The Frugal Airbrusher

This is the place to get answers about painting, weathering and other aspects of finishing a model.

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Morty Seinfeld
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The Frugal Airbrusher

Post by Morty Seinfeld » Mon Jan 14, 2008 4:16 pm

Okay, I know I've seen this subject brought up before but I cannot seem to find the thread. So, here goes; is there a cheaper alternative to the standard model paints we all have used (Testors, Tamiya, etc)?

I'm thinking there has to be some sort of cheaper alternative to model paints which tend to run $3 a bottle. Is there some decent hobby paint (sold at Michael's or Hobby Lobby, etc) that would be a decent alternative. Of course, the numerous colors may not be available, but there has to be something.
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Post by Joseph Osborn » Mon Jan 14, 2008 5:00 pm

The "craft paints" at Michaels and Hobby Lobby are available in a huge range of colors and are perfectly suitable for models. My Klingon D7 was painted with them,
http://i101.photobucket.com/albums/m72/ ... esized.jpg

as was my Jedi interceptor
http://www.starshipmodeler.org/gallery1 ... 06_jsf.htm

Thinning them can be a bit of an adventure, but alcohol, distilled water, and Future all do a bang-up job of reducing them.

Hope this helps!

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Post by Morty Seinfeld » Mon Jan 14, 2008 6:43 pm

Joseph Osborn wrote:The "craft paints" at Michaels and Hobby Lobby are available in a huge range of colors and are perfectly suitable for models. My Klingon D7 was painted with them,
http://i101.photobucket.com/albums/m72/ ... esized.jpg

as was my Jedi interceptor
http://www.starshipmodeler.org/gallery1 ... 06_jsf.htm

Thinning them can be a bit of an adventure, but alcohol, distilled water, and Future all do a bang-up job of reducing them.

Hope this helps!
That does help, thank you! Your results are impressive. Do you remember what the brand name was? Also, have you shot those paints through a air brush?
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Post by USSARCADIA » Mon Jan 14, 2008 7:49 pm

I did a test a while back using Apple Barrel paint thinned with Future. Turned out pretty good. Not quite as nice as Tamiya acrylics, but a lot cheaper.
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Post by Joseph Osborn » Mon Jan 14, 2008 9:24 pm

Morty Seinfeld wrote:That does help, thank you! Your results are impressive. Do you remember what the brand name was? Also, have you shot those paints through a air brush?
Thanks for the compliment. The D7 was painted with "Folk Art" from Wal-Mart, $.88 per bottle.
http://i101.photobucket.com/albums/m72/ ... 112199.jpg

I thinned them with cheap blue windshield washer fluid for airbrushing. They need a good primer; I normally use Mr. Surfacer 1000 or Plasticote sandable primer from a rattle can. The finish is not quite as fine as Testors Acryls or Tamiya acrylics, but the bang for the buck is tremendous.

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Post by Morty Seinfeld » Mon Jan 14, 2008 11:07 pm

$.88 a bottle! That is definitely worth looking into. Thanks for the advice!
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Post by Lt. Z0mBe » Tue Jan 15, 2008 2:42 am

Here's my formula (I only use the Apple Barrel acrylics for this):

20 parts Future
20 parts Windex
10 parts 90-percent Isopropyl alcohol
16 parts paint (mixed or otherwise. What you add to the solvent base has to be 16 parts of the total)

Strain through the fine mesh - I bought a set of these recently after some fine testimonials- and airbrush. I use the finest mesh of the three for straining

I shoot it at 20 to 22 psi through the Badger with beautiful results.

The straining for me is not an extra step as I strain all paints before airbrushing. Others here turned me on to these paints (Thanks Owen, Thomas, et al.!) and I set out for hours experimenting and taking notes until I got it right (yes, I have an extensive paint notebook at my bench :D ). I tried several solvents (iso alcohol, straight Future, etc...) to get this mixture down pat.

For very fine lines, I go with this mixture:

50 parts 91-percent isopropyl alcohol
10 parts Future
16 parts paint

Strain and paint at less than 10 psi and no more than 15 or 17 psi. (Thanks Jonas Calhoun!!!).

