Tamiya Lacquer Paints
While Tamiya has long been a producer of acrylic model paints, they have recently entered the market of bottled solvent-based paints with a line of lacquer paints with the new “LP” prefix heading. As of this writing, there are 80 listed “colors” of lacquer paints in the Tamiya catalog, but that total includes such items as Thinner, a Flat Base, 5 Clears plus a Clear Yellow, Clear Orange, Clear Red and Clear Blue, 6 Blacks and 4 Whites. The colors are not labeled with any other specific description, such as US FS (federal stock) number or Luftwaffe RLM number, although the “pearl”, “mica” and metallic colors are primarily directed towards automotive modelers. The complete chart of available colors is available at the Tamiya website, and is being added to regularly. The paints come in 1/3 fl oz (10ml) bottles, the same as their acrylic line, compared to the 1/2 fl oz Model Master and 1/4 fl oz small bottle Testors enamels.
My review colors included two primaries, Pure Blue and Pure Yellow, plus two IJN naval colors, Kure Arsenal Grey and Sasebo Arsenal Grey, as well as Silver and a bottle of the Tamiya Lacquer thinner. The blue and yellow are gloss colors, as I assume are all of the “Pure” colors. The naval greys are flat and the Silver is a low sheen.
The paint is fairly thin and can be sprayed right out of the bottle, although I found a mixture of around 3/1 paint-to-thinner at 18-20 psi worked well in my ancient workhorse Iwata HP-C airbrush. In my initial tests I used the dedicated Tamiya thinner. In later tests with generic hardware store lacquer thinner I saw no noticeable difference in the quality of the application. All of the colors went down very smoothly. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the gloss colors, even the yellow, covered just as well on the unprimed plastic as on the white pre-painted plastic, although two or three light applications (which s normal for me anyway) provided the best coverage. In the past, I’ve always had to pre-apply a coat of white to any red or yellow painted part to insure a smooth coverage and true color presentation. Maybe that’s all in the past now. As has been the case with most metallics that I’ve used over the years, the Silver went down thin and even after several light coatings imperfections in the plastic showed through.
For test purposes, I color compared the Pure Yellow to Testors small bottle yellow (very close to MM Insignia Yellow) and the Pure Blue to Testors Gloss Blue. I also found that the primary colors mixed well, in this case producing a close equivalent to US Navy Willow Green. Both the flat and gloss colors were brushable, although the flats more easily covered the plastic than did the gloss, but that’s usually been my experience with enamels, too. And with a slighter higher thinner to paint ratio, I was even able to get some very fine lines out of my old Iwata. I was impressed.
It remains to be seen how long a shelf life these paints will have after opening. At this point, the only obvious drawback that I can see for those of us used to working with solvent-based paints like Model Master enamels is the currently limited range of colors compared to what had been a very, very wide range of MM colors, plus the fact that, as far as my research could determine, these paints are still so new that no one has come up with a color equivalency list for FS, RLM, ANA or any other color reference system. Other than specific Japanese naval colors, if you’re looking to directly match something like French Blue or Zinc Chromate Green or Extra Dark Sea Grey, you may have to wait a while longer. On the other hand, these paints spray and cover well, mix easily and the color line is constantly expanding. At $2.50 for a 1/3 oz bottle, these paints are very affordably priced. For those of us used to mixing colors, the currently available range provides a very good start for restocking the paint locker as the supply of Model Master colors quickly disappears from store shelves.
My thanks to IPMS and Tamiya USA for providing my review samples. I’m sure that I’ll be picking up more of these paints.