The Lifecolor Experience
It went like this:Rudi Richardson : « You’re going to review a set of paints »Me : « yeah !! »Rudi Richardson « It’s a Lifecolour Diorama Series set »Me : «yeah.. right ».
I didn’t have to search too long in my memory to remember that day when I went to my LHS and asked for a pot of yellow acrylic paint, and the guy behind the counter told me « we’re out of Vallejo, we’ve got some Lifecolor instead » and when I asked whether those were good I was replied with some dubious tones « you’ve got to know how to talk to them buddy ».
And shortly afterwards, I was trying to airbrush a PT Boat funnel and trying again and again. It took me 5 or 6 coats to get something yellowish which prompted me to bury my only Lifecolor experience deep inside my memory and deep at the bottom of the numerous stratums of my hobby lair.
But then I smelled the wind of change. I was told recently that Lifecolor’s paints somewhat changed or more precisely that they set various series to meet the need of different kind of modelers. So okay then, the pot that almost screwed my funnel wasn’t a “Diorama series”, so commercial banter aside let’s give them a second chance.
Rudi I have the choice between what? « Italian World War 2 Uniforms» and « Flesh paint set »? Well I know next to nothing to Italian war colours while I have some flesh on my bones so let’s try that second set.
What’s in the box?
Paints that is. The box contains 6 pots, which are called:UA 707 : Flesh 2nd Light
UA 708: Flesh 1st Light
UA 709: Flesh 1st base
UA 710: Flesh 2nd base
UA 711: Flesh 1st shadow
UA 712: Flesh 2nd shadow
The set is rather nicely presented in a cardboard box that survived the trip from Italy to the United Kingdom, and then to France without being crushed too much. I thought the paints looked quite handsome when I opened the box.
Yet one thing made me chuckle: you’ve got one of those painfully heroic looking Pegaso figs on the front illustration painted –apparently with those paints- by a guy with a name. And obviously the printer did a bit of a mess with the original colours because the figure just looks so weird – at least that’s how I saw it the first time I unwrapped the packet.
On the other side of the packet you’ve got that Italian painter‘s SBS for painting nice figs with that set. Very well, we’ll see this shortly.
Painting a Hornet head using the set.
As all my friends know, I am not exactly the best figure painter in the world. But even worse is the fact that I never ever painted a head using some acrylics before.
As I didn’t have any reasons to be particularly nice with those guys at Lifecolor I tricked the head painting process by NOT undercoating it in order to test the covering qualities of the paint – even worse, I added a Duro beard and hair to a bald Hornet head without priming it either.
I started to mix the base colours by putting a finger between the 2 base pots and realizing that for my own skin, 3 parts of the Flesh 2st base and 1 part of the Flesh 1st base would be quite okay. I had no problem to mix the 2 colours and I realized the covering power of the paints was absolutely excellent.
Then I looked at something on the box which said that you have to use some Lifecolor thinner. And what else? If it ain’t good diluting with water it ain’t good at all I say. So I used water during the whole painting process without noting anything wrong.
But then I had to undercoat the beard too. As all my other paints are Vallejo, I mixed some black and yellow from that brand with a mix of Lifecolor’s Flesh 2nd shadow and Flesh 2nd base and once more it went okay.
First Conclusions: Good covering power; can be diluted with water; and mixed with other acrylic paints brands (at least Vallejo).
Suitable for beginners? Well, there is no way you can escape mixing the 2 base colours. The 1st base is really very pinkish and the 2nd base is certainly too much on the brown yellowish side for Caucasian skins –but I think that 2nd base could do well for Middle Eastern skin colours if you were about to mix a bit of white or black as the colour itself is very vivid
So here we go screening the shadows. If I believe that Italian painter‘s SBS, you apply the First shadow and then the 2nd one. Well I tried and it cannot really work like this.
The fact is that the 1st shadow is very vivid and strong on the yellow side. Honestly I didn’t know how to use that one in the best way, but I thought that maybe under the lips or the eyes a light screen of that colour could emphasize a feeling of exhaustion? Anyway I used it that way. I also added a light screen of that colour on the bottom of the cheeks.
The good surprise was the 2nd base which just proved perfect for everything dark shadow orientated. I used it near the hair, under the eye sockets etc, this colour does the job.
But then oh surprise! How could I paint the rosey parts of the cheeks? And then how could I paint the lips? Lips are part of the skin from what I can remind? Checking at my paints you’ve got 2 pots which are hard on the yellow side, but none on the red side! So I had to create a special mix using the Lifecolor Shadow pots some Vallejo red.
Second conclusion: The 1st base is too hard on the yellow to be used with too rosey tinted skin tones, be careful while using it. The 2nd base is excellent but the set definitely lacks a brown-red colour suitable to paint the cheeks.
The first thing that striked me is how light were those highlight colours. This is why I set up for using the 1st base colour as a primary highlight colour, and here I was right, because It did the job perfectly. After this I just had to use a few screenings of the 1 st highlight and I was almost finished. There was absolutely no problem of lack of correspondence of colours like there seemed to be on the shadow colours.
Finally I found that the 2nd Highlight colour was indeed very light. But with a few careful screenings that pot certainly added a very light something.
Third Conclusion: no problem whatsoever with the highlight colours though I would have certainly swap that 2nd highlight pot for a dark rose colour for my cheeks.
In the end, I thought my Hornet head looked a bit better than what I can do with oil colours so I will certainly be using the set regularly.
I didn’t try to airbrush anything using paints from this set so I can’t comment on that particular issue –after all airbrushing 1/35 figure faces is hardly a widely renown method.
How I Learned to Stop Worrying and rather like those Sets
Honestly I will never ever accept to do a review of stuff I can’t have any use afterwards. So the 2 *real* questions I have to ask myself are:
Question 1: I use Vallejo – would I swap for Lifecolor?
Answer: Swap? I don’t know yet, but I would buy some of their diorama series without any hesitation if the LHS would run out of Valejo. I was honestly impressed by the quality of those acrylics
Quality of the paint set aside there is also one practical thing to consider. On one hand I don’t like the amount of force you need to deploy to shake Vallejo’s pots, on another hand – and compared to Vallejo pots - Lifecolor’s just beg to be overturned and their contents thrown all over the place. Then paint pots with too large openings would tend to dry faster. Only time will tell actually.
Question 2: would I have actually bought the thing? Or would I buy other Lifecolor paint sets?
Answer: I think I would. Especially if instead of trying to cram some dissimilar colours of dubious accuracy and call that “Italian Colours WW2” they would put out some “various red” kind of sets. Those guys at Lifecolor have imagination it seems? Then that would be a good turn.