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Help on what Acrylics to use Please?


Joanna
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Hello, 

I've been working with enamels for a while but they can be expensive and come in very small containers. I've read a little about acrylics and would like to give them a try. I looked around on other posts but couldn't seem to find an answer about how to get started.😕 Can someone tell me what brands are cheap, reliable, and airbrush friendly to use? I also was wondering if you couldn't just use big jars of normal canvas painting acrylics? Does plastic modelling require special types of acrylic? Any input on brands, techniques, etc. is appreciated! Also, recommendations of clear coats to use would be nice.

Thanks in advance!

                            

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2 hours ago, Joanna said:

if you couldn't just use big jars of normal canvas painting acrylics

 

That is exactly what I am doing - I am using Golden Fluid acrylics, and if I need airbrushing, I use airbrush medium from the same vendor. But that means I had to create my own mixes to match the historical colors.

 

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10 hours ago, Casey said:

 

That is exactly what I am doing - I am using Golden Fluid acrylics, and if I need airbrushing, I use airbrush medium from the same vendor. But that means I had to create my own mixes to match the historical colors.

 

Thanks! I'll be sure to check that out. I mix a lot of my colors too. 

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There are plenty of reviews here:

https://www.britmodeller.com/forums/index.php?/forum/324-tools-amp-paint-reviews/

 

Although you may get lost in the detail.

 

Most (if not all) acrylics need to be thinned for airbrushing - many people say to the consistency of low fat milk (which works for me). I always use the thinner from the same brand as the paint. The point about using modelling paints is that they will try to match the various real world colours - so you shouldn't have to mix colours to get the right shade.

 

Everyone will have their favourites. Mine are:

Primers from Ultimate 

Paints from Xtracrylics and Tamiya

Metallic paints from Vallejo (the Metal Color range)

 

Hopefully you'll get some more helpful advice.

Good luck

Mark

 

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Best is a subjective thing. I've used quite a few different brands of acrylic and would say, pick a brand you can easily get.

Most of my acrylics are Vallejo. Model Color for brushing and Model Air goes straight into the airbrush without thinning.

I have lots of others in my Paint Farm; Humbrol, Lifecolor, Andrea, Winsor & Newton, Citadel/Games Workshop, Revell Aqua, and Hataka, Horses for courses.

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Second for Vallejo here.  I've never tried any other acrylics though.  I started with Vallejo because I didn't want to spray enamels in the house, and Vallejo is what my LHS stocked.  I've had very few issues, most of which were user error.

 

One tip though, especially with the darker colours and metallics, I have a bag of 6mm glass beads from Ebay and I drop one in each bottle to help mixing, and I also have an old pair of laddered tights in my drawer and I cut a little square out to use as a filter in the top of the bottle (take the dripper cap out, put the nylon over the bottle opening and push the drip cap back in) as I used to have a problem with globs of paint occasionally getting into the airbrush when I least expected.

 

As above, model colour for brushing, model air will go straight in the airbrush.  If I can only get the colour I need in model colour, Vallejo can be thinned with tap water with no ill affects.  I do have Vallejo thinner now though, and I use Vallejo's airbrush cleaner.  They dry very quick, so for longer airbrushing sessions I use Vallejo flow improver which slows the drying time a bit.  From an airbrush my coats are usually touch dry within 5 minutes, and masking tape dry in less than 30 minutes if I'm rushing, but the metallics need a layer of clear coat before applying tape no mater how long I leave them to dry.

 

I had a terrible time air brushing Vallejo's clear coats, and found my best results with the Micro range (Micro-Gloss, Micro-Satin etc).  They will never be as good a finish as lacquer based top coats, but they don't react to Micro-Sol/Set used for decals, and fine grit sanding between coats gets it good enough for me.  And they can also be thinned with tap water, or IPA.  It also seems to be rock solid after drying, I sprayed my plastic wheel nut covers when I bought my car a year ago with Vallejo black primer and Micro-Satin top coat and its still going strong and looking good.

