A discursive look at Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, plus a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Friday, 23 November 2012

Old School Paint?

I must have reached some critical shelf date for my paint stock. A few of the old, polygonal GW/Citadel pots  I bought in the mid-noughties (at the start of my wargaming rebirth) are going off. As I've said elsewhere - and it was just as uncool when I said it last time - I like these paints. The pots are practical, they are simple to use, there is very little waste and they can be stored a long time (though not forever, as I am learning). My Blood Red went solid a week or two ago, so I had to get in some new. Now - disaster - the pots of white are turning gloopy on me.

A few practical issues have to be addressed. The only hobby shop that ever existed within 40 miles of here went bust a few years ago, so purchase of paint requires travel or - more practically - online mail order.

If I have no local supplier, and I don't like Citadel's newer pots so much (the lids won't stay upside down to act as a little palette), I also have a slight issue in that, having come to terms with seriously applying shades like Bubonic Brown and Snot Green to my beloved models (any grown-ups at home?), I now have to get the hang of new, though equally daft, names for the colours, since some 14-year-old marketing wizard must have decided that Snot Green isn't so great after all.

I like the Foundry paints I've used, though they are expensive to obtain here and I find the shade system impressive but bewildering - too much hit and miss without personal recommendations. Vallejo are good - I have some Vallejo colours (including white), but find them fiddly to use and I waste a lot when I mix them. A day or two ago our esteemed Monsieur Rosbif pointed us to a blog post where an expert sets out an astonishing presentation of all the weird and wonderful substances he uses in his painting and modelling. Once again, it is forcibly drawn to my attention that I am not - and never was - a proper painter. Not like those rude, heroic, beer-drinking Frothers people. So I am best advised to get the baby stuff and plod on quietly.

Back to the point - what to do about my white paint? Since the Citadel option is not so practical nor so convenient as it was, I took a mad turn and decided to revisit a brand of paint I used to be very fond of in the 1970s - Pelikan Plaka. In the interests of scientific research and unscientific nostalgia, I ordered a pot of the casein-based white acrylic I once used to swear by. In its/my day, Plaka was a major breakthrough for those of us who wished to paint white crossbelts over Humbrol red jackets, and were fed up watching the colour bleed through white enamel. At half-an-hour between coats, that was not a lot of fun.

It's arrived. I haven't used it yet, but I hope to shortly. The pots are redesigned, of course, but I believe the paint is still the same. If the white works, I might just give the yellow a try - I find it very hard to achieve a solid colour with yellows. Only problem with the yellow might be the shade - I used to have a very pale, lemony shade of Plaka - I assume they have others.

So anyway - this is today's non-news. If you are a Plaka fan, forgive my excitement - it's not often you get to leap back 40 years in a single step.

Subsequent Edit:

This is off the original topic, but I got emails from Ludovico, Jean-Marc and Lawrence Lander asking for more information about the changes in the Citadel range. Here is the only listing I have, which was kindly pointed out by Lee some weeks ago. I know nothing about the new range, nor how closely it matches the old one, but it seems there has been a move towards multi-shading. The only active, maintained stock of Citadel paints I've seen recently is in the Edinburgh branch of Hobbycraft, and they seem still to be using the old names, so don't ask me. I know nothing. A big boy did it and ran away.

New names - still daft?


  1. I've had the same problem of paints drying in their pots, too.

    What I haven't experienced until recently was paint going off! I use Reeves artists' acrylics for my whites, and one tube I've had for a couple of years started smelling a bit strange, gradually turning until it smelt worse than my used socks!

    1. Funny you should mention that - I haven't had this problem with model paints, but I have with the household emulsion paint I use for my tabletop & bases, which I buy in 250ml sample-size tins. One of these will last me for a year, but towards the end of that year the lid will start to rust - have to keep picking flakes out of the paint - and the stuff goes putrid - it looks OK, but smells dreadful.

      As you say, worse than socks. I keep waiting for that smell to greet me one day when I open the Soldier Cupboard, but it's OK - the paint appears to be stable once it's dry.

  2. Have you tried using airbrush thinner?

    When I was first introduced to Poly-S shades paints (in the little pots) I was warned of the 'dry out' problem and told to use airbrush thinner (also by Plaka & Poly-S) to keep the paints going longer.

  3. Funnily enough, last weekend I found a pot of Citadel Prussian blue (well, its equivalent...) in my stash. It was almost solid, a tarry gel, perhaps it is salvageable with extender or some such. No doubt I shouldn't be put out by this as it was the first Citadel pot I ever purchased, probably before the turn of the millennium.

    I have the Pelikan white (in an older pot) and use it for brilliant straps and belts. While I am now fond of the Citadel colours and foundation paints, I also use a lot of Vallejos. I really like their white, especially its coverage and thickness when workable. It layers really well with their sky grey, giving shadow that is not too dark, not too pale. Yes, I did just read Goldilocks to my daughter.

    My biggest complaint concerns the lids of the Citadel paints, both the new ones and the recently departed. I find I have to check them scrupulously even if I have simply considered using them. You have to shut them firmly and very very consciously. Since I depend on automatic pilot for much of my day, I find some are drying up far too quickly. My own damn fault of course, but I seem to have idiot-proof lids on most of the other things I handle during the day. Grump grump.

  4. I know that "not a proper painter" feeling. I rely esclusively on craft acrylics found in places like department stores, dollar stores, hardware stores etc. The expensive ones can get up to $2-3 a bottle but the $1 a bottle ones from around the corner seem to work well enough for me. As long as I don't feel the urge to become a proper painter that is.

    - Ross