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Hank Gruben's 1/48 Russian Mig - Airbrushed with the New Vallejo Metallic Finishes

Vallejo Metal Color acrylics

To start, this is going to be an in-depth review. I’ve had the chance to use several different types of this wonderful paint and the black primer on a number of different models and to put it simply, it’s a game changer…

First, this is indeed an acrylic range of metallic paints. It comes in a wide range of colors:

The bottle size is good value for money as the Alclad metallics are about twice the price per volume. The bottles are plastic like the regular Vallejo paints so no worries about it drying out over time. The top of the bottle is interesting as it has a little nipple that allows precise amounts of your chosen paint to be added to your airbrush.
But enough about the packaging… Just how does it work?

Ok, it states that it can be used straight from the bottle. I agree, it can be shot straight but it benefits from being thinned down just a bit. I took a 1/48 SMER Mig 17 PF kit that had been languishing in my pile of unfinished kits (I just didn’t want to fiddle with the bare metal finish) and cleaned it up buy washing it with dish soap, warm water and a soft sponge. I got it grease free and then let it dry for a few days in a warm spot.
I masked the canopy and proceeded to use the Vallejo black primer. This is a better primer then what Alclad came out with when they started their metallic odyssey and to test, I tried it out uncut and at air pressures from 15PSI all the way up to 45PSI… It was thick and clogged up. I started to thin it with the thinner for this range and at 30PSI it became magical… Depending on how you thin this primer, it lays down wonderfully. It ends up being semi-gloss but it’s an even coat with very little build-up. Also, since it’s an acrylic, it has a good working time and self-levels…
Experiment time. After putting on a good, all around coat on my Mig, I proceeded to try to thin the primer with other thinners just to see if it could get any better. My first thought was just plain water and this does work but it doesn’t atomize the primer as well as the thinner. Good if you don’t have anything else… Second was Tamiya thinner. This worked better then water and could be used if again, you do not buy the Vallejo thinner. The rest of the things I tried really didn’t work well at all such as the Model Master acrylic thinner, Future, Lacquer thinner, isopropyl alcohol (varying strengths) et, al. Either it didn’t smooth out the paint to get a good finish or it turned the primer to a semi-solid goo in my cup.
Go with the Vallejo black primer and the thinner.
Next on the test list was drying times for the primer before you can paint over it. If you’re going to do one color of metal with no masking or anything, you can apply the metallic about a half hour after applying the primer… Seriously. Since the paint and primer are of the same composition, it’s just like adding a second coat. If, (and this is important) you plan on masking ANYTHING on your subject, then let the primer dry 24 hours minimum.
Remember the fun we all had with other, earlier brands of acrylic paints? Masking would either take off some of the metallic sheen or make lines where the tape was or more commonly, just rip the carefully laid paint right off the model? I’m happy to report that if the surface of the model is clean and you let the primer dry, it becomes as tough as nails… I even had some of my wife’s famous ribs, handled another model and then primed it and the primer still stuck tenaciously to the plastic…
Back to the project. I wanted to simulate the oxidized aluminum look of a soviet era jet with shinier panels and darker, heat-stained areas at the rear. I used Vallejo’s 77.706 white aluminum, 77.702 duraluminum, 77.707 chrome and 77.723 exhaust manifold. All were shaken vigorously and my Paasche H airbrush cleaned and pressure set to 30 PSI.
The nipple system on the bottles is great. Unlike Alclad, you’re not pouring the contents out, just squirting a few drops at a time. For those that measure out drop per drop vs. thinner, this is great. So first was the white aluminum… thinned that with the thinner at a ratio of 10/1 and it laid down smooth and shiny… I noticed that as the paint dried, it turned more into the oxidized aluminum color then when I first applied it… it’s a really great color for old, weather-beaten jets. I let this sit in a warm spot overnight.
Next I painted the little things like the tanks (duraluminum) the tailpipe and such… All the Vallejo metallic were the same consistency and reacted well. I did note that if you thin the paint down too much it spiders and is a little hard to apply but this is a matter of just getting used to it… it is after all, a water based paint and you are applying it to a polymer primer.
After 24 hours, I set about masking all the panels and ports that needed to be picked out. I used Tamiya tape, scotch tape, 3M masking tape, Maskol and silly putty applying each to various areas… Cutting and burnishing some, all as I would with regular enamel paint.
Adding new paint onto the first white aluminum coat was simple and fast. The granular fineness for this stuff is on par with Alclad so the results are similar as well… I was surprised that the chrome was as shiny and deep as Alclad’s chrome… and without the smell! Yes, you need to wear a mask to hold back the particulate from coating your lungs but I’m very happy to not have Alclad fumes everywhere in the house…
Long and short, every masking type worked. Even the 3M masking tape couldn’t pull off the base coat of White aluminum once it had cured. I was left with all sorts of panels in different hues and brightness’s… I even mixed some Tamiya gloss black with the exhaust manifold color and it mixed great… and just to be cocky I tried some Tamiya reds and blues too with good results…
Now, Vallejo makes a gloss coat for this metallic line of paints. Most every paint company does… After letting the finished model sit for yet another 24 hours to cure, I experimented with gloss – I tried Alclad acrylic gloss, Alclad Enamel gloss, Future floor wax, testor’s enamel gloss coat and the Vallejo product. All were very similar in appearance once the product was on the model… The only difference was that some are harder to apply then others. It’s your pick as to what you want to use – just make sure you’ve let everything cure sufficiently.
In finishing, let’s go over the good and the bad points:
The Good:
⦁ Its acrylic. Technically, it should be a less toxic product.
⦁ It has good packaging and is user friendly.
⦁ The primer is solid and well formulated.
⦁ The thinner is effective and easy to measure out.
⦁ Very good price point on all products.
⦁ The metallic paints are consistently high in quality and cover well.
⦁ Drying times are good for a water based paint.
⦁ Brilliant finish, just like the enamel based products.
⦁ Even without a clear coat at the end, you can mask or decal.
⦁ Plays well when mixed with other water based acrylics.
The Bad:
⦁ Its acrylic. You still need a mask to keep out particles.
⦁ You need the primer. No buts about that. The metallic paint needs something to tooth into.
⦁ You can’t just use it straight from the bottle… It needs thinner
⦁ It’s finicky about air pressure no matter how it’s thinned. Lower pressures produce spatter, higher pressures dry the paint before it hits the model and clogs the tip. Limited to between 25 – 35 psi.

Another note, I like to produce chipping effects on my models… Once it’s cured (primer and paint) you can use pretty much any other technique you like. Salt, masking fluid, hairspray (in moderation) and painting over top is pretty bullet proof as well. Your mileage may vary but this is a good series of products and at half the cost of Alclad, worth experimenting with.

-Hank Gruben,
Model builder, airbrush artist in residence at The Hobby Centre since 1985.

NOTE: See the model pictures and other great build on our Pinterest Site. Click HERE.

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