In a time before painting your model kits using an airbrush became standard, paintbrush was the way to go. Along with it - knowledge how to do it properly was common, even with a limited choice of model paints.
Today everything's different. Brush painting is considered either for those just taking up the hobby or those who can't afford an airbrush with a compressor. Of course we shouldn't dismiss those modellers that have chosen to stay with painting by brush and prove time after time, that even using such simple tools a wonderful model can be painted!
Though paint brushes and their types haven't evolved much in recent days, you can't say the same about model paints recommended for paint brushing.
In the crazy 1990's in Poland, which was undergoing a rapid transformation, most popular were enamel paints of domestic brands like e.g. Aster or Modelak. When someone was lucky - Humbrol or Revell enamels could be found without too much hassle and Model Master enamels were a highly sought after rarity. Main characteristics of those paints are: great grip, no need for using primer and... a very distinct, strong, chemical smell.
To this day the enamel paints that prevailed are Humbrol and Revell paints, which still have their fans and the offer is complemented by Tamiya enamels. It's also worth noting, that the Tamiya colour palette and numbering system is identical in their acrylic and enamel paint range.
We have to know that current enamel paints are quite different from those known from years ago - they are lead free, which is a good thing (they are much safer for health) but on the other hand, many hobby veterans complain that lead free enamels have worse quality, stability and colour saturation.
Enamels are best thinned with dedicated or similar thinners.
Their advantages are a great coverage and strong paint surface that hold well even to the bare plastic. Their main downsides - long time needed to harden the surface. Thanks to the modern thinner composition it's noticeably shorter than before, but it still takes hours to fully cure (and it's best to wait for at least a day before handling the model kit).
Enamels have an alternative that stormed the hearts of modellers from around the globe: acrylic paints. Though their properties gained them popularity mostly in airbrushing techniques, they are also well suited for painting using a brush.
Hobby shops stock acrylic paints specially formulated for painting using a brush, often compiled in ready paint sets for particular machines or military formations, which makes choosing the right combination for our model kit much easier and faster.
I will start with currently the best available on the modelling market acrylic paints for brush painting: AK Interactive 3Gen. In mine and many of our customers' who decided to try out those paints, they are the best colors for painting plastic model kits and miniatures using a brush.
There is no exaggeration here - those paints really hit the jackpot the moment they appeared on the market. 3Gen denotes the third generation of acrylic paints and actually AK Interactive managed to formulate their new paints in a way that eliminates weaknesses of their predecessors. Their paints have the right consistency for using them straight out of the bottle, they virtually never separate in storage, give a very smooth and matt finish and have self levelling properties, which eliminate any visible brushstrokes after painting. Furthermore they are available in three large colour palettes: basic/miniature, aimed at AFVs and for aircrafts. Besides single bottles also a nice and smart paint sets are available, that makes it easy to navigate through uncountable painting schemes of military vehicles of different time periods.
Another - also Spanish - manufacturer of a well suited for painting by brush paints with a wide colour range is Vallejo.
Their main range is known as Model Color which is complemented by a small range of Panzer Aces, colours that are suitable for painting details of the various AFVs and uniforms + equipment of their crews. Vallejo pants for many years were the standard for acrylic (vinyl-acrylic to be precise) model paints that are paintbrush friendly. For the miniature and sci-fi painters, there's a Game Color line that mainly differs from Model Color by the colour palette's intensity. Other paint properties are the same as in the Model Color range.
Vallejo produces quite thick paints that are best thinned before painting with water or dedicated thinner. They also require a very good shake before use, because the heavy pigment tends to separate in the bottle fairly quickly. Similar to AK Interactive paints, they also have some self-levelling properties, which minimize brush strokes.
Beside those two companies, there are Polish Hataka paints, which gained a solid reputation among the modellers with their paintbrush optimized Blue Line. They are offered as single bottles (in 10ml, slightly cheaper) and ready made paint sets (which feature paints in 17ml bottles). Their very wide colour palette features paints for different types of model subjects and time periods.
Acrylic paints that are NOT for painting with a brush and are strictly used for airbrushing are AK Real Color, Tamiya and Mr Hobby H and C lines.
But buying the paints alone is not enough. Both enamels and acrylics need to be thinned properly before painting. Personally I always recommend dedicated thinners from the paint's manufacturers as they are simply guaranteed to work with the paints without any nasty surprises. Each and every paint manufacturer offers them for their product line.
Acrylic paints can also be diluted in water and usually with thinners from different manufacturers. It's up to the modeller, though for me "the cheaper the better" attitude simply doesn't work.
Having some basic knowledge of the acrylic paints we can move on!
What else should we prepare and know before starting to paint our model kit?
First of all – we've got to have proper brushes.
There's a lot to choose from and at first we should choose the ones that will be comfortable for our budget. It's a well known fact that the quality improves as the price tag rises, though if we don't plan to devote ourselves to painting miniatures we shouldn't get the most expensive brush set at all costs.
Our attention should be focused on the brush's size (and here's an important note: bristle sizes are not normalised. Each manufacturer has a slightly different approach to it and as such, two 00 size brushes from different companies can have bristles of different length, quantity or diameter).
Buying one brush is not enough though! Of course - the more the merrier, however the bare minimum for properly painting your model kit are two paint brushes: one flat, bigger (it's good to have in mind the general size of the model) and one round, smaller - which we'll use for painting the details. (also here it's worth keeping in mind how large or small the kit's details are e.g. canopy frame on an aircraft or rubber rims on a tank's wheels).
If we settled with acrylic paints, keep in mind that they hold best to a primed surface. As we are concentrating on painting without an airbrush - you can get one of the many surface primes in spray cans..
You shouldn't try to prime the surface using a paintbrush. The only thing you can achieve that way is flooding of the smaller details and uneven coverage.
If we don't want to prime our model kit before painting - at least degrease it beforehand. Good quality acrylic paints should have sufficient grip, though you have to remember that paint might come off of the kit while handling it - especially on the edges.
If we decided to use oil enamels - primer won't be necessary..
If you are painting a multicolour camouflage and find clean painting of the colour separations difficult - try using model masking tapes, which will guarantee clean and even separation of different colours. Using a craft knife they can be cut to the desired shapes.
Are you ready 😊? Kit, paints and tools are on the table?
So just a handful of tips for the end of this article and you're good to go!
- there is no ready recipe for thinning your paints. Each brand requires some experimentation and it also depends on the modeller's taste. Some prefer their paints a little thicker, other are more comfortable using more diluted paints,
- after thinning your paint should have a slightly thicker consistency than milk. It definitely shouldn't have a paste-like consistency,
- in general - enamel paints cover the surface better than acrylic,
- try out the colour on some spare piece of plastic before you start painting your model kit,
- regardless of the paint type – light colours always have worse coverage than darker ones, and as such
- always paint lighter colours first and darker colours next,
- it's better to apply several thin layers of diluted paints than to slap one thick coat which will ruin your model kit,
- using a paintbrush avoid stroking the same spot several times. Make long strokes and let the paint dry before retouching. On flat surfaces use a brush of appropriate size,
- if you're using masking tape make sure to paint across its edges and not parallel to them. This way you will avoid the paint leaking under the tape,
- remove the masking tape right after painting without waiting for the paint to dry.
If you have reached this point, it's the end of our article...
If you haven't found something - some advice, technique, tip - write a comment!
We value your input and our hobby like no other requires exchanging experiences!