Hobby Colors

This post is dedicated to “Hobby Colors” trying to provide historical as well as practical information for the matter in subject. In market today numerous of different type of paints are availabvle, but not all of them can be used for scale modelling hobby. Some of them can be used partially (for applying specific technics, oil paints for wash is an example) when others doesn’t have any practical use.

First was the Hobby Enamels that have been around since 1930.
Testors began producing glue & enamel hobbypaints in 1936 for wooden models and expanded its range of colors through theyears to include military colors with “plasticfriendly” formulas. Pactra released “Military Flat” enamels in 1960.

Due to health & safety concerns, hobbymanufacturers began developing water
based paints in the late 1960. Polly Scale paints first available in 1968 & included military & colors used by gamers.

More detailed information you can find in CaldwellHandouts

Paint Definition 

Paint is any liquid, liquefiable, or mastic composition which, after application to a substrate in a thin layer, is converted to a solid film. It is most commonly used to protect, color or provide texture to objects (source from Wikipedia)

Paint Components 


A pigment is a material that changes the color of reflected or transmitted light as the result of wavelength-selective absorption. This physical process differs from fluorescence, phosphorescence, and other forms of luminescence, in which a material emits light.

Pigments are used for coloring paint, ink, plastic, fabric, cosmetics, food and other materials. Most pigments used in manufacturing and the visual arts are dry colorants, usually ground into a fine powder. This powder is added to a vehicle (or binder), a relatively neutral or colorless material that suspends the pigment and gives the paint its adhesion (source from Wikipedia)


A binder is a liquid added to a dry substance in order to draw it together in such a way that it maintains a uniform consistency (source from Wikipedia) , also called “Vehicle”.


A solvent is a liquid that dissolves a solute (a chemically different liquid), resulting in a solution. The maximum quantity of solute that can dissolve in a specific volume of solvent varies with temperature. Common uses for paint thinners are toluene (Toluene is a clear, water-insoluble liquid with the typical smell of paint thinners) and turpentine (As a solvent, turpentine is used for thinning oil-based paints, for producing varnishes, and as a raw material for the chemical industry).

Additives (Source from Scale Model Guide )

Sometimes manufacturers will include small amounts of additives intended to affect the characteristics of the paint. These additives often explain why paints of different manufacturers behave differently.

Some of the effects of additives are: 
– speed up or slow down drying time
– Keep the pigment dispersed i.e. stop it settling to the bottom
– change the surface texture (make the paint finish more glossy or Matt)
– preservatives
– modify surface tension and improve flow
Retarder is one of the most commonly used additives in paints.
Paint Categories (Source from http://www.hytechsales.com)
These coatings are designed to provide the surface for the finish coats of paint or clear finishes.
Primers seal the surface off and provide a “tooth” for the finish paint, they are used on bare wood and metal, previously painted surfaces that have been repaired or are in poor condition, ( flaking, peeling), or if the existing surface is to be painted with a new color that is much darker or lighter than the existing. Primers/Sealers are also used block out stains like water stains, crayon, smoke, soot, ink and on woods that will bleed through a paint coating, e.g., cedar or redwood.
Primers/Sealers insure longer lasting paint work as the resins in the finish paints stay on the surface creating the “wear layer” as they are designed to do. Peeling and premature failure is eliminated and this is by far the most important part in getting a long lasting, durable finish.
There are two types of paints used today, latex and alkyd. Alkyd paint is also known as oil-based paint. Latex provides an excellent finish, while being an easier paint to use. Latex paint cleans up with soap and water, dries quickly, has less odor, is non-flammable, easy to touch up, they remain more flexible and allow moisture to evaporate through the film thus reducing blistering, cracking and peeling.
Inexpensive latex paints use softer vinyl resins (binders) and more water in the formulation while the more durable of the latex paints use 100% acrylic resins and less water, ( you only get what you pay for). The term “Enamel” is normally associated with paints that have some gloss to the finish. Enamels are formulated with higher concentrations of resin as they are intended to be subjected to more wear and tear. Hy-Tech ceramics enable Hy-Tech to produce flat finish paints that have the same durability as shiny traditional “enamel paints.
The sheen of paint is the amount of light reflected by the surface of a paint finish. There are four basic sheen: flat, satin, semi gloss and gloss.
Flat Paints exhibit non-reflective properties providing a matte finish. This finish helps hide surface imperfections, and is normally used for ceilings and walls in areas not subjected to a lot of wear and tear, dining rooms, living rooms and bedrooms not used by small children.
Satin Finish also know as eggshell finish, provides a soft luster sheen similar to that of an eggshell. A satin finish provides a harder surface finish which is more durable and more stain resistant than a flat finish. This durability makes satin paint a good choice for walls in children’s rooms, hallways, stairways and family rooms.
Semi gloss Paints are very durable, they are easier to clean, and are more stain resistant than satin finish paints. Semi gloss paints are most often used on heavy wear surfaces or areas that are frequently cleaned such as kitchens and bathrooms. Semi gloss paint is also used on wood trim and cabinets.
Gloss Paint is a harder, more durable, more stain resistant paint finish. It is easier to clean than all the other paint finishes. Gloss finishes generally make surface imperfections more noticeable. Gloss finishes are the best choice for heavy wear areas like kitchens, bathrooms, furniture and cabinets, floors, stairs, handrails, high traffic doors and trim.
Paint Types


