So confused,my head hurts!

After a twenty year break , now retired I am getting back to armor,now only doing Vietnam era.what gives me a headache is stocking up on paints and understanding them,I was old school (Polly) only ,dabbled a tad with enamels and oils, I don’t understand tamiya acrylic enamels, as I hear using lacquer thinner,I just don’t get it .I’m using water and alcohol,like I did with pollyS paints,which way do I go,or is my stupidity getting the best of me.

Well the Tamiya ‘Acrylics’ are a bit weird- certainly not water based like most acrylics are. The best thinner for them is their own X-20A- that will give the best results but you can use water to thin them- it’s best to use water if you are brushing them on. However, I find Tamiya does not brush well at all. I would suggest trying out a different brand of acrylics for brush painting- Vallejo are a good choice.


Yes,there are lots of options,for airbrushing Tamiya acrylics,hardware store lacquer thinner works best for me.Vallejo acrylics hand brush well,but they must be the Model Color Line or Panzer Aces.
Mission Model acrylics hand brush nicely too.

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Acrylics VS lacquer. If the oder is not a problem and you have a good vent, go with paints that you thin with lacquer. They will go on smooth. If you do not want the oder go with acrylics. Tamiya acrylic thinned with Tamiya laquer sprays really well. However you may have to mix your colors. Life Color is a good acrylic with a wide range of colors. Use their thinner.

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Hi Karl, I and a lot of guys might debate that, particularly those of us in high temperature humid climates. If you want a smoother stronger finish with Tamiya acrylics, Tamiya Lacquer thinner, especially the one with retarder, gives you much better all round results than their X-20A. Many people will say Mr Hobby Levelling Thinner is the overall best thinner for Tamiya acrylics.

John there are a lot of brands these days and certain people have their own favourites. It depends on how you want to use them though. Tamiya acrylics are not the best for brush painting, but air brush well. Vallejo are great for brush painting, but can result in tip dry when spraying, etc.

There are a lot of youtube videos out there, where people demonstrate the various brands. I suggest you look at a few of those and build up your own opinion based on your own style and needs.


@petbat - I didn’t know that. I do keep both the Tamiya thinners at my airbrush booth but have never used their lacquer thinner with their acrylics- I will definitely be giving it a go now!

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It’s not just Pactra or Testers anymore. It’s got complicated and all. Dang, you need a degree in chemical or materials engineering. My humble advice is try Tamiya, Life Color and maybe a couple of others and stick with the one that behaves best for you. If you both brush and spray, that may reduce the choices to just a few brands. Don’t go and use 15 brands, you will always be chasing after a rainbow then. Find a brand and master it.

It doesnt have to be Tamiya LT,any quality LT from a hardware store will do,much cheaper,especially for cleanup.

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I thank you all,so tamiya can be thinned with water and lacquer thinner,as of now I have tamiya acrylic,testors acrylic,testors enamels ,some Vallejo,and few basic armor colors from let the experimenting begin,

I do agree, try one brand and stick with it. I use Vallejo. Tamyia I wouldn’t use water with.

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You need to be cautious as some hardware store lacquer thinner can be very harsh and has been known to destroy seals and O rings on cheaper airbrushes.

Each to their own of course, and no disrespect to you and the many other guys that use bulk purchase thinners, but personally I just don’t get the concept. You pay big $'s for a kit, maybe some more on after market bits, buy a model specific primer and a paint that is $ per ml, hugely expensive… then risk it all with a cheap and possibly highly volatile thinner.

As I said, this is my personal comfort zone approach and nothing against you guys at all. Clearly it works for you, so all is good in the world…


I went through the same :slight_smile:

My only recommendation is: stick to one type of paint, and as few branches as possible. For me the paint type is enamel, and the branches are Humbrol and Alclad II.

The consequence of not choosing a single type/brand is endless “suffering” in finding the correct thinner for every paint type, understanding how to airbrush/paint them all, be aware which paints will “fight” previous layers of other paint types and lead to modelling disaster, …

I, for instance, never managed to do anything decent with Vallejo paints, while others think this is faboulous paint. So your choice of paint is very personal.

Currenlty, many go for acrylic paint because it is supposed to be healthier, and I also have a few bottles lying around that I still use for details, smaller parts or cockpits.

I always spray with a mask on, and I am building a spray booth. And very important, I have at least a week between airbrush sessions to let the paint cure completely before airbrushing the next color.


