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Well, you have got your wonderful new kit. Either a Spitfire or anything-but-a-Spitfire, but that matters not here because the same question arises; what kind of paint to get for it? There are two main options, each made under several brands, and a few oddballs worth a mention. But first, a couple of general notes on things that might affect your choice.

Properties of  paints

The first thing you discover on taking your new purchase home is paint consistency. Some are fairly thick, formulated for "one-coat" brushing on. Others are thin and runny, all ready to spray from your expensive airbrush. You can thin down a thick paint, but you cannot easily thicken up a thin one. Best to start out with the thick stuff, and only go all airbrush-y if you later feel the need. Most of the common paints are reasonably thick.

Then there is drying time. Never believe what it says on the tin. That "dries in one hour" often means that it will be touch-dry if applied thinly by an expert in a warm room, but still soft and easily damaged for many hours yet. Also, your personal preference comes into it. Some of us love a quick-drying paint so we can press on and finish the model, others like to take our time and need the paint to stay wet and workable for a longer period.

Finally, topcoats and varnishes. Decals over a matt (dull texture) paint finish will usually require an intermediate coat of varnish to avoid "silvering" of the decal film. Solvents in varnishes can vary widely. Sometimes the solvent can eat into the paint or decal beneath and ruin its appearance (especially with metallic finishes). It is advisable to use different types of solvent for each layer, for example if you use oil-based paints, then use a water-based varnish.

The muddle of names

Some paints are described as enamels or lacquers. True enamel is basically ground glass, spread over the surface and then melted under very high heat. True lacquers are resinous substances extracted from Far Eastern insects or trees, which are melted in a bowl and applied as a hot liquid. Both solidify to a hard, shiny, waterproof finish. These terms later became widely used for paints with a hard, durable finish. Nowadays you will find, for example, brands out there described variously as acrylic paint, acrylic enamel or acrylic lacquer - they are all exactly the same thing. On the other hand, Humbrol's enamels and acrylics are almost identically packaged but are in fact two different ranges; you'll never guess what little scallys like to do with the tinlets on display, so do double-check their small print before heading for the checkout!

Acrylic
These dominate today's market. The main manufacturers produce a good, wide range. The mass-market acrylics are great because they are water-soluble until dried, and so are more friendly to the environment and to parents. You can clean your brushes under the tap. They are almost always genuinely quick-drying. If you want a paint to remain liquid for a longer time, you can get special "retardants" which you add in, in a separate pot or saucer, before applying. As a noob, acrylics are your best bet.

For varnishes, Johnson's Klear floor varnish is cheap and surprisingly popular. More fastidious or less prolific modellers may prefer the Galeria matt, semi-gloss and gloss range available from artist's suppliers in rather smaller bottles.

Oil-based enamel
These once dominated and are still very common. Just plain "enamel" still usually denotes an oil-based paint. They do not dissolve in water even when liquid, and so need special solvents to thin them or clean them off. They tend to stay wet and workable longer than acrylics, which is one reason why some modellers prefer them. However they also take many hours to dry out and harden properly. Some brands offer accelerants which you can mix in to speed drying time, but these do not seem popular.

Humbrol enamels are very common, but beware, their quality is hugely variable. Consistency can vary widely; one colour may be almost thin and runny enough for an airbrush, while another may be as thick as artist's tube oil paints and need much thinning and mixing-in before it is usable. The hue occasionally changes without warning, so matching the old colour with a new pot of the same ID becomes impossible. Their varnishes tend to have a brown cast and some of the lighter colours, such as white, are apt to brown substantially with age. But at their best they are excellent, and they have one of the widest ranges out there.

Cellulose
Once common, especially for larger working models, cellulose paint is seldom used nowadays, due largely to its flammability and ability to eat into plastics. An exception is the small range of Humbrol transparent glass paints. These can be used to great effect over chrome plating for things like vehicle tail lights and direction indicators. Otherwise, you will need to lay down an inert undercoat to protect any plastic parts. And you will need to find a specialist aeromodelling retailer to get the proper cellulose thinners (acetone based, without the weird additives present in nail polish remover).

Rattle cans
Some modellers in the larger scales swear by DIY and automotive market aerosol cans, and in the smaller scales they are still popular for varnish topcoats. You need to check the solvents carefully, and test that every layer is compatible with the one beneath, before you ruin your expensive and beautiful model.

Metallics
Metallic finishes are always a challenge. The traditional paints, with scintillating mica or similar flakes mixed in, give a slightly granular sheen which is very commonly used elsewhere but not very realistic. More sophisticated technologies lay down a very thin coat to give a brilliant and convincing metallic sheen, and here the secret is to put down a high-gloss undercoat first. Different colours of undercoat will subtly affect the finished surface sheen - black is, surprisingly, the best choice for bright chrome finishes. But durability and resistance to varnish solvents can be a problem.

