Brushing Vallejo Model Air

My opinion of Vallejo’s products changed radically after using their Metal Color aluminum paint. I like their acrylic putty, but I LOVE Metal Color. The stuff is bullet proof. All of the problems I had with it were due to my lack of skill with the new medium. It really is amazing stuff, for painting metallic finishes on plastic models using a a brush. Nothing else comes close, and it’s a low-odor acrylic! It’s like the invention the electric light bulb, from a brushpainter’s point of view.

Unfortunately, I have never been able to completely remove the foul taste left in my mouth from their signature product line, Vallejo Model Color. Of course, I shouldn’t have put the paint in my mouth, but that’s beside the point. That paint is just horrible for painting plastic models using my methods. Brushmark City with the nearby bedroom communities of Low Adhesion and Lousy Packaging Village.

I don’t hate Vallejo, but I do hate Vallejo Model Color. Long may it rot in Hell.

On the other hand, Vallejo makes another “type” of model paint, called Model Air. One of the damnable things about modern culture is the obsessive need to tell you how to use a product. I don’t know if this is due to marketing stupidity combined with liability (salt to taste) or what, but I stopped shopping at a local art supply due to their endless prying into the nature of the project that caused me to want to buy a certain tool. Look, I don’t want to have to explain what I’m doing to get you clowns to sell me a tool. Shuddup and take my money.

“Model Air” tells you what to do right off the bat. You use this in an airbrush, see? You squeeze the sqeezy bottle and put a few drops in the airbrush like so…I’ll take that sister. Do you have any glass bottles so I can decant this paint into a usable package? No? See ya.

It occurred to me, after seeing what a marvel of science Metal Color truly was, that perhaps I should try the Model Air using a brush. There is no evidence, that I can see, that the label comes with a death ray which will kill you if you don’t follow label directions, I mean, sure, it’s a federal crime, but I can live with that. So I bought ONE bottle of Model Air and decided to do a little experiment. The selection of colors with Vallejo is huge. Too bad none of the colors can be identified unless you buy the paint and brush it out.

So here’s the empty bottle.

I immediately put the paint into a proper jar so I can stir it. There’s more paint in there than you might think. If it works, it’s a bargain at 3 dollars and change for a bottle. You get more paint from Vallejo than a four dollar jar of Model Master Acryl.

WHY is it important to be able to stir the paint? It’s important so that you can SEE what you’re doing. I have to be able to see the paint’s texture, flow and opacity as I stir it and see it on the stirring stick. That’s why the plastic bottles are stupid. If you can’t see ALL the paint and determine the color mix, the opacity and the viscosity of the paint by actually reaching in and taking some out with a stirrer, then you’re not going to have a good time.

So I got some “sacrificial” kit parts (from Heller’s old and honorable–but funky–Curtiss P-36 kit) and put on some paint. I’d say that the results were “mixed” but NOT bad. Not bad.

As it comes from the bottle, the paint viscosity is too high and the paint is too sticky. It also dries too fast. Brushmarks will result. It reminded me of untreated Tamiya acrylic paint. By “untreated” I mean without the addition of Windex window cleaner. Windex makes Tamiya into a usable brush paint. It’s not perfect, but it’s usable. Some kind of similar thinner might work on the Vallejo Model Air, but I haven’t tried to do that yet.

After applying three very thin coats I got reasonable results.

Here’s a good image of the wing.

Coverage not great but I spilled some water on it so that accounts for the worst of it.

Now comes the big question. What makes this “airbrush only” paint? It certainly IS NOT airbrush only. Vallejo Model Air has real potential. Why would anybody say this can’t be applied with a brush? First, they are mindless zombie creatures who only know what their god, the electronic deity, tells them to think.

Possible, but unlikely. I hope.

The other possibility is that they really believe that the only way to apply paint with a brush is to smooth it on. I call it “scrubbing” in a clever attempt to discourage it. Paint like Model Master Acryl, Revell Aqua Color or Xtracrylix can be “flowed” onto the surface using a brush. The whole process is different from the “scrubbing” method. If you scrub Model Air onto the surface, you get poor coverage (which makes sense because you are scrubbing it off). I can live with the poor coverage (just apply more coats) but there are other problems with this method. The scrubbing method works okay for Metal Color because I seldom (never?) need to “draw” a fine line using the metal paint. Using other colors, for a camouflage pattern, requires drawing lines.

I can smooth Vallejo Model Air with a brush and “muscle” it into a reasonably brushmark-free finish. But I shouldn’t have to do that. It should flow, easily, out of a full brush, onto the surface being painted without any force or other encouragement. The reason this is important is those fine lines I mentioned. I need to be able to draw straight lines, camouflage patterns and other shapes without lifting the brush. They should flow onto the surface from a small, full brush without my having to “spread” them out.

It’s like the difference between peanut butter and butter. Soft butter applies smoothly. Sticky, thick peanut butter has to be forced to conform to its buttery grave on toast or a bagel or whatever.

Be like butter, not peanut butter.

Those of you in non-peanut-butter eating countries will have to get some peanuts and grind them up into a paste to find out what I mean.

I’ll wait.


