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The Acrylic Paintshop

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  • The Acrylic Paintshop

    I have been trying to paint as much of my models in acrylic now rather oils out of an interest for not using as many solvent based paint materials in the shop. Also another incentive has been to cut costs a bit from a lot of the lavish options out there.

    I have been trying some airbrush paints made by "Golden" for artists use, so far they have worked and color mixing is a bit easier with more willingness to use a little of this or that since cleanup is easier.

    The paints do require more light coats and sealing is more important than ever. I have been sealing using the "Future Floor Polish" as a pre-decal semi-gloss coat.

    Following decals I put on the decal sets and solvents and then follow that with another coat of semi-gloss. After the semi-gloss has dried I still a coat of Testors Dullcoat, although I would also like to find a good flat sealer in a water-based option as well.

    I am working on a tank car project with whites and blues and hope to post some images of results.

    I have also been weathering using watercolor & acrylic paints and find this combination to be forgiving and more satisfying that pastel powders. The use of watercolors and artists acrylics is another big cost savings and it also avoids the re-applications that are often required with pastels when they lighten and fade after being sealed in, which also adds another step.

    Please share any nice Flat sealer options, this is one formula that I have not found a good water based option for yet.



  • #2
    Hi Blair, I mostly use acrylic paints and have also used "Future" before applying decals. Coincidentally I am also working on a tank car project with white and blue!

    The June 2015 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman has a good article about custom mixes of inexpensive craft acrylic paints with artist quality mediums for painting rolling stock.

    Here's a thread about it on the Model Railroader Forum:

    I have tried some Golden acrylics and find them excellent quality. Golden has a number of short videos on different techniques and ideas for using its products:

    Golden might have a flat finish clear acrylic.

    General Finishes makes a flat water based varnish. I have not used it, but know a woodworker who says all General Finishes are high quality.

    Here's a link:

    I have tried a craft quality acrylic exterior matte varnish as a top coat. The finish is more satin than flat.


    • #3
      Vallejo and MIG make very flat/matte finishes. Try a hobby store that caters to military modelers or fantasy figures/wargamers. And if they have Vallejo, get a small bottle of the Vallejo flow enhancer for airbrushing acrylic paints. A drop of that stuff helps any acrylic go through the airbrush.

      Modeling 1890s (because the voices in my head told me to)


      • #4
        Thanks Dave, I looked back through previous conversations and threads we have had and you previously had the recommendation of "AK interactive Matte varnish", which probably has the best reputation so far of what I have read. Distribution is limited and for me, in New York city, I am limited to needing to order it online as there are no hobby shops keeping it in stock.

        My go to shop Red Caboose on 45th could get it if I do a special order. His orders are slow to come in as he needs to compile enough volume from the various dealers he purchases from so by the time he has enough to justify the shipping costs it could be months. I certainly understand where he comes from on that, renting NYC real estate is big bucks and wherever you can protect your bottom-line you sort of need to.

        I work in entertainment and a product that we have been using for ages is made by "sculptural arts coatings". It is sold in quarts - 5 gallon buckets. I mention it not because it would be advisable, but to share how stressful it is to work with. It goes on milky white, with a paint brush, if there are too many brush strokes it will not dry clear. If the temperature is too cool it will not dry clear. It would never work for models due to how thick the product is.

        The key thing with model formulated paints is thin & flow well and dry hard and lay flat. That means the following:

        -the pigments must be finely ground and concentrated

        -the binders must flow well and still hold the paint together when it is thinned

        -the vehicle/solvent needs to evaporate away to let the paint sit thin to the surface of the model.

        A lot of the artists acrylics have coarser pigment. They also have binders which do not thin well, they are formulated to stay thick like oil paint and sit on the canvas and hold brush strokes with body and thickness.

        Another thing is that with using acrylics having a really good primer coat is all the more important, so that is another product I need to find a source for.

