“The new Real Colors paint range is a very, very special step forward for AK.
And we guess for you, too.” – quote from AK Interactive website
I feel spoiled being a modeller in 2019 with all the fantastic paints we have compared to the stuff we had in the early 80’s when I built my first scale models. Not only do we have a choice between paint types – we also have a wide choice of colours! Sadly finding that scale correct obscure paint only used a couple times during WWII is usually very hard, let alone trying to figure out how to mix it yourself so when AK Interactive released their book Real Colors of WWII I bought it directly! AK Interactive had really done their homework trying to find and catalogue all of the most common colours used during WWII and now released it as a reference book to help us modellers. I honestly wasn’t surprised when they announced the AK Interactive Real Colors range of paint about a year ago and now that the range has grown a lot, and become readily available internationally, it was time to test them thoroughly to find out their properties and if there were anything we had to take into consideration when using them?
I ordered 23 different colours to test with. (And I bought them with my own money! This is not a free review sample.) 22 of them are classic WWII colours – mainly German to be honest, and the RC009 Orange that simply looked awesome in the colour chart! I wasn’t sure where to use said Orange colour in my modelling routine but since I’ve recently started tinkering with Ma.K. I felt it could work there perhaps?
The first thing I discovered when the package of paint arrived was a blue mess. The jar of RC017 Sky Blue had leaked… Luckily it was well wrapped in bubble wrap so I was able to clean it up, but the lid was hardly screwed on at all… As I unpacked everything and cleaned off the other jars I noticed that about half of the jars had loose lids, but only just tight enough to not leak whereas the other half had properly tight lids. I’ve reported this back to the store that sold them to me (and got a refund), and I’ve reported this back to AK Interactive, so they can have a look at their production line and hopefully find the issue – if not it’s been sorted already? This has got nothing to do with the paint quality, just to point that out!
Whilst waiting for the shipment to arrive I read up on the paint, how it was supposed to be a paint that was compatible with “every” thinner out there. I also looked at some demo videos but I’d rather work out the properties myself since I live in a different climate than the people making these videos, and I’ve got different setup etc.
So far I’ve been testing with both MLT (Mr. Levelling Thinner) and IPA (isopropanol) and they both work really well at a 50/50 ratio.
Using Real Colors reminds me a lot of using Tamiya paint, which is a hybrid acrylic if you ask me. Very simple to use and very hard to fail, and Real Colors was super easy to use! I was using an H&S infinity with a 0.15 mm needle & nozzle, running the compressor at 20 PSI, and I had great control and minimal overspray. No splattering just very smooth and so far I’ve never had a dry tip or any blockage in my airbrush – which is very good! Making scribbles on a piece of paper or plastic is a good test to see how well you can control the paint.
It didn’t care what surface I was painting, bare plastic or primed, the results were great in both cases.
I used 3M Blue and Tamiya masking tape to test if the paint lifts if you forget to detack the masking tape but no such problems. I had a few small specks of paint lift with 3M Blue when I ripped off the masking tape as fast as I could, but that was just me trying to provoke a failure and not something you do on a scale model! Very good performance!
I used every type of weathering products I’ve got at home, including oil paint + odourless thinner, panel liners, streaking grimes, dust effects, washes etc and none of them reacted with the paint. Very good!
Doing the decal test and using a decal softener/fixer, in this case Tamiya Mark Fit Strong, sadly yielded the first failure because the paint dissolved right away when I applied Mark Fit Strong. Ok, most people use some type of varnish or clear coat before they apply decals. I don’t. Not if I don’t really have to and I’m going to have to change my process here.
It’s worth mentioning that the AK Interactive Real Colors are flat. I mean really flat! We armour modellers like this whereas airplane and car modellers are of a different opinion… You have to find out what process works best for you depending on what finish you’re after? I’m sure a descent clear coat will address the flat issue if you do it properly.
I’m really pleased with this new paint and the colours are fantastic and spot on if you ask me! No more mixing of colours until you have something acceptable, and no more inconsistency – just open another jar and paint on!
I will now start using the AK Interactive Real Colors on a couple builds I’m doing to see how it works for real and not just doing tests on plasticard…
What’s the verdict then? I don’t know for sure what to compare it to because it feels a bit like a Tamiya paint, but it isn’t, and it’s not like a MRP (Mr. Paint) either, despite that it’s supposed to be an acrylic lacquer?! It does however work really well. I’ve heard some people are having splatter problems whereas I’ve had none. Different airbrushes and pressure can yield different results, and that’s why we do these tests before we start using them for real. In my case 20 PSI was working really well with a 0.15 mm needle & nozzle. The issue with decal softener/fixer is something I’d wished wasn’t a problem because it means my usual process doesn’t work, but I can work around it. It does mark it down a bit sadly…
From a pure colour perspective it’s top score for sure but I have to score it on usability and I’ll give it a 4 out of 5 for now. A very strong 4 that is, being close to 5, but it isn’t perfect sadly.
I feel I’m going to do an awful lot of painting with AK Interactive Real Colors from now on because I love the available colours very much! Thank you AK Interactive!!! It’s just a shame it took a year for them to become readily available, but on the other hand the amount of colours today are fantastic! It’s a bit like when MRP added AFV colours and many of us were just throwing money at them so we too could get our hands on this new lacquer paint everyone was talking about! 😀 Right now the word on the street is AK Real Colors and I’m excited to do my first “full interior” build with these new accurate colours. You can bet it’s going to be a Panther of some type… I’ve got more than a few in the stash already… 😉
November 24, 2019
Hi Folks – I am using AK Interactive IJN paint set and it is great, It does not have a flat finish however, but a satin /semi-gloss instead. Also use ~20 PSI and works well. What I am wondering is what to use as a clear-coat? I normally use Krylon but cannot find any info on it with the AK paints. May need to spray a scrap part and try the Krylon. Thanks for the article! – Mike
June 9, 2020
Hi Mike and thanks for your kind words!
