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Painting: Good Techniques, Good Results

Painting: Good Techniques, Good Results

At AMMO, our primary goal is to help modelers achieve their best results whether that is through the products that we produce or by explaining techniques. Great painting results cannot be achieved, however, unless you have a good foundation and understanding of some basic principles. In this tutorial I will point out a few common mistakes and then explain a few good painting habits that will help you achieve excellent results using AMMO acrylic primers and paints.

The first step in any painting session is to be sure that your paints are thoroughly mixed by shaking or stirring the paints within the bottle. This step is so critical that AMMO is now adding a small metal ball into every bottle to aid in the mixing process.  (Found in the Yellow Cap Bottles)

 

Of course when we have completed building our models we are excited to begin painting and so we begin painting right away without proper thought or preparation – and the results are often poor. In this photo I have replicated many common issues that modelers experience when painting and will describe why it happens and what can be done to prevent it.

• Air Pressure – Most modern air compressors can be adjusted to regulate the pressure to your airbrush. In this photo my compressor is giving me 50psi of pressure which is a lot and leads to a loss of control over my paint flow (too much paint) and my paint pattern (too wide of spray). 
• Splatters and Spidering – This is a common result of too much air pressure. Even a light tap of the airbrush trigger will result in a large amount of paint being distributed all at once. The splatter is made worse by holding the nozzle of the airbrush too close to the surface in an attempt to control the width of the spray pattern.
• Too Heavy of Build-up – Again, the high air pressure is a contributing factor here. But, now we are also seeing the effects of surface tension or the contraction of the paint when it is applied upon the slick plastic surface – much like combining oil and vinegar. This is a common problem when using acrylic or water based paints; the solution is to first lay down a primer layer before the paint.
• Paint Separation – Again, the primary result of the surface tension between the untreated plastic surface and the water-based paint.

So now we know that we are facing two obstacles to a nice paint job, (1) Too much Air Pressure,  (2) Surface Tension from the untreated plastic. First, I begin by regulating my air pressure using the bleed-off valve on my compressor. For this demonstration I have set my pressure at 18 PSI, you should experiment to find what pressure works best for you based upon type of equipment that you use. Now we are ready to apply a primer layer – here’s how we do it and why we do it;
• Light First Coat – When applying the primer it is very important that you build in layers. The first layer is just a VERY light spray, just enough to tint the surface.   Allow this first layer to completely dry before continuing with a second layer of primer.
• Breaking the Surface Tension – This first layer is working hard right now to break the surface tension that develops between the slick, untreated plastic surface and the water based paints. Primers are specially formulated to break the tension and adhere to the surface, but to do their job they must be applied in thin layers.

 

Once the first layer has dried I am able to apply a second primer layer. This second layer can be applied a little heavier for better coverage. Keep in mind that the purpose of primer is simply to prepare the surfaces for paint, so light coverage is preferred so as not to build-up too much thickness and obscure surface details.



Above, I spoke about how the primer is necessary to break surface tension at the initial stages between the plastic and the paints. Equally important is that the primer layer is a matte finish, providing an ideal surface for the paints to adhere thus increasing their durability. In this example the primer process finishes with the third layer. You can see the smooth, overall coverage while the surface details are very much still evident. 

 


Now with the primer in place and the pressure lowered it is time to paint. I am using an Iwata Dual Action Airbrush; note the distance of the airbrush nozzle to the surface is approximately 3” inches for an overall spray. I will move my nozzle closer to the surface when applying fine lines and details.  As with the primer, I will work layer by layer to achieve full coverage.

 


It looks like a mess, but by doing a test on a piece of material you can make sure that you have the proper settings for the type of paint and equipment that you will be using –  and for the work that you are doing.  In this case, I can see that I have enough pressure to achieve even coverage overall in a broad spray pattern. I also see that my pressure is set to a point that allows me to move in closer for finer lines and detail work.  A nice balance.  
I can tell that the matte finish of the primer is working well as the paints are sticking immediately where applied, no splatters or separation.  AMMO paints are designed to dry with a satin sheen which can be seen reflected in this photo.  The satin sheen is ideal and recommended for use with the AMMO enamel weathering products.

 

Another important reason to use a good primer is the fact that many models are constructed using a number of different materials; plastic, resin, photo etch, string, foils, etc. Primers are especially necessary in these instances to unify all of these varieties of surfaces for the decorative paints.

 

 
 In the “old” days, primer came to us in one color- grey. But no more!  Now primers are available in a variety of colors which is very helpful in that not only can we get good surface preparation, but we can also begin the painting process by laying foundation colors that will complement our final finish. Because the Me-109 will have a lighter colored camouflage pattern finish, I have chosen to spray the fuselage using a white primer as this will not conflict with the light camo colors. However, with the T34 I have a much darker and more aggressive pattern in mind so I have chosen to use black primer in order to help pre-shade and emphasize the shadows.

 

 

Still using the colored primers, the panel lines on the Me-109 are airbrushed. Panel line shadowing is not new, but being able to do it at the primer stage ensures that our shadows are at the deepest layer of coverage. On the T34 I am getting a little trickier and have chosen to highlight certain panels and edges using the yellow primer. The contrast between the black and yellow base coloring will add subtle visual interest to the final presentation.

 



The green color is applied in thin layers, slowly building the color. I intentionally stop before achieving complete coverage over the primer layers. As you can see, even at this early stage the black and yellow primer layers have added subtle shading and color interest over the entire model.

 

For reference, the scale of this model is 1/48th.  As a reminder, my pressure is at 18psi, same settings as was on my test piece.  I continue by adding the narrower camouflage stripes to the T34 without difficulty – the adhesion is good, no splatters and no surface tension problems.


Finally, I add a little bit of quick color to the Me-109 fuselage. A light layer of grey color overall does a nice job of fading the panel line shading into the background. Again, note the contrasting satin sheen along the top edge.

Rick Lawler

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Comments (7)

Post By Oswaldomom   |   Sun, 5 Mar 2017
*Hello. \r\nI need to contact admin. \r\nThank you.*
Post By Javier   |   Sun, 4 Dec 2016
*Con este tipo de pinturas e imprimaciones acrílicas se pueden hacer maravillas. Hay una gran diferencia. Yo las utilizo en mis proyectos/A>.\r\n*
Post By Deividas   |   Mon, 11 Jul 2016
*I am facing problem, when i try to panel wash model painted with ammo acrylics using ammo wash (enamel based) , my basecoat starts to get sticky and comes off...*
Post By Paul Cummins   |   Sat, 31 Jan 2015
*do you have any advice for tip dry problems\r\n\r\nwhen i am doing fine detail (like ww2 german camo on 1:100 vehicles) im finding the ammo paints - even the yellow caps - a nightmare for tip dry.\r\n\r\neven watering them down (using ammo thinners) to the point that they run off the model, I cant get a fine line for more than one line without taking the nozzle apart.\r\n\r\ntamiya works fine, but the colours just are not as good.\r\n\r\nany advice?*
Post By Sergio   |   Sat, 13 Dec 2014
*Pues eso, que no se ve nada, solo el logo :(*
 
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