A final note: If you do not strain the mixture, you will not get the "beautiful results" I reference above. You'll get subpar results (at best) but you'll also get splattering and other issues. At least I did, when leaving out straining during the experimenting phase as I wanted to see if there was some electrostatic-phantasmagoric-supersonic thing about particle size I was missing before I played around with different solvents.

I hope this helps.

Kenny

EDIT:

Here's a link to a couple of posts where we discussed our trials and tribulations learning to use these paints:

http://www.starshipmodeler.net/talk/vie ... ple+barrel

Another EDIT:
I made a slight change to the formula above after adding alcohol and cutting back on the Future and Windex. It is updated to reflect it. Surface tension is much lower now - didn't think that was possible. :)
Last edited by Lt. Z0mBe on Tue Aug 18, 2009 3:17 am, edited 4 times in total.

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Post by Morty Seinfeld » Tue Jan 15, 2008 10:58 am

Thanks for that detailed analysis! I can't believe I never thought to strain the paint before shooting it.
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Post by TER-OR » Tue Jan 15, 2008 7:32 pm

Yeah, a lot of the cheaper paints may tend to precipitate. Kenny's hard-won tips are worth heeding. I may make this a sticky thread.

The gaming paints are also a good choice for military colors etc. Vallejo paints (AV) can be thinned a LOT and airbrushed easily. We recently thinned them to 1/3 strength with just water, and they were stilll a bit thick but airbrushed quite well.

http://www.acrylicosvallejo.com/
http://www.ttfxmedia.com/vallejo/cgi-bi ... lcolor&p3=
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Post by Romulan Spy » Tue Jan 15, 2008 8:03 pm

My one gripe with all water-based paints is their lack of adhesion. Assuming I prime with a lacquer (Mr. Surfacer is my current favorite), how well do these craft paints "stick" to the surface? My local Megalo-Mart carries a fair selection, so I might be willing to give it a try.

And that's a beautiful D-7!

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Post by Lt. Z0mBe » Wed Jan 16, 2008 5:16 am

TER-OR wrote:Yeah, a lot of the cheaper paints may tend to precipitate. Kenny's hard-won tips are worth heeding. I may make this a sticky thread.
I couldn't have learned it without yours and others help. Perhaps we should have an accompanying sticky called "How do I strip the same %$@!$#@! build seventy-eight times while learning to airbrush with craft paints?"

:lol:
Romulan Spy wrote:My one gripe with all water-based paints is their lack of adhesion.
The Future polish does wonders for that. It's basically clear latex paint. It's hard to get a tougher coat. I mean, you have to either sand or strip the stuff off.

I hope this helps.

Kenny
Last edited by Lt. Z0mBe on Thu Jan 17, 2008 11:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by Kylwell » Wed Jan 16, 2008 1:31 pm

Uhm, clear Acrylic paint.
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Post by Lt. Z0mBe » Thu Jan 17, 2008 1:00 am

Kylwell wrote:Uhm, clear Acrylic paint.
Yeah, but latex and acrylic paints are basically the same. ;)

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Post by Kylwell » Thu Jan 17, 2008 12:02 pm

Huh, learned something new.
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Post by TER-OR » Thu Jan 17, 2008 10:08 pm

And the higher Alkyd-containing exterior paints are quite durable on the house exterior. Alkyd is acrylic media...
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Post by Joseph Osborn » Fri Jan 18, 2008 10:14 am

Romulan Spy wrote:My one gripe with all water-based paints is their lack of adhesion. Assuming I prime with a lacquer (Mr. Surfacer is my current favorite), how well do these craft paints "stick" to the surface? My local Megalo-Mart carries a fair selection, so I might be willing to give it a try.

And that's a beautiful D-7!
Thanks! The primer is the key, literally. The cheap paint needs something to grab onto, and a simple primer coat does the trick. I suppose you could scuff a styrene kit with fine sandpaper and get good results but it's best to prime. For resin substrates, I always prime. The craft paint dries quite quickly and is very tough. No problems with tape lifting, so masking is a breeze.

