Monday, October 3, 2011

Product Review: Model Master Acryl Paints

The quest for less-obnoxious spray painting is never over, and while I have had great pleasure with the Tamiya acrylics range they just don’t have matches for many of the standard shades in use, whether German RLM shades or modern US Federal Standard colours. What few they do purport to match are actually very wide of the mark (for instance, their equivalents to RLM 02 grey, RLM 70 schwartzgrun, or British Sky are not satisfactory and require mixing to improve.)

The Pollyscale acrylic range is hard to find in Australia, and Humbrol acrylics are not imported, nor are Revell Aqueus. But recently, distributors have begun to bring in the Model Master Acryl range, and these are definitely worth a look. Colours are matched by precise industrial techniques, same as for the old standard MM enamels range, and the paints are supplied in the same old fashioned bottle. Some people have criticised the bottle design as hard to stir, favouring the Tamiya broad-neck type, but I have never had an issue, perhaps because I cut my teeth stirring paint in Humbrol tinlets, after which, it’s fair to say, anything is an improvement.

Obviously, my base for comparison is the Tamiya range, and on that footing, I can make the following observations:

Model Master Acryls are a virtually odourless formulation, there is no ester-smell on opening the jars. Though it seems they separate into phases when standing, a shake seems to do most of the work, they need very little stirring and recombine fully. I have sprayed light and dark shades and they seem to have equivalent covering ability. Thinning is an issue in point, these paints seem to demand 25%, compared to 50% for Tamiya, meaning you use proportionally more paint from each bottle in any given job. Any more than 25% and spatter begins to develop, which if controlled through flow rates and brush motion sets down in a somewhat pebbly fashion, drying with excess gloss. The finish seems to be somewhat harder, more durable, than that of Tamiya paints, and it can be said that the paints go on and lie down differently, though I would be hard pressed to actually describe how. They certainly dry quickly, from a wet, almost pebbly application to a dry, satiny coat in a few minutes.

Random gloss patches have been reported by others but I have yet to encounter this phenomenon with these paints; in any case, if using topcoats, it’s neither here nor there. Another general criticism is their tendency to tip-dry, blocking the airbrush, which I have encountered when spraying a fairly large amount of paint in one session (doing the template technique on a set of tank wheels, for instance), however under normal circumstances this does not seem to be a bother (nor is it affected by increasing the thinning ratio). I image it will become more of an issue in warmer weather.

One last point, these paints are entirely appropriate for applying with a brush, something Tamiya paints really do not like to do. After many years of struggling with touch-ups in the Japanese range, I can now dip a brush and have the paints go on the way enamels do, rather than the frustrating wipe-on, wipe-off effect of the others.

At this point I have used only four paints from this range. I am thinning with Tamiya thinner which is completely compatible, and cleaning up with water, between airbrush strip-and-clean sessions using Tamiya thinner and a Paasche brush set (invaluable, the best buy I ever made for ensuring the airbrush remains fully serviceable at all times.) I will be expanding my range and applications, and expect to be trying their gull, ghost and compass greys in due course.

I would recommend Model Master Acryls to anyone painting indoors and who is interested in their health. The range is very large (it takes three pages at the Testor website to present them all), and as acrylics they can be mail-ordered by air from the US or elsewhere. See the range at:
I’m happy with their performance so far, and will continue to acquire shades, but I will be using them in concert with the Tamiya range which, though it may be just familiarity with these paints over so many years, seem to be a tiny bit more user-friendly in the way they go on when sprayed.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Simplifying Soft Masking

Back when I started this blog, one of my most-viewed early posts was about detailing Hasegawa’s Bf 109 K-4, and one of the techniques I explored was soft-masking, cutting card masks for the camouflage and applying them clear of the surface by an eighth of an inch to hopefully create soft-edged demarcations.

I have been putting together Hasegawa’s Bf 109 F-2 in markings for Operation Barbarossa, and when coming to soft-mask the camo this time an interesting twist struck me.

I had not particularly thought about the masking until I got to the relevant stage, then I compared the pattern on the K-4 to the one on Werner Molders’ aircraft to see if the same masks would serve, at least for the wings and tail, but the pattern, being hand-applied on the original aircraft, was different enough to warrant a new set of masks being cut.

Rather than a process of trial and error, holding pieces of card to the model and trimming them until they looked about right, and in the absence of a 1:48th scale reference drawing, I pulled another unbuilt 109 from my stash and laid the wing, tail and fuselage parts onto a sheet of light card, ran a pencil around them and abruptly had my profile plans. From that point it was an easy matter to copy the camouflage from the kit plans onto the sketch and outline the segments to be cut out. It doesn’t even have to be very exact.

The virtue is that you can pre-design cutaways to fit around the wings or to run under the tail surfaces, or long tapers to shield the sides of the fuselage, helping reduce tape usage. And, if you’re careful with the cutting out, you’ll have a negative mask as well, which you can lay over the opposite tonal area to touch up overspray if needed.

On this model I’m using Model Master Acryl paints (well, on three models simultaneously, in fact), so look for a review of these paints in the near future.

My too-full schedule has been cleared somewhat lately, so look for new posts rather more often.