Seeking advice on applying paint correctly and well

  • '16

    I’ve just begun the process of painting my Global 40 pieces. My goal is to paint each of my armies a single, common color. I’d like to ask for some help from the community.

    I’ve collected for years, but I purposely avoided painting. While some of the collections I see on YouTube look good–I’m especially fond of G.I. Joe’s–all the painted pieces I’ve ever seen in-person were caked with paint to the point that they were no longer easily recognizable, or even very appealing visually.

    That said, I have a backlog of clear plastics from 3d printers (HBG and Shapeways), along with unpainted 1:72’s and mismatched colors from HBG’s Battle Pieces line. At some point, I was always going to have to bite the bullet.

    I really admire the weathering style popularized by siredblood and G.I. Joe, so I decided to go for that.

    I opted to follow G.I. Joe’s painting method as closely as I could. I purchased various Rustoleum Painter’s Touch 2x Ultracover Paint + Primer cans, along with some of the Flat Gray primer. I then bought a copy of A&A41 so I could experiment on the pieces in that set. I have not attempted to paint anything other than those OOB pieces yet.

    The primer went on perfectly, and there was minimal, if any, loss of detail. I tried very short bursts from a distance of about 3-4". I was able to get full coverage for my pieces in 2 separate applications, turning the pieces with a craft stick.

    The paints had a very uneven application. Some cans produced a fine mist that seemed to go on well. Others shot tiny gobbets of paint and went on thicker. There is no outward difference between the cans other than color type, although I am using virtually all satins. I did one coat of primer on each piece (spread over two sessions to cover all angles), then two or three sessions of paint, trying to cover all angles.

    I allowed 24 hours for the pieces to dry. Overall, I found two results, both unsatisfactory: either the pieces are so covered with paint that detail is no longer detectable, or else they have many spots where the primer is still visible despite multiple applications. I haven’t tried any staining with polyurethane yet.

    Can anyone help me solve my problems of coat thickness and coverage?

    One friend suggested that these cheaper cans might have applicator tips of different qualities and recommended Tamiya paints for modeling.

    It’s also possible that, given my intention to do some weathering with stain, incomplete coats of primer and paint would be fine.

    Finally, I might be using a bad technique.

    Also, is there any way to remove “failed” paint jobs to try again, without harming the plastic beneath?

    I’d appreciate any assistance very much. Cheers!


  • Hi Trenacker,

    I’ve been experimenting with the same kind of project; solid colors with weathering (the Siredblood, G.I. Joe style). What I found is that Tamiya spray primers and spray paints work the best. The Tamiya Super Fine light gray spray primer is the one to get, it really preserves the details.

    First, make sure you wash all your pieces in warm soapy water-- use degreasing dish soap. Rinse them well and let them dry. Then line up all your units on thin strips of balsa wood or something similar, attaching them with tiny pieces of sticky-tack.

    When you use spray paint, make sure it’s in an environment free of wind, without too much humidity (I wait for days with less than 60% humidity). Please use a painting respirator as Tamiya paints are lacquer based-- breathing in the fumes can be harmful to your health.

    Then spray them with the Tamiya primer (make sure you shake it well and you can also warm up the can in warm water or in front of a small space-heater, this helps it mix a little better and may help get a finer finish, but don’t heat it too much). Spray in thin, even passes going along the line of units and repeat from different angles. Make sure your pieces are spaced out enough so that the spray paint can hit all the little details but not so far that you are wasting paint.

    Let them dry for at least 24 hours. My rule of thumb is that when they stop smelling like fumes, the primer has cured. Then proceed to painting, basically with the same process as priming.

    If you need to remove paint from pieces without destroying the plastic, soak them in Simple Green in a plastic container and scrub them with a stiff-bristle toothbrush. Be careful not to get any of the Simple Green in your eyes when using the toothbrush and it’s probably best to wear gloves. Rinse them off well, you probably won’t be able to get it all off but maybe 90%+…good enough for army work!


  • Also, shout out to Army Painter sprays - they are solid too and I find I needed about 300-400 ml to cover an entire Axis & Allies nation, so the size is about right! These are also a paint and primer all in one, so technically you shouldn’t need another coat. I used their Desert Yellow color for Japan which came out looking really cool.

  • '16

    Thanks, AlphaKappa. Much obliged for the helpful recommendations! I have some follow-up questions, if you don’t mind.

    You’re the third person to strongly recommend Tamiya paints. I’ll go hunting for those this coming weekend.

    I did wash all of the pieces first in soapy (dish soap) water, then let them dry thoroughly. I live in a very humid location and have been spray-painting during a particularly wet week. That said, when I began this experiment, including the painting, it was a warm, sunny day, so the blotting problem isn’t specific to high-humidity days. I do all my spray painting in very short bursts, from different angles, and in quick passes, left to right, right to left.

    I have been quick to paint after priming: anywhere from 20 minutes to 3 hours. I am very satisfied with the Rustoleum Flat Gray primer, which does preserve all the detail I desire, but I will compare with the Tamiya primer, if I can find them.

    I’ll also hunt down the Simple Green this weekend. Sad to hear that I probably won’t succeed with 100% paint removal, but I do intend to try again with the same colors, so it shouldn’t be too much of a problem as long as I can combat some of the bad caking. I have some Soft-bristled toothbrushes I’ll start with.

    Special thanks for warning me about eye protection.


  • @trenacker said in Seeking advice on applying paint correctly and well:

    also hunt down the Simple Green this weekend. Sad to hear that I probably won’t succeed with 100% paint removal, but I do intend to try again with the same colors, so it shouldn’t be too much of a problem as long as I can combat some of the bad caking. I have some Soft-bristled toothbrushes I’ll start with.
    Special thanks for warning me about eye protection.

    How’d it go with the next attempt? You’re trailblazing for me 😉


  • @trenacker
    You can use Super Clean degreaser to remove paint from messed up paint jobs. You can buy this at any auto parts store. It comes in a purple container. Just put them in a jar, shake it up a little, and let it sit overnight. Works amazingly well.


  • @Trenacker
    Low humidity is key. Also, some of the paints the GI Joe uses are easier to work with than others. But they are all workable. Another key is to prime the pieces with the gray primer. This helps the paint adhere better. Practice makes perfect. Use the Super Clean degreaser when you make a booboo.


  • @trenacker
    I’ve been painting some pieces the last two weeks. I’m having trouble with Rustoleum Lemongrass for the UK. The paint doesn’t apply very well. I use Eden for USA, French blue for France, rustic orange for Japan, flat gray for Germany. Lemongrass is just a pain for whatever reason.

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