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Newbie questions on painting plastic kits with PE add-ons


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I’m going to try my hand at plastic models and had some questions about how to approach painting plastic and PE add-ons. I’m still in the process of figuring out an airbrush, but intend to do as much with an airbrush (or rattle can?) as possible.  I’ve been reading lots of build logs and other resources online, but am still a bit confused with the basics.

 

1.  Cleaning PE?  Does the PE need to be cleaned before using?  Any recommendations on what to use?  And do folks clean a PE sheet at a time, rather than clean individual pieces?

 

2.  Prime both PE and plastic?  I’m assuming it’s best to prime PE, but do you also have to prime plastic?  The PE add-ons for my kit are so small (gratings have openings that seem the size of a strand of hair) - any recommendations for super thin primers?

 

3.  General recommendations of paint and primer brands to use?  I’ve used Vallejo in the past and liked them, and saw that they had a Model Air line that I think can be used directly in airbrushes without thinning.  Is Vallejo Model Air good?  Tamiya?  Other brands?  Also, any recommendations on primers?

 

4.  How to find colors?  I saw some kits refer to certain colors.  Is there a resource that says Brand A’s paint X is comparable to the shade of Brand B’s paint Y?  Any resources on typical paints/colors used for modern fighters and WWII Japanese ships?

 

5.  Sealing painted parts?  How do you guys seal your models?  Do you use a spray can to spray it down at the end?  Or so you seal as you go by brush?

 

6.  Weathering decals?  Are there ways to weather decals?  In some cases they seem awfully bright if you’re going to weather the rest of the model.

 

7.  Gluing PE to PE or plastic?  Any recommendations on gluing PE to PE?  PE to plastic?  I have CA, and just order some Gator Glue.  For plastic to plastic, I have some Testor’s glue and Tamiya Cement.

 

Many was thanks in advance!

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Hi Mike, 

I will try my best to point you in the right direction. 

1. Always clean plastic models before you start the build. Use warm soapy water and clean without removing from the framework/sprue. If you don't it may be difficult to get paint to adhere. 

2. Best to prime as a finer finish will result. I used spray primer from Halfords.

Don't use thought in hot weather or you may get a pebble dash effect. I hand paint all my models so can't help with airbrushing. 

3. I use Tamiya and/or Airfix, its personal preference l think, most are good. My preference is water based, not as tough, but easier to manage.

4. I have always used the colours recommended with the kit and never had an issue.

5 & 6 I believe best practice is build the model painting as you go, finalise painting, panel lines and fine details. Once painting is completed coat with a gloss varnish then apply the decals and seal them with gloss varnish.  When the varnish is dry you can start the weathering process, the decals are weathered along with the rest of the model. Finally, when you are happy apply a mat varnish to seal everything in. 

7. I found Tamiya glue to be as good as any. 

I hope this helps.

Best wishes as always. 

The Lazy Saint. 

2015-04-14 13.51.17.jpg

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This is really helpful Lazy Saint, appreciate it!  Love your planes!  My daughter and I just started working on an F/A-18E from Revell and I hope our work turns out half as nice as yours!  I ended up sourcing a bunch of PE and other add-ons so I think the kit has potential to come out pretty nicely.

 

Couple of more questions if you don't mind:

 

1.  Should I clean or pre-treat the photo-etch as well?  Is there residue, etc. that needs to come off?  What is usually recommended for that?

 

2.  For paints, should you always use thinner regardless of whether you are hand painting or airbrushing?  I guess what I'm wondering is, if you are using something like Vallejo Model Air which can be used in the airbrush straight from the bottle, do you have to then thicken it for hand brushing?  Or do you just do extra coats if hand brushing?

 

Thanks again!

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Mike:

I soak the photo etch in Lacquer thinner to remove any residual chemicals from the etching process - then rinse in water and air dry. 

As to thinning paint - some are ready for airbrushing and need no thinning and adding thinner would be detrimental to the coverage.  If you need to thin paints for airbrushing use the mfg's recommended thinner.

Usually the airbrush ready paints do not brush as well as the one that need thinning for airbrushing - just plan on multiple coats with the airbrush ready paints.

Kurt

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13 minutes ago, Landlubber Mike said:

1.  Should I clean or pre-treat the photo-etch as well?  Is there residue, etc. that needs to come off?  What is usually recommended for that?

 

2.  For paints, should you always use thinner regardless of whether you are hand painting or airbrushing?  I guess what I'm wondering is, if you are using something like Vallejo Model Air which can be used in the airbrush straight from the bottle, do you have to then thicken it for hand brushing?  Or do you just do extra coats if hand brushing?

 

Thanks again!

1. Yes, photo etch needs to be cleaned first. I drop my photo etch sheets in a sonic cleaner. Alternatively, you could wipe them down with acetone or another similar solvent to remove any oil residue. If possible, it's best to also lightly sand the photo etch with a fine grit paper (600 or 1,000). I prime the photo etch while still on the fret using Tamiya primer. Either a spray can or from the bottle (reduced of course) through your air brush.

