WWII British Royal Navy Aviation Paint Set

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Company: ICM - Website: Visit Site
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ICM WWII British Royal Navy Paint Set

The Ukrainian kit manufacturer ICM has recently expanded their catalogue to include a range of acrylic paints and varnishes. In this review, I try out ICM’s paint set intended for WWII Royal Navy aircraft.

The set comes in a small rectangular box with examples of the included colors printed on the front and a painting guide for a Royal Navy Sea Gladiator on the back. The set includes five 12ml bottles of paint and one 12ml bottle of satin varnish. The bottles are open-topped (no dropper-tips).The undersides of the lids have a raised ridge that does a pretty good job of keeping the paint from getting on the threads of the lids.

The included bottles are:

  • #1074 Pale Blue
  • #1069 Extra Dark Green
  • #1033 Sky Grey
  • #1022 Burnt Tin
  • #1028 Off White
  • #2002 Varnish Satin

The instructions on the box advise that the paints are prepared for brush application and that they should be diluted with water or thinner 40% to 60% for airbrushing. The paints are thick and I found them to need thinning for brush painting as well. Some paints were so thick that I needed to thin them before I could use a pipette to transfer them to my airbrush. I added a little water and a steel mixing ball to each bottle to make them easier to shake up before use.

I tried various thinners for diluting the paint. The thinners intended for water-based acrylics that I tried (AK 3G, Vallejo, and Mig) and tap water all work well for this paint. I also tried rubbing alcohol, Tamiya X-20, and Mr. Color Leveling Thinner. These thinners caused the paint to break down or clot.


Since the consistency of the paint straight from the bottle is thick and varies from bottle to bottle, I can’t give exact thinning ratios for airbrushing. Each paint will require some experimentation. Once thinned down, these paints work as well as other water-based acrylics. The paints level out well as long as coats are not too thick. I found that when spraying free-hand, the edge of spray pattern has a noticeable graininess to it. Varying thinners or adding retarder didn’t seem to make much difference in how well the paint atomized. For spraying a multi-color camouflage pattern, masking would be required. I tried spraying very fine lines and mottles with this paint and found it to be challenging. It was difficult to find the sweet spot between tip-dry and spider-webs. Someone who is used to using water-based acrylics for this sort of work may have better luck than me, but I couldn’t pull it off. Adhesion over a primer is good. I had no trouble masking over my paint samples as I made my tests.Paint will pull off un-primed areas.The satin varnish works well when applied carefully. I tried some wet coats to see what would happen and found that if applied too thick the varnish will have a mottled look when dry.


To test the paints for brush-painting, I recruited a ¾”-tall goblin from my son’s Warhammer game. I painted his skin with ICM’s Extra Dark Green and Pale Blue, and the pistol with Burt Tin. The ICM paints went on smoothly when thinned with water. I also mixed the ICM paints with AK 3G acrylics with no problems. I expect that ICM’s paints can be freely mixed with other water-based acrylics too. The paints are thick, so transferring drops to a wet palette will make brush-painting easier. The paints have good pigment density and have good opacity even when heavily thinned.

Color Selection

Since these paints are marketed for use on WWII Royal Navy subjects, some of the colors selected are puzzling. Typical WWII Royal Navy aviation camouflage was Extra Dark Sea Grey and Dark Slate Grey on the upper surfaces and Sky Grey or Sky on the undersurfaces. Biplanes would have slightly lightened versions of the upper surface colors (Light Slate Grey and Dark Sea Grey) on the tops of the lower wings to compensate for the shadow cast by the upper wings. In ICM’s kit for the Sea Gladiator, the instructions recommend Tamiya XF-24 for Extra Dark Sea Grey, XF-51 for Dark Slate Grey, XF-22 for Light Slate Grey, XF-54 for Dark Sea Grey, and XF-19 for Sky Grey. The instructions on the back of the paint box recommend a single upper surface color of Extra Dark Green, and an undersurface camouflage of Pale Blue. For aircraft with black and white undersides, the white is included but not the black. I can’t claim to be able to judge the accuracy of any paint to represent the colors applied to an aircraft over eighty years ago. Instead, I will compare the new ICM paints to colors those recommended by other manufacturers and the ICM Gladiator’s instructions.

Dark Slate Grey

Compared to Tamiya XF-51, Humbrol 224, and AK Real Colors 294, ICM’s Extra Dark Green may be a good pick for Dark Slate Grey although it is noticeably darker and cooler than the other brands.

Extra Dark Sea Grey

This set doesn’t include a paint that could reasonably match the other manufacturer’s interpretations of Extra Dark Sea Grey. The only gray paint in the set is much lighter, especially if painted next to ICM’s very dark Extra Dark Green.

Sky Grey

ICM’s Sky Grey seems to be a pretty good match to Tamiya XF-19 and AK Real Color RC285 Sky Grey. I would be comfortable using ICM’s Sky Grey on the underside of a Sea Gladiator, so I am surprised that the back of the paint box recommends Pale Blue.

Burnt Tin

The Burt Tin color is useful for painting the exhaust collector of the Bristol Mercury engine that powered Gladiators. It is the only gloss paint in the set and has a slightly grainy look to it, but this seems fine for this purpose. When I built my Gladiator, I airbrushed some Tamiya Gunmetal X-10 along the front edge to get some variation in the finish.

Although these paints are of good quality and I will certainly find uses for them, as a set for painting WWII Royal Navy aircraft, they fall short. If ICM were to drop the Pale Blue color and replace it with a dark grey, the set would be a lot more useful. Dropping the Off White (a color most modelers would already have) and replacing it with a Sky color (a very light gray-green) would make the set useful for a wider variety of Royal Navy subjects. I am very grateful to ICM and IPMS/USA for providing these paints for review


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