21 Replies to “Brushing Vallejo Model Air”

  1. I am a brush painter like you…the same, but different as i still use enamels. Humbrol HU11 used to be a nice bright Silver until recently when it changed to being a dull grey. Seeing the results you get with Vallejo Metal Colour, I tried to get some from the LHS but they didn’t have any so i got a bottle of Vallejo Model Air Aluminium instead. I put some drops on the wing of my paint test dummy and brushed away. The paint went on smooth and when it dried i was amazed with the result. I test all my paints on my Paint test dummy and it is covered in Matt, Semi Gloss and Gloss paints. The Vallejo Silver dried with a different textured sheen over each different paint type. This would be perfect for doing a NMF. You would just have to paint Matt, Semi Gloss and Gloss paints on different panels and then apply a single coat of Valejo Silver. I can hear you quote Boris Karloff’s monster – Smoke…Good! One coat…Bad! – but if it works it works. Cheers, Texpirra

    1. Very interesting. It’s up to us outliers to test this stuff and find out what works. Lord knows the mainstream establishment won’t do it. Nice job.

  2. Hello Brushpainter,
    I tried your drybrushing method using the Vallejo Metal Color and indeed I believe the results are better than with “wet”paint. One question though, what type of brushes do you use for this?

    On a 2mm sable brush, i found the paint hardly dried on the brush, whereas the brush meant for drybrushing, appeared to leave some marks.

    1. I made a video that demonstrates what I’m doing. It’s here.
      The brushes I use for the Metal Colour are larger than the brushes I use for other painting. I use a number 2 or 4 for most things. Larger brushes are measured by inches in the US. So I use a 3/8″ brush for Metal Colour. The same size I use for Future/Pledge/Etc.

      The fact that the US hasn’t “gone metric” is an old sore spot with me. I spent some time trying to determine what size my largest brushes would be in the metric system and I’m stumped. The brushes actually measure about 1 cm across if that helps.

  3. Thanks for this. I see if I can find some other brushes 5mm – 10mm in size and experiment. Your video is great but it would have been even better if you could show some close-ups of the resulting model!

  4. Hi Brushpainter,

    Thank you for the informative review on V’s paints. I also tried your tutorial of brush painting the Metal color and have had nice results as I do when airbrushing them. I find that airbrushing them often dries faster in my airbrush than on the model. Btw the model plane looks really good.

    The reason I’m writing you is because my compressor broke today after only two years. It’s a Sparmax TC 501N. As I don’t know how to fix it it might become a doorstop.

    So I wanted to ask you what brushes and thinner you’ve used to paint V’s Model Air to obtain a finish without brushstrokes on pieces that were already primed with V’s primer?

    Thank you and have a nice weekend.

    1. A standard eyedropper sucks up 1 ml of liquid with each “load.” If you live in the USA (and maybe Canada??) you can buy a product called “Windex.” It’s a bright blue color (doesn’t affect the paint). It’s available everywhere at any store that sells soap. Put three eyedropper “loads” (3 ml) of Windex in one full bottle of Vallejo Model Air. For a brush, I like a number 2 sable brush. Usually, I find that cheap brushes often work as well as expensive ones. If I had to recommend a brand, I’d recommend Revell brushes– but cheap ones from India work well for me.

  5. Man I really love all your articles. Everyone is telling me Air brushing is the way I should go, but I like the idea of paint brushing better. Unfortunately most of the paints I’ve used are Tamiya’s flats without any thinner, and it is so difficult, I always end up with too many coats to make it look as smooth as possible, but it takes away the fine details ,(panel lines), of the aircraft…hopefully now adding the windex, it should help. If you can send me any videos of you actually painting like aircrafts , I would really appreciate it. From start to finish. Thanks again,

    1. Thanks. You’ll find the Tamiya paints are much easier to use with Windex as a thinner. I am sorry that I don’t have more videos of actual painting, other than this one. I’ll have to make a few of them and see what happens.

  6. thanks for the quick response, I appreciate it! Really enjoy your info, and your way of writing, makes it a fun learning experience.


  7. I saw the video, quiet and short, but interesting, I have a couple of questions…using that Tamiya paint, which are almost all of the ones I have..I am assuming its already thinned with the Windex, exactly how many of the 1ml droppers would you add to the 10ml jar VS the 23ml. and how many coats , (assuming I can get the paint on the aircraft like you did), and lastly how many minutes in between the coats….thanks again.

    1. Uh oh. A tough question. How much thinner goes into the Tamiya paint to make it magical? I think the answer to that is the same one the old wise man always gives to the eager young space cadet. Look within, young fellow. Look within.

      Or you can start with a drop or two and see how it goes.

      As far as time between coats, I’d give it overnight (eight hours?). The new coats will dissolve the old ones, so newer coats have to be applied very fast in a kind of Bruce Lee manner. It takes practice. Revell Aqua Color, Model Master Acryl, Badger Model Flex, and Xtracrylix are much easier and work better. Sooo, I kinda recommend those four brands. The last three (not Revell) can be freely mixed with each other so it’s like using old enamel in that regard. Polly Scale was also this type of paint, but it’s not made any more. If you find some at a good price, get it.

  8. Keep spending bro! If my wife comments on my purchase of vac-formed canopies (essential!) I’ll just point to your comment and say “At least I’m not as bad as THIS guy!” We’re all in this together!

    Also… all spending is RELATIVE. One man’s “tip for the valet parking guy” is another man’s rent.

  9. LOL glad to help! I am a careful spender, but the site i use
    drives me nuts, and makes me purchase more. So far i have 6 undone kits, and like 7 on the shopping cart. I really need to save for retiremnt.

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