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A newbie "oils vs acrylics" and "tube vs liquid" question

Discussion in 'Just starting...' started by Darren, Oct 22, 2020.

  1. Darren New Member


    Recently joined and after years of avoiding figures when building models, I've decided it's time to try this black art :)

    I currently use a mix of mediums - acrylics for airbrushing and some painted details, enamels for wooden boats and some painting, oils for weathering effects. Plus pencils and pastels when needed. So I'm not afraid to use what's most appropriate.

    I'll preface this by saying I did a search on my questions and went through quite a few posts without finding a definite or consolidated answer. Feel free to point me to something I missed.

    With mostly military colours in my drawer, I need to add some true and broader options for figures. Down the rabbit-hole of options, brands, types, etc I go...

    I appreciate oils vs acrylics is a personal preference. I feel oils, even compared to using a wet palette for acrylics, gives longer blending and working time. Is this the main advantage?

    Seems many more options in acrylics with Vallejo, Scale75, Games Workshop, etc. Is this just market forces like other modelling with "acrylics don't smell and are easier to clean" so everyone went to them?

    And acrylics I've seen come in liquid (Vallejo, etc) and tubes (Scale75, artist paints) - any advantage over each type? Or both have uses?

    Finally, painting kits has always been "use paints made for models" due to pigment size, colour range, etc. But I see a lot of you use W&N, Jo Sonjas, or other artists paints. Anything to look for with these, apart from quality? I assume they stick fine once on a primer?

    My plan is to airbrush primer, base colours, and some highlights/effects where possible (I'll be working in 1/24 or 75mm). Then some acrylic details and oils for blending like flesh, effects, etc.

    So in summary:
    - anything more than personal preference to oils vs acrylics? Is one better for metallics, flesh, or specific techniques?
    - any different application or use of tube (thick) vs liquid paints, or again personal?
    - anything to look out for if I buy artists vs model-specific paints?

    Thanks in advance.

    theBaron and Nap like this.
  2. Chrisr PlanetFigure Supporter

    Hi Darren,

    Welcome to the forum and this fascinating hobby. Others who have a lot more experience than I do will offer their views, however, to answer some of your questions below are my two bobs worth.

    I use oils because I find them much easier to blend than acrylics, and when the paint goes over a line onto an area I don't want it to be, it is much easier to remove. I also like the richness of some of the colours and the finish (when dried- see below). They are the principal advantages for me. However, many more on this forum use acrylics because they are much faster drying and give a matt finish. They can give excellent results; it really is a personal preference and either medium is good.

    Acrylics do have more options in colours, especially those who produce them for models such Vallejo, but I find I can get the right colour by mixing paints. Also some tend to seek the 'absolute correct uniform colour' for say French Napoleonic dark blue (the coats were dyed using indigo) but one needs to remember that dye batches were different, and uniforms faded in sunlight and weather; so as long as your dark blue coat is a dark blue the actual shade doesn't really matter. Anyway you will use different shades for highlights and shading on the folds of the cloths. Also I use a non-smelling white spirit such as Zest.it rather than turps. https://www.jacksonsart.com/en-au/brands/zest-it

    Acrylic users are best to answer your third question, although from the acrylics I have I think the tubes are Artist Quality.

    For oils I use Artist Quality.

    People have their own techniques for painting and again it is a personal preference. For figures I use a white or grey primer (essential for metal models when using oils), then I paint in the base colours in acrylics to provide a second undercoat in the colours I want, and then go over them and finish the model in oils. Drying oil painted figures in an old slow cooker on low (lid off) for about 12 -16 hours also gives a good mattish finish. Winsor and Newton Artisan water mixable oils give a matt finish. https://www.eckersleys.com.au/winso...ApQQav842VGmJ4bEH2wQwvpiLXrQPD94aAtwbEALw_wcB

    Many people who use acrylics also use oils for faces, leather, woodwork and horses to give a slight sheen and contrast. Again it is a personal preference and people use different mediums on the same model, including inks.

