Which Paints?

CNE1899 Nov 30, 2020

  1. CNE1899

    CNE1899 TrainBoard Member

    Hi All,

    I posted this on "The Inspection Pit" but received only on reply.

    I did a search for this and came up with no specific thread. I did come up with some comments here and there through out threads.

    I am just getting started in Z scale, but have not painted a model since the 70s.
    Z scale being so small,I wondered if what might apply for the bigger scales, might not apply here.

    I think I want to brush paint my scratch built steam locos because of all the piping, pumps, tanks, and other tchotchkes. I was reluctant to paint first, then glue at this scale, but I am open to suggestions.

    If airbrush is the way to go, I'll have to reacquaint myself with my old (70s) Badger.

    The other question was, what black do you use given the brand you like. Some brands have different types of black.

    1.Brands preferred.
    2.Brush or airbrush.
    3.Assemble then paint, or the other way around?
    3.Best black and silver.

    Thanks in advance for the input.

  2. Zscaleplanet

    Zscaleplanet TrainBoard Supporter

    Welcome aboard. I can tell you this, that working in Z-scale is the ultimate challenge in patience, and my personal goal is achieve realism that some are achieving in say HO-scale, but down to the Z level. I think everyone on this forum has that same mindset, based on some of the incredible work I have seen others on this forum putting forth.

    Here are my opinions:

    Re-aquaint yourself with that Badger airbrush, or even get a new one that you feel comfortable with. But working in Z-scale requires that you employ multiple tools. In some cases, airbrushing will only yield the desired results (such as that loco body), whereas in others cases brushing is the way to go.

    Case in point, for all of the mixed material building kits I do, were basswood, cardstock, or non-plastic materials are in use, I use a brush and acrylic paints for a more realistic look. I use APPLE BARREL or FOLK ART acrylics available at Wallymart for as low as $0.50 a bottle. Color selection is OK, but you have to get creative.

    If the kit is in plastic or metal, then I break out the airbrush and use enamels. My preference is TESTORS enamel paints, as I have been using them since I was a kid. But others like TAMIYA paints. Some paints you see mentioned on this forum like Pollyscale or Floquil are no longer available, unless you can find them at a local hobby-shop still, but doubtful. Maybe still available on Ebay.....

    And in regards to availability, even TESTORS is discontinuing some of their lines. So I suggest grabbing an assortment if you can. Every time I am in HOBBY LOBBY with the Mrs., I try and pick up a bottle of paint and pull up their 40% off coupon on my phone. This will help you achieve a nice inventory just in case they elect to shutdown your state, at least you'll have something to work with.

    In regards to "assemble then paint or not", that is based solely on the subject you are working on. In some cases you have to do both. For building kits, I usually brush paint them before cutting them from the tree they are housed in. The loco you are working, might be best to spray the entire assembly flat black first, then delicately hand brush the lines after the fact, with the flat black acting as a primer.

    Speaking of primers, many on this forum are partial to TAMIYA'S FINE SURFACE PRIMER. I just picked up my first can the other day. Will start experimenting with it soon.

    Lastly, before you paint that loco, practice, practice, practice. For example, take a 3/4" piece of PVC and build a simulated steam loco boiler. Glue on some plastic sprue similar in size to your current piping and lines, and then shoot it with your airbrush as a test bed so see how and where the paint loads up, etc. Also experiment with thinning the paint, applying multiple layers, etc. Again, practice, practice, practice. Z-scale is too expensive to screw up!!! (n)(n):D
    bostonjim and CNE1899 like this.
  3. CNE1899

    CNE1899 TrainBoard Member

    Thank you very much for a very helpful and insightful post! Just what I was hoping for.

    The locomotive I will be painting is a CNJ 0-6-0 camelback.
    I posted a thread on this build.

    Kurt Moose and Zscaleplanet like this.
  4. Mr. Trainiac

    Mr. Trainiac TrainBoard Member

    For locomotives, I think you have to go with an airbrush. Any brush strokes will look massive in such a small scale, you need as smooth of finish as possible, which is only really possible with an airbrush.

