Since getting my airbrush I’ve become I’ve had to learn more about paint and how to get the best out of it. I’ve also developed some favourites because I love what effects I can achieve with them.I keep the majority of my paint near my airbrush station for easy access. Of course, I’ve got more paints than are on display here and the overflow is on one of my rolling tables next to this shelf. To start, let’s go to the first paint I usually put on a piece – the undercoat or primer. The Alclad primers are excellent. They’re pre-thinned, go on smoothly, dry quickly, are economical, stick well to the plastic and form a great surface for subsequent layers of paint.
For general use I’ll go with the grey. The white is useful for when I want to influence the paint layer above to come out brighter. When filling or doing seam-line-removal on a piece, I’ll use the grey to show me how well I’ve done with the sanding, and also if you spray it on a little thick it can fill in some tiny gaps too.
The gloss black isn’t really a primer for general painting as it’s specifically designed as a gloss base coat for the Alclad metallics. It works great for this purpose and is slower drying than the primers. That also means it works really well as a base coat for Uschi powders too. I’ve also used it as a primer for when I want the above paint layer to come out darker than normal. Because it’s so glossy you need extra care in spraying acrylics over it, so start with a fine misting and slowly build the paint up, putting on only a thin layer at first and letting it dry before adding layers to get to the density you need. I really like the Tamiya acrylics. The colours are nice and strong, and although the jars are quite small, you can thin them right down (usually about 1 part paint, 1 part thinner) and they still provide great coverage. In many cases, you can use them without a primer or undercoat as they stick very well to the underlying plastic. I’ll generally use the Gunmetal this way as even when thinned it will give good coverage in one coat, and if you’re painting inner frames with articulation you’ll not want thick layers of paint to impede motion or scrape off.
I don’t tend to use too many of the Tamiya acrylic solid colours. The Lemon yellow works very well, and in a Gunpla context, I think it works superbly well for yellow parts and can be sprayed directly onto the plastic without primer. Because yellow is a tricky colour for coverage, yellow paint over yellow plastic (rather than grey primer) can often provide best results.
I don’t tend to spray the black much, but it comes in handy for hand-painted details. I’ve used the Tamiya acrylic purple, various blues, metallic blue and they’ve always worked well. I don’t tend to mix them, but because they come in such a wide range of colours, I’ve not really had to. Perhaps my favourite Tamiya paints are the clear colours and smoke. I use these paints in a number of ways. I like to hand-paint them (generally un-thinned) to add small details to parts. I like how they look, especially over a metallic layer of paint, or perhaps some hand-painted Gundam marker in gold or silver. I very much like the smoke to add depth to a part by working as a thickish wash in recessed areas. Thinned further smoke can even be used as a panel line wash.
When spraying them I’ll thin them down with the Tamiya acrylic thinner, but perhaps not as thin as 1:1. If you’re using them as a candy coat over a metallic base of Alclad chrome or gold say, if the paint is too runny it will flow rather than stay where you sprayed it and that’s not good. Sometimes it works well to do a light coat first and then come back for a heavier coat to finish with. If you have a good light on your work area you can see how the paint builds up to a gloss shine and often I’ll use the clear paints only slightly thinned (just enough so they spray without blocking the airbrush) and build a single thick layer to the shine to go for a very glossy finish in one go.
I’ve experimented thinning the Tamiya clear paints with Future Finish and as long as you use the paint up quickly this can work to give a very glossy finish. Leave the paint too long and the pigment pulls out of the mix, thickens and turns to a mess in the jar – or your airbrush. Tamiya acrylic paints can be thinned with either their acrylic thinner or their lacquer thinner. For general use the acrylic thinner is fine. I like to use the lacquer thinner for the Tamiya gunmetal though because it’s much faster drying, thus allowing me to move more rapidly to assembly or detailing. When thinned with the lacquer thinner the paint dries tougher too, making it excellent for the areas of articulation like the frame of a Gunpla.
Lacquer thinner stinks, and it’s not good for you to breathe it in. If you’re going to use it, wear a proper respirator mask that has an organic vapour filter and make sure you have good ventilation and fume extraction. The Alclad metallics are really excellent, but they’re a bit tricky to work with and quite expensive. They work best over their gloss base coat, although I do find they can work well over Tamiya gunmetal or Alclad grey primer too (if you don’t need a high-gloss metallic effect). When spraying these drop your pressure. They’re all pre-thinned and flow easily. Go really gentle and almost “mist” them on. If you’re careful you’ll be rewarded with an excellent metallic finish.
They seem to take a Future Finish top coat reasonably well, but be careful to really let them dry first. The brass will run a little if you’re not careful or go heavy with the gloss coat.
If you’re careful you can mask directly onto the Alclad metallics, but let them thoroughly dry and cure first.
As with all lacquer based paints, be sure to have proper ventilation and wear a respirator with an organic vapour filter.I found the Createx acrylic paint line at the art store where I bought my airbrush. The paints are not specifically designed for plamo or Gunpla, but with care they can work well and you can gain the benefit of some of their specialized effects. They come in much larger bottles than typical model paints and are quite affordable.