2. With most paints, you are going to need to reduce it before shooting it through your airbrush. Even the Vallejo Model Air paints need to be reduced in my own experience with them. For Model Air paints, start with a ratio of 10 parts paint to 3 or 4 parts reducer. Reduce more or less to suite your own taste. Paint reduced too much will be runny and not cover well...it will often look like "spider legs" have formed when you shoot it on. If not reduced enough, it will stop up and clog your air brush. Model Air paints are not the best for brushing, though it can be done. The standard Vallejo paints are best for brushing.

With most other brands of paint, like Tamiya for instance, I start with a 50/50 mix of paint to reducer for the airbrush. Use more or less to suite your own taste. Tamiya paints are not the best for hand brushing in my opinion. If you do use them for hand brushing, use a retarder to keep them from drying out too fast which will allow smoother brushing and help the paint level itself. Tamiya are my go-to paints for shooting through the airbrush. Very well behaved. I use Mr Color 400 Leveling reducer, it is simply the best IMHO. Alternatively, you can use Tamiya reducer or even Isopropyl Alcohol (80% or higher).   

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Kurt and Craig, thanks very much!  This is incredibly helpful.  Of course I now have some follow-on questions if you don't mind:

 

1.  If you prime the PE while on the fret using something like the Tamiya spray primer, once you remove a particular part from the fret, do you need to touch up that one spot where the part attached with primer?  If so, do you have to use a brush-on primer?  Or are the spots where attached so small that you are usually ok?

 

2.   If I'm going to be priming PE frets and something like a plane or a ship's hull (or superstructure) for for 1/350 model, is it easier to just go with a Tamiya rattle can?  Or is that thicker than priming through the airbrush?

 

3.  Any recommendations on whether to start out going with Tamiya versus Vallejo?  Thinking practically, it looks like I can pick up sets of Vallejo paints through Amazon prime, whereas Tamiya is on a bottle by bottle basis which might come from Japan.  On that basis I might just try starting with Vallejo unless Tamiya is much better?

 

4.  I'm assuming that if I decide to go with Vallejo for paints, I can still use a Tamiya primer?  From the little I understand, it seems like you should stick within a brand when using thinners with paints, but seems like primers can be different from the paints.

 

 

Really appreciate all the help.  It's a little overwhelming starting out, when I've barely used paint on the wooden model ships except for Admiralty paints (and never thinned them), and used Testors enamels decades ago straight from the bottle when I did plastic models as a kid.  This looks fun, especially with airbrushing, weathering, etc.

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Hi Mike,

Wow, you have got a lot of great advice to set you off. That is the beauty of forums like this, there is so much expertise to draw from and so many people willing to help. The only thing l will add is that if you do decide to hand paint always thin the paint. I would always prefer to lay down four thin coats rather than one thick. Airbrushing is undoubtedly a superb method but you can't beat the enjoyment of painting by hand imho.

Best wishes as always. 

The Lazy Saint. 

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1. You can generally touch up with a brush, but you will likely get by without any touch up at all.

2. Yes, and yes. For many modelers, it's easier to grab the spray can and go. However, for finer work and control, I like the bottle primer through an airbrush. This is the same paint that's in the spray can. You need to reduce it yourself using Tamiya lacquer reducer, not their acrylic reducer

https://www.scalehobbyist.com/catagories/Paint_and_Construction/liquid-surface-primer-white/TAM00087096/product.php?kw=tamiya,primer

3. You are going to get a wide variety of opinion on this question. Your own experience is going to be the best teacher. My opinion: Tamiya is far superior to Vallejo. It just goes down much smoother, much more trouble-free than Vallejo. The down side, Tamiya has far less color selection than Vallejo and is subject to availability issues which are related to Tamiya's production and distribution practices. Tamiya does not produce and distribute paint all year 'round. Don't ask, because I don't know why, that's just the way it is. When your distributor runs of of flat white (for example), there won't be any more available until the next production run and sometimes that's months. Vallejo is notorious for causing airbrush clogging issues, often a real pain in the butt. Tamiya paints often must be mixed yourself to get the particular color you want. Paint mix ratios can be found all over the net, just search. it's not hard to do, but a lot of modelers find that to be too inconvenient. It's a personal preference.

4. Tamiya primer is a lacquer based paint. You can paint practically anything on top of it. What you don't want to do is paint a lacquer on top of an enamel. That will be a disaster. You can paint a lacquer on top of an acrylic. It just needs to be done in light coats. Heavy coats of lacquer paint can seep down through the primer and attack the plastic causing cracks and crazing of the paint. Big problems. 

