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Italeri Acrylic Paints - some observations and comments

May 28 2012 at 3:49 AM

Terence Burns  (Login gbooth95)
HyperScale Forums
from IP address

NB: This is a follow-up to comments I posted the other night on this forum, responding to an inquiry by Andrew Gaitan about thinning Italeri's "new" (well, new to me here in Denver)acrylic paint colors. My reply was pretty long-winded (when am I not?), and constitutes "part one" of this review.


According to Italeri all of the colors in their new acrylic paint line have been matched to RLM, RAL and FS standards. Which would be lovely were it not for the fact that the FS colors can't be exactly matched to all Second World War allied or Axis colors. It seems as though almost every bottle in the Italeri acrylic range has an FS number stamped on it, but there is more than one instance in which multiple colors in the range are "matched" to the same FS number! For example, both the "Interior Green" and the "Interior Grey-Green" are referenced to FS 34151, yet neither is close to the actual standard. Similarly, both "Nicciola Chiaro" and "Dark Tan" are purported analogues of FS 30219, and "Dark Earth", "Field Drab" and Marrone Mimetico 2" are all referenced to FS 30118. Clearly, they can't - and shouldn't - all be the same, and in my experience they aren't.

I've compared the samples I made last week to reference standards under both bright sunlight and a full-spectrum incandescent bulb. I only sampled thirty-six colors, including metallics, so my results can hardly be imputed to the whole Italeri color range. Moreover, I don't have an RAL sample set, nor do I have copies of FS 595B or -595C, and there are several greens among the colors I purchased that appear to be additions to the FS color range that post-date FS 595a, so I was unable to compare them to a reference standard.

Some of the colors I tested were just "off". As I noted earlier, both Insignia Yellow FS 33538 and Insignia Red FS 31136 are too bright. The Yellow lacks the distinct warm (red) cast of the standard, while Italeri's Insignia Red is simply too bright, much closer to FS 31302. Likewise, neither of the two "interior green" shades in the range are close to 34151: the "Interior Grey-Green" shade is too bright and too green, while the U.S. style "Interior Green" (Italeri stock #4736AP) is closer, but still too light and too yellow in hue (Perhaps someone can use it as a circa-1041 "Curtiss Green" in an Airfix P-40B).

Others colors were better matches to my available references. Medium Gray FS 36270 was close, just slightly too light, while both the Non-Specular Sea Blue and Non-Specular Intermediate Blue were "in the ballpark", if slightly desaturated (both need a bit more blue to be an exact match). ANA 613 Olive Drab was close to sample, as were Dark Green FS 34079 and Dark Gull Gray FS 36231.

I can't speak to the Regia Aeronautica shades. They "look good" to my eye, but I have nothing to compare them to. I did check most of the RLM shades against the swatches I have on hand, and none but one were really close to standard. That said, all were certainly within the range of acceptability as defined by available RLM colors from other manufacturers, none of which really match the references exactly either! I will say that the Italeri RLM colors were definitely "in the ballpark" and would look just fine applied to a model, though all appeared too light when compared to available "full scale" standards. The RLM 74 Graugrun and RLM 75 Grauviolet, in particular, seem "off" to my eye. I even tried tinting them for application to a model this weekend, but when fully cured the contrast in value between the two is still too stark. I will give Italeri kudos for their RLM 02 Grau, however, which is pretty much dead-nuts right on (which comes as no surprise, since Vallejo's Green Grey 70886 is also very, very close to sample and considered to be a good match for 02, and the Italeri shade is only ever so slightly darker than the Vallejo).

I should add that while I'm not a "Color Fascist", I am probably a "Color Tory", although I'd probably be classed by my fellow party members as a "Wet", since I think there's enough variance in manufacturing, environmental, and weathering conditions that aircraft colors - particularly those from earlier eras - fall into a "range of acceptability" where precise hue, value and chroma are concerned. Time and distance do change subject, and references can vary: I have at least seven sets of RLM colors, and none of them match each other exactly, either. So while I do believe that most of the Italeri colors I tested certainly fall into the "that looks about right" or "close enough" category, I was still left feeling mildly disappointed about the accuracy of some particular shades.