– Acrylic

– Enamel

– Gouache

– Lacquers

– Oil

– Tempera

– Water Color

We will analyze only the type of paints that are used for scale modelling.

Modelling Acrylics (Source from Scale Model Guide)

Acrylic paints have an acrylic resin binder and use water and/or alcohol as a liquid. They are easy and safe to use, permanent, quick drying and are suitable for brush and airbrush. Currently, they are probably the most popular type of paint used in scale modelling. 
Since acrylics can be thinned and equipment cleaned with alcohol or water they are very user friendly. However, care is needed because they can dry very quickly and when dried are difficult to remove – airbrushes should be flushed with thinner every few minutes of use with acrylics. Most manufacturers produce thinners for use with their own ranges and to be absolutely safe you should stick with these. Water and alcohol will act as a thinner with most paint ranges, but will not always give such good results and it is not always possible to mix acrylic paints from different manufacturers.

Modelling Enamels (Source from Scale Model Guide)

Modelling enamels have an oil binder and spirit based liquid (white spirit or turpentine). Modelling enamels are really thinned down oil paints and can generally be mixed successfully with oil paints. 

Modelling enamels were the first type of paint to be specifically produced for modellers. They were generally offered for sale in small metal tins and the introduction of colors made to exactly match military aircraft and vehicles was revolutionary and welcomed with open arms by modellers worldwide. 
Today, enamels are widely available from many manufacturers in a huge range of colors matched only by the ranges of acrylics available. Like acrylics they cover well and produce a durable finish. They are not as user friendly as acrylics because they have to be thinned with spirits that are inflammable, toxic and smell bad, but this disadvantage should not be over emphasized. Providing the room is well ventilated there should not normally be a problem. Enamels have the advantage that they are slower drying and even after they have become touch dry they can be softened again and removed with spirits which makes them less stressful when used in airbrushes.
Modelling Lacquers (Source from Scale Model Guide)
For modelling purposes, a lacquer is distinguished from other paints by the solvent used which is cellulose. 
This makes it very different from other types of paint and gives it the following characteristics: 
 – Highly toxic and very strong smelling

– Fast drying

– Very flammable

– Hard, durable, shiny finish (although some flat lacquers are available)

Because lacquers are very fast drying, highly toxic, flammable and very unforgiving they can be a real pain to use. However, they are popular with some modellers. The shiny hard wearing coat is ideal for auto models – particularly radio control which need to survive the real world. Lacquers are also great for realistic metallic finishes and one of the most popular ranges of metallic lacquers is made by Alclad and since full details of how to apply them are on their website I will not repeat them here. 
There is a weird contradiction with lacquer paints and plastic modelling. Cellulose melts plastic, so you might think that you would not want to get lacquer paint in direct contact with the plastic surface. However, there are some lacquer based spray primers. Because the lacquer spray is so thin, it dries within seconds before it does any damage to the plastic surface, but it just has enough time to key into the plastic giving it very well grip.
Oil Paints (Source from Scale Model Guide)

For modelling purposes, oils are almost exclusively used for brush application. They are popular with figure painters because they have a very slow drying time so can be blended giving soft edges. They are also frequently used for detail painting, filters and washes. Oils would not be considered suitable for painting a whole model. 

