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Winning my battle with metallic paints


psyberwolfe1
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Over in the Show Off section, I made an offhand remark about winning my war with metallic paint. A couple of replies came in asking how I did it. I decided, instead of letting it get buried in Show Off, I would put my answer in Painting Tips & Advice.

 

So a little background, in 2007 I took a true metals class with Jeramie Bonamont-Teboul. After that class I discovered more articles on CMoN about the technique. At first I was toddling along perfectly happy living with the RMS metallic paints, but my skills were improving and I was discovering that the RMS metallics had some problems. Now in the steel colors the problems aren’t as pronounced but the gold triads and bright silvers were a nightmare.

 

The main problem I was having was with dilution. Thinner paints make for smoother coats, but when you thin RMS metallic paints with water the pigment falls out of solution in minutes. The effect makes the metallic look less shiny and clouded, and therefore defeats the purpose of using the metallic paint. It also makes the metallic look grittier and less like a solid piece of metal. I asked Anne, a year ago, about this and she verified this is a known effect of metallic paints in general. The fix is to just use the metallic paints straight from the bottle. However, the fix doesn’t fix the graininess issue of using undiluted paints.

 

I thought this was an RMS issue so I started playing with metallic paints from other companies and discovered that Anne was correct. This is a general issue with metallic paints. This issue explains why many high end painters opt to paint Non Metallic Metal. I had just about given up on metallic paint when a month ago, while airbrushing, I discovered the fix.

I was airbrushing Liquitex soft body Payne’s Grey on a model as the foundation color. Liquitex recommends using their Airbrush Medium to thin their soft body paints for airbrush use. I love their Airbrush Medium because everything stays in solution. That is when I had my “ah ha” moment. I wrapped up my project, and mixed the Liquitex Airbrush Medium with RMS New Gold on my palette. Success! I could even thin for thin glazing layers.

 

Once the dilution problem was conquered the chalky metallic highlights quickly resolved because now I could mix RMS Pearl White in with the base color metallic in exact amounts or I could bump colors using other colors on the triad. The metallic paint even flows better from the brush so no more clumpiness or gritty paint layers.

 

So now that it is too late I’ll say, “The long and the short of it is: use Liquitex Airbrush Medium to thin your metallic paints.”

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Have you tried to see if thinning with acrylic medium has the same result? I imagine the issue has a lot to do with the density of the medium and the flake used.

 

Gloss, Satin and Matte Medium were a wash. Airbrush medium is a combination of flow improver, binder, acrylic medium, and drying retarder. Thicker than water and thinner than most mediums.

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That sounds similar to what I've been thinning paints with lately. Mine is basically a bit of Les' wash recipe in a bottle, and given the talk in the 'wet palette' thread, I'm considering putting a dab of retarded into it, as well.

 

Wet palettes exacerbate the pigment falling out of suspension problem for metallic paints.

 

Sounds like Airbrush medium is essentially my homemade gunk.

 

I've actually used your recipe and this performs better.

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Man this board is awesome. I have been reading various things so that when I start back painting after almost 10 years of not doing it, I'll have some ideas. This is a fantastic post. I love the look of metallics, and sometimes I will want them bright and shiny. Thanks so much for sharing this.

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Interesting. I use P3, GW and even some Vallejo metallics and water tends to work quite well with them but I tend to only use metallics on the base and highlighting so maybe I'm just not looking for this issue as highlights with metallics really aren't that distinguishable.

 

Those brands hold up better to being thinned with water until you are using them in large quantities and then the pigment falls out of solution and has similar effects. I wasn't looking for this issue either it just presented itself.

 

 

Well, I guess I'll be using a different 40% off Michael's coupon for the "21 trees for $21" pack. :D

 

I don't have an airbrush, so what else can I use Liquitex Airbrush Medium for?

 

TIA! :)

 

Go with friends. Everyone gets 40% coupon. Get everything you need.

 

Airbrush Medium is really just useful for thinning paints. When you are using an airbrush you must thin your paints. The problem is if you only use water the paint solution will fall apart. Sometimes you want that. Most of the time you don't. Aibrush medium holds the paint together and I'm using it for more than just thinning paints in my airbrush.

 

Another note on metallics: something like Vallejo Metallic Medium can be nice to have. It's transparent with metallic flake in it. You can use it to make the highlights shinier.

 

Yup. Great stuff.

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Grr.. Michael's doesn't sell it. Amazon has it for $10, including shipping.

 

Any suggestions how to make it? I have matte medium, flow improver, and drying retarder.

 

@Cash & @Qwyk: Any news on using your mixes for thinning metallics?

Edited by ced1106
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You might need to look in a fine arts store (or something like dickblick.com). If you know a place that carries Golden products, their airbrush medium is probably equivalent. It's what I bought to try with, and it worked well with metallics. (The woman who helped me at the art store said she thinks Golden products are superior to Liquitex, but I do not have enough experience with either to comment.)

 

I tried thinning paint with the airbrush medium to paint on to Bones, and it worked very well, no beading and so on as you would get with water.

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