 

I recently switched from Vallejo primer to Ultimate, but to be honest I'd happily use either.

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Here is my very opinionated opinion. As all opinions, it is a personal one :)

 

Vallejo

+++ Water based. Great color range, they have a lot of product lines. Airbrush-ready line which is not terrible. Lot of products like primers and clear coats. Their sets are very useful - they come in 8 or 16 paints that are good fit to specific usecase, like "Battle of Britain". Their have small (8) and large (16) basic sets too which provide a good start, including metallics in them. They smell nice when sprayed :) I came upon them from artists world - they do have the artists paints too.

--- 17ml bottles...

My score: A

 

AK Interactive

+++ Water based. They recently started to provide heavy pigments set, but it is not a pure pigments range - lot of them are mixtures and they are all containing matting agent to bring them more comparable to special use or student range of paints. Similar to Vallejo when used in practice.

--- 17 ml bottles. They advertise 'Scale reduction factor' - which for me is serious minus. I do not want vendor to pre-brighten my shades for scale modelling without asking me what scale I am using, and darkening color is much harder than desaturating it by myself. That makes their color matches sometimes bit questionable.

My score: B

 

Army Painter

+++ Water based. Aimed for figurine painting, where I tried them first, using both brush and airbrush. They overall work decent, but are mostly aimed for diorama/figure painting, but their shading sets are great. Their metallics are also really good.

--- Silly color names - I guess it is fantasy world. Need reference material to do paint matching to paint models.

My score: B

 

Tamiya

+++ Extra smooth to work in airbrush, very normalized (similar matt finish, density).

--- Alcohol based. Brushing with them is nowhere as fun as airbrush. Expensive to import. Color range is use-specific and may be limiting.

My score: B+

 

Humbrol

+++ Used to be great enamels source. Their colors are referenced as color callouts in current Airfix models.

--- Quality is very batch dependant. Each paint bottle behaves (and sometimes looks) different. The paints produced outside of UK are basically unsprayable even when thinned to 'it is not paint anymore' level. You can get lucky and have good paint but it is an exception more than a rule. If you need color matches, I've provided measurements and recipes in one of posts in this forum.

My score: F :(

 

And my personal paint to go:

Golden Fluid Acrylics

+++ Water based. They offer primary pigments and historical hues only. They offer variety size of bottles and are very heavy pigmented. To make airbrush paint of selected gloss/matte level I quite often use >50% dilution ratios with acrylic medium. In the airbrush they feel very vallejo like, and with retarder mediums you can make a paint that does not leave brushstrokes (but dries as slowly as an enamel...) You can buy them in bulk - 16fl oz bottles of basic colors will last for a while and can become very cost effective in in the long run. Their airbrush medium is more than just a thinner and retarder available from most of the other companies.

--- Primary colors. You will need references to make your own mixes, or you can be happy with going creative. They are having an minimum set of additives - for example no matte medium included. They make them all available.

My score: A+ for level of control they give me. B- if you look for modeller-ready paint. It is "Here are tools, go make your own" more than a "Buy ready to use" solution.

 

I tried a lot of products, but not as extensively as the above. Here are observations that come to my mind.

 

Revell: Works fine but have some suspicious reaction with some thinners (turns to gloop...)

Mission Models: Large bottles, minimal additives. Great color matches. Probably not enough binder in the ones I had - had very weak adhesion and yes I did used the 'poly' thinner. Needed guide on how to use. Decal softener worked as paint stripping liquid.

Liquitex: See Golden. Bit more expensive. I love their mediums and varnishes and happily mix them with Golden paints

 

Edited by Casey
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22 minutes ago, Casey said:

Here is my very opinionated opinion. As all opinions, it is a personal one :)

 

Vallejo

+++ Water based. Great color range, they have a lot of product lines. Airbrush-ready line which is not terrible. Lot of products like primers and clear coats. Their sets are very useful - they come in 8 or 16 paints that are good fit to specific usecase, like "Battle of Britain". Their have small (8) and large (16) basic sets too which provide a good start, including metallics in them. They smell nice when sprayed :) I came upon them from artists world - they do have the artists paints too.