Createx paint is generally too thick to spray directly. They can also tend to dry to a more rubbery finish and not stick well to the plastic. All this can be dealt with to get the best of of these paints.
To help the Createx paint stick well to the plastic, use a good primer or undercoat first. I find the Alclad primers work well for this.
You can sometimes get away with using the Createx paint neat, but generally I find thinning them works best. I’ll recycle old Tamiya acrylic jars for this. I fill the jar to just over 1/3 full, then add about 1/3 Future Finish, and then as much Tamiya acrylic thinner as needed to get good airbrush flow. Adding the Future Finish makes the Createx paint work much better in a modelling context, causing the paint to dry harder.
I found that just using Tamiya acrylic thinner on the Createx paint can sort of work, but the properties that Future Finish added to the mix made it worthwhile to make it the primary thinning component of the mix. I did try using 99% isopropanol, but that turned Createx paint to cheese, as did Tamiya lacquer thinner.
I really like the Createx pearl paints. My standard formula for Gundam red armour parts is Createx pearl red followed by a top coat of Tamiya clear red. The pearl red has a lovely metallic finish that’s not too over-the-top, but I just don’t quite like the hue of red. Adding the layer of Tamiya clear red brings the hue to exactly my liking and the glossiness of the clear red just looks wonderful.
I’m happy to use the pearl blue on its own or with a top coat of Tamiya clear blue. I’ve even used masking on the pearl blue to only hit certain areas with the glossy Tamiya clear blue for interesting effect.
I’ve had periods of poor success painting white pieces. White seems such a tricky colour to get right, but I’m now getting reliably good results. I first undercoat with Alclad grey primer, and then use 2 or 3 fine coats of Createx white (thinned with Future Finish and Tamiya acrylic thinner) on top. Also, if I’m after a pearl finish, I’ll just substitute the top layer of paint for Createx pearl white (thinned with Future Finish and Tamiya acrylic thinner) because being semi-transparent it really benefits from the underlying white paint.
The white really works well when you put a final top flat coat on it. I find the result is almost like a paper white and it’s very pleasing to me.
Createx also make some other paints that I’ve used to good effect. As well as the pearl paints they also make some iridescent ones. They are similar to the pearl, but finer and come in different hues. The fluorescent paints from Createx glow under UV light. They’re a bit thin to hand paint, but if you’re careful and layer up the paint they can achieve enough density, and they airbrush well with just perhaps a little thinning. When airbrushing you have to make sure that the undercoat is a good colour. I found the Alclad grey too dark for them and the Alclad white didn’t hide the plastic colour well enough. What I settled on as a solution was to use the Alclad grey to hide the plastic colour and then to put down a layer of Createx white before the fluorescent paint. For top coating, I’ll use Alclad Klear Kote Flat. You don’t need much so it’s quite economical and I’m just now at the end of my first bottle! It dries quickly too, which is always a benefit for top coats.
Sometimes when you want to weather a piece, the weathering will not work well on a glossy surface, and here the Alclad flat works very well. The Tamiya weathering masters stick well to the flat when they refuse to go onto the gloss coated parts.For gloss coating I’ll use Pledge Floor Care, otherwise known as Future Finish. You don’t have to thin it. It sprays well, dries reasonably quickly (as long as you don’t go too heavy) and it’s so cheap.
When you’re laying down decals, a quick coat of Future Finish will hold them in place, dry and protect them so you can layer up decals safely or be sure you’re not going to displace some as you work on the model. And because it’s cheap, you don’t mind spraying a few layers during this process.
Future Finish is also useful to protect paint for masking, and for building up a piece to a really glossy finish. If you just do a light layer of Future Finish you can achieve more of a satin finish, but it’s quite easy to over spray it and get too glossy!
White armour: Alclad grey undercoat, Createx white paint thinned with Future Finish and Tamiya acrylic thinner, top coated with Alclad flat. Weathering done with Tamiya Weathering Master sets.
Dark Armour: Tamiya gunmetal, Tamiya smoke.
Feet: Alclad grey primer, Future Finish.
Medium red armour: Alclad gloss black, Alclad chrome, Tamiya clear red.
Bright red: Alclad gloss black, Alclad pale gold, Tamiya clear red.
Fuel Tanks: Tamiya gunmetal, Tamiya smoke. Tamiya gunmetal, Alclad pale gold, Tamiya smoke.
Frame (dark): Alclad gloss black, Alclad chrome, Tamiya smoke.
Thrusters inner: Alclad gloss black, Alclad pale gold.
Light red armour details: Alclad grey primer, Createx pearl red, Tamiya clear red.
All armour pieces were undercoated with Alclad grey primer.
Dark blue armour: Createx pearl blue.
Light blue armour: Createx pearl blue, Createx pearl white.
Red armour: Createx pearl red, Tamiya clear red.
Yellow armour: Createx pearl yellow, Tamiya clear yellow, Tamiya clear orange.
White armour: Createx white.
Soles: Alclad grey primer, Createx black, Createx black / white mix.