Beginner's Guide needed on using acrylics

Discussion in 'Techniques' started by geoff_nicholls, 10 March 2019.

  1. geoff_nicholls

    geoff_nicholls Western Thunderer

    I've seen a few threads mentioning using acrylics. Are they the same stuff as the tubes you can buy in the Works? (or Atlantis or Cass Art) Can you paint a coat of acrylic over say, Humbrol enamel? and vice versa. And sometimes acrylics seem to dry with a satin finish.
    Is there a beginner's guide anywhere?
  2. Pencarrow

    Pencarrow Western Thunderer

    What are you painting Geoff, stock or scenic items?


    This building was primed using Halfords grey primer and then both acrylics and gouache used to finish. All water based and bought from art shops:


    Bottom row used most, top row occasionally.
    Last edited: 10 March 2019
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  3. Rob Pulham

    Rob Pulham Western Thunderer

    Hi Geoff,

    I spray all my rolling stock and plastic coaches with Vallejo Acrylics, they come in little bottles rather than the tubes that Chris uses.


    There is even a range Vallejo Model Air that come pre thinned for spraying but being a Yorkshire man I buy the unthinned Model Colour/Game colour range and thin my own but I do use Vallejo's own thinners after having some of the paints curdle when using Tamiya thinners.

    I mix them to the consistency of milk and they spray really well.
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  4. Pencarrow

    Pencarrow Western Thunderer

    I wouldn't use the tube paint on rolling stock, the finish wouldn't be good enough for pristine stock and I'm not convinced they would spray at all. The paints Rob suggests are ideal for this.

    I'm happy using the tube paint on scenic items, particularly as I don't use neat colour but mix and vary the colours constantly to suit what I want.

    Horses for courses. Hence the question - what do you want to use them on?
    Rob Pulham likes this.
  5. Yorkshire Dave

    Yorkshire Dave Western Thunderer

    I've used both artist's acrylics and Vallejo acrylic paint as pictured both by Chris and Rob above.

    The best guides for using acrylics are produced by the military modelling fraternity and they have many tutorials on You Tube.

    Acrylic over gloss enamel paint does not work as there is nothing for the paint to ahdere to. However, I have in the past used acrylics on a matt enamel finish but never used enamels over acrylics. Now I solely use acrylics.

    I use Vallejo Model Air for spraying locomotives and coaches and have also used thinned Vallejo Model Colour in the same manner as Rob above.

    For priming brass kits I use the Halfords etch primer which gives a good key for acrylic paint. I have also used Tamiya acrylic primer but this is relatively expensive for a small rattle can.

    I sometimes prime plastic kits with Tamiya acrylic primer but in most cases just brush the paint without a primer. I find Vallejo acrylic paints good as they do not leave brush marks.

    For wood kits I just paint the acrylics straight on although some seal the wood with varnish first to reduce it's absorbancy.

    UK railway colours are now available/becoming available as acrylic paints but there is generally no mention on what thinners to use for airbrushing. However, I have successfully thinned Railmatch acrylics with Tamiya acrylic thinners for airbrush use.

    As Chris says 'it's horses for courses' and all depends on what you want to use them on.

    This was airbrushed with acrylics.
    LCD 60.jpg
  6. Pencarrow

    Pencarrow Western Thunderer

    I should add that I've also a couple of Tamiya pots of acrylic which seem to work well. I have a few tins of Humbrol but am not impressed - don't seem to mix well and the tins seem to dry out.

    Haven't used enamels for ages and don't miss them.
    Yorkshire Dave likes this.
  7. Yorkshire Dave

    Yorkshire Dave Western Thunderer

  8. geoff_nicholls

    geoff_nicholls Western Thunderer

    thank you all for the responses, so far. I decided a while back to use a professional service for loco painting, and probably will for coaches. So my questions are about painting wagons, buildings and scenery.
  9. TimberSurf

    TimberSurf Member

    Just been to B&M (UK high street shop), they have artist acrylic paint tubes (big ones) in a wide range of colours for £1.49!
    Brunel Franklin Artists' Acrylic Paint Tube

    I use them extensively on scenic's like:-
    Portal Arch 7.jpg
    Windmill base weathering.jpg Windmill Curved wall panel.jpg
  10. thruxton

    thruxton Western Thunderer

    I think there is potential for confusion here.

    Artist (tube) acrylics are a very different animal to those sold for model, household and spray finishes; try getting an impasto effect on canvas with Valejo.
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  11. J_F_S

    J_F_S Member

    Herein lies a very important point - we tend to talk about "acrylics" as if all acrylics are the same but they are not! As thruxton very correctly says above, the word covers a very wide variety of products to cover a wide range of applications. Just as only example, I guarantee that the "Halfords spray can" referred to by Pencarrow was also an acrylic paint - but not a water based one. I have referred in another thread to the fact that mt full-sized ploughing engine was painted with acrylics 20 years ago - but I would not use that paint (2-pack isocyanate acrylic) on my modesl! (

    So the best thing is to learn from the experience of others and use paints only as the manufacturer intended and never mix different types of product. Water-based acrylics such as the Vallejo are great though they do have the disadvantage that they dry (very quickly) a completely different colour to when they are wet - something I have learned to live with. I also use the Tamiya paints for other applications - they certainly smell nice!

  12. iak63

    iak63 Western Thunderer

    Drying retarders are your best friends with acrylics...
    Use the manufacturer thinners with the paint they do and allow everything to dry rock hard.

    The above is primed, painted and weathered pretty much totally with acrylics...
    I do use artists paint on specific occasions, together with those produced for the modeler.
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  13. michl080

    michl080 Western Thunderer

    absolutely correct. I made my own color charts


    to handle that problem.

  14. michl080

    michl080 Western Thunderer

    seeing my own post I have to say that I am surprised how different the colors look on the screen.

  15. Bristol_Rich

    Bristol_Rich New Member

    Quick question - does the retarder increase the durability of the acrylic paint at all? I prefer to use acrylic to enamel but have found that acrylic ‘wears’ especially through exhibition handling?
  16. iak63

    iak63 Western Thunderer

    Nope, it mearly slows the drying down. In doing so, allowing you more time to paint properly.
    The way to prevent excessive wear I have found is to use multiple, thin layers of quality, matt varnish.
  17. Pencarrow

    Pencarrow Western Thunderer

    I'm still trying to find a matt varnish that doesn't darken the underlying colours. What do you use?