For the past 50 or so years, I have built plastic models and painted them using various types of enamel paints. For the earlier wooden models, before plastic kits became popular, I used regular model airplane dope (actually, lacquer), sometimes laced with talcum powder to achieve a matte finish. I started airbrushing relatively early, still using enamels, and eventually settled on the Testors’ Model Master series, which I have found to be entirely satisfactory. The only problem with using enamels indoors is that my wife constantly complains that the odor is overpowering, although I don’t think that it is really that bad, certainly not as bad as the smell of onions cooking in a frying pan, which has to compete favorably with the Geneva Convention’s definition of “gas warfare”. But that aside, I requested several colors of Italeri’s new acrylic paint series for evaluation.
A number of years ago, I thought I would consider switching to water-based acrylics for the above mentioned reason, and actually bought about 20 bottles of the Model Master variety, acquiring the basic colors for the type of modeling that I do. After struggling with these for several weeks, I found that the paint did not go through an airbrush nearly as well as enamels, so I ended up giving them to my son, who is also a serious modeler. He regularly uses a different brand of acrylics, and when I recently asked him, he said that he still had the paints, but still uses the other brand. He said he would help with a follow-up review later on to provide a second opinion.
This product is a new line of acrylic model paints that Italeri has recently introduced. The paint is packaged in attractive snap-top plastic containers, containing 20 ml. of thick acrylic paint. With thinning, this represents a substantial amount of paint for the money. The colors I received were as follows:
My basic observation on the colors is that the US Army and Navy colors appear to be within their color ranges. Referring to the color charts I have, the Italeri Luftwaffe 74/75/76 colors seemed to be very close to the colors there. The aluminum and steel are also very realistic. In addition, my friend and neighbor Jim Pearsall received some FS36280 USAAF Neutral Grey in this series, which he kindly passed on to me for one of the models I was working on. This gave me enough to work with. Then the fun began. Keep in mind that I have never used acrylic paints before, so for me, this was a new experience.
Before starting, I picked a few brains on the subject of acrylics and discovered that while water was the recommended thinning agent, rubbing alcohol or even Future floor wax and windshield washer fluid could also be used. Getting the paint to the right consistency seems to be the key, and my solution was to pour a small quantity of the paint into small jars that I could attach to my Pasche airbrush. I mixed the paint and thinners with my small cocktail-style paint mixer (I wouldn’t be without this little gadget) and was ready to go to work. I started a Hasegawa FW-190A-8 and a couple of P-47D’s, one from Academy and the other from Hasegawa. All of these were done basically out-of-box, because the main idea was to try out the new paint. I used the same procedures I usually use for enamels, which I discovered was a mistake. By the way, there are no instructions on the paint bottles other than a statement that the paint is water-based and that I should “shake well, and for airbrush use, dilute properly”. Not much to start with, but then, we’re all experienced modelers. Right? Yeah, right!
I decided to do the Hasegawa FW-190A-8 in a standard I/JG.11 74/75/76 Russian Front 1944 camouflage scheme, while the P-47’s would be Olive Drab over Neutral Grey. Since I have never done the “soap and water” routine with models to be painted with enamels, I didn’t do it with any of these kits. After painting the FW-190’s upper surfaces with RLM 75 thinned with water and letting it dry over night, I masked off the camouflage pattern using my trusty 3M Painter’s masking tape. On a whim, I then tried removing some of the tape, and found that most of the paint came off with it. I tried doing it freehand, but couldn’t get the effect I wanted, as the overspray was too great. Back to square one. I finally gave up on that one and removed the acrylic paint entirely, replacing it with enamel. I couldn’t mask it, even with washed surfaces.
On a piece of scrap plastic (actually, a discarded Hasegawa Zero wing section), I tried a different approach. I washed the wing thoroughly in regular hand soap, then dried it off with a clean paper towel. I then painted one side with alcohol-based RLM 74, and the other half with water-based Neutral Grey. I let both dry overnight and tried the masking tape again. The Neutral Grey still peeled off, while the RML 74 showed some marks where the tape had stuck, but nearly all of the paint stayed on. After coating both surfaces with Testors’ Glosscote, the paint adhered a little better, although the Neutral Grey still tended to come off with the tape. So I had better luck with the alcohol than with the water thinner. I’ll try it again with another model and see if washing off the surfaces and thinning with alcohol is the key to the problem.
I had previously done the interior painting on the FW-190 with enamels, along with a yellow fuselage band and white cross, which were both done with enamels. The P-47s’ interiors were done with water -hinned Interior Green, and these were airbrushed on. I found that the Interior Green tended to rub off if I handled it very much, so I did some repainting after parts assembly. I sprayed on the white markings with enamel and masked these off. I did the undersides with acrylic Neutral Grey, and instead of masking, I merely painted the upper surfaces with acrylic Olive Drab, getting the demarcation lines as good as I could with the airbrush. It wasn’t as effective as masking, but it was more or less acceptable under the circumstances. I did find that the Olive Drab could be easily scratched off, so these had to be handled carefully, and I did some retouching after assembly.
Once the Olive Drab and Neutral Grey had dried overnight, I gave the P-47’s a heavy coat of Testors’ Glosscote, which seemed to harden the surfaces enough that I didn’t encounter any more chipping, although I did handle the model very carefully. I then applied the decals and resprayed the models with Dullcote. The decals went on with no problems, and with another coat of Dullcote and some light weathering, the P-47’s were ready for display.
Not to be defeated by the Luftwaffe colors, I tried again, doing two German aircraft – a Hasegawa FW-190A-9 and a Hasegawa Bf-109G-6, both sporting the usual 74/75/76 paint schemes. The FW-190A was in standard Luftwaffe markings, while the Bf-109G-6 was in Romanian colors. This time, I thoroughly washed the models in dish detergent, then painted the interiors with enamels, using the acrylics only for the three exterior colors. I assembled the models, filled in the seams, and did the usual preparation for painting. The two upper shades of 74 and 75 were applied first, and after allowing the paint to dry overnight, I masked off the colors, and very little paint came off this time, although a little did. After spraying the 76 light blue on the sides and undersides, I then removed some of the masking tape and used the 74 and 75 to achieve the mottle effect so common on Luftwaffe aircraft. The only problem was that no matter how much I thinned the paint (alcohol this time), it still splattered somewhat. My only recourse was to respray the fuselage sides with Model Master enamel RLM 76, which is essentially the same shade. This softened the mottling effect on the sides to the point that the demarcation lines were acceptable, so the decals could be applied after a coat of Glosscote. A little touchup was needed in a few areas, and then the models were ready for finishing.
My total experience with the paint, as viewed from a new modeler’s viewpoint, is that the paints seem to be of good quality, and that a modeler experienced in the use of this kind of paint would find them comparable to other brands on the market, although I really had nothing to compare them with. If you are experienced with acrylics and want to airbrush indoors without driving everyone else outside, these paints would certainly be useful. They brush on very well, but they have to be handled carefully. They can even be applied over enamels, or enamels can be applied over the acrylics. Just be sure to let the paint dry thoroughly.
If you are just starting out, these paints are a good idea, as you can spray anywhere in the house without driving the inhabitants out into the streets or to a local bar. That’s a major point to consider, along with the usual dire warnings that the FDA, OSHA, and TSA have concerning the use of enamels. Get a few of these colors and try them out. Be brave!
My thanks to Italeri and IPMS/USA for the experiment and subsequent review.