Choosing a Paint System


 By that I mean both the type of paint (enamel, acrylic, cellulose, 2-pack), and the manufacturer. Some claim that different types of paint are compatible, and that there are no issues with using paint from different manufacturers. But, while a lot of the time that may be true – if it’s not, it will mean at best another trip out and/or more expense to get the correct paint, and at worst, stripping or replacing the body & starting again.

The “best” and “worse” scenarios really depend on testing the combination first – but how often do you do that, when you “know”/have been told that the paint won’t react?



I’ve found it much better to stick to one type of paint - I’ve found acrylic rattlecans to be the best for my purposes, they also seem to have the best range of colours & compatibility.

Enamels (at least in aerosol form) seem to be dying out, and come in a much too limited a range for me. Cellulose paints seem to be much less popular than they used to be, so while there’s a still a reasonable choice, maybe they’ll be gone in a couple more years. They also need specific primers & clearcoats (although some brands of acrylic claim to be compatible), which is not a problem if you only use cellulose paints – but I’ve made my choice & will stick with it.

2-pack paints – basically a 2 part epoxy paint that starts curing as soon as you mix it – is not really a viable option in aerosols unless you live really close to the paint factor & have everything set up ready in a very controlled environment... and you can do it all in one hit ...



Manufacturer is another thing to consider. Theoretically, if the type of paint is the same, i.e. “acrylic”, then the manufacturer won’t matter – but the labelling a paint of one type is just an indication of how it the pigment is suspended, and how that pigment bearing compound cures, not a firm commitment to the exact same recipe – propellants and solvents can be very different between brands, which can give rise to compatibility problems.



Tamiya paints (the “TS” range) are fine – and ideal for the fanboy who wants to follow the instructions exactly & come up with an exact “boxart” replica – but IMO they’re also expensive for the size of the can. In the UK they just weren’t available for the best part of two years while Tamiya “sorted out” a “labelling issue”. In the meantime, wanting to get on with various projects, I’d already had to pick another manufacturer, and as I still feel the whole thing was handled very shoddily, I don’t see why I should go back to them.


Tamiya TS paints also have a supply problem (in the UK at least) – go to any model shop and the racks will probably be only 25% full – chances are they simply won’t have the ones you need.

If you buy online from model retailers you’ll discover that while they may have had the paints you wanted as listed as in stock, it’ll turn out that some you wanted won’t be, and the retailer will simply send you the ones they do have, and refund the difference without further explanation. This you’ll find is in the “small print” of their terms & conditions – some retailers are better at pointing this out than others, but it’s still most unhelpful.

If you must buy TS paints, I’d recommend eBay, where theoretically only paints actually in stock will be listed, and sellers know negative feedback is a real possibility if they fail to supply.


Humbrol acrylic “Hobby Spray” paints are another possibility – subject to the same sourcing issues as the Tamiya paints – but come in a much more limited range of colours. I’ve also found that they just don’t come out particularly glossy or dense: the best you can expect is a sort of slightly faded satin look. This can be an advantage in some cases – trucks you might want to look a bit old & used – but in general it’s not.

One advantage they do have is that they can be used on both ABS (aka styrene or “hard” bodies) and lexan ... although adhesion is sometimes rather limited.




Say “car paint” & a lot of people (in the UK anyway) will automatically think “Halfords”.  This does have some merit – a wide range of colours that you’ll see on 1:1 cars.

The only problem is that your average Halfords employee probably won’t even know where the paint is, let alone be able to give you any advice.
Note: I apologise if you’re one of the rare breed of Halfords employees that can differentiate between your gluteus maximus and your ginglymus ;)

Halfords paint prices are actually pretty reasonable, considering the expenses they have to cover (rent for prime retail locations, uniforms, TV advertising, motorsport sponsorship, etc.).  400ml cans at 9 GBP or so are decent value for larger cars, although a bit wasteful for smaller ones, but the primer & clearcoat in the same sizes are less value than some brands.



Moving on (finally) to what I actually use – Hycote – which I mostly buy from Wilco – a much smaller chain of motoring shops across the east midlands & Anglia regions of the UK, where the staff are generally a lot more knowledgeable. It’s also freely available by mail order, and on eBay.

Their 250ml cans at 4 to 5 GBP each, depending on the source, are generally enough for one smallish car. I’d recommend that you buy the bigger 400 ml cans of primer – at 5 to 6 GBP they are much better value.

Due to a couple of recent mishaps involving remelt, I really can’t wholeheartedly recommend their clearcoat (lacquer), it’s ok if you just put on one heavy coat, but multiple light layers aren’t really possible.



Paint for Detailing, Interior, etc

Having pretty much rubbished Tamiya spray paints earlier, it might surprise you to learn that I don’t use anything but their X andXF series acrylic brush paints for detail painting.

I had to give up on Humbrol enamel tins due to the smell, and I’ve the Humbrol acrylic brush paints to sadly be rather poor. The Tamiya acrylics do smell a little of course, but I’ve found it easier to live with. Supply issues are the same as with any other “hobby” paint in the UK, so again I’d suggest eBay.

Whatever you plan to use, I’d suggest some testing of their compatibility is in order – so spray something with your chosen aerosol paints, brush on a few details, you might want to try clearcoating over the top too – and see if you get decent adhesion & watch out for paint reactions.

One final mention for details – black often looks far too dark, and therefore a bit fake & toy like if you use it on a scale model – I’ve used both XF-69 “NATO Black” (more like a very dark grey) and XF-85 “Rubber Black” (more like an exceptionally dark blue/green) & both still look black, just not quite as stark.


Written by TB member Jonny Retro

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