In the last week I've had a chance to experiment with brush painting the Italeri Acrylics, and I can report that they share the virtues of Vallejo's Model Color line. They require a bit of thinning - again with the Italeri thinner and water or with water alone - for hand brushing, but they brush very well. The paint exhibits he same excellent self-leveling qualities it did when airbrushed, and it dried in about the same amount of time (15 minutes or so to be dry to the touch, several hours to cure to a final finish). The Italeri colors, again like Vallejo, seem to take a bit longer to dry than many acrylic paints, which makes them very useful for brush painting small details as the paint doesn't "set up" on the brush before you can get it to the part you're painting. It's further aided by having a high solids content so if, say, you're painting a yellow throttle handle in an Me-109 cockpit that has already been sprayed black-grey, you can get a good, opaque coat of color in one go by applying it un-thinned. Over larger areas, though, the Italeri colors require thinning, and lighter colors are probably best applied over a white or light grey primer. On my test samples I was able to apply subsequent coats within less than an hour after the first, with no tendency to soften or "lift" the earlier layers; again in contrast to many other acrylics.

The Italeri acrylics do cure to a smooth, durable finish, but they are not as "hard" as most solvent-based paints. They cannot be sanded to a feather edge, as they lift and tear.

I tried the clear coats this weekend, and am happy to report that the clear flat is excellent, and the clear semi-gloss leaves a nice, smooth low-sheen finish. Both applied easily and dried quickly whether thinned with Italeri's thinner and distilled water, or distilled water alone. The semi-gloss does take several hours to cure to a hard finish, however, and so remains somewhat "soft" for some length of time after application. But I'll definitely be adding these two to my armory for future use.

The clear gloss was a disappointment, however. Now matter how I thinned it, or whether I applied it in thin coats or heavier "wet" coats, it really didn't dry to a glossy finish. When fully cured, the samples I sprayed had only a little more sheen than did the clear semigloss. By way of comparison, I over sprayed some Italeri flat black today with clear coats from other manufacturers to test compatibility, and the Testors' Glosscote, Floquil Crystal-Coat, Humbrol Clear Gloss, Tamiya X22, and Future all left a much glossier finish (and with no adverse reactions with the paint, I should note). Maybe I got a bad bottle, or perhaps I did something wrong, but for now I'm putting the clear gloss in the same category as the gloss silver: I'd leave it on the rack.

I used three of the colors in my sample set to shoot paint on a couple of models this evening (RLM 75 and 74 and Dark Gull Grey on an Me-109 and an FM-2, respectively). Using the thinning formula I described in my earlier post, I was able to very quickly put down smooth, solid coats of color with no trouble. I did encounter some very minor difficulty with tip dry, although I easily cleared it each time by flicking the trigger then shooting a blast of paint through the airbrush onto a paper towel. Adding just a small blob of Vallejo retarder seemed to alleviate this somewhat, which helped greatly when spraying fine feathered demarcations on these 1/72 scale models. I was working in close to the models (less than 1cm), so I reduced pressure to about 12 psi, and while I didn't get any "spiders" with this pressure I did get a bit more overspray onto the adjacent colors than I would have liked, so I probably should have added a few more drops of distilled water to the mix. As I was working over surfaces painted with acrylic lacquers, I was able to clean some of the overspray off using a q-tip dampened with Windex, though I will still have to do a little retouching later. The first coat on the Me109 was dry to the touch within fifteen minutes, and I masked the wings and tail just thirty-five minutes after spraying the RLM 75, yet when I was finished the tape (Tamiya yellow) pulled away without damaging the Grauviolet. I am generally pretty pleased with the result, though I think I still have to adjust my methods somewhat, and fine-tune the thinning a bit more for close-in work.

