In the modeling community, we often pay more for a product than what we could for a non-modeling specific product. Like buying Tamiya Extra Thin when it can be substituted for something like methyl ethyl ketone (MEK). This isn’t a perfect example as it’s not exactly the same stuff, but it’s close enough for this comparison.
A 40ml bottle of TET can be found for around $5 plus shipping (unless of course you live near one of the ever fewer local hobby shops that still exist). A 32oz can of MEK can be found for about $10 at just about any hardware store. So you can get 23x the amount of solvent for $5 more by buying a “generic” version.
Paint is really no different.
Now, I’m going to preface this by saying that when it comes to special modeling colors, i.e. RLM colors for German aircraft or most Federal Standard colors, buying specific modeling brands are well worth the cost. You’re just not going to find the right colors in a generic spray can.
What I’m really talking about here are basic colors, or in my case, a color that I’m probably going to use one time with the day-glo orange on the SAAF T-6.
I’m at the point on the Texan where I need to start thinking about how I’m going to paint the thing. This is the look I’m going for.
The aluminum skin is pretty straightforward but the orange areas are a color that I’ve never used in my modeling history, nor do I ever really see myself needing it again.
My original plan was to get a bottle of Mr. Paint’s Luminous Orange (MRP-194).
But then I thought about it. For me to order these bottles of paint, I’d be spending almost $20 for the paint and shipping. They really are the best model paints out there and are well worth the $7 per bottle cost, but here, I decided to cheap-out.
In my younger days I had used decanted Krylon spray paint as a way of making my limited money last a little longer. I decided to give a can of their Fluorescent Red Orange a look.
Let’s see what Krylon is made of…
I went on their website and pulled up the MSDS for my specific color, which is item number 3101. The first thing to note that it is flammable (obviously) and a carcinogen, so you’ll want to take some precautions when using it. Basically, keep your work area well ventilated and wear a protective mask.
Once we get past the introductory information, we can take a look at the composition. Its top four ingredients, by weight:
- Acetone (15%)
- Propane (12.75%)
- Butane (12.25%)
- Xylene (11.51%)
Acetone and Xylene are both solvents that can be found in modeling glues, so it will eat into other paints, as well as styrene, if it’s put on heavily. Propane and butane are used as propellant. We could go into a deep chemistry lesson and really study these individual compounds and see how each affects the paint, but it’s really not important. It’s just important to know what’s in it so we have an idea of what it will be compatible with and how it may affect other paints and our plastic.
So now that we’ve looked at the basic properties and chemical makeup of Krylon, lets take a look at how we’ll use it as a modeler.
Decanting – The first thing that we need to do is get the paint out of the spray can. Spray cans are great for big projects, but for scale models, the best way to use it is out of the airbrush. We need to decant it. Decanting isn’t a hard process, but it can be messy. You’ll need an empty jar, some duct tape, a straw, and your can of paint. I also like to wear nitrile gloves to keep paint off my hands, but they’re not necessary.
Stick a piece of duct tape over the jar opening, poke a hole in the tape with something pointy and push the straw into the hole. Then just spray the paint through the straw and into the jar.
Once the paint is in the jar, you’ll probably notice that it’s bubbling a little bit. This is the propellant that is still mixed with the paint separating into the air. If you close your jar tightly now, you’ll notice when you open it that there is some pressure in the jar. You should put the lid on loosely until most of the gas is out.
With the paint out of the spray can, it’s ready to be used.
Thinning – The main solvents used in Krylon are also found in lacquer thinners, making them the best option for thinning (if needed). I like to use Mr. Leveling Thinner as its retarding properties allow it to go down smoother than the straight Krylon.
It is possible to spray without thinning as it is already thinned in the can, but it tends to go down dusty, out of the airbrush, without the MLT.
Clean-up – As with thinning, lacquer thinner can be used, but Krylon seems to be a bit stronger than what plain lacquer thinner can handle and it likes to stick in my airbrush. So I clean it up quickly with acetone, back-flowing some air through the nozzle with it in the cup, then flush my airbrush with lacquer thinner. The needle and parts that you can actually scrub clean up just fine with lacquer thinner.
I did a little bit of painting on my mule to get come up with my conclusions. I also used the mule to get an idea of how the fading will look with certain colors (sections B and E). The layers are listed below, in order, from the primer to the top coat.
- A – Mr. Surfacer 1500 Black base coat, Krylon 3101
- B – MS 1500 Black, Mr. Paint Marking Yellow, Krylon 3101
- E – Tamiya Fine Surface Primer, MRP Marking Yellow, Tamiya X-22, Krylon 3101
- F – Tamiya Fine Surface Primer, Krylon 3101
So there it is. As I said in the beginning, it’s not really a substitute for most modeling colors, but there are times when it can be used, especially if you’re in a pinch and need something fast. And by going this route with a color I’ll probably never use again, I saved myself $15.