 

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Thank you all, this has been incredibly helpful.  Lazy Saint, I agree about the beauty of forums like this.  Honestly, I can't fathom starting in this hobby (wood or plastic models) pre-internet.  I fumble around quite a bit now - I can only imagine how much I'd fumble around if I was stuck trying to figure things out alone.  

 

So a big thank you again to everyone for their generosity of time to share their experience and techniques!

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Sorry to come with more questions.  I ended up spending a few hours researching options for the various colors, etc. for my upcoming IJN Shimakaze build.  The main hull color is "Maizuru Naval Arsenal."  It looks like there are a few options I can use:

 

(1)  Mr Color SC03 (what the Hasegawa kit references),

(2) Tamiya XF87 (bottle),

(3) Tamiya TS-99 spray can, or

(4) mix Vallejo French Mirage Blue (900) and Intermediate Blue (903) in 1:1 ratio according to this helpful Vallejo conversion chart:  https://img.fireden.net/tg/image/1474/29/1474297046471.pdf

 

There's also a Model Master Maizuru bottle that's available, but it looks like it's enamel and I want to stay water based for now.

 

I'm still leaning towards sticking with Vallejo for the range and general availability of colors, but was wondering about the Tamiya spray can.  I saw a video of someone who built I believe the same kit using Mr. Surfacer 1000 as primer, then only used Tamiya spray cans to apply colors.  Are the Tamiya paint cans good, or since I'm getting an airbrush anyway, should I just go with bottles of paints that I can airbrush with a thinner line of paint? 

 

Also, if I decided to go with the Mr. Color or Tamiya paints instead of mixing Vallejo paints to get the same shade, would I be able to use Vallejo paints and weathering applications on top of the Tamiya?  I'm going to be working on a Revell F-18 fighter with my daughter, and it seems much easier to collect the paints I need for that build through Vallejo (and so maybe I should just stick with Vallejo to the extend possible).

 

Thanks in advance as always!

 

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Mike:
Sorry but I can't give any specific recommendations on the paints mentioned as I have not used them - except the Tamiya spray cans.  However, as you want to use acrylics and will be using an airbrush I think it is best to stick with the bottles of one brand.

Please order adequate paint so you can practice with the airbrush before applying paint to your model.  The model is not the piece to practice on.  It is best to practice on the same material as the model, so if nothing else practice on painting the sprues or pick up a sacrificial simple plastic kit of some sort as a practice piece.

Kurt

 

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I have used all of the paints you list and all are very good.  The link you you gave lists conversions for Vallejo Model Color.  Vallejo Model Color generally does not like airbrushes (even when thinned) but is excellent for brushing.  Generally, you can airbrush most brands of acrylic paints (intended for plastic models) over other brands of acrylic paint as long as you have given the "base" coat ample time to dry.  If you are going to use any enamels or oil products for weathering, a clear coat over your paint base is recommended.

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Thanks guys! 

 

This has been a little bit of a pain.  Maybe I'm overthinking it, but trying to go for the particular shade of Maizuru in the Vallejo realm is going to be harder than it looks without paint chips.  I thought I found the answer in that conversion chart, but as rcmdrvr pointed out, the colors in that conversion chart refer to Vallejo Model Color, and not Model Air - doh!  I found some paints in the Model Air range that look like close analogs to the Model Color paints, but comparing colors on a computer screen is probably not all that accurate.

 

So, I think what I'm going to do is just go with the Tamiya paint (either the spray can or the bottle), and maybe pick up Vallejo colors and other items to add highlights and lowlights, weather it, etc.  It's my first plastic model, so I'll try to go easy on myself.

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I Model Kit brings up the many alternatives for SC03 - using the software the best matches I can see from the main brands are 

 

Tamiya XF75 or TS66

Val Air 71.050 

AK 733

 

All are very slightly darker but I am certain you would never get an exact match when switching between brands.

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Mike, you can drive yourself nuts trying to get the right colors. The colors on the full scale ship, plane, tank, etc. are always changing in

real life anyway. Sun, dirt, age, time of the day can change how everything looks. Even how far away the subject is from the viewer.

I just finished the USS Alaska which when done in Measure 22 has about 3 colors. Drove me crazy trying to get ones I felt were correct.

Do some research, find what looks good to you and ENJOY. 

 

Cheers, Harley

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Thanks Harley, great advice.  Well, I have everything ordered so should be able to start soon.  Just need to clear out some other projects I've been working on, and then can start working on the Shimakaze.  

 

Just wanted to thank you all again for your tips and insights.  Members here are so great about helping beginners move up the learning curve quickly (and better yet, start higher up on the curve).  Really appreciate it!

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  • 4 months later...

This is a very helpful thread. Thanks for all of you. Now I have a complete set of different difficulty wood boat (San Juan Galeon, Belem and Boutny all from A.L.) and a plastic Trumpeter Douglas A-1j AD7 skyraider that require painting. So thanks again.

 

Michel

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