Types of Paints

Paints are very important for humans but we rarely notice its importance. Don’t you know that you’re most likely surrounded by it? From the paints used to your laptop, the ink used to print texts and prints, labels of packagings, basically every angle you look at, I’m sure there will be a paint you’ll see.

The main ingredient of paints are pigments. It’s very hard to get the right pigment back then, that even blue is one of the rarest color. Nowadays, we can produce pigments synthetically. Basically, you can create your own paint just by having pigments and thinner of your choice. But paints nowadays have additives to give them specific properties depending on their specific use.

Our goal here is to learn about the paints we’ll use for Gunpla and maybe even in military modelling because we can use it too. We’ll also discuss the properties of each type and their recommended usage. For miscellaneous stuff, please refer to Paint II.

There are 3 main type of paints: Acrylic, Enamel and Lacquer. You’ll maybe asking, why do we have to need several type of paints and not just one? Well, you answer that yourself after we have discussed each.

(Legend: Lowest is 1, Highest is 3)


Strength: 1-3

Drying time: 2-3

Handpainting: 3

Airbrushing: 2-3

Toxicity: 1-2

Acrylic is generally the weakest type of paint. Having said that, it ain’t recommended to be used for joints, unless you use some specific brand that can do the job. The strongest I know of that are meant for Plamo is DS Paint, which stands for Daryl Sprays. It is a local brand here in the Philippines and relatively cheaper. Vallejo paint works too. But if you’re gonna use Tamiya or Mr.Hobby Aqueous using acrylic thinner, then goodluck with that. I personally tried using Tamiya using Lacquer thinner (a generic one though) because it’s highly recommended doing so specially when you are to use it for AB. Strength isn’t just about being scratch resistant, it’s also about how it reacts to other type of paints. Since this one’s the weakest, then it’s safe to use over an enamel and a lacquer layer. It’s also safe to use over acrylic layers (using an AB). It can, however, destroy an acrylic layer if brush is used specially if you brush hard. That’s why people often use an acrylic layer, then use enamel to do washes, fading and other weathering related techniques.

Drying time for Acrylic is “ok” generally. But Vallejo Air is most likely the fastest to dry, it can be both good and bad however. Good since the paint will dry faster, it’s bad because there are some reports that Vallejo Air (their specific range of paint meant for AB) that dries as you spray. Meaning, it’ll create webbing and might clog your AB. I’ve never experienced clogging but I know it’s HARD to fix. You can solve this by adding retarder so that you’ll have more work time and prevent this from happening.

Most handpainting using acrylics happen when you are to detail specific parts. Vallejo, IMO, is the best at this. It has avery good self-levelling property and is very smooth. Tamiya is not bad, but in my experience, it can leave brush strokes if you’re not careful.

There are brands of acrylic that are meant for AB; Vallejo Air from Vallejo, AK Interactive and MIG Ammo. They’re pre-mixed so thinning might not be necessary, but you can still do so if you want more control. Pure Acrylic like MIG Ammo is used differently than Tamiya or Vallejo. They are meant to be painted by several thin layers rather than a single whole coat. If you do, it’ll leave ugly craters. It doesn’t make the paint bad because just of that. The result of a good finish is still attainable while maintaining the paint less toxic, being a pure acrylic that is.AK Interactive though might probably your best bet in tank modeling since it requires a little shake and several thin layers isn’t required. Just watch their vids from their official channel to see it yourself :3

Acrylic is  water-based so it’s pretty easy to thin down. But it can also be thinned down using lacquer thinner. Only do this when you are to use it in AB. Use alcohol, distilled water or the same brand of thinner when you are to use it for detailing via handpainting. Speaking of thinning them down using lacquer thinner, you can actually mix lacquer and acrylic type of paints but thinned down via lacquer thinner. Real life application? Basically when you’re out of paints and don’t find it necessary to buy a new one just to get the color you want :3


Strength: 2

Drying time: 1-3

Handpainting:  2

Airbrushing: 2

Toxicity: 2

Enamel ain’t weak and definitely stronger than acrylic when it dries. But IMO, specific brands of acrylic dries harder than enamel, depending on the additives that the manufacturer adds. Hence, some are Acrylic-Resin, Acrylic-Urethane and the like. Despite enamel being stronger than acrylic, it’s safe to put over an acrylic layer. Like I said, this technique is commonly used for weathering. Yes, it’s also safe to use over a lacquer layer as well.

Enamel dries the slowest, that’s why it’s ideal for weathering because you have a lot of time controlling your work without feeling pressured. Using oils to create fading is the best example here. Do take note that enamel paints can be thinned down using lighter fluid and it’s known to dry fast. If you use that, then drying time is significantly reduced. This technique is mainly used for pin-washes and sealing graphite powders.

You can use enamels to cover a whole part, but acrylic and lacquers are the most commonly used. Perhaps because of drying time. So most of the time, the only time you’ll use enamel is via weathering.

Enamels ain’t bad for AB. It’s actually good. I only use enamel for AB when I’m sealing graphite powder and reverse wash. I want the gold underneath to be shiny but want the black part of Sinanju to be flat, so I’ll use flat black to cover the gold, then proceed with reverse wash.

Enamel is oil based. If you have an enamel thinner or lighter fluid, you can try thinning down oil pastel using these two. I’ve already said this but enamel is meant for weathering. The reason why people tend to use acrylic and enamel together is because of their property, being oil and water don’t mix. Enamel is also more toxic than acrylic, but it’s nothing serious if you do the basic and be safe.


Strength: 3

Drying Time: 3

Hand-painting: 1

Airbrush: 3

Toxicity: 1

The main reason why I most of my paints are lacquer type is because of its strength. I topcoat using lacquer give the kit total protection. It can still get scratched though if you’re really rough on it. Since this one’s the strongest type, it has the potential to destroy your enamel and acrylic layer. Make sure that before doing so, the layer has been completely cured.

Since lacquers dries the fastest, it’s only meant for AB. Well, you can still handpaint with these but generally harder. When used in AB, it flows smoothly and has a very good self-levelling property. But when used via handbrush, I can’t seem to see its self-levelling property, moreso it could potentially destroy the layer before it so keep that in mind. I only used it for handbrushing when I’m doing cleanups (ex. bleed marks via improper masking).

Lacquers are generally solvent-based. Having said that, lacquer is the most toxic amongst all. But don’t you dare think that it’ll instantly kill you. With proper protection, like wearing a mask, spraying in a well ventilated area and having an exhaust, then it won’t be a problem at all

What To Use

So now, what are we supposed to use? That will most likely depend on your budget, but c’mon, you’ll end up spending more if you don’t study them enough. You’ll might commit mistakes and that means you’ll spend more by correcting them.

I can say that for painting large parts, it’ll either be acrylic vs lacquer. What do you prefer, a general safe to use because there’s a baby in the neighborhood or something that’s easier to use and can resist scratches? Well, you can always paint the base colors with acrylic then cover it with lacquer topcoat to make it scratch resistant. As of now, I still use both despite me being a fan of Gaianotes since they don’t have much colors to offer. So I end up getting the metallic, gloss black and primers for lacquers then the rest of colors are in acrylics. You must now know when to use enamel right? Yes, weathering. It’s good at it that it’s basically what everyone does. Though I know Vallejo has a tutorial on how to weather without the use of enamel and oils, but I think it’s generally more tedious and care must be applied.


Enamel for weathering and acrylic or lacquer for the rest


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