Oil paints can seem expensive, but good quality oils are very thick and dense so last a very, very long time. With regard to quality, it should be noted that many of the better known manufacturers of oils (Winsor & Newton, Daler Rowney) make oil paints in two qualities. The best quality is always known as ‘Artists’ with the cheaper and inferior going by a variety of names like ‘Students’ and ‘Georgian’. ALWAYS buy artists’ quality, the pigments will be finer, better denser and have greater permanence. 

Water Colors (Source from Scale Model Guide)

Water Colors use a water-soluble carbohydrate as a binder and water as the liquid. They have been traditionally used by artists for hundreds of years. A feature shared with oil paints is that the main manufacturers make them in two grades with ‘Artists’ quality be the best and the one that modellers should stick with. 

The most important feature of water colors is that they never become permanent. Even when completely dry they can be removed and washed away with water. This apparent disadvantage is what makes some modellers love them. They are of no use for painting the main body of a model, but can be very useful for weathering, or applying a wash to show up surface details or panel lines. Provided the model has been given a protective coat of varnish, the modeller can experiment with the water colors in the knowledge that if the finished look is not good, then it can be washed away and they can start again. Although water colors are not permanent, they can be sealed in with a coat of varnish when the modeller is satisfied with the result. In this respect water colors are very forgiving. 

Mixing Different Paints (Source from Scale Model Guide)

The following are general guidelines. It would be impossible to test every brand of paint with every other brand, so it is advisable to do a test before applying any homemade paint mixture to your model. 
As a very general rule, oil based paints generally mix well with each other, water-based paints may mix but care is needed. Never try to mix any water based paint with any oil based paint. Oil and water do not mix! 
Enamels mix well with each other, even different brands and all can be thinned with white spirit or turps. The same applies to oil paints. Most enamel also seems to mix well with oil paints.
All acrylics can be thinned with water although the manufacturers own thinner may do a better job. Some acrylics can be thinned with isopropyl alcohol although the only advantage over the proper thinner is that it is cheaper. Acrylics from one brand may mix with those from another manufacturer; sometimes they will not and will form into lumps. If you really need to mix two brands of acrylics, then do a thorough test first and see how the mixture dries.
Watercolors should be thinned only with water and not mixed with any other type of paint.
From time to time, manufacturers change their paint formula, so even if a mixture worked sometime in the past, do not assume that it will always be so.

Drying and Curing (Source from Scale Model Guide)

Just because paint has become touch dry does not mean that it has fully cured. Acrylics may appear dry after only a few minutes but continue to cure and harden for several days. Paint will appear dry as soon as the ‘liquid/solvent’ in it has dried or evaporated. However, it will not be fully cured and hard until the binder has also dried or set. 
It is normally possible to airbrush thin coats of paint one after another as soon as the previous coat has lost its sheen. Much more care is needed with brush painting when the coats are thicker and the brush may dislodge the previous paint layer. 
It is also important to avoid sealing in a coat of paint that has not fully dried with another coat of a different type. For example, if putting a coat of acrylic varnish over a layer of enamel paint or vice versa you need to really sure that the coat being covered has fully cured.

Hobby Color Manufacturers/Brands

Some available and most common used Hobby Colors in market today:
2      AGAMA
4      AKAN (RUSSIA)
5      ALCLAD
7      CITADEL
13     MODEL MASTER (USA) from Testors
14     MOLAK
15     PACTRA (USA) from Testors
16     POLLY SCALE (USA) from Testors
19     TESTORS (USA)

Reference Color Charts for Modelers (download in PDF)
AKAN Color Chart   (For purchases follow this link: hobbycolours.com)
The reference list of Color Charts will be updated…………
Thanks for looking………………

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