The paint we use for finishing our models is based on many different factors. Sometimes we have no choice, because locally there is only one choice. Quite often a bad experience with one type, or brand of paint, can put us off it for life. I have had plenty of bad experiences over the years but, because of these bad experiences, I have, through necessity, become able to “understand”, model paints, much better. Therefore I think I have found myself more able to appreciate that the problems I have encountered were, in the main, down to me.
I discovered that the finer the pigment the smother the paint. Gloss paint has finer pigment than matt paint, although matt paint can have a very fine pigment and go on so smooth as to require, almost, no gloss coat for decals. This was true of Compucolour, sadly no longer with us. When Compucolour disappeared I was looking for replacement paint, when Xtracolor came on the market. This has a gloss finish, advertised as “decal ready”. My interest in this paint was not for it’s “decal readiness” but the fact that it was a gloss paint meant it would have a fine pigment and, therefore, would flow well in my airbrush. My theory was proved correct and, with the vast range and excellent colour matching, plus the fact that they are thinned with cheap white spirit, I was in paint heaven. Unfortunately there is one, major, drawback with Xtracolor paints, they take an age to dry, a week or more. This problem has been overcome, but more on this later.
I have tried many acrylic paints as well. They all have there own idiosyncrasies, as if each manufacturer is trying to outdo the next. In general they are all very good paints and I still use the colours that I still have. The biggest problem, for me, with acrylic paints, is that they dry so fast that the paint dries in the tip of my airbrush, clogging it. I actually solved this problem, but the paint ends up so thin that coverage takes 3-4 times longer. This then takes away any advantage of fast drying, plus you are in the spraying environment longer. Another problem with this rapid drying, for me anyway, is cleaning my airbrush. Water based acrylics, when dry, are waterproof. So as the paint will be dry, in the hardest to get at place in the airbrush, the paint tip, I have never been happy that I can clean it properly.
So my ideal paint would have the following qualities; it would be enamel with a very fine pigment, would dry reasonably quickly, 8-24 hours, (I generally only spray one colour per day anyway). It would be thinned by easily available, cheap, none “own brand” thinner and have a large range of colours matched to the proper standards.
You can understand why I was getting worried, when it appeared that the world was changing, to acrylic paints. So I was surprised and pleased to see a new range of enamel paints on the market, particularly as they are manufactured here in the UK. Well, I guess they’re manufactured in the UK, because the actual manufacturer is a trade secret. These paints are produced for and distributed by White Ensign Models, under the name of Colourcoats.
the Colourcoats range of colours
The large range includes:
Ship colours, for the Royal Navy and Royal Navy late war, U.S. Navy, Imperial Japanese Navy, Kriegsmarine and Regia Marina. There are also modern colours for the Royal Navy, U.S Navy, French Navy, German Navy, Russian Navy, JMSDF and RAN.
Aircraft colours, for the USN/USAAF/USMC/USAF, RAF/FAA/Coastal Command, IJNAF/ IJAAF, Luftwaffe, Modern and WWII Soviet air force. These ranges are expanding.
For the full list, click HERE
The paint is supplied in 14ml tinlets at £1.40 per tin, or £1.19 for orders outside Europe. The ship and armour paints are supplied as matt finish; the aircraft paints are supplied as an extra smooth satin finish “for easy decal application”.
Colourcoats paint is well researched and appears accurate. I don’t own any FS or BS or any S colour chips or references but the colours certainly look right. For me this is what counts and I don’t want toned down, or faded colours. You can quite easily tone down and fade the colours to your own taste, if you are that way inclined. You can’t “unfade” or “untone down” paint. If you can you might as well mix the colours yourself.
It is enamel, there is no actual recommended thinner, although Humbrol, Xtracolour thinners or high quality mineral spirit and lacquer thinners are all suggested as useable. The lacquer thinner is advised to be used 50/50 for airbrushing (more on this later). It can be hand brushed or sprayed. 6 Hours are recommended between coats.
I had reached the painting stage of my Typhoon Mk 1B when I received a number of tins of Colourcoats paints for review. I had in actual fact painted the white areas, for the invasion stripes, using Tamiya acrylic. This was my first time airbrushing this paint and another potential problem with acrylic paint had reared its ugly head. Being unfamiliar with this paint I ended up with a “pebble dashed” surface. This was probably due to thinning with Isopropynol and to high pressure? Could have put me off trying another new paint for the first time.