    1. Brands Preferred: For railroad-specific colors, Tru-color has a lot. Badger does too, but those can be hit-or-miss in the quality department. They are usually very thin and have a tendency to bead up. Tru-Color and Scalecoat are both good railroad paint brands. For black paint and 'stock colors' though, you could go with any brand. In terms of pure performance, Tamiya is my favorite. You can shoot straight from the bottle without thinning and it covers very well and very smoothly (but it is still flat paint).

    2. Airbrush for rolling stock and locomotives (or any styrene or metal for that matter). Wood absorbs the paint, so brush strokes are less visible on that medium. Sometimes you may still need to hand-paint some small details. Airbrush the body color first, and then come back with a hand brush for the small stuff. The best paint for brush painting is Vallejo. It will self-level, so it looks pretty smooth. They have lots of military paints, so us railroaders can only use the basic stuff like black, white, buff, etc. It is good for small stuff that doesn't justify getting out the airbrush, like painting seats in car interiors once you get the base coat on.

    I am not a big fan of spray cans. Some people use them for primer and stuff, but I think it sprays on too thick. Tamiya and Testors have some lacquers that aren't that bad, but those are acceptable since they are designed for models. That hardware spray paint is way too heavy-duty for the thin coats we need on models.

    3. Assemble and then paint, unless the part is a separate color, then you may need to install it at the end. That way you don't get glue on top of the paint, and it improves adhesion. Gluing over paint means the only thing holding the parts together is the strength of the paint bonded to the surface. It also allows you to use filler and CA glue without frosting over paint. I remember the first kit I built with an airbrush needed seams filled in, so I would have to repaint it anyways once I added the filler. That taught me 'build then paint'.

    4. I guess I already answered that in 1.
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  5. Zscaleplanet

    Zscaleplanet TrainBoard Supporter

    Ahhh, nice! I will look for the post and read up on the build. Well I would say that is a prime candidate for air brushing and I am assume you can disassemble it to some degree.

    Now, there is a product MICROSCALE makes called "Micro-Mask", which they claim is like a liquid masking tape:


    Model car builders use it to mask off areas they do not want painted. I have a bottle, but have yet found the need to use it. In your case it could be used to cover some of those lines, so you retain those mixed metal colors, etc. You simply brush it on the surfaces you do not want painted, then afterwards use a toothpick or similar to lift the Micro-Mask off.

    Also keep in mind, in Z-scale, surface prep is crucial. The slightest gap, indentation, or pinhole looks a baseball sized issue in Z. So well work spending that extra time to prep the entire subject prior to painting.

    Oh, assuming you know this as well, but keep in mind you fingers carry oils and grease and contaminants to the surfaces. Make sure your subject matter is clean and free of any of these contaminants prior to painting.
    CNE1899 likes this.
  6. marmot

    marmot TrainBoard Supporter

    On the topic of paints in general, this might be beginner knowledge but I've learned that you're supposed to stick with the same type of paint throughout any layers (enamel, acrylic, or lacquer). And lacquer has recently bitten me on a couple things, such as lacquer seems to not be compatible with Shapeways 3D prints. The first layer took about a month to dry. So I don't think I'll be using lacquer anymore.
    rray and CNE1899 like this.
  7. CNE1899

    CNE1899 TrainBoard Member

    Mr. Trainiac, marmot, Lance,

    Thank you for your input. This is one of the reasons I join these websites, to learn from others.

    There are always new things to learn.

  8. rray

    rray Staff Member

    I found Tamiya paints are good on Shapeways models, especially if yo use their spray primer first.
    CNE1899 and bostonjim like this.
  9. ddechamp71

    ddechamp71 TrainBoard Member

    Just a small experience with painting Z scale trains. Indeed no more than painting an undec AZL GP38.

    -A 50/50 mix of thinner and Humbrol enamel paint.

    FCCM GP38-2 2.jpeg

    bostonjim, Kurt Moose and CNE1899 like this.

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