2006 looks like becoming the year the kit industry really wakes up to just how fascinating Soviet aircraft of the Great Patriotic War really were. Eduard have released updated versions of the excellent Accurate Miniatures Yak 1 and 1B, and have their brand-new Polikarpov I-16 due in a matter of weeks. Meanwhile, ICM are promising a LaGG-3, so things are definitely looking good!
I've got the Eduard/AM Yak 1 on the workbench and, the more I read in Erik Pilawskii's superb book "Soviet Air Force Fighter Colours 1941-1945" (2003, Classic Publications), the more I came to the conclusion that it was time to stop messing about with "home-brew" guesses for the colours and try some specialist paints.
Mal Mayfield (Holdfast) took a detailed look
at WEM's first aircraft enamel colours some time ago and has enjoyed great success with them since. But, with so many perfectly good paints for most subjects already sat on my shelves, I've never had an excuse to try Colourcoats - until now! This was the golden opportunity to see what all the fuss is about. I ordered the complete set of Soviet colours online - which gives a 10% saving over buying the colours individually. There are currently 18 WW2-era Soviet colours in the range:
WUP Grey Interior Primer
IMUP Blue-Grey Metal Primer
ALG-5 Grey Metal Primer
AMT-4 Olive Green
AMT-1 (Light) Grey
AMT-1 (Dark) Grey
AMT-12 Dark Grey
AII Light Brown
AII Dark Brown
4BO Army Green
and a new addition to the range since this review was first published - AII Dark Green
I guess the first question many people will ask is "Why bother buying specialist paints when kits list the colours from standard paint ranges?". Well, the simple answer is that most kit instructions are wrong when it comes to Soviet aircraft - there, it had to be said... Add to that, the fact that many of the paints have no available match in standard hobby paint ranges - or even close FS or Methuen equivallents in some cases - and the value of WEMs set becomes apparent.
Comparing the colours (where possible) with the guide in Erik Pilawskii's book, all the paints seem accurate - and a massive improvement on some of my previous weird and wonderful concoctions. It should be noted, however, that Erik Pilawskii states that many of the original paints were very prone to changes with age and weathering. Some colours lightened, some got darker and some changed hue entirely - so WEM's range seem a good match for factory fresh colours.
I was immediately impressed when I opened tinlets of "IMUP Blue-Grey Metal Primer" and "WUP Grey Interior Primer"; even unstirred and having sat on the shelf for a day since delivery, the paints showed little sign of "separating out". A quick stir proved why - the pigment is beautifully fine and the consistency, straight from the pot, perfect for brush-painting.
I was going to airbrush and, having heard that Colourcoats behaved similarly to Hannants' Xtracolors, I tried three different thinners for the purposes of the review:
They all worked perfectly - and the latter two certainly speeded up the drying time. Even with White Spirit, the paint was safe to handle within a couple of hours, so Rustin's Driers (in particlular) is an unnecessary precaution.
The paint thinned beautifully and proved to have great colour density over the dark grey plastic of the Yak 1. The finish when dry is a silky sheen - not full gloss, but still an excellent finish for decalling. As an experiment, I tried some fine spraying on scrap card with left-over WUP Grey Interior Primer; the results were excellent - very fine lines were possible with no sign of tip-clogging. In fact, I'd probably slightly over-thinned the paint (this was with White Spirit), but I'm still learning how to get the best results with these paints and the test showed that WEM's Colourcoats will be ideal for detailed work like mottling and "mirror waves".
I'm hugely impressed! These are excellent paints by any standards. As a final point, I must mention the superb service form the White Ensign website. With a review model on the bench and a deadline hanging over me, it will probably sound like madness to decide to buy new paints by mail-order!... Even I (a perpetual optimist) had my doubts, but I needn't have worried - the paints arrived 2 days after I ordered them! Amazing!