I know from correspondence with John Snyder, of White Ensign Models, that the formula of Colourcoats is the same as Xtracolor, but a satin finish to alleviate the problem of slow drying, so there should be no surprises. I decided to use my normal cheap white spirit for thinning (the last time I bought some, it was 99p for five litres). I use an eyedropper to measure paint/thinner, for Xtracolor I start with a 50/50 mix. This is how I started with Colourcoats, but it was to thin, so I added another dropper of paint. This is the mix I used for all the painting I have done using Colourcoats, i.e. 2:1. For spraying more complicated mottling type camouflage, thinning the paint, slightly more and lowering the pressure still further should give excellent results.
The first colour to be applied was the Medium Sea Grey on the undersurface. I used about 0.5 bar pressure (about 7psi?). I sprayed at a distance of about 50-70mm, (2-2 3/4”. The coverage was excellent and the paint went on smoothly giving the extra smooth satin finish, as advertised. Because of the time at which I was able to spray, I went to bed before 6 hours was up. I did however take a look, before going to work the following morning, and the paint was dry, certainly to the touch. I masked off the underside, after work, using Tamiya tape. The following day I sprayed the Ocean Grey, same mix but slightly less pressure. This was so I could practice for the freehand demarcation that was next. For the Dark Green I added a couple more drops of thinner and turned the pressure down a little further. This allowed me to get in close 5-20mm (1/4”-3/4”) and draw in the demarcation. The big test for me was if the flow of paint was maintained. Yes it was, I could even put my airbrush in its holder, to take a rest, or take a new grip on the model, then just carry on. This is unheard of with acrylic paints, where, even if you just stop the airflow, you will likely need to clean the tip, to get it started again.
I can’t categorically state that Colourcoats paints dry, when using white spirit and spraying, in 6 hours. However I tested hand brushing, without thinning and applied the second coat after 6 hours, without any ill effects. As paints are well thinned, for airbrushing, this would suggest that, when airbrushing they would dry in the suggested re-coat time of 6 hours. I personally leave paint at least 24 hours, before masking anyway. There are a couple of ways to make enamel paints dry quicker. One is to use lacquer (cellulose thinner). With Xtracolor paints I would recommend its used 50/50 with white spirit (this is what is meant by the statement on lacquer thinner, above). Using this mix the paint will certainly dry much quicker. However Cellulose thinner is expensive which defeats the object of wanting to use a cheap thinner. It would be fantastic if you could have the advantages of enamel paint with the quick drying properties of acrylic. Well it is possible, since the discovery of Rustin’s Driers, (maybe Japan Driers, in the US?) To confirm that this works, with Colourcoats I added 5 drops to a 2:1 mix of RLM 65 and painted the underside of my Dornier Do 17z. I checked after 2 hours and the paint was dry, it was likely dry much quicker than this.
Next, I wanted to test the claim that the “extra smooth satin” finish made for “easy decal application”. Now I don’t know about you but to me this means “decal ready” without actually saying so. Understandable, it’s not gloss and everyone says “you must have a gloss surface on which to apply decals”. In actual fact what you require is a sufficiently smooth surface, just that a gloss surface is guaranteed to be smooth. I applied an old decal to the wing of the Do 17z, over an intersection of 2 panel lines. I used Mr Mark Setter and Softer. The decal conformed to the surface, with no problem. The only real disadvantage that I could see was that the residue of the setting solutions would be a little harder to remove than on a gloss coated surface. Personally I always add a couple of hand brushed coats of Klear (Future) before applying decals anyway, even when using Xtracolor.
Colourcoats enamel paints do everything you could want from model paint. The best way I can sum them up is by saying that, until disappearing off the model scene, Compucolour paints were the best. Colourcoats remind me of those paints. Will I switch to these paints? Well if the range continues to expand and the quality is maintained, then yes. Keep watching the on-line builds and aircraft forum, I will be using these paints for all my next projects.
I recommend these paints unreservedly, if you are finding it difficult airbrushing those mottle schemes or undecided which type of paints to use, try Colourcoats. All normal panting precautions apply.
Thank you to White Ensign Models for kindly supplying the review samples.