After spending many hours building a model, the painting stage is a crucial one in the process of creating your masterpiece. Be it a simple out of the box Jeep in single Olive Drab, or a fully tricked out tank with Photo-etch, resin and interior with a complicated Camouflage, the paint job will be the difference between a stunning replica or a 'that looks nice dear' model. Whilst there are many different types of paint, the two most popular for model painting are Acrylic (water based) and Enamel (thinner based). Each have their pro's and con's, and the choice depends on many factors, such as drying time, smell, availability and method of use. Enamel paints have long been a favourite of modellers, largely due to their superb covering ability, and the availability of a wide range of colours. Enamel paints are also easy to apply with a simple brush, still the method of choice for the majority of modellers.
Acrylic paints on the other hand have long been the second choice, because the water based paints need a different technique to apply, and are less resiliant to handling than the Enamels. A lack of choice in colours did not help either. For years the largest, and probably the most widely available brand in Acrylics (Tamiya) did not feel the need to address the inherent problems of its range, and this gave Acrylic paints a reputation as difficult to work with. But in recent years the efforts of a number of paint manufacturers has seen a great improvement in both the quality of the paint and the number of colours that are available. Brands such as Lifecolor, Vallejo, Games Workshop, etc. have improved Acrylic paints to such a level that even Figure painters (who for years have sworn by Oil and Enamel paints) are starting to paint with Acrylic paint.
Lifecolor Acrylic Hobby Colors
Lifecolor paints are manufactured by the Italian company Astromodel, and come in a vast range of colours, many of which are matched to the original specifications or against colour swabs (were available). The increasing range includes paints for both Allied and Axis and spans across the modelling range from Aeroplanes to AFV's. The various colours can be bought separately or in themed sets which contain six bottles of paint. The paint can be thinned with either its own brand thinner or with simple water.
German WWII Tanks Set 1
The subject of this review is set no. CS-01, which contains six colours for German camouflage schemes. The set is presented in a rather nice small cardboard box with a top opening hinged lid. The individual bottles are secured in cut-outs in a cardboard insert. There are some basic instructions (in four languages) on how to use Acrylic paint and how to clean your chosen equipment. There are no indications as to what subjects the paint should be used for. The lid has a photograph of a Tiger tank model, presumably painted with Lifecolor paints, and a list of the colours in the set complete with colour samples.
There are the three 'staple' colours for post 1943 vehicles as well as three Desert colours.
- Dunkelgelb RAL 7028
- Rotbraun/Schokoladen Braun RAL 8017
- Olivgrun RAL 6003
- Gelbbraun RAL 8020
- Sandgrau RAL7027
- Grunbraun/Gelbbraun RAL 8000
a closer look
Lifecolor Acrylic paints come in a plastic bottle which contains 22ml. The consistency is quite runny straight from the bottle, but as with all Acrylic paints it's best to decant the required amount into a suitable container or bowl and thin it with Lifecolor thinner or ordinairy water. Lifecolor advise against using any other thinners and from my own experience I agree. I tried Tamiya thinner once but that resulted in the paint 'curdling'. I use ordinary tap water to both thin the paint and clean my (air)brushes afterwards and that gives good results. Like all Acrylic paints, the best results are achieved if you apply multiple layers of thinned paint.
Lifecolor paint is very easy to work with, thanks to good covering qualities and strong adhesion. Unlike some Acrylic paints, Lifecolor can be applied straight to the surface of the model and won't wipe off at the merest touch. The consistency of the paint means that it needs little stirring before it's ready for use and the wide bottle opening means that you can stir it easily if required. It also allows you to use the paint straight from the bottle if you are just using it to touch up a few parts. Like all Acrylic paints, it dries very quick, enabling you to paint over a previous layer within minutes
The (perceived) accuracy of paint colours remains a subject which will attract much debate and argument. One fact that must always be remembered when discussing 60 year old paints is that there is no such thing as 'one definitive' correct colour. Yes, there would have been a specification for the manufacture of the paint and the way it should be applied, but there are many reasons why different batches of paint would have had a different shade of the original colour. Military vehicles are (re)painted in a wide variety of circumstances as well, from workshop resprays to rough on the spot touch-ups with a brush. Factor in wear and tear in the field, and the result is a very wide variation on the original. .
Whilst on the subject of colour matching, there is only one minus point to this particular set and that is the colour representations on the box top. The Dunkelgelb on the box top is nowhere near the actual colour in the bottle, which is much lighter than it is shown on the box. The other colours are near enough to give a fair impression. The photos show my own 'colour match' cards, which I like to use to compare identical colours from different brands that I have, to decide which one to use for a specific project. Comparing the three 'staple' colours to the reference chart in Steve van Beveren's book 'Modelling the Panther Tank' (Osprey publications) shows the Olive Green to be a very good match but the Chocolate Brown misses the Reddish hue. The Dunkelgelb is a bit light but looks good after it has been weathered.
I have been using Acrylic paints for many years and have tried most of the available brands at one time or other. Like most model painters, I have preferd brands for certain jobs and whilst some paints are great for coverage, they may not be very good at brush painting. Colour matching varies widely between brands as well. Lifecolor paints avoid most of these problems because they are equally suitable for hand brush painting as for use in the airbrush. They cover very well, even without primer and when heavily thinned, and dry to a good matt finish. When dry the paint will also stand up extremely well to handling without needing a varnish/matt coat to protect the paint. Clean up afterwards could not be easier, if you clean the airbrush immediately you only need to rinse it through with water.
The colours in this set are quite accurate and, having recently painted a Panther with Photo-etch Zimmerit with the Dunkelgelb, are great to work with. I will be using them a lot more in the future. Highly recommended.