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Painting Photo Etched Parts

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I am painting photo etched parts (Vanguard) for the first time. Previous builds did not use PE parts. I have read first using a primer, washing with soap and water, soak in vinegar, and  "dabbing" with lacquer thinner before painting. One person even suggested using sandpaper so the paint would stick to the brass PE. That one I don't think I will try.


Advise and suggestions as to what works best for you?



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Guest Riccardo1966

Hello Mitch,

I know that many advocate abrading the brass but if you do this you should leave it a while before cleaning with a laquer thinner (cellulose).  You should use a fine wet and dry with which to take off the smoothness of the surface to allow the paint to "key". Enamel based primers adhere better than acrylics in my experience ( eg Humbrol), however companies like Gunze Sangyo make a laquer based clear primer for metal, but I have not used this.

Auto self etch primers are another possibility as are two pack etch primers, which I have had great success with. You must follow the instructions on the two part primers to the letter, it is not advocated to abrade (sand) when using these, I believe lead in the brass migrates to the newly sanded surface and inhibits good adhesion. The paint that I have found that works the best was by Precision Paints and stuck fast, would withstand handling and even folding without peeling or flaking, it is expensive and may not be easy to find.

 Another option would be to have the etch plated with nickel as paint sticks much better to this, Hope some of this helps.

Cheers Richard.

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Thanks for the replies. Sanding the surface concerns me because of the fine detail on the PE pieces, like the hinges that I'm going to be using for the Roundhouse doors...coming up very soon. I did apply a grey metal primer to the brass before I started painting, and it worked fine on the black hinges, but the gold "columns" that are part of the roundhouse didn't. The paint did not adhere very well, so I took it off and that is why I was looking at alternative methods before I try again. The primer I used is designed...at least it is supposed to be...specifically for brass PE material. I am using Calder Admiralty paints that I purchased from England, so it it my be just the gold that is troublesome.



 I will check out the link you gave.


Appreciate your help.

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Guest Riccardo1966

Hi Mich,

It is likely that the hinges have a slightly textured relief surface formed during etching, this is why the paint has stuck well on these pieces and not the columns.

I understand your reluctance to sand these parts, a fibre glass pen would roughen the surface without destroying detail ( I hate using them but... they can be useful.) . I have also know that you can add texture chemically by using a suitable etchant which may help paint adhesion.

Cleaning is critical with these type of things once you have prepared your surface.

Best of luck.


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I am close to finishing Vanguard. I have found the brass etchings  may be cleaned first by etching with the finest steel wool, then finally cleaned up with acetone - then use an undercoat before painting.  For any blackened parts, after cleaning with steel wool/acetone,  use Birchwood Casey Brass Black.


Good luck



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