#9

Post by JBr-Decals »

Smell is the biggest issue I need to care about when buying paints. Living in a maisonette (where my workroom is basically an open balcony over the living room/kitchen and right next to our bedroom) with two small kids and a wife with extremely sensitive sense of smell, my choice of paints is fairly limited to odourless ones :) This more or less eliminates the usual choices like all the enamels, Gunze C (acrylics but lacquer based = THE SMELL) and H (less smelly but still...) paints, Slovak Mr. Paint paints, etc.

Basically all the paints I'm using for airbrush are Agama Red Line acrylics. Occasionally I also use Revel Aqua paints for brush painting details and other small area brush work. Agama is a Czech producer, currently producing paints in three lines - enamels, water-based acrylics (simply called the "Acrylics") and alcohol-based acrylics ("Red Line"). Comparing those three, I found enamels the worst - inconsistent quality and drying time and also THE SMELL. Water-based acrylics are quite good, but Red Line paints are simply the best. They are by far the best and foolproof paints I've tried so far. They smell a bit but nothing serious. On the other hand the water-based acrylics are basically odourless but are much more sensitive to correct thinnig.

The biggest disadvantage is that only selection of color shades available as enamel paints is available as acrylics and even less as the Red Line acrylics. However more and more shades are introduced into both Acrylics and Red Line lines and most of the "essential" colors are available in all three versions. Usually, I only need to use Acrylics from time to time for special shades (usually the Czech[oslovak] ones or shades like "Russian interior blue-green"), otherwise I can live just with the Red Line paints.

Unfortunately, it seems almost impossible to get them outside the Czech Republic.

Triggerhappy
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Re: Paint Reviews

#10

Post by Triggerhappy »

You are right, JBr. Smell is a major factor and something I should have mentioned/included in the review. I do not find the odour of the Gunze acrylics offensive (although the Mr. Color Leveling Thinner I use to dilute them takes some getting used to) but they certainly do smell a lot stronger than all the other paints. The Revell Aquas and the Vallejo Model Airs are pretty much odourless, even the respective thinners are. The Citadel paints do have a distinctive smell, that I find pleasant.

Agama paints are become more and more popular over here. I don't know of any local dealers who carry them but you can easily order online from the Czech Republic or Slovakia. I think I've heard of that brand some three or four years ago when the introduced some metallic paints that were easily usable with a paint brush.

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