‘quick view’ materials info

This is a version of the basic info sheet I provide for teaching sessions focusing on painting materials for model-making. It represents a small selection chosen for their availability, versatility and ease of use.

Prices shown are from May 2017 and adjusted to include VAT. Full addresses can be found in the ‘Suppliers’ section.

Primers                                                                                                                    Priming is usually essential prior to painting any surface, especially cardboard (to minimise warping when using water-based paints) or on plastic (to provide a ‘keying’ surface for the paint). Also, if the surface is absorbent, like cardboard, priming ensures that it doesn’t draw too much from the paint too quickly so that it will harden properly in its own time. Best is Simoniz Acrylic Primer (a car spray-primer intended for plastic), available white, grey or ‘red oxide’. Plastikote primer may be more common (B&Q etc.) but unfortunately it’s not as good. The surface it gives is slightly ‘plastic’ and will resist very thin washes whereas Simoniz keys better, even very slightly chalky when completely dry.  Obtainable car repair shops, garages, or ebay Price c. £4-6 for a 500ml can

Note 2017  Rust-Oleum Plastic Primer .. just as good and more available, though costing a lot more i.e. £9.49 for a 400ml can (Homebase)

Bottle acrylic (DecoArt, Inscribe, Anita’s etc.)                                                         This type of acrylic paint, sold in plastic bottles, is much more ‘model friendly’ being thinner, generally more opaque and matt than standard tube acrylic. Obtainable many art or hobby shops; 4D (small selection); Hobbycraft (DecoArt); artdiscount.co.uk (DecoArt ‘Crafters’) Price varies £0.99 -£2.40 for a 59ml bottle

Gouache                                                                                                                 Regular gouache contains minimal binder so it will not normally stay well on non-absorbent surfaces such as Pvc or Sculpey, but can be modified by mixing in equal quantity of Pva wood glue (e.g. Evo Stik Wood). Covers well. Obtainable most art suppliers Price varies

Reeve’s Tempera                                                                                                         The cheapest colour paint around. Weak adhesion and pigment strength, but perfect for basecoating large areas. Available in 500ml bottles or cakes (used like watercolour). Pva can be added to strengthen adhesion. Obtainable many art shops, artdiscount.co.uk Price e.g. Reeves Redimix £2.38 per 500ml (artdiscount.co.uk)

Rosco scenic paints                                                                                                     i.e. ‘Super Saturated’ range. Super-concentrated and properly matt acrylic paint which will still provide full coverage even when heavily diluted and with good adhesion on many surfaces.  Expensive though because it’s only available in minimum 1litre pots. 4D did trial offering smaller amounts (230ml tins) and there are some left, but too little response for them to continue. Flints stock the ‘Starter Kit’ 28g pots of all 32 from Supersaturated range but even this currently costs c. £80! Obtainable 4D, Flints, Brodie&Middleton Price 1ltr £16-32

Acrylic retarder                                                                                                                A colourless gel or liquid medium which slows down drying of acrylic paint making it much longer ‘workable’ and also more transparent (if required) for ‘scumbling’ and glazing. Basically giving it some of the workability of oil paint but not the endless drying time Obtainable art shops. Price Winsor&Newton brand recommended c.£10 per 250ml bottle.

Cold enamels                                                                                                            Familiar as small (14ml) tins from Humbrol. A thin-coating but opaque, quick-drying oil-based paint designed for plastic or metal (will even stick to latex) and one of the most durable paints around! Available in gloss, satin or matt. Matt versions dry very matt, more so than most acrylics. Can be thinned with white spirit to make washes or stains. Will keep indefinitely if tin is properly closed. Must be thoroughly stirred before each use because paint mix separates. Obtainable model/hobby shops e.g. Hobbycraft; some art shops; best online retailer wonderlandmodels.com    Price  £1.70-2.00 per tin

Cracking medium                                                                                                            A special glycerine-type medium which, when applied between two layers of paint, will cause decorative craquelure effects. Obtainable craft/hobby shops Price c.£2-3 (60ml) or Polyvine ‘Crackle glaze’ 500ml c. £10 (Flints, Leyland SDM, stonehouses.co.uk)

Wood stains, inks                                                                                                      Properly formulated wood stains are most appropriate for changing the colour of model wood because they are designed to soak in and enhance (rather than mask) the natural grain. Can be expensive though, at up to £8 for a 250ml tin. Drawing inks, pure watercolour, liquid shoe polish, or pigment dissolved in white spirit are all reasonably good alternatives. Wilkinsons have fairly cheap wood stains but get the spirit-based because these infiltrate the wood fibres better. Leyland SDM offers the best range of wood stains, including 60ml bottles.

Spraypaints                                                                                                                  I’ve found the Montana range of spraypaints the most reliable, versatile, and the most economical. They’re also the ones most often stocked in general art/graphics shops. I use spraypaints mainly as a very quick method of basecoating i.e. spraying usually a dark basecoat on a brickwork-textured Kapa-line foam surface as an undercoat for dry-brushing. Spray infiltrates into recesses more quickly than brush painting if sprayed properly. Can be worked on with acrylics, enamels, pastels etc. after an hour if need be. ‘Montana Gold’ has the best choice of colours, but Montana’s ‘MTN’ range have the advantage of being ‘low pressure’ making it easier to spray small-scale work. Obtainable 4D; Chrome&Black; London Graphic Centre; UAL college shops, and many other art/graphics suppliers.

Chrome&Black http://www.chromeandblack.com is the best and cheapest source for graffiti sprays in London .. they’ve managed to keep their prices as low as possible for years! ‘Montana Gold’ 400ml cans ‘satin finish’ £3.90 (inc.VAT) ‘MTN 94’ 400ml cans ‘matt finish’ £3.90. They have a full range of accessories for spray work i.e. a variety of spare caps for different spray-widths or effects. Pack of 10 caps £1.99.

