Tutorial: Paint Mixing

Paint mixing is neither difficult or easy. What makes it hard is going by the ratio because it differs per manufacturer. Some are forgiving, some aren’t. But all I can say is that it’s critical. With wrong ratio, your paint job might get destroyed, might blog your AB and potentially destroy it. Most of the time, you want to mix paints for AB use, but you can also do that for handbrushing.

So after knowing the properties of each paint, we can now proceed with mixing it and it’s important to know what you’ll be needing beforehand.

First of, what we need to have are the ff:

1. Paints to use

This one is no brainer. We can’t even call it paint mixing if there are no paint involve, lol!

2. Stirrer

Preferably metal. It’ll be used, obviously, for stirring our mixed paint.

3. At least 2 cups

Preferably glass or metal. In my case, 2 plastic cups because it works regardless. Also make sure that at least one has measuring bar on it, it’ll be a great help for ratios, if ever you’re strict about it. I got mine from used Oracare. It usually comes with these cups.

4. Thinner/ Thinning Agent

The thinner of choice greatly depends on the type of paint you’re using, but there are some exceptions so I’ll go through all of then.

There are tons of thinners you can use for these. From simple water up to various high-quality thinners. So what should you use? This one is highly dependent on what you need to do and the manufacturer of paint you’re using. For the safest route, buy the thinner of whatever your paint’s manufacturer is (ex: Tamiya Acrylic thinner for Tamiya paints, Vallejo Thinner for Vallejo paints and so on). You can experiment between manufacturers, but that’s the last thing I can recommend to you (except that Tamiya’s can thin most of acrylic paints out there). There are some who create their own via mixing distilled water + some cheap chemicals, but that experiment is too troublesome for me so I’d rather not. But basically, you’ll save up more $$$ if you’re a very heavy acrylic user. You can use tap water for Vallejo paints if you’re going handpainting and really, it’s the best out there.

Personally, when I use Tamiya paints for AB, I always use Gaianotes’ thinner to dilute it. It makes it more smooth, coverage is better and finish becomes glossier. Yes, Gaianotes’s thinner is lacquer type and can thin acrylics. I’m not so sure with other type of acrylics though. It makes it more toxic though, so be mindful of that :3

For enamels, mineral spirits, enamel thinner and lighter fluid. Just that so no problems here.

For lacquers, lacquer thinner and denatured alcohol. But I recommend lacquer thinner. Don’t use industrial grade lacquer thinner to thin down your paints. Though it’s possible, try to avoid it specially if you’re trying to put it in a bottle for later use. Only use it to clean your AB. Even so, try to avoid cleaning your AB (the Taiwan made ones) using these thinners because it can greatly weaken the area where the nozzle goes though and I’ve heard some other bad news too.

5. Tissue/Rag

Or basically anything to clean our workplace after.

6. Dropper

Preferably with measuring guide. I usually use one dropper per type of paint, so I have three in total.

7. (Optional) Funnel

So we can transfer mixed paints in the bottle easier.

8. (Optional) Bottle with dropper.

Of course we want it sealed so it won’t harden.

9. (Optional, but highly recommended) Retarder
This is specially recommended if you’re going to store these for a very long time. It basically increases the drying time of paints. It might be bad if you’re impatient but it prevents your paint from drying inside the bottle after months of storage.

And now that we have all the materials, we’re good to go.

Well, the first thing I do is I first test the ratio by putting small amount of paints and test if it’s okay. Refer here.

After I have the proper ratio, mixing paint is good to go. I give the paint bottle a good shake, then proceed on pouring amounts on the cup with measuring guide. The order of putting paints doesn’t matter. You can even start with the thinner so that settling at the bottom of the pigments would less likely to occur. However that’s not what I do. I put it last because I still am gaging if I have mixed the right amount. If I put the thinner beforehand, the ratio might not be correct.

If you happen to thin down paints, without mixing two or more, for later use in AB, you can this method instead. For example, you want a clear green color. I have a 10ml bottle and since I’m using Tamiya paints and will be thinned down with Gaianotes, I’m going to use a 3:1 ratio. They say even a 4:1 ratio is cool, but 3:1 works for me so I’ll go with that. So in my case, it’s gonna be 6ml thinner is to 2ml paint. I’ll put about 3ml thinner first out of the 6, then put the 2ml of paint. I know, it’s 3:2 ratio, but don’t worry for now. Mix them thoroughly then put the mixture in the bottle. Now there are remaining paints in the cup right? Add about 1-2ml thinner to wash out the remaining paint in the cup, mix them then put it in the bottle. You now have 4-5ml:2ml ratio. Since I always use retarder, I will put some, for about .5ml together with the remaining ml of thinner in the cup to wash it further then put it in the bottle. See how most of the paints went in to the bottle instead of them remaining in the cup? Again, this applies when you’re not to mix two or more colors because it’s difficult to estimate the consistency if most of the parts are already in the bottle.

Use the stirrer and mix up the paint. The reason why there are two cups is because the other will hold the thinner. It’ll be easier to get the thinner from there rather from the bottle itself. A dropper could really help.

After thinning, you now proceed in transferring the mixed paints in the bottle. The main purpose of the bottle is for convenience. Imagine, you’ll have to mix paints EACH and EVERYTIME you’ll need it. Rather than doing that, you can just mix beforehand for all the parts, then grab your bottle, give it a good shake then directly put it in the AB and you’re good to go. Easy right? Well, that could only apply to big amount of paints. If you feel that you won’t have to paint the same amount of color, then by all means, don’t do this anymore. The danger of mixing over and over again is the ratio. If you slightly changed the shade of the color, then it’ll not be uniform to the other parts. That’s not something we want. So really, I recommend that we do this.

For thinning ratios, these are the ones I’ve used so far:
Tamiya Paint + Tamiya Acrylic – 1:1
Tamiya Paint/Gaianotes Color + Gaianotes Lacquer Thinner – 1:3
Tamiya Enamel Paint + Enamel Thinner/Lighter Fluid – 1:2
Tamiya Surface Primer + Gaianotes Lacquer Thinner/Mr. Color Leveling Thinner – 1:2.5


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