Julius Orange

Post by Julius Orange » Sat Mar 22, 2008 1:30 am

Actually, I've been using Apple Barrel Dolphin Gray (Matte) for years and it is one of the best colors in my opinion for Starfleet Hulls. It is quite versatile and can be used for Runabouts, Galaxy Classes, Intrepids, Defiants, Miranda Classes, even Sovereign's if you're going for the "how they look on screen" look as opposed to the actual color used on the studio model.

Kenny, could you please explain your ratios as they don't equal 100%.

Thanks.

Cheers.

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Post by Lt. Z0mBe » Sat Mar 22, 2008 11:08 pm

Julius Orange wrote:
Kenny, could you please explain your ratios as they don't equal 100%.

Thanks.

Cheers.
They don't have to. :) It's not percentages. It's just "for every x parts" of one thing, add "y parts of another."

I hope this helps.

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Post by Kylwell » Sat Mar 22, 2008 11:15 pm

Julius Orange wrote:Kenny, could you please explain your ratios as they don't equal 100%.

Thanks.

Cheers.
If you want percentages it's 37.9% Future, 37.9% Windex, 24.2% Paint.

Ratios dinna need to add up to 100.
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Post by HK1997 » Mon Mar 24, 2008 12:56 am

I found that airbrush clean up is much easier with these compared to MM Acryl and P-scale.

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Post by hackercat13 » Sat May 24, 2008 9:41 pm

Julius Orange wrote:Actually, I've been using Apple Barrel Dolphin Gray (Matte) for years and it is one of the best colors in my opinion for Starfleet Hulls. It is quite versatile and can be used for Runabouts, Galaxy Classes, Intrepids, Defiants, Miranda Classes, even Sovereign's if you're going for the "how they look on screen" look as opposed to the actual color used on the studio model.
Sounds very cool, could you post a pic or two so I could see how this color comes out?
Thanks!
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Post by jgoldader » Sat May 23, 2009 12:04 pm

Hi all,

I have been using Apple Barrel paints thinned with Future and Windex exclusively for airbrushing since I started last year. Until a few days ago, I had great results.

I was painting a Klingon ship with a green mix of many colors; the mix matched what I wanted perfectly. The first coats went on beautifully.

I went back to the bottle of mixed paint about 10 days later for touch-up work. The color of the mix had changed! It was seriously lighter. It took a good bit of adding new paint to get something reasonably close to the original color for the touch-up work.

This might've been a rookie mistake; perhaps mixed paint of any type doesn't keep well, but I don't recall having read that before. But in any case, the pigments of Apple Barrel paint colors must be cross-reactive, or else are broken down by the Windex. So if you're mixing colors, keep that in mind!

Today, I invested in several bottles of Tamiya acrylics as I start to wean myself off of the Apple Barrel paints.

Jeff

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Post by Kylwell » Sat May 23, 2009 12:29 pm

Windex breaks down acrylic bonds. If you pour it over a model, paints will disappear @ differing rates. My guess is that it attacks different pigment formulas differently.
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Post by jgoldader » Sat May 23, 2009 2:46 pm

Kylwell wrote:Windex breaks down acrylic bonds. If you pour it over a model, paints will disappear @ differing rates. My guess is that it attacks different pigment formulas differently.
Sounds reasonable to me!

So, when mixing paints, would it be reasonable to mix just the paints and Future, adding anything else immediately before spraying? Will the mix stay liquid for a few weeks?

I use Windex and have tended to put a drop of Slo-Dri in as well, mainly to make sure things don't gum up as I'm painting.

Jeff

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Post by chrisjon65 » Wed Dec 23, 2009 12:02 am

Just a quick question ive been meaning to ask.
Over here in oz we probably have different names for a lot of things you describe.
We do have Windex,so you use that straight from the bottle,soap and all?
Im not sure what FUTURE is?
Is the alcohol you discibe similar to Mythelated Spirits?
I thought i read somewhere here that some folks have used acrylic paint as used on home interiors is that possible and would they dry to fast ?

I'm asking these questions as im about to embark on the airbrush adventure and it seems a bit tricky any help would be appreciated. cheers chris

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Post by Kylwell » Wed Dec 23, 2009 1:16 am

chrisjon65 wrote:Just a quick question ive been meaning to ask.
Over here in oz we probably have different names for a lot of things you describe.
We do have Windex,so you use that straight from the bottle,soap and all?
Im not sure what FUTURE is?
Is the alcohol you discibe similar to Mythelated Spirits?
I thought i read somewhere here that some folks have used acrylic paint as used on home interiors is that possible and would they dry to fast ?