    Thin your paints as if they are thick you are likely to hide the finer details. This is one of the reasons I block in the colours with acrylics first as sometimes the oils are translucent. Thinning is especially necessary if using acrylics for doing highlights and shading, where the technique is to use a series of thin washes to get the effect (something I haven't mastered).

    I find Dark Star metallic paints are very good but there are other brands. https://www.waylandgames.co.uk/darkstar-paints-and-inks/41823-darkstar-molten-metals-paint-fine-gold

  3. Nap A Fixture

    Hi Darren

    BIg welcome to PF

    Think Chris has answered well to the questions ......I only use acrylics with WP but also use Water Soluble Oils as well along with them

    Oils do give easier blending but as you say it's a personal preference

    I use Scale 75 tubes but you have to be carful getting paint out any tube ...I do use dropper bottles with some in

    Don't use metallics just NMM

    I a happy with what I finish ...mostly !

    We have a PAINTING TECHNIQUES part split between Oils and Acrylics ..plenty of info there

    Do introduce yourself in the WELCOME ABOARD part ...lots of threads in there as well about PF

    If you have any questions ref PF just msg me

    Happy benchtime

    Nap ( Moderator )
  4. Kilgore Active Member

    Hi Darren,

    I shall express my modest opinion. I use acrylics for the base color and preshades a then go with oils and, in some cases, final touches with acrylics. The reason is already mentioned above, I feel more confortable blending oils than acrylics. But there is an additional reason: the effect or texture you are looking for.

    When you use oils and go with different layers, the new color is mixing up with the previous one, not overlapping (acrylics actually overlap the previous color, no matter how diluted you apply them so to achieve smooth contrast you have to apply them in very thin and diluted layers). For this reason I prefer the oils since they create a smoother and richer colors effect due to they blend together.

    In this point I have to mention the textures creation. In this case, for instance a fabric bag or a wool scarf, you have to overlap the paint (dots, lines or whatever) in order to achieve the appearance of the material you want to imitate because in this case you are looking fo contrast rather than blend o smooth transitions.

    Anyway, no matter the technic or paints you use, I always look for the ones that allow me to achieve the resulta I want. Maybe others get the same result in a different way. That's the magic of this hobby :)

    PD. There is an exception regarding my opinion about the acrylics and the overlapping: use acrylics in wet but I don't use this technic because I never know the final result that I'm going to achieve hahaha
  5. Sven A Fixture

    Hi Darren,

    welcome to figure painting! It appears that your choice of the best painting medium is almost a question of how you see the world. There is no right or wrong. I recommend you use what works best for you.

    Having said that, I think it is save to say that oil paints have must better covering power due to their crazy amount of pigments. Oils are also much easier to blend. Howver, arcrylics dry much quicker and you can work with many thin paint layers in a very short amount of time. I recommed that you give acrylics a try. Vallejo is still the gold standard in my opinion but I do also use Andrea and Scale75.

    Priming is an art by its own right. I recommend to use Tamiya surface primer in black and grey (spray cans). It produces some initial shadows and lights that help a lot in the actual painting.

    Happy bench time
    Airkid and DaddyO like this.
  6. George New Member

    I would like to ask a question. Do I understand correctly; if one dilutes an oil paint with the Odorless Mineral Spirit it will give the oil a dull appearance on the figure? I assume that when used on this forum "Odorless Mineral Spirit" refers to the milky white syrup like thinner. Thank you.
  7. Moonraker Active Member

    Hi Darren
    Most of the guys here have far more experience and knowledge than I do, and will be better placed to point out the pluses and minuses of each medium. However, as someone who came back to painting figures about five years ago I found it important to stick with the medium I chose on my return. Some of the techniques specific to acrylics, for example, take practice and familiarity before you can get the best out of them. The same holds true for oils. If you frequently change between oils and acrylics you will be always relearning some of the finer points of the specific paint type. Stick with one and your proficiency, and associated confidence, will improve.
  8. DaddyO A Fixture

