Thinning Paint & Varnishes

For paint-brushes, airbrushes, finger-painting...

Thinners for Airbrushing

One of the major problems I have had and hear about with others revolves around thinners for paints or airbrushing. Because acrylics tend to dry quickly, they can clog the airbrush or dry on the needle tip. Now, lacquer thinners eliminate this and work well with nearly all acrylics. However, you need good ventilation. Of course, I always recommend a primer to help paint adhere.

  • Vallejo Airbrush Thinner (new version with green label)
    • My main thinner for acrylics
    • Works well with anything, even Tamiya
    • They also sell an Airbrush medium, which is a retarder
  • VMS Airbrush Thinners 2.0
    • Works well for acrylics, great bottle.
    • I've noticed more tip dry with this one than Vallejo
  • Ultimate Airbrush Thinner
    • Another fantastic thinner for any acrylics
    • Seems to cause pigment separation from some paints, like Tamiya
  • Mr. Leveling Thinner
    • Lacquer thinner for Tamiya and Mr. Color paints
    • It's extremely strong. You WILL NEED good ventilation and a respirator.
    • For less odor, use Tamiya's Lacquer Thinner is similar, but you'll still need a respirator.

Is a Varnish Needed?

Finally, you may want to consider a clear coat for models. I say "consider" because it is NOT a necessary step. Some folks swear by them, others swear at them. But these days, I try to avoid varnishes as much as possible. Consider the following:

  1. Varnishes are only as strong as the paint layer beneath them.
  2. Varnishes do NOT help with decal adhesion and may hinder it if applied poorly.
  3. Gloss in particular is harder to apply smoothly.
  4. Varnishes will change the color of pigments.
  5. Dead flat/matte varnishes will kill color contrast, especially work with oil paints.
  6. Some varnishes do offer UV protection.

In other words, think about what you want to achieve. Different sheens add a lot to a model, which varnishes completely defeat. So, it's important to think about why you would want to use one, rather than sticking to a clear coat as part of your routine.

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