I'm asking these questions as im about to embark on the airbrush adventure and it seems a bit tricky any help would be appreciated. cheers chris
I can answer one of those questions. Latex house paint is acrylic paint. There is no latex actually in it. The name was a marketing ploy. That being said, yes you could use it to paint models but you'd need to add some binders to help it adhere to the plastic.
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Post by Lt. Z0mBe » Wed Dec 23, 2009 6:27 am

chrisjon65 wrote:Just a quick question ive been meaning to ask.
Over here in oz we probably have different names for a lot of things you describe.
We do have Windex,so you use that straight from the bottle,soap and all?
Im not sure what FUTURE is?
Is the alcohol you discibe similar to Mythelated Spirits?
I thought i read somewhere here that some folks have used acrylic paint as used on home interiors is that possible and would they dry to fast ?

I'm asking these questions as im about to embark on the airbrush adventure and it seems a bit tricky any help would be appreciated. cheers chris
Future is Future Floor Polish. It used to be know is Oz as Johnson's Kleer (I think). In the states it's now known as Pledge with Future power or something like that.

Use the Windex straight from the bottle.

The house paint...I don't know much about it. The pigment size is huge and the polymers used in the binders are really long. What I would do, as I would do with any experiment, is keep a journal and try thinning with different solvents, only changing one variable at a time. I do know, however, some latex (acrylic) house paints can be thinned with ammonia, whereas others can be thinned with various kinds of alcohols (ethylene glycol, isopropyl, or denatured alcohol). Ethylene glycol can be had in windshield washer fluid, the isopropyl alcohol is at the pharmacy and the denatured alcohol is your methylated spirits.

You'll know if you have the wrong solvent, as your sample will almost instantly "clabber" or crosslink immediately. It will look like the stuff babies spit up. :)

I cannot emphasize the following point enough: Get the sieves I posted a link to at the beginning of the post. One of the big differences in mixing your own paints is the pigment size. Expensive paints are more finely ground. You have to get the large chunks of pigment out, or you are wasting your time.

I hope this helps.

Kenny

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Post by chrisjon65 » Wed Dec 23, 2009 3:39 pm

Thanks for the help :wink:
I do agree that i should experiment a bit to see how it turns out.
90% of my models are scratch built and i spray them all over with an etch primer once all the greebies are fitted seems to work well with hand painting.
Once again thanks for your help.

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Post by Trek 1701 » Wed Feb 03, 2010 11:07 pm

20 parts Future (Pledge with Future shine)
20 parts Windex
10 parts 90-percent Isopropyl alcohol (I used 70% Isopropyl alcohol)
16 parts paint (mixed or otherwise)
This mixture of chemicals actually works to my surprise.
I just made the thinner mixture in bulk and added a little of it in a small clear plastic Hobby Lobby paint container, threw in some paint(custom mixed) and a few drops of Badger Model Flex Extender and it works great! All of the chemicals were pretty cheap too. The paint I was using is cheap craft paint(Hobby Lobby) and Createx Airbrush paint(which is pretty thick).

This thinner+paint runs fine through my Badger Crescendo 175 airbrush and with the air supplied through my Testors Mighty Mini air compressor.

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Couldnt get mix to work

Post by takos » Sat Mar 27, 2010 12:30 pm

Made the mix this morning and tried to paint a test piece of sheet styrene that I washed and primed with Tamiya primer last night. mix as follows
5ml Future
5ml Windex
2.5ml 91% Isopropyl alcohol
4ml Apple Barrel white paint

I sprayed though a single action external mix AB at abou 20 psi. As it hit the styrene there was a strange reaction, first of all the paint was thin and it started to pool but then, like pancakes, it started to bubble in a few spots and where the bubbles burst there were patches of gray primer showing through. Never seen that before!!!!!! I should note that the Windex was Windex Advanced which more than likely is the culprit, but still the mix was very thin and just pooled and ran everywhere. Has anyone else had a similar problem or is it just me

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