I kind of agree to this. I limit the cost by sticking to one brand so I have only one bottle of each color and only one type of thinner in stock. If I look at the stock of paint, thinners, washing liquids, … of friend modellers I often wonder how much money they have sitting idle on their shelve


No offense taking,I agree with that sentiment in some things I always use the Vallejo thinner and glow improver,and I never use Future,only modeling clears.Everyone has their own vomfort zone

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I suggest the Tamiya yellow top thinner of 92% alcohol. I mostly use Vallejo acrylics for paint brushing as you can use distilled water to thin those as Tamiya does not do well for that.

That is exactly why I tossed the Vallejo bottles I had in the dustbin (and that was a very isolated event, I never throw modelling things away).

With Humbrol or Alclad, just put some paint in the airbrush, for humbrol with a good amount of thinner, and spray… With Vallejo I had to experiment with so many drops of flow improver, and so many drops of thinner, perhaps a bit of retarder and … and I came to the conclusion that designing paint wasn’t my job (also because I sucked at doing this :slight_smile: )

After having spent weeks on putting a kit together I want the risk that a temperamental paint ruins my effort to be minimal :slight_smile:

Still, I see models at shows that effectively prove that Vallejo is great paint… for those able to handle it.

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Not to mention the fact – and it will happen – you’ll find that the paint you have that you need to add to your base paint to get the shade you want is a brand that’s incompatible with your base paint.


I am one of those people, for airbrushing Tamiya paint plus Mr Color Leveling Thinner is about as close to me-proof as possible. The issue is it brush paints like crap in my hands; every once in awhile it responds well and it must be atmospheric as it’s the exact same mix that didn’t work the previous time. I am a fan of sticking with 2-3 brands and building a comfort level rather than jumping around is even the same type of paint (acrylic, lacquer, enamel) has different chemistry with different manufacturers and can behave differently. One thing that I have done that seems to help is I prime up some cheap sheet styrene (like signs from the hardware store) with Tamiya rattle can primer and then run tests with a new to me brand of paint. Get a bottle of any non-metallic from the line, their suggested thinner (usually doesn’t matter but sometimes matters a whole lot!) and test it with airbrush and paintbrush. That then becomes a reference for me for that paint line. Using Vallejo acrylics as an example; I can’t spray them well at all. Others can, I’ve tried in tests and can’t pull it off consistently so in my mental spreadsheet they are off my list for airbrushing. It doesn’t mean it won’t work in your hands, so spending 5-10 bucks to find out can save you a lot of headache.

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A different perspective -
I’ve been modeling in some form since the 1960’s. Used all sorts of paints. For the past 10 years I’ve only use acrylics. I suffer from chronic migraine and cluster headaches. So I need no smell stuff.

About 18 months ago I switched to 1/35 AFV modelling. That bought about a change in the paints I wanted/needed. Google and YouTube helped but confused me more. Seems everyone has an opinion and a favourite. I also started from scratch with airbrushing. (Oh I tried airbrushing back in the last century but!!! ). In the end I decided to settle on Mig Ammo. No real reason apart from a consensus of users on the internet. ie it suited my needs. While I like Mig Ammo I hate their primer with a passion. Airbrush issues from hell. Then I need colours for a project. Those colours were available from AK. So I purchased the colours along with some AK primer. Happy days. AK has proven to me that it wasn’t user error. Well not all user error! Now I’m a happy little Vegemite. (Australian slang).

moral? Not all paints suit all projects and/or users. In my case I hit pay dirt after just 2 brands. My advice is to try as many as possible and not just go with what is deemed popular.

FWIW one of my ‘best’ airbrush jobs was with out of the tube, cheap, artist acrylics. Go figure.

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Whilst I do use Mig Ammo almost exclusively, mainly because it doesn’t need thinning, it just goes straight into the airbrush - i’ve found that recently, particularly as I get to the end of a bottle, that if some coloues aren’t thinned, they very quickly clog the airbrush nozzle.

I’m now getting into the habit of pre-mixing my paints in my good old medicene measure cup with thinners to prevent this.

I used to have to do this with Tamiya acrylics, and i still possess practically the whole Tamiya colour range, but the reson I switched to Mig Ammo was because it was easy to pour from the bottle straight to the airbrush cup and there’s little waste, unlike Tamiya bottles. now, i’m not so sure I wont switch back.