In June of 2013, I had the opportunity to interview Alex Vallejo, of Vallejo Acrylics, by email. I had a few questions rumbling around in my head and thought this would be a great way to get them answered and shared with our readers.
James Bella: Let's start off with Vallejo Acrylics beginnings, Alex. When was the company founded and who was it started by?
Alex Vallejo: The Vallejo company was registered in New Jersey, USA, in the year 1965 by Amadeo and Eugenie Vallejo. The aim was the manufacture of water-based acrylic colors for artists; at that time only about three companies worldwide were beginning to use acrylic resins in the manufacture of artistsí colors.
Production began in 1969, near Barcelona, Spain, mainly because starting up a manufacturing process of this kind was easier in Spain than in the US: all the necessary raw materials were easily available, and Barcelona port was at hand for export and import.
Now the company is managed by the second generation. There is a special factor of dedication in a family company, and the know-how acquired in 45 years of manufacturing water-based paints has provided a solid technical background and invaluable procedural experience. We can say without hesitation that we produce the best and most complete acrylic paint assortment in the hobby area, and are constantly on the lookout for new raw materials, new developments in the chemical industry, and constantly updating formulations in order to comply with present and future regulations.
James: Was there any relevant background to starting an artistic paint and supply business?
Alex: Amadeo Vallejo had worked previously in the manufacture of water based inks, and the family had close contact with the big US chemical companies; the information and aid provided by these companies were invaluable in starting up the process of formulation.
James: Vallejo has a very wide range of products right now, what were your first ones that got the company going?
Alex: The company first manufactured colors for animated films (cartoons). In those days, the figures and motions of cartoons were drawn and painted on acetate sheets (which were then filmed, superimposed). Acetate is a difficult surface, oil and solvent based paints could not be used, and the first few water-based acrylics available then on the market were not suitable. The first Vallejo product, Film Color, was exceptional in that it was fluid, opaque, and very thixotropic, it had excellent covering power, extended without sign of brushstrokes, and stayed on the non-porous surface of the acetate, where ordinary paints would flake off.
James: It may be that I pay more attention to your scale model range of products, but it seems that most new releases are in this line. Do you find the modeling world is moving quickly in developing new techniques which need new products?
Alex: We find that modelers are constantly looking for more accurate reproduction of certain effects, and are also more and more concerned with the accuracy of reproducing the exact shade of the original. This brings us to a constant search for better equivalent values in the color range, and better and/or easier ways to reproduce effects of wear and weather.
James: Are all your products, excluding tools such as brushes and airbrushes, manufactured in your own facility?
Alex: We only manufacture colors. Our brushes are made to order for us, following our specifications, whereas we sell airbrushes and compressors mostly for the convenience of our clients.
James: A question that comes up often is the difference between the Model Color and Model Air lines of paint. Is Model Air just a pre-thinned version of Model Color, or are there other factors such as finer pigments and/or other additives in the Model Air paints?
Alex: Model Color and Model Air are completely different, the colors have a different formulation, taking into consideration their way of application. Model Color is tailored for us with a brush. For Model Air, we have worked closely with some of the best airbrush painters to find a formula which will be perfect for use with an airbrush. Please also see our FAQs.
James: How is research performed on period colors, in general, of course. Is this something that is performed in-house or do you rely on outside sources? Is there a lot of trial and error finding the right shade?
Alex: Yes, especially when dealing with WW II we have to rely on information which is, at best, hard to confirm. As is known, the scarcity of raw materials in the European and Asian theaters of war, especially towards the end of the fighting, resulted in many variations of color on all material. Moreover, as an example, one of the experts we consulted visited the Bastogne WWII Museum to try and find the right shade of certain uniforms, but since those on display were more than 60 years old, the colors probably had faded considerably over this period of time, even in the protected atmosphere of the museum, and no exact definition was possible.
James: Some of your model paint range products that I don't see mentioned often are the Gloss, Matte, and Glaze Mediums. Reading through the descriptions of these products they sound quite amazing. As an example, would I be better off mixing the Gloss Medium or the Gloss Varnish with my paints? Or are we talking about two completely different products here?
Alex: They are very different. A medium is different from a varnish, in that it has a formula similar to that of the colors, but without the pigment. A varnish, designed to protect the finished model, is made with a different, much harder resin. You might want to use the Varnish to thin the color, but never the Medium to act as a final protective coating.
James: Some of the products in Vallejo's Fine Arts range look very interesting to a modeler such as myself. Are these products compatible with the Model Paint line? For example, could I use the Polyurethane Varnish over Model Air paint?
Alex: Yes, our products are compatible, and in case of varnishes and mediums, they may be the same.
James: What do you see in the scale modeling future?
Alex: In our case, as paint manufacturers, we see that the present and also the future for model paint products is in water-based colors. We started manufacturing our first hobby paint line in 1992, and since then our assortment has grown constantly in order to offer the model painters the best and safest water-based paints. There is still a large amount of solvent paint brands on the market, and our mission is to show the customers of those brands how they can get the results they are looking for with water-based colors.
The word acrylic in fine arts commonly relates to water-based colors, but there are still many painters in the hobby world who are using solvent-based acrylics; these are very different from our water-based colors, and showing customers how to deal with our paints, how to use them, is our work, and we love that.
James: Turning the tables, as modelers usually want to know what the manufacturers are going to come out with...what would you like to see from the modelers in the future?
Alex: While we continue to investigate and create new water-based products, in our factory and formulations we spend a lot of time and effort complying with REACH and ASTM regulations, as well a EN71 requirements, yet we still find that some product lines seem to be able to find a market without these certifications. We hope that the modelers will be more concerned with quality and environmental protection aspects of the products used, and have them aware of the various certifications and symbols which should be present on the labels.