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Acrylic paint for wood ship models

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I am at a cross roads with my build, a Corel HMS Victory 1/98 scale. I want to start painting but not sure if acrylic paint is suitable.

I will use enamel and gold leaf paint on some fixtures but wanted to use acrylics for hull and decks.

Any suggestions would be appreciated.


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My  vote for acrylic.


You can mix them.


You can make them transparent if you want/need


You can plasticize surface/piece with them if you need it.


You can even use them as putty if you need/want for little gasps


You can sand them.


You can paint over them ( useful if you want really straight line when contrast is essential between two surfaces with different color.


You can make little relief applying dot-by-dot.


With only dots, you can even imitate little rivets on hull


You can ... 


For large surfaces - attention - very fast drying, and must use adequate substance to slow it


If you use hand brushes, particularity small ones, acrylic "eats" them, so often wash and clean brushes as good as you are able to


Strongly suggest to test always before applying   

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I use acrylic paints from the craft store almost exclusively. They are cheap and easy to find, come in thousands of colors and stick very well to wood or properly primed metal and plastic. I don't see a need for special model paints. 30+ ship models later I haven't seen a reason to change!

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RE: craft store acrylics. Cheap, yes but for a reason. All "acrylics" are not created equal. "Acrylic" is a generic chemical term for a large class of water borne plastic paint vehicles.  Adhesion to wood is a given and easy to achieve. Appearance after application and drying is another thing entirely. Quality hobby acrylics have superior flow and leveling once applied and are optimized for airbrushing and hand brushing. They also contain additives  and employ finer particle grades of pigments to assist in optimizing those properties.


Don't believe me? Here's a comparison test for you: brush coat a flat smooth surface (glass, Styrene sheet) using a cheap craft store acrylic and any Vallejo paint. Toughest comparison would be a gloss black. Easiest would be flat white. Now do the same with an airbrush. Go right out of the bottle with both paints.



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  • 2 weeks later...

I use "artist" acrylics like Golden and Liquitex. I have had plenty of experience with cheep acrylics too. When you spend the extra money on the "artist" acrylics what you are paying for is the better color quality that comes with more expensive pigments, like the Cadmiums. But you don't really need such intense colors on accurate ship models since the actual ships would not have had such intense colors anyway.

The bad aspects of cheap paint is that the consistency is poor and often not the same from color to color, and often they are gummy. But this is not a deal breaker since you must ad water to them in any case to get them to flow correctly.

Up until recently I would have said that acrylics formulated for modelers and sold in tiny bottles was a waste. But recently when I mail ordered a bunch of stuff from Model Expo they included in my delivery a tiny 17ML bottle of Vellejo Model Color, black. And I have to say I am a fan, this stuff is great and very convenient in its squeeze bottle packaging.

Long story short: You can use cheap acrylic paint but it may be a bit more work.

Also: Never use cadmium or cobalt pigmented paint in an airbrush in a room that is not ventilated and wear a good mask.

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I get all my acrylic paints in Michael's Craft stores, store brands like Delta Ceramacoat or Americana. Also use some Liquitex.  For a "primer" I use artist's Gesso - all are water based.  I've used them for years with my woodcarvings and am now using them on my boats. I apply them with an artist brush, Michael's brands. Have not tried them in an air brush as yet.

Edited by Jack12477
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I just love these paints, specially formulated to be used on raw wood.




For your decks, these may work also.



Edited by Ulises Victoria
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  • 3 weeks later...

With all my tests this is my palette for painting the Druid-X  (all wood is basswood):



A nice sanding sealer, acrylic paints and then a top coat.  I originally chose a satin coat but that proved way too glossy over the paint.  The flat looks great, but the camera shot still looks a little shiny.  



I used both off the shelf 'craft' acrylics and more expensive ones (model colors).  I used generally three coats for each.  Coverage seemed good for all.  I did some light sanding after the applying the sealer.


Tomorrow I actually put brush to my mast and main yard arm.  Hoping it meets my expectations.


Edited by kruginmi
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    I like Michael's Folk Art flat colors -- especially Camel -- which looks very much like boxwood.

Painting my models always makes me a bit crazy, but avoiding glossy colors helps a lot.


    How do your experiences inform this painting situation?

Some kits I have looked at have brass etched strips along the sheer -- like HMS FLY or HMS Pegasus.

Other models have many cast metal 'carvings' in 3 dimensions that are heavier and also problematic to me.


    When I paint any color with three coats using a good brush,

while keeping a wet edge; the acrylic paint always looks pretty uniform.


    But I wonder about long term brass/metal adhesion to the flat acrylic painted surface?

And also what would be the best glue to use then?


    Or I could glue first on bare wood, using whatever glue is best -- Hot Stuff?

But afterwards I would need to insert the paint in here and there -- all over -- for the background or hull colors.


    Tedious and a bit blobby looking, I imagine.



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