by: Mario Matijasic [ ]
I never did a paint review before… Although I have tried most of the various modeling paints offered today, Gunze acrylics are still a benchmark for me, along with their fantastic Mr. Surfacer primer, and I rarely use anything else for airbrushing. This was the reason I was a bit reluctant when Jon from Mission Models contacted me and offered his new line of paints for a review on Armorama. However, Jon’s enthusiasm soon won me over and I decided to give Mission Models Premium paints a go. And what a surprise it was for me…
But let’s start at the beginning.
The review samples from Mission Models came in a hard cardboard box. I got a wide selection of paints, two bottles of primer, as well as MMP thinner and MMP polyurethane mix. The Mission Models Premium Paints brochure was also included… it features a very attractive layout and gives short introduction about the new line of MMP paints and additives, the color chart of currently available products, as well as instructions how to use the paints to get optimal results.
Here’s a short description of the products I received:
The Mission Models paints are water-based acrylics, non-toxic and odorless. The paints contain high-quality organic pigments with no additives. This results in infinite shelf life as there is no possibility of hardening or separation of pigment and medium in the bottle. The paint bottles (1oz) are sealed and include mixing ball which helps to thoroughly mix the paint before use. The paint is airbrush ready from the bottle, but it could also be thinned with MMP thinner (about 20-30%). The first round of MMP paints consist of 48 different colors, primarily aimed at AFV modelers. The next batch of paints will follow soon with some aircraft and automotive colors.
The Mission Models primers are a bit thicker than the paint and can't be sprayed directly, but must be "activated" with MMP thinner to make it work properly (about 20-30%). The primers provide a durable self-leveling finish. The primer coat needs about 15-30 minutes to dry completely before applying new acrylic coat, or 24-48 hours before applying solvent based paint coat. The primer bottles (1oz) are also sealed and contain a mixing ball which offers additional help when mixing the bottle before using the primer. So far, Mission Models primers are available in 6 different colors: Black, Grey, White, Pink, Red Oxide and Tan.
The Mission Models thinner (MMA-002/003) is non-solvent based and odorless paint reducer, available in 2oz and 4oz bottles. It can be used as a regular paint thinner but also as an airbrush cleaner. MMP thinner is designed using a special proprietary formula and only a small amount is needed to thin the paint optimally (approximately 20-30%).
The Mission Models polyurethane mix additive (MMA-001) is an acrylic based paint additive designed to increase durability, ease the flow from the airbrush, and offer more self-leveling properties to the MMP paint. MMP polyurethane gives a slight sheen to the paint, eliminating the need for additional clear coats before doing enamel/oil washes or applying decals. Poly is not an essential component of the paint process, but Mission Models strongly suggests using a small amount of MMP poly with the MMP paint (about 10-20%). Also, MMP polyurethane mix can be used for brush painting, as it prolongs paint drying period thus providing more time for fine brush work, blending, etc.
MMP primers are a 2 part system and it is essential to thin the primers with MMP thinner. I used the Grey Primer (MMS-003); I mixed the bottle thoroughly, added 10 drops of primer and 3 drops of MMP thinner. The consistency of the mix is slightly thicker than what I'm used to, but 20-30% thinner is what MMP booklet suggests and I decided to follow the recipe. Also, Mission Models recommends not using MMP poly with their primers, so I did not add any.
The painting was done using my Tamiya HG Super Fine airbrush with 0.2mm nozzle, with the air pressure about 1-1.5 bar (15-20 psi). The primer sprays very nicely and I got no tip drying during the process. I applied the primer in several thin layers which covered the surface perfectly. After closely inspecting the primed area I was very happy with the result: the primer delivered a very smooth and level flat finish, with no overspray or any kind of paint texture on the plastic whatsoever (photo 1-2), so no additional surface prep is needed. The primed surface dries very quickly and although Mission Models advice is to wait about 30 minutes before applying a new acrylic coat, I'm pretty sure this period can be considerably shorter. The primer coat is very tough and resilient to scratching. As for sanding the primer and getting that ultra-smooth finish which is sometimes a must for aircraft models prior to painting them, I found the primer behaves really well under the fine grit sandpaper. There is no tearing or sticking to the sandpaper, the effects I experienced with acrylic primers from other modeling paint brands.