I've had mixed results in the past when working with acrylics: Polly Scale, Xtracrylics, Aeromaster, and Lifecolor have given me fits, alternately delighting and frustrating me, while Tamiya Color and GSI's Mr. Hobby Colors have been the model of grace and ease. I grew up with solvent-based paints, and I still find enamels and lacquers easier to work with and more consistent in their performance when airbrushed than many acrylics. I can shoot pencil-thin lines all day with Tamiya Color or either of GSI's paint lines cut with acrylic lacquer thinner and never, ever worry about "tip dry", and so they've been my paint of choice for several years. I don't think it's likely that Italeri's water-based acrylics are going to change this, as their range of colors is fairly limited, I have concerns about the color fidelity of some shades, and they're comparatively expensive. But I do think that the ease with which they brush out (which stands in stark contrast to many acrylics, even GSI and Tamiya), their high pigment content and opacity, and their inclusion of some "unusual" shades - like the Regia Aeronautica colors - means that they'll find a place in my paint locker.

This message has been edited by gbooth95 from IP address on May 28, 2012 4:17 AM

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(Login Aidanduddy)
HyperScale Forums

Outstanding and much needed review

May 28 2012, 6:09 AM 

Thanks Terence. Comprehensive and informative review. Bought a couple of pots to try from LuckyModel. After a brief, unsuccessful attempt, always meant to revisit with all permutations of "variables" Was hoping they would be a success because they appeared cheaper by volume than most of the competition. Unfortunately there is a dearth of paint and supplies in rural Ireland with the majority coming via post from the East!Great job again.Aidan

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Bob Sigman
(Login NozzleZ)
HyperScale Forums

RAL Color Fans

May 28 2012, 8:11 AM 

You can purchase RAL Color Fans for $22 plus postage from Hiroboy. Look in the Zero paints section.

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Andrew Gaitan
(Login Kaibutsu)
HyperScale Forums

Thanks again Terence! n/t

May 28 2012, 4:16 PM 


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Shane Weier
(Login sdweier)
HyperScale Forums

Another observation

May 28 2012, 6:45 PM 

>It seems as though almost every bottle in the Italeri acrylic range >has an FS number stamped on it, but there is more than one instance >in which multiple colors in the range are "matched" to the same FS >number! For example, both the "Interior Green" and the "Interior >Grey-Green" are referenced to FS 34151, yet neither is close to the >actual standard.

Not at all uncommon though. The FS is pretty much useless to describe colours that aren't actually Federal Standard colours. Yet modellers repeatedly as for the FS number of RAL, BS, Japanes, Italian and for all I know Outer Mongolian paint colours.

It's very common for modellers to instead quote a colour as "Approximately FSxxxxx" so it's hardly a surprise that Italeri is quoting the nearest FS shade on multiple dissimilar colours - since the FS colour may indeed be the "closest" match to more than one shade.

I suppose they should print "Approximately FS 34151" on the bottle, but I dare say the bottles would need to be larger!


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Dale Summers
(Login ohohsaith)
HyperScale Forums

Acrylic paints

May 28 2012, 11:29 PM 

I have been using a large variety of acrylic paints and have had little problems with sanding a feathered edge, I just use a little Alcohol and it does it fine. If while you might have problems with the labeling and color inside the bottle, try Vallejo or Citadel paints because they have a large variety of color variations so you can almost get the exact color you need. Citadel "Base" colors are great for coverage over dark plastic, using the White base makes it very easy with few layers, and being thick they flatten out very well. I use exclusively "Ethyl Alcohol for thinning and cleaning the brush and have no trouble at all with it mixing well with any of the many acrylic paints. The only paint that I have had minor problems with is Mr. Color, but if you use their thinner it works fine.

Tamiya and Lifecolors do have the tendency to soften the lower layers of paint and sometimes pulls up these lower layers leaving holes and depressions in the paint, and sometimes pull up when masked, but are very easy to clean off with windex.

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