Pigments - Fixing, sealing or leaving alone?

What is your take on pigments, assuming you use them of course?

Do you use a pigment fixer, seal with varnish or just leave it be? Of the first two, what do you use to seal or fix, was it successful? If leave it be, regrets?


Depends on the effect intended.

For general dust, they should be the last effect and applied on a matt surface, in which case they can stay on their own -providing you do not touch them.

For thicker accumulations, like on tracks, you will need a fixer. It can be non-permanent, like alcohol, water or thinner, or permanent using specific products.

In any case I prefer not to use varnish over them.

VMS has an interesting range of pigments and fixers, with helpful videos that you can check on their website here


I second what varanusk wrote.
Never use varnish to seal pigments. Varnish tends to make the pigments disappear especially when they are a light shade.

For the thick accumulation mentioned above, I apply rather liquid matt varnish where I need pigments. Then I generously apply them over the varnish and turn the model upside down to remove the excess. I do it again till I’m satisfied with the accumulation. However this time I don’t apply the varnish over the first coat of pigments but I use capillarity.

I also use pigments to dust the vinyl tires you often get in many models. I first sand the tires with steel wool to remove the shiny look and then I just brush the tires with pigments. It’s quite easy to control.


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Same here,nothing for light dust applications,for thicker applications I use thinners.i never use any clear coats as that diminishes the effect of the pigments.

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Pigments are always the last step in my model finishing, then I mount the model to a base so that nobody can touch the pigments. Varnishing over pigments totally destroys the effect. Adding a carrier to a pigment gives you paint. Pigments can be used in a number of ways, but don’t put anything over them. Put your model on a simple base so that nobody touches it.

What I like to do is mix the pigment/pastal scrapes in with airbrush thinner on my pallette then apply it. Depending on how thick i want the effect the more pigments I add to the mixture.

Excellent. I thinks we have a consensus and some interesting suggestions!

Thanks all.


Jumping in here on one of my favorite subjects:

I never attempt to “fix” my pigments as that (just like in pastel illustration) tends to make the pigments loose much of their “punch” or disappear entirely.

SIDEBAR: I could do an entire thread entitled "How do you pick up your models?"

I do mostly armor and model railroading so usually my paints are all flats with a final coat of matte clear sprayed on VERY DRY. *(Meaning hold the spray far from the model ~18+ inches~ so the paint falls on the model in a very dry manor giving a matte surface with a nice almost microscopic rough “tooth” surface.

The pigments can be burnished (scrubbed) into this toothed surface for an ALMOST permanent effect! (Yes, if you try very hard you can rub the pigments off.) Here again I would ask how you handle your models? Do you pick up your models; like grabbing a Coke bottle OR do you go in under the front and rear ends with your fingers like a double forklift pickup?

Besides, usually if the pigments are disturbed they can be easily repaired in just a few seconds. (I always take my pastels with me to any model competition in case I have to make a repair and then also repair the weathering after that. ~ Or in case a judge puts his/her grimy fingers all over my model.)

The famous Model Railroader John Allen used to say “Dust is weathering! DO NOT TOUCH my models!” He had certain ways to pick up his models so as not to disturb the “weathering”, I use the same approach with my models.

Some recent work:

Using “dust” pigments to highlight detail in black objects as shown above.
(It’s also great for intensifying rust effects.)

Shifting/fading paint colors using pigments.

Grumbacher “Soft Oil Pastel Set” (still available on eBay) I purchased this set around 1974 and with the exception of replacing a few sticks down through the years this set has handled all my model weathering needs ever since.

NOTE: Purchase ONLY “Soft Artist’s Oil Pastels”. Everything else is just glorified sidewalk chalk.


General model railroad weathering using pigments:
Custom paint and decals shown here.


And yes, I pick up my rolling stock either with the double forklift/finger technique or by pinching the truck sides. I DO NOT touch the car sides.

Here again by “scrubbing” the pigments into a rough toothed painted surface the dust weathering becomes ALMOST permanent - no fixative required. You just need to take some care in handling ~ Which is something I hope you do anyway with your many hard won models!

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As already noted, a fixer can make your dust weathering disappear, it can also affect the color of your dusting, or make it darker. As stated, apply your dusting last, and never touch your model again!! :grin:
:grinning: :canada:

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The pigments and debris on this KV that I am building are held on with AK Pigment Fixer.
I was able to remove the cat hair over the driver’s port with tweezers, even though I somehow fixed it as well. No marks were left on it.


Does that “pigment fixative” seem to have any affect on the intensity/color of the pigments?

If not that would definitely be something I will want to look into.

Pigment fixer leaves it almost identical. Gravel Fixer leaves a glossy finish.

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How do you deal with dust then (the undesirable kind)? I in particular live in a dusty place, so have to dust my models occasionally. I would think dusting them would also remove the pigments!


@gharker Amazing KV Greg, simply superb. I love the debris, twigs and leaves, on another level. What did you use for that?

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Thank you. Seagrass, leafs that I punched out of real dry leafs, dirt and pigments. I also painted the area first with filters.

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Another KV with the same methods.

Mine are in sealed cabinets.

Intriguing…like this punch ?


Can you tell us what you use to treat the leaves etc?

Also, do you use the AK fixer before or after applying pigments? I assume after.