Friday, December 3, 2010

Brands I Prefer: Everything Else

Last week, when I talked about brands I focused on personal preference. At the end of the day, clay is clay and picking Aves over Amazing Sculpt or Gapoxio will not improve your customs by itself. Being forced to use an unfamiliar brand may leave me weeping under my desk in the fetal position, but I could sculpt with it if I had to.

However, sometimes a brand can make all the difference. Some of the techniques I use don’t work (or work well) with alternative products.


When I’m customizing a model, I generally the same amount of time--or more--constructing a custom with super glue as a I do with clay. My super glue and baking soda techniques deserve their own post, but the technique itself hinges on using the right type of glue.
1. The resistance of a substance to flow. For example, water has a lower viscosity than molasses and flows more easily.
2. The quality or condition of being able to adhere to things.
Think of viscosity as stickiness or gooeyness. Super glue is available is a variety of viscosities. Regular brands you find at Lowes or Home Depot will vary in thickness, but you’ll generally be left to guess at how think or thin they are if you haven’t use a particular brand before. You can also purchase super glue at a hobby shop which is conveniently rated by viscosity.

If your glue has too high of a viscosity, it won’t work well for the baking soda technique. Gorilla Glue is one brand you’ll run into at most hardware stores that has too high or a viscosity for use with baking soda. High viscosity is ineffective because only the top layer will absorb the soda, and you will need to leave it to dry for a while. If you’re reattaching a tail or an ear with thick glue, the excess will spill out when you push the parts back together. This will dry as a lump, making your repair very obvious.

On the other hand, low viscosity is more prone to drip and make a giant mess either on you or your horse. If you’re buying a rated glue, I shoot for something in the medium range. I live closer to Lowes than a hobby store, so I stick with (ha ha) Loctite. Loctite makes half a dozen variation of super glue, but I use the giant bottle. Trust me, you’ll use it all. I buy these four or five at a time.


If you are interested in creating braided manes and tails, you’ll also need a glue-like substance called Fray Check. I use the Dritz version. A fabric store like Joanns or Hancock will carry several different liquid sew/no sew/fray stopping type products. A lot of them are very gooey and similar to tacky glue. The tacky glue products DO NOT work with my braiding technique. Dritz Fray Check works because it has very low viscosity.


This is my dremel:


I like it, but ultimately it comes down what fits you’re price range and suits your needs. For models, I don’t think you should have to upgrade from this level and you may be comfortable with less power for less money. I tend to shy away from battery powered units because the batteries and chargers, in my experience, wear out before the tool does.

This is my heat gun:


It’s cheap and suits my purposes. I keep losing them in my garage full of crap and buying replacements. I know customizers that use a blow torch. Could be a bit overkill most of y’all.

Don’t bother boiling models. When boiling, you can’t target small areas. A heat gun is absolutely worth the money and the saved heartache when it prevents nice bodies from turning into limp noodles.

This is my sculpting tool:


Yup, just the one. I have several copies of this tool, which I bought in packs of various tools from Michaels. I don’t know what’s become of the 5 or 6 other tools that came in the package. I could just throw them out for as often as I use them.

I have an Iwata Eclipse BCS, which I prefer for basecoats on traditional scale models. For details, I use an Iwata Micron (side-feeding version for lefties.) I’ve used a lot of brushes over my career and I’ve traded up several times. However, my two brushes together set me back about ~$600. Unless money is no object, that is a huge investment for a beginner. I started with a $20 badger and an air-can. It sucked, but it helped me determine that this was the medium I preferred. The Badger Crescendo isn’t a bad brush for a painter starting out (if they know they’re committing to this medium) because it comes with multiple tip sizes. I thought switching out a wide tip for a fine one was useful when I was still developing a feel for controlling the paint.
Iwata BCS

Iwata Side-Feed Micron

I hate my air compressor but it will not die. I’m looking to upgrade before the end of the year.

Die already.


This section will make a more sense in a few weeks. I promise.


I’m a big believer is Scotch painter’s tape. Wider is better (I use 3”). The masking tape should have a paper-y feel and a small amount of rigidity. I’ve used the pale cream-ish masking tape when I’ve lost my blue roll, but it’s often too floppy for my purposes.



If you ask a dozen artists what brand of paint they prefer, you’ll get a dozen answers. These are the brands *I* use, but I won’t tell you you’re wrong for preferring a different medium or brand. Continuing to use the same paints, instead of carelessly skipping from brand to brand, is more important than which brand you choose.

Basic colors (e.g. Burnt Umber, Yellow Ochre, etc.) will vary slightly from brand to brand. Burnt Ochre by Liquitex doesn’t look or mix the same as Burnt Ochre by Golden. And in my paint box, the more the merrier.

I think of every color in each brand as having a unique personality. Some have strong personalities and overcome other colors they are mixed with. Some look like one color when used alone, but change their shade when mixed with a neutral color (like white or black.) Some darken when they dry. As a painter, it’s important for you to know the personality quirks of your paints.

Most of my paints are the regular golden acrylics. I buy the tubes, not the tubs. You don’t get the same value per ounce, but the tubs dry out before I can use them. For mixing, tubs mean using a palette knife and keeping it clean. To be honest, I have no idea where I put my palette knife.

I have a handful of Golden’s open acrylics bouncing around my paint box I’ve wanted to try since I bought them...two years ago. However, I do most of my painting under the gun, so to speak. I work better under a deadline, and a slow drying paint runs contrary to my usual methods.

I supplement my collection with Liquidex Heavy Acrylics. Basic colors (e.g. Burnt Umber, Yellow Ochre, etc.) will vary slightly from brand to brand. Burnt Ochre by Liquitex doesn’t look or mix the same as Burnt Ochre by Golden. And in my paint box, the more the merrier.

I try to avoid the cheapey bottle paints in most cases. They work for some people, but not for me. They don’t mix as well as the top shelf stuff because they don’t have as much pigment. Although I will use the occasional non-horse colors straight out of the bottle. Generally, that means bases or molded on halters.

Think of it like liquor: Patron makes a great Margarita, but Montezuma will still get you drunk.


I’m not a pastel-first artist, so take this for what it’s worth. I use them for detailing, but not for overall body color. I use Rembrandt when I need a smooth color and Pan Pastels when I just need thick coverage. Even though it can be a pain to add layer upon layer with Rembrandt, it’s worth the extra work on a textured model. Molds like Alborozo that don’t have glass-smooth surface are difficult to pastel because the grainy brands will highlight every nook and cranny (and not in a good way.)


However, Pan pastels are infinitely easier to use. The manufacturer packages them like blush or eye shadow and you should approach them in a similar manner. Stick pastels (like Rembrandt) require you to grind them into a loose powder. It’s messy.


Next week’s episode is “Baking Soda and Super Glue: A Love Story.”


Anonymous said...

Thank you for an excellently useful and oh-so-clear post. When I use baking soda and glue I usually just assume I'll have to do some filing afterwards to get rid of excess. Now I know I just need better glue!

Can't wait for the next post!

Sin said...

Thanks for the tip on the heat gun. All the ones I had been looking at were a tad too pricey for my starving artist budget. I picked up a Marvy Uchida and now I've finally been able to resume work on a custom I started two or three months ago (which I gave up on because boiling models is the worst way to try and reshape them, but you already knew that).

Love your blog!