For example Humbrol offer a few oil-based metallics which dry matt and can then if desired be polished up, but they remain soft and easily rubbed through, and even acrylic varnish ruins the finish. The darkest shade makes an especially effective gunmetal for smaller guns.

Other weird stuff
From time to time specialist manufacturers launch expensive paint ranges using weird and wonderful technologies. Some are probably just acrylics or oil enamels wrapped in jargon to justify a high price. Buy a bottle of paint, and the small print will explain that you have to apply an undercoat of their patent liquid unobtainium first, and thin it down with their Unicorn's tears. This is especially so with proprietary metallic finishes. The noob is advised to stay well clear. Hopefully, folks who dabble in such things will post their experiences below.

Edited by steelpillow
not all acrylics are water-soluble
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Tamiya has a range of lacquer paints now which @Mad Steve has taken a liking to.

Acrylic metalic colours always used to be a bit duff, but I've found that 'Vallejo Metal Color' is excellent. It can be brushed although I think it's intended to be airbrushed.

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Lacquers are excellent but do tend to be a quickdrying enamel, and fantastically airbrush friendly. Personally I haven't tried tamiya lacquers over to our Tamiya rep @Mad Steve but I can say that Gunze Mr color lacquers are just fantastic. As for metallics in small areas I love vallejo brushed on but spraying I just adore Alclad, I know they can be fussy to work with, and you need to get the prep right.

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22 minutes ago, Grunhertz said:

 Personally I haven't tried tamiya lacquers over to our Tamiya rep @Mad Steve but I can say that Gunze Mr color lacquers are just fantastic. As for metallics in small areas I love vallejo brushed on but spraying I just adore Alclad, I know they can be fussy to work with, and you need to get the prep right.

The Tamiya lacquers are brilliant - gloss paint set and maskable within 20-30 minutes? Don't mind if I do. I'm know mostly using Mr Color and and Tamiya LP, they're both extremely reliable in application and spray superbly with levelling thinner. I haven't tried Tamiya's own thinner with their LP range, but they work fine with Gunze levelling thinner.

Another thumbs up for Alclad, although I did try AK Extreme Metal on the 262 cowls the other week and it's very impressive, sets rapidly and robust enough to withstand light tack masking.

Choosing paint media must be a nightmare for newcomers, there's so much to choose from these days, it's completely bewildering.

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52 minutes ago, Paul Brown said:

Choosing paint media must be a nightmare for newcomers, there's so much to choose from these days, it's completely bewildering.

I chose Tamiya acrylics because I liked the jars 😄

I used Humbrol enamel back in the day, and those tinlets always got on my nerves.

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Me too, still got loads of 'em! I use them mostly for detail painting now.  I even have a couple of part-used tins of Airfix enamel (M3 olive green & G14 dove grey) - the M3 is still usable ( I keep it for aircraft seat cushions etc.), but I'll seek advice from Porton Down or Dr Quatermass before opening the G14!

Edited by Hutch6390
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Was thinking of including lacquers in my little rant, but I'm not sure what solvents modern lacquers use?

Back in the day, lacquer was Far Eastern stuff made from dead insects or something, which you melted and applied while hot and runny. It cooled super-shiny, and hard but brittle. Later, cellulose paints became known as cellulose lacquer. So there was this wrinkly old word, hanging around unloved and with nothing to do all day, until Tamiya and co. gave it a new home. But what home is that? And how expensive is the ground rent?

Edited by steelpillow
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1 hour ago, Paul Brown said:

The Tamiya lacquers are brilliant - gloss paint set and maskable within 20-30 minutes? Don't mind if I do. I'm know mostly using Mr Color and and Tamiya LP, they're both extremely reliable in application and spray superbly with levelling thinner. I haven't tried Tamiya's own thinner with their LP range, but they work fine with Gunze levelling thinner.

Another thumbs up for Alclad, although I did try AK Extreme Metal on the 262 cowls the other week and it's very impressive, sets rapidly and robust enough to withstand light tack masking.

Choosing paint media must be a nightmare for newcomers, there's so much to choose from these days, it's completely bewildering.

I have been told not sure how true this is but the AK true metal is alclad in another bottle? 

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10 minutes ago, steelpillow said:

Was thinking of including lacquers in my little rant, but I'm not sure what solvents modern lacquers use?

Back in the day, lacquer was Far Eastern stuff made from dead insects or something, which you melted and applied while hot and runny. It cooled super-shiny, and hard but brittle. Later, cellulose paints became known as cellulose lacquer. So there was this wrinkly old word, hanging around unloved and with nothing to do all day, until Tamiya and co. gave it a new home. But what home is that? And how expensive is the ground rent?

