Wednesday, 20 December 2017

On The Subject Of Materials

I have had a couple of emails about the materials I use, so rather than keep replying to those, I'll write a little here.

First of all, I paint in all scales from 1/6000 up to about 110mm so, I need versatile paints which are as consistent as possible and which are readily available, as well as which have excellent opacity.

I am not and never will be a wash and dip type of painter, because it's pretty lazy and often ugly in my own personal opinion. I also paint 40-50 hours per week and I am on a tight schedule, so performance is very, very important to me.

90% of the paints I use are Vallejo Model Color which I have used since they were first released in the U.K when I was the owner of Dungeons & Starships. I always liked the fact that I could call Eugenie Safranek in person at Vallejo and give feedback and suggestions - and be taken seriously.

I've painted for 38 years now, with almost 2 dozen placings at 1st an 2nd in competitions (there were lower placings, but they were trashed) so I've pretty much run the gauntlet of mediums and brands. In my formative years I used enamels as well as Bobcat and Poly S acrylics, then graduated onto the original Citadel Colour when they were released. Those Citadel paints were never improved upon by GW in terms of coverage, particularly the first two sets.

Vallejo paints were a game changer as they brought the quality of paint my generation were used to, to a younger audience who had thought that the piss poor Citadel ranges of the early 90s were actually good. Conversely, a generation of painters learned to paint to a high standard with inferior materials, making them competent brush-men.

Now I use a mix of the Vallejo Model Color and Vallejo Arte Deco lines as they meet all my requirements and check boxes although I am now importing the paints as I use them in bulk. Yesterday I ordered 350 colours for the 2018 painting year, around 100 of which will probably not be used, but I have them just in case.

I replace all of my paints every December and generally give away the previous set, thus keeping my colours fresh and also allowing for changes to formulation and shades.

I augment this with the Army Painter Quickshade inks, mostly for defining micro armour and weathering, but I don't wash as part of the shading proces as I really do find it to be lazy.

I also keep the Tamiya clear colours and a full set of Winsor and Newton inks which are really only for my own stuff, when I feel like a trip down Nostalgia Lane. You'll not find me using them on contract work.

Brushes are very important to me. I started using Rosemary & Co brushes about 10 years ago,as they are hand made, superb quality and very cost effective. Remember that I always have about 50 brushes on my desk at any time.

I use the pure sable series 92 ultra fine brushes ib sizes 4/0, 7/0 and 10/0 and the red squirrel and nylon blend series 401 in 0 to 2 with a few series 768 flats. The reson that I use the blend of brushes for 'standard' sized tips is that the real hair holds the charge whilst the nylon gives a snap and spring. You can reshape these brushes with 5-10 seconds in boiling water.

I rotate several of the same sized brush at any given time and as with my paints, replenish them annually, with retired brushes going into a brush dump for other modelling jobs. Generally, my brushes manage well over 1000 hours before being retired.

Varnishing is often overlooked. You will reap what you sow and take it from me, I have a real passion for the right varnishes.

I start with either a Montana Gold or MTN94 high gloss anti-uv spray varnish which, brings up the colours, smooths the models and solidly protects them.

When that is dry in around 30 minutes, I use Winsor & Newton Profesional matt varnish again in a spray, which dries superbly matt and which, can be removed if required.

This is not cheap, - none of my materials are - but it is by far and away the best finish you'll get.

I clean my brushes with Speedball Pink Soap every so often which treats the bristles too.

And that's about it. I hope that answers any questions fully.


  1. Thanks for the insight, particularly with the varnish that you use. I’ve only recently started to varnish my models again, following an incident involving a unit of High Elf cavalry and a can of GW’s Purity Seal. I currently brush on two coats of GW’s ‘Ardcoat followed by a brushed coat of Vallejo Matt (I can avoid metallics more easily this way). I do own Windsor & Newton’s professional gloss and matt sprays, but was saving them for vehicles. Might try them on infantry when it’s not quite so humid. Going back and varnishing 15 years of painting output is taking a while...

    What’s the difference between Montana Gold and W&N gloss? Why do you prefer the former, if I may so bold as to ask?

  2. I use Montana Gold as it has UV protection, dries fast and will not react with a second varnish, being of a different type. It is also non-yellowing and super tough.

    It also seals metallics so that you can varnish within minutes of applying them.

  3. Good post Mark, I'll be looking out a few of those product myself to give them a try.
    Seasons greeting to you and yours

  4. Thank you Paul, and the season's very best to you and those dear to you.



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