    Evening Darren

    Welcome onboard and you may have opened the biggest discussion topic in the hobby (possibly recasting is discussed more often, but we're all against that whereas everyone has their own favourite technique when it comes to painting)

    Right with the above out of the way and the obvious point that it's your own preference already well made by others I'll say that I sort of have a foot in both camps since I used to paint in enamels and then oils, but after coming back into the hobby about 5 years ago I decided to learn how to paint with acrylics (an ongoing process!) :rolleyes:

    Can I suggest that one way to decide is to find some pictures of figures that have been painted that you like the look of and find out what medium they use? It could be that you really like the look of a figure painted in oils in which case you'll work out how to avoid 'shiny' surface finishes, colour theory and how to mix colours. If the figures that you really like are painted in acrylics then dive in and try a few to see how you get on. There are a large number of books and sites showing how to use acrylics; glaze and layer paints to get good blends (and if you are struggling you can use various mediums to slow the drying time down so that you can blend wet in wet a bit like oils. (Or you can ask away here - there's lots of advice freely available)

    I think the best painters produce the best models because they are the best painters rather than the particular medium they use :)

    These days I use Vallejo mainly, but having got tired of the constant bottle shaking, (another advantage to using oil paints), I've recently tried a few Scale 75 tube acrylics and have to say I really like them. They dry slightly more slowly and are slightly more transparent that typical acrylics so they handle a bit like a fast drying oil paint that dries completely matt.

    In summary one reason oil paints are popular because you can paint almost anything with a small selection of colours. (and fine artists have been doing just that for many centuries) They are also preferred by some for painting faces and horse coats because the slight sheen adds life. I've not found any bad acrylics that are designed for figure painting, but they all have slightly different characteristics.
    If you want to try acrylics you may want to make or buy yourself a 'wet pallet' to stop them drying out whilst you are painting. I found mine allowed me to take a huge step forward when I started using one.

    Hope that helps

    ps - You haven't mentioned brushes which I think are probably more important than the paint you decide to use. Get a couple of good ones and painting's a pleasure. Buy cheap or bargain ones and you'll find everything's a struggle :D
    DEL, Airkid, Banjer and 1 other person like this.
  9. Henkm Well-Known Member

    Welcome Darren (about half a year late)!
    Seems this new question got overlooked somewhat. The sheen on oil paint is from the oil medium. Many painters don't like their figures to look glossy and there are several ways of dealing with this. You can soak out the oil before you paint with it; simply put some on a piece of cardstock or whatever is porous. You can brush off excess after painting, using a fan brush or similar. And yes, I do find that using a diluent leaves a different surface as well. Even overpainting a dried coat with diluent (maybe with a touch of paint in it) seems to break the oil enough to dry back matt.
    To be sure, odo(u)rless mineral spirits do not look white like milk at all, rather more like water.
    Also, in future please do feel free to start a new topic rather than launching a question in an ongoing one.
  10. George New Member

    Dear Henkm, thank you for answering me question, well done indeed! I figured out the mystery. When no one answered me on the forum, I searched "milky-syrup-like Odorless Mineral Spirits." And there was my answer. Yes, apparently a new product has been introduced "Klean Strip-Green Odorless Mineral Spirits." As it turns out, this is some kind of new formulation. Many people on the internet shared my confusion thinking they had bought normal "water-like" Mineral Spirits. As you correctly point out "not look white like milk at all, rather more like water." This is something new; and, you want to hear the funny part?......It works! I tried it, and got the nicest dull-matte-finish to my figures overcoat. It has a very pleasing dull sheen. But it is thick like syrup and different (not difficult just different) to work with. OH yes, and thank you again, with you encouragement , I finally found the button to launch a new question of my own. George

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