--- 17ml bottles...

My score: A

 

AK Interactive

+++ Water based. They recently started to provide heavy pigments set, but it is not a pure pigments range - lot of them are mixtures and they are all containing matting agent to bring them more comparable to special use or student range of paints. Similar to Vallejo when used in practice.

--- 17 ml bottles. They advertise 'Scale reduction factor' - which for me is serious minus. I do not want vendor to pre-brighten my shades for scale modelling without asking me what scale I am using, and darkening color is much harder than desaturating it by myself. That makes their color matches sometimes bit questionable.

My score: B

 

Army Painter

+++ Water based. Aimed for figurine painting, where I tried them first, using both brush and airbrush. They overall work decent, but are mostly aimed for diorama/figure painting, but their shading sets are great. Their metallics are also really good.

--- Silly color names - I guess it is fantasy world. Need reference material to do paint matching to paint models.

My score: B

 

Tamiya

+++ Extra smooth to work in airbrush, very normalized (similar matt finish, density).

--- Alcohol based. Brushing with them is nowhere as fun as airbrush. Expensive to import. Color range is use-specific and may be limiting.

My score: B+

 

Humbrol

+++ Used to be great enamels source. Their colors are referenced as color callouts in current Airfix models.

--- Quality is very batch dependant. Each paint bottle behaves (and sometimes looks) different. The paints produced outside of UK are basically unsprayable even when thinned to 'it is not paint anymore' level. You can get lucky and have good paint but it is an exception more than a rule. If you need color matches, I've provided measurements and recipes in one of posts in this forum.

My score: F :(

 

And my personal paint to go:

Golden Fluid Acrylics

+++ Water based. They offer primary pigments and historical hues only. They offer variety size of bottles and are very heavy pigmented. To make airbrush paint of selected gloss/matte level I quite often use >50% dilution ratios with acrylic medium. In the airbrush they feel very vallejo like, and with retarder mediums you can make a paint that does not leave brushstrokes (but dries as slowly as an enamel...) You can buy them in bulk - 16fl oz bottles of basic colors will last for a while and can become very cost effective in in the long run. Their airbrush medium is more than just a thinner and retarder available from most of the other companies.

--- Primary colors. You will need references to make your own mixes, or you can be happy with going creative. They are having an minimum set of additives - for example no matte medium included. They make them all available.

My score: A+ for level of control they give me. B- if you look for modeller-ready paint. It is "Here are tools, go make your own" than "Buy ready to use" solution.

Just what i was looking for! thanks so much!

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This gets complicated. It depends on what kind of "acrylic" we are talking about, and this is where chemistry enters the picture. Most people use the term "acrylic" to refer to water-miscible paints such as Tamiya's. But not all "acrylics" are equal. A paint is composed of a pigment (color), a vehicle (the carrier liquid), and a binder (the film-forming component of the vehicle that holds the pigment in place after the paint dries. "Acrylic" may refer to the pigment (synthetic as opposed to organic), or the binder (synthetic as opposed to organic, such as linseed oil or a petroleum-based oil solvent). Most hobby "acrylics" are, I believe, those with synthetic pigments and/or binders, usually in a water-miscible (mixable) vehicle. But some "acrylics" are acrylic lacquers (acrylic pigments in a quick dry solvent that contains nitrocellulose resin, another organic substance), and some are acrylic enamels (acrylic pigments in a petroleum-based solvent).

 

Enamel paints use a process that allows polymers in the paint to set and bond together so when the paint hardens, it will not soften again. This is why you can brush additional coats over the original coats once they have cured. In contrast, lacquer paint dries when the solvent has evaporated and can soften over time or be dissolved with the application of additional coats. Tamiya "acrylics" are technically enamels, using acrylic pigments which polymerize in an organic solvent — alcohol — which just happens to mix with water.

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