After using MMP primer I have to admit I never had such a positive experience with acrylic-based primers. Although the 0.2mm nozzle is probably far from being an optimal airbrush option for using the primer, I had absolutely no problems controlling the flow with the finish matching that of the Mr. Surfacer. Very impressive!
Next up was testing the MMP paint. The plan was to try three different uses of MMP paint:
- straight from the bottle,
- thinned with MMP thinner,
- thinned with MMP thinner / added MMP poly.
1) Straight from the bottle
I used Russian Green Modern (MMP-032). I mixed the bottle well and added 10 drops of paint to the airbrush cup. Being used to thinning acrylics to approximately 50% which results in skimmed milk paint consistency, my first impression of MMP paint was that it was much thicker. In fact, I was a bit reluctant to run the paint unthinned through my 0.2mm airbrush nozzle and expected it just wouldn’t work. To my surprise it actually did work. I had to deal with nozzle clogs during the paint session, but I suppose that issue could have been avoided if larger diameter airbrush nozzle was used. After just a few passes the paint covered the surface nicely and dried very fast to a completely flat finish. I observed no grain texture on the surface (photo 3).
To avoid the nozzle clogging problem I tried adding a small amount of MMP poly to the paint. I prepared the mix by adding 10 drops of paint and 2 drops of poly. I noticed a far more steady paint flow from the airbrush and almost no tip drying. Using MMP poly also resulted in slightly prolonged paint drying time, sealing the paint in a slight sheen finish. Again, the painted area was leveled and completely smooth (photo 4).
2) Thinned with MMP thinner
I used IDF Sandgrey Version 1 (MMP-037). After mixing the bottle, I added 10 drops of paint and 3 drops of MMP thinner. The paint mix is a bit thicker than what I'm used to when working with acrylics, but Mission Models claims 20-30% thinner is just enough for optimal paint performance.
The painting was done using my Tamiya HG Super Fine airbrush with 0.2mm nozzle, with the air pressure about 1-1.5 bar (15-20 psi). The paint mix behaves really well under these conditions; the paint flow is very stable and I experienced no clogging issues. The paint is more translucent compared to spraying it straight from the bottle and requires several thin paint layers more to gradually build up an evenly painted surface. This is exactly how I like to use my airbrush; maintain steady paint flow and build up thin layers of paint to get perfect coverage. The painted area was dry very quickly with smooth, completely flat finish (photo 5).
I also wanted to check how the paint levels when doing heavier coats. I opened up my airbrush nozzle completely, using full blast to cover the surface. Airbrushing acrylics like this usually results in poor paint performance, spidering effect or paint sag. MMP paints however, perform wonderfully even in such heavy-handed circumstances: I observed no spidering or paint runs, while the painted surface leveled perfectly to a smooth, flat finish (photo 6) with no visual difference to the surface covered using thin paint layers. Wow!
3) Thinned with MMP thinner / added MMP poly
I used NATO Black (MMP-035), adding 10 drops of paint, 3 drops of MMP thinner and 2 drops of MMP poly to the paint mix. Again, the paint mix seems a bit thick, but the ratio of 20-30% thinner and 10-20% poly is recommended by the manufacturer. And it works like a charm.
Using the 0.2 nozzle at about 1-1.5 bar (15-20 psi), the paint flows perfectly. I sprayed the first thin layer of paint and noticed the surface had a slightly wet appearance as poly extends paint drying time. I waited just a bit between applying additional thin layers until the complete surface was smooth and evenly covered. In contrast to a completely flat finish mentioned earlier, using MMP poly in the paint mix gives a slight sheen to the painted surface (photo 7). Mission Models claims using poly seals the paint and eliminates the need for additional clear coats before doing enamel/oil washes or applying decals. I still need to test this, but it could definitely be a big plus!
Again, I wanted to see how this paint mix behaves when doing heavier coats, opening up the airbrush tip to the maximum and continuously spraying layer after layer until the surface was completely covered. It felt like manhandling the airbrush and I thought this kind of abuse would surely result in uneven surface with paint runs. However, MMP impressed me once again, as the paint leveled perfectly in a matter of seconds, providing very smooth eggshell finish (photo 8).
It is amazing to see how forgiving MMP paint is. My experience with acrylics taught me to be patient while airbrushing, creating thin layers of paint until covering the surface completely. Any haste usually resulted in an uneven surface, orange peel effect, paint runs, etc. This is not happening with MMP paint. No matter how much I abused the airbrush, MMP paint always performed perfectly, producing an incredibly smooth finish.
