I’ve written a bit about using Vallejo Model color for hand painting and I wanted to post a mini review of the paints and share some tips I have learned over the years.


Bottles of Vallejo Model Color




There are several hundred colors in the Vallejo line which includes Model Color, Game Color, Train Color, Model Air and Panzer Aces. Model Color is the basic line of 208 colors. Game Color is a line of 72 acrylics for minis, Model Air is a line of colors thinned for airbrushing straight form the bottle. Train Color is geared toward Model Trains. And Panzer Aces is a line of 48 colors formulated specifically for WWII uniforms and accessories. So if you don’t like mixing paints too much, you should be pretty happy with Vallejo Acrylics. I have probably just over 100 bottles and that is more than plenty for my needs. All of their paints, except for their alcohol based metallics are in 17ml plastic bottles with an eyedropper top with a cap. This is handy for dispensing small amounts of paint at a time or for keeping track of custom mixes.

These eyedroppers are not perfect though, they can clog, split, and paint can build up in the cap. The paints need to be shaken thoroughly as the snap on eyedropper cap and small neck make stirring a challenge.

What I like best about VMC is the coverage and control. I have tried to hand paint several brands of acrylics and enamels and I have never gotten as smooth and brush stroke free paint as with Vallejo. The colors lay down smooth and don't reactivate the prior layers of paint the way some acrylics like Tamiya or Gunze have a habit of doing. Model Color has a very high pigment count, so it usually only takes 2-3 coats of thinned paint for complete coverage. VMC thins with tap water though some purists insist on distilled water so minerals in the water won't taint the colors. I've never been that specific and our tap water isn't that bad, so I don't bother with bottled water. The paints dry to the touch quickly but are best to set overnight before much handling.

In the past I had issue with the paint rubbing off down to the primer. Through trial and error I have found that VMC needs a little tooth in the primer for the best adhesion. Mr Surfacer 1000 airbrushed is just too smooth for the paint and I have had much better luck airbrushing  Mr Surfacer 500 or an automotive primer from a rattle can. I also had better results with paint adhesion by using their thinner instead of water.

Thinning Vallejo Model Color

The paint is far too thick for hand painting right out of the bottle. The paints can be thinned with tap water or their thinner. Their Model Color thinner is nearly as thick as the paint, so a tip I learned was to thin their thinner 50/50 with water and then use this to thin the paint. Store the thinned thinner in a similar eyedropper bottle to ease dispensing.

Each color will need to be thinned differently. Blacks and Browns are very thick out of the bottle and need to be thinned 1:1 paint/thinner while Yellows and Oranges could be thinned 3:1 or 2:1 paint/thinner. With the thinned paint, don’t expect to cover in one pass and don’t skip thinning thinking you can cheat and cover in one pass, you will leave clumps and brush marks. 2-3 coats of properly thinned paint should be sufficient for coverage. By applying the paint thin you can achieve a surface just as smooth as one that was airbrushed.

For special affects the paint can be thinned even further. Figure painters build up successive layers of translucent paint to create highlights and shadows. Very thin Vallejo can be used as a filter to subtly change the base coat and create specific affects.

Tips for Hand Painting VMC

The paints dry very fast. If working with a dish pallet, add water as time goes by since evaporation will change the consistency of the paint.

Use a wet pallet when you need small amounts of color. The paint does not dry out as fast and if properly sealed, the paint on the pallet can be used weeks later. It may require a little re-thinning but will be just as good as the paint out of the bottle. Darker colors separate and paints can draw into the sponge if it is not wet enough.

Clean the brush often as you paint. Vallejo dries quickly and can ruin a good brush.

A good quality #2 or #3 pointed brush can produce fine details while holding enough paint for larger areas. This is helpful for shading uniforms where there may be a varity of sizes of folds. Use the largest brush possible to avoid streaking while blending.

Test the thinned paint on a scrap model or piece of paper before you apply it to the model.  If the paint is too thin, it can flood off the brush and ruin the surface.

If you are trying to layer thin paint for clothing highlights and shadows, a little paint can go a long way. After you dip the brush in the paint, drag it across a dry paper towel. This will draw off enough paint to stop floods but leave enough for layering. The brush may look almost dry, but there is enough in there.

Check the consistency of paint on your thumbnail. You are already holding the part in your hand and the thumbnail should be the last stop before the model surface.

If in the course of painting you paint outside the lines, quickly dip a brush in clean water and erase the Vallejo. This works best on a glossy undercoat.

Tips for airbrushing Vallejo Model Air

Model Air by Vallejo

I havn't had too much luck airbrushing Model Air, but I have seen amazing results with the paints.  Here is Vallejo's guide for airbrushing Model Air



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Images copyright Vallejo Acrylics