If you want to try gunze lacquers give me a shout I'm not sure what the solvents are but they do need a proprietary thinner either Mr leveling thinner or Mr color thinner. Or thd tamiya lacquer thinner works also. There  is also the Mr paint range too which again is lovely to spray particularly freehand see my flanker but that is vert very hot but dry in about 20 mins 

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I've just checked my list and I have a scary number of paints from 15 different manufacturers. Roughly 1/3 are Vallejo acrylics, a hangover from my days as a Games Workshop collector when I got a complete set of their Game Colour range. There are acrylics from other ranges, both water and solvent based, a few lingering enamels and my first foray into modern lacquers (which from the smell and the cleaning regime seem to be enamels by another name).

I still brush paint everything, and the one thing I struggle with is a brushable primer - even the stuff sold as primer/undercoat never goes on well and is a pain to get a good finish over so I just tend to use a couple of layers of top coat onto bare plastic. Any tips?

Andy

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9 minutes ago, Tolvcat said:

even the stuff sold as primer/undercoat never goes on well and is a pain to get a good finish over so I just tend to use a couple of layers of top coat onto bare plastic. Any tips?

I use Halfords Plastic Primer rattle-can for most of my builds. It relatively cheap and as long as it's warmish* and all shook up, it goes on well.

* When it's cold I soak it in the sink in warm water for five mins.

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Just updated my original post a bit. I have now found all of "Acrylic paint", "Acrylic lacquer" and "Acrylic enamel" on the shelves - all exactly the same basic stuff and with brand quality wholly unrelated to the labelling.

In the words of the immortal Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In: "Confused? You will be!"

Edited by steelpillow
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2 hours ago, steelpillow said:

In the words of the immortal Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In: "Confused? You will be!"

I spend most of the day in varying states of confusion and 'Acrylic enamel' isn't helping. :crazy:

Is that possible? Maybe our resident chemical mystic @Lost Cosmonauts, can shed some light?

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14 minutes ago, Gorby said:

I spend most of the day in varying states of confusion and 'Acrylic enamel' isn't helping. :crazy:

Is that possible? Maybe our resident chemical mystic @Lost Cosmonauts, can shed some light?

That was exactly what I updated my original post to explain - after I had bought a pot and tried it out to make sure. May I recommend reading the new The muddle of names section?

Edited by steelpillow
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1 hour ago, Gorby said:

I spend most of the day in varying states of confusion and 'Acrylic enamel' isn't helping. :crazy:

Is that possible? Maybe our resident chemical mystic @Lost Cosmonauts, can shed some light?

You can disperse acrylics as an emulsion in water e.g. everything from matt wall home deco paint to our normal hobby paints. These have stabilising aids to keep the emulsion stable and often a dash of solvent to help the particles coalesce and the water evaporate off. You control the gloss by mucking around with the pigment to binder ratio and film formation

You can also disperse acrylics as a solution in a solvent blend so those by analogy to older products might be called lacquers or enamels but as described up they’re not really the same thing as the paints of old. 

Rattle can acrylics are solvent based (normally something like MEK) and flow out quickly and dry as the solvent evaporates. Temperature and humidity is a bugbear as the pressure drop on leaving the can cools the surface and coating droplets down and the solvent evaporating off also cools the surface so you often get dew and moisture droplets form on your surface knacking things*  [* official technical term - the silicon wrist bands for assorted causes also used to cause havoc as they are really incompatible with many paints and little bits of them or silicon oil can cause huge surface defects. Some paints are so incompatible that you make them at separate factories]
 

On 20/01/2022 at 21:27, steelpillow said:

Was thinking of including lacquers in my little rant, but I'm not sure what solvents modern lacquers use?

Back in the day, lacquer was Far Eastern stuff made from dead insects or something, which you melted and applied while hot and runny. It cooled super-shiny, and hard but brittle. Later, cellulose paints became known as cellulose lacquer. So there was this wrinkly old word, hanging around unloved and with nothing to do all day, until Tamiya and co. gave it a new home. But what home is that? And how expensive is the ground rent?

Solvents: depends a bit on the properties and evaporation rates but a good guess would be xylene, toluene, butanol and isopropanol 

Lacquers: shellac, urishi cashew nut oils and basically any resinous substance boiled up in solvents. I’ve a Victorian book knocking around which has loads of recipes which all sound like a good way to die young* of lung disease or in the ensuing fire [* although the mercury fulminate salts recipe for percussion caps is a particular highlight “wash the product with water till the washings no longer taste acid”]

 

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15 minutes ago, Lost Cosmonauts said:

the mercury fulminate salts recipe for percussion caps is a particular highlight “wash the product with water till the washings no longer taste acid”

Posting a reply because there is no :eek: smiley in the response icons

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