After the basic tests to find out how the MMP paint behaves, I wanted to perform some more experiments with the paint, doing things which I normally do while modeling.
Acrylic-based paints tend to be brittle and can flake off when removing masking tape from the painted surface. This can be very frustrating, especially after spending a lot of time and effort to carefully lay a complex camo pattern to a model, and then discover the paint chipped off with the masking tape. Honestly, I never experienced such a scenario with Gunze acrylics and I wanted to check how Mission Models paint fares.
For the test I used the most common modeling masking agent, Tamiya tape. The surface was painted using the NATO Black (MMP-035) mix which consisted of 10 drops of MMP paint, 3 drops of thinner and 2 drops of poly. After this was dry, strips of Tamiya tape were added and burnished well onto the painted surface (photo 9). A different paint mix was prepared with Russian Green Modern (MMP-032), again by adding 10 drops of paint, 3 drops of thinner and 2 drops of poly. The surface was completely sprayed over with several thin layers of paint. I waited a bit for the paint to dry and then carefully removed the tape. The tape did not leave any residue on the paint or pulled chips of paint off the surface (photo 10). I repeated this test several times and it produced the same result every single time. Perfect!
Since poly is responsible for sealing the paint, I did the test with paint mixes consisting of paint and thinner only. Again, masking tape didn't do any harm to the painted surface (photo 11-12).
Doing fine lines with an airbrush is an essential process behind some popular painting techniques today, i.e. pre-shading. Also, fine lines provide an excellent test of the paint and how it flows from an airbrush.
Again, I applied NATO Black (MMP-035) mix: 10 drops of paint, 3 drops of thinner and 2 drops of poly. I used my Tamiya HG Super Fine airbrush with 0.2mm nozzle lowering the air-pressure to about 0.7-1 bar (10-15 psi). After initial testing of how the paint performs on a piece of paper, I doodled a bit on a primed surface drawing straight lines and curves (photo 13). The paint flow was really good. I experienced some nozzle clogs, but this issue was definitely far less pronounced than what I'm used to with Gunze acrylics. I played a bit with the lines and shapes, getting the feel of things and more control (photo 14-15).
Although not really a fine line test, I also did a quick black basing experiment, marbling the black surface with IDF Sandgray Version 1 (MMP-037). The mix was done using 10 drops of paint, 3 drops of thinner and 2 drops of poly. I did some shapes and dots, painting the surface to look as irregular as possible (photo 16). I managed to control the airbrush perfectly, with the steady flow of paint and not a single dry tip during the entire paint session.
This is one of the most extensive reviews I have done so far. I wanted to do even more tests with the MMP paint (color modulation, applying decals, pinwashes, etc) but I figured the review would be way too long. So, this is where I leave you to experiment with the paint yourself.
Cleaning the airbrush:
The airbrush can be cleaned with MMP thinner and it does a pretty good job. Being cheap, I didn't want to waste the primer on such a task, finishing the procedure with some universal airbrush cleaner.
Mission Models Premium hobby paint is a new acrylic-based paint brand from Mission Models. Although there are numerous acrylic paint lines on the market today, after all the tests I did I feel MMP paint performs far better than any acrylic brand I used so far. Here's why...
MMP primer is the best acrylic-based primer bar none, and it can easily be compared to the best lacquer primers, even Mr. Surfacer. MMP primer is extremely easy to use providing superb coverage and very smooth, durable and level finish. From now on, MMP primer is my primer of choice.
MMP paint impressed me very much and my experience airbrushing MMP paint has been extremely positive. The paint behaves like no other acrylic brand I used... yes, I did get some nozzle clogs shooting paint directly from the bottle, but this is definitely not the optimal way of using the paint. When mixed with thinner and polyurethane mix, MMP paint is exceptionally easy to airbrush: the paint flow is very stabile with almost no tip dry issues to report. The paint covers really well and delivers a very smooth finish. Moreover, even a full blast from an airbrush results in a perfectly leveled surface with no paint runs or spidering... a major advantage for all heavy-handed modelers, who could finally feel in complete control of the painting process.
All this said, I really think MMP paint is a ground-breaking product. Do yourself a favor and give MMP paints a try, it could very well change the way you paint.