They also stock a number of protective masks which are obviously chosen for their ‘look’ and .. black nitrile disposable gloves! .. presumably either because they look ‘cooler’ than off-white latex or because they don’t show up in the dark!

9 thoughts on “‘quick view’ materials info

  1. Hi David, love your book, blog and your amazing information. Been so helpful to me. I have recently done a ‘soft’ prop job casting weapons in a PU rubber and resin mix. When I painted it (plastic primer and then acrylic paints) the surface went clammy to the touch. I was originally going to cast in a platinum cure mould but my supplier sent the wrong stuff and I ended up using tin cure that I could get locally as time was too short to risk a replacement not arriving in time. There is a distinct possibility that I didn’t leave the primer to cure long enough but I’ve painted PU rubber before and it hasn’t had this clamminess. I had hoped it would dry up by the time the client used them but apparently not. Could this be either primer not being left long enough or I had read elsewhere that there can be a reaction between PU rubber and tin silicone moulds that can cause problems for painting; leeching out oils? I did give the mould a coat of talc before pouring. I’m going to do some experiments to see if I can replicate the effect in the hope I can work out what went wrong but if you have any opinion it would be greatly appreciated. Thanks Jen.

    • I’m very sorry Jen, but I don’t know the answer. Someone else might see this though .. it often happens. In my experience plastic primer should be fully stable having been left a day, that’s always worked, sometimes much less though, and anyway I doubt it was that. One reason why I can’t really answer is because of bad experiences with PU rubber .. I ended up only using it a few times, long ago. So naturally my feeling is, yes, it’s likely it was that, and compatibility like you say. Sorry I can’t say more.

      • Thanks for your reply. I did some experiments today with various rubber/resin mixes and paints, with primer and without and priming with plastidip. Still need to go with further variations but tried rubber/resin (newly cast), primed (day old and fresh) and painted stripes of regular System 3 acrylic, leather acrylic and Rosco super-sat. The regular acrylic and leather paints definitely had the clamminess (the leather not quite as much) but the Rosco did not have any. Will see tomorrow if anything has seeped through on the Rosco and will do more variations. Previously I have done the combination with EasyFlo 60 and PTFlex as was advised this was compatible but added only pigment instead of painting as block colours were required. This time it needed a wood grain effect so I thought painting would be ok. It was also different make of resin but a very similar fast cast PU. I mistakenly assumed it would be ok! Maybe it’s not meant to be painted. Or maybe the Rosco is the way to go! Will keep experimenting. I find all the reactions so fascinating but not so much when you’re on a deadline and your customer is waiting! Thanks again.

      • Rosco are seriously strong paints, probably right. Interestingly I’ve found DecoArt (‘Americana’ or ‘Crafters’) just as good. But sorry I can’t add to the rest .. mixing rubber and resin is new to me actually.

      • I’ll check out those paint brands, thanks. I’ve just bought Poly Props range of acrylic and flexible paints to give them a go, they are very geared towards the Cosplay community so thought would be good particularly for foam. My experiments showed clamminess in most parts but not all, regardless of whether it was primed or painted and the paint just wiped off in places. I may have done the ratio of resin to rubber wrong, I can’t remember what they said to do exactly but I tried a maximum of 1:4 resin to rubber. Unfortunately this caused the chemical leaching. Maybe less would be more successful. The mix of resin and rubber creates a tupperware type feel – indeed somewhere between rubber and resin – and makes it a little more shockproof. The original job I used this combination for was for a prop that would be dropped from height but again didn’t paint, only pigmented. It was Mouldlife who I got the advice from and it worked great. I’m going to experiment more with less rubber and see what happens. Thanks!

  2. Hi David. I’ve found your blog looking for information on how to paint Super Sculpey. I’ve baked my first figure which turned out ok, but a bit scorched due to overheating. I’ve seen professionals use watercolor mixed with alcohol to tint Sculpey previous to baking and seems to work well. I wonder however, since I intend to cover scorched areas on an already baked piece, if other water based mediums like gouache would work ok. It appears from your post that mixing gouache with PVA glue might do the trick? The manufacturer recommends water based acrylics but I’m afraid it might make the figure look to ‘cheap’ or plasticky. Thanks.

    • Hello Carlos,

      Yes .. according to the manufacturer and from my own experience, water-based acrylics are the safest option for Sculpey .. but there are some that dry more matt i.e. less ‘plasticky’ than others. For example I often recommend the inexpensive ‘hobby’ paints from DecoArt (either ‘Crafters’ or ‘Americana’ range), which I’ve found to be consistently easy to apply, matt and reasonably tough once fully dry. I’ve started trying out the Vallejo ‘Model Color’ acrylics, which are really promising and offer more intense colours, though I can’t yet vouch for them being consistently matt. It’s worth trying gouache mixed with a strong Pva i.e. wood glue (1:1 proportions paint to glue) but with some pigments the glue may cause a slight sheen.

  3. David thank you for this amazing information, being self taught through trial and error working with depron your blog is everything I should have known before I started! However, one thing that still baffles me is what is the best surface primer for depron? I use most acrylic paints and in desperation started to use gesso which seems ok but perhaps you have a better suggestion please that won’t melt the Depron or other sytrofoam type materials? Thank you very much for your help.

    • Yes, acrylic gesso should be fine! I haven’t painted Depron but it’s a polystyrene similar to blue styrofoam which I know takes acrylic gesso and other acrylics very well, so there shouldn’t be any problem. Polycell ‘Fine Surface’ Polyfilla can also be thinned (with water) to make a good undercoat and then over-painted with acrylic .. very similar to gesso but even stronger.

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