        For me the high cost of Vallejo paints and touchy shelf life means that I don't want to invest in a full spectrum of color since many can just dry in the bottles. I still have some Testors enamels from my great uncle that are still viable and have been used and re-lidded, yet I have some bottles of pollyscale acrylics that dried up without ever getting opened.

        It is all tough now with the internet war against the local hobby shops. If you want to try out a $6 bottle of paint you need to pay a minimum $4.75 shipping. The hobby shops don't want to stock the stuff because they don't want to hurt their bottom line. A lot of the stuff I want to try now was never available in any hobby shop I ever went to so it wouldn't make any difference; a lot of it is global economy stuff. The AK interactive is from the UK I believe.

        Still, the desire to save some money always exists, I will comb through that thread and keep doing my own experiments to see what works and prices well.




        • #5
          I've never had a problem with Vallejo paints in shelf life. (Tru-Color, on the other hand... The plastic bottles let the solvent flash off. I opened a brand new/2 year old bottle and fully 1/3 of it was "missing". I need to get some of their solvent, although I've been told Acetone works just fine.)

          Modeling 1890s (because the voices in my head told me to)


          • #6
            Thanks Dave, good article, it sounds like the key discovery of the RMC article was the use of the Flow-Aid. The Model Railroader forum page led me back here to Railroad Line Forums for this thread:


            Lots of good additional resources and a lot of reading.

            I made a trip to the art store and was able to get some of the flow-aid and some additional paints to try out. The cheaper paints definitely have a coarser pigment and gummier binders that will break down the more they are thinner.

            Regarding the White and Blue tank, this model of mine was given to me by a friend when we were probably 12. I was collecting transition to diesel era at the time, but he didn't really know the differences, so he saw a good price on an Atlas undecorated 15k tank car and bingo I had a piece of modern equipment. I have a handful of modern pieces now, but still it's just a handful of pieces I find interesting. It's all about the weathering with modern equipment, so my goal is to weather this little string of modern cars up to a point where they really capture the look.

            My time period still remains more steam interested, but these provide a nice diversion from the norm.

            I picked the blue and white paintjob so I could make and print my own decals; the DBK was the easiest to replicate since the fonts look to be pretty spot on for Times New Roman and stencil fonts. The DBK logo again ends up being Times New Roman squeezed together with a little swoosh at the bottom.

            I will seal it up and then proceed on to weathering and try out some of the different water based approaches.


            • #7

              Real nice looking paint job on that tank truck. That is my next step on the scratchbuilt I've been working on.

              Take the red pill


              • #8

                Took a prototype car photo and added some of the water-based acrylic and watercolor paint to achieve some weathering. I coated the model with Future Floor polish after the decals which provided a semi-gloss surface to apply the weathering to and easily wipe away when it becomes too much. It also provides a way to wipe some of the paint off after it sets a little using a bit of paper towel.

                I mixed some of the watercolor with Some future floor polish in a paint palette and used the the future as a paint binder to help the pigment adhere to the surface.

                Probably calling it good now and I will flat coat to seal and reassemble the model.

                This isn't a freight car I am very familiar with seeing, so I don't have a lot of objective reality to determine how convincing it came out.

                It might require a fading light coat coat with the airbrush and perhaps some darkening & rusting on the under body as well.

                Modern freight cars are such a different approach to freight car maintenance. Turn of the century freight cars and beyond through the 40s required more frequent painting to keep the cars in good running condition. The construction of cars in the modern eras is much more substantial that the car can rust and oxidize and it is okay as the steel can take a larger amount of oxidation. Differences in railroad workforce and visual presentation of the railroads was much different in the early days. Black and white photos also have a way of visually cleaning appearances up as well. The grime is also much different coal soot vs oxidizing weather and freight contents... so many differences.

                I look forward to taking some of these modern treatments and turning them back on the older era freight that I am model more frequently.

                What era/model is the blue and white tank car you are modeling Dave?