You can use any clear/flat coat on AK RC paint. It’s just like any lacquer, like MRP for example.
I rarely use clear coats but when I do I use GX 100 thinned with MLT (Mr Color Self Levelling Thinner). That’s my favourite clear coat and by using MLT the clear coat will bite into the paint and self level to leave you with a very even surface!
If I want a flatter look there’s Tamiya XF-86.
Figures I tend to use Alclad II Aqua Gloss.
I hope that gives you some help?!
January 16, 2021
Tjenare! The great blog name suggests you’re Swedish too 🙂 thanks for a nice review. I’m getting started again with painting after a 18 year break. Can’t wait. Was thinking of getting this range or the Air range from them. But I’ll be brush painting before I get a compressor and AB, otherwise the wife will go crazy… one step at a time 🙂 have you also tried the Air range? Do these paints smell bad or how are they to work with? Cheers
January 17, 2021
I’ve got some of the air range too but since I’m mostly an armour painter I’ve got the complete range those of AK RC colours.
AK RC is a lacquer paint, like MRP (MR. Paint) so it’s going to smell due to the lacquer thinners needed to thin the paint before you can use it.
Lacquers are very hard to brush paint since they dry almost instantly, and for that reason they’re pretty much airbrush only.
For brush painting you’re pretty much stuck with acrylics, or if you don’t mind waiting 24+ hours between coats, old school enamels, but they bring back some pretty horrible memories from back when my early builds looked like they’d been painted with a hammer… :/
If money isn’t an issue I’d get a good compressor and a good airbrush if I were you because the results you get when using lacquers are fantastic! Just hose the paint on and it’s virtually dry a couple seconds later!
It won’t lift from masking tape either – providing that you’ve used a good primer first like Mr Surfacer 1500 etc.
The smell is a harder thing to solve though and here a good fan driven paint booth is pretty much your only saviour, that and a good respirator (filtered mask) if you don’t trust the filters in your paint booth?
I take the smell as a small penalty for the excellent quality I get with lacquers, and for armour models AK RC is dead flat and looking great – and they have a very consistent paint manufacturing so you can be sure that the colours match when you crack open a new jar!
Scale modelling today is a different beast than what it was 20+ years ago, and today you do almost all painting with an airbrush. I know a couple guys and gals out there that can paint with brushes and make it look great, but even on a bad day I can produce excellent surface finish with lacquers and a good airbrush so that’s the path I took and I haven’t regret it!
Yes the paint/thinner smells but you get used to it in a couple days. The inconvenience is worth it, but then I’m a bit of a nut as well… 😉
January 17, 2021
Thanks for the input and thoughts! I surely will consider getting an airbrush and compressor then, saw that Lidl sold a small compressor a few weeks ago – so maybe i’ll wait until some decent bargain comes up. I do think you’re right, and it makes sense following that path. The patterning of a Focke-Wulf is incredible and probably only doable with an airbrush, and there’s something incredibly gratifying when watching such videos of models being painted well with airbrush.
For now i’ll start with brushing just to train myself and get some models under the belt, and it sounds reasonable to aim for airbrushing as well. Ill get the AK colors to begin with.
January 17, 2021
Here’s my best tip for getting into airbrushing and that is to not buy a cheap compressor and airbrush.
Yes, a descent kit cost a fair bit of money – but you’re quickly going to realist that this is the only way to paint from now on and that the cheap compressor is holding you back from improving, as will that cheap airbrush, so a couple months later you will have bought a new expensive compressor and a better airbrush, and now you’ve spent money on the cheap bits for no good reason at all, and you’re sure as hell never going to use them again!
Don’t ask me how I know this. Me and just about every other modeller out there… Hahahaha!
A compressor needs an air tank in order to provide even pressure, otherwise it’ll come in waves/cycles as the pump is turning and this’ll affect your painting.
The best “value for money” compressor out there for airbrushing is the Sparmax TC-610H Plus. I don’t remember how much it was/is (I’ve got one (I’ve got three compressors…) and it’s the compressor I almost always use.)
2895 kr rings a bell…?
As for airbrush there are two main schools. Iwata and Harder & Steenbeck. If you hate taking things apart to clean them get an Iwata, but it’s a pain in the ass when you do have to take it apart. Or if you like to clean things properly after each use get an H&S, and they’re very easy to dismantle, without tools, and it only takes a couple minutes to do a full clean. You can’t leave the airbrush uncleaned a couple days because that’s going to give you a major headache – especially if you’ve been spraying primer!
I love the H&S airbrushes and my favourite is the H&S Infinity.
There are cheap Iwata clones out there that are supposedly pretty ok but they you’ll have to find on eBay, and this amongst real turd ones.
I do not recommend Sparmax airbrushes, nor do I recommend Badger unless you live in America because they’re a bit roughly finished and they cost as much here in Sweden like the expensive ones so I wouldn’t go down that route if I were you – unless you’ve got someone in the states that can buy one there for you, at their annual sale?!
A good airbrush will easily last a lifetime and a good compressor will last a very long time. Some tools are worth spending the money on once whereas some you’re better off buying cheap ones and replace them every now and then. Airbrushes are in the former category.
The only reason why you’ll never find these cheap compressors and airbrushes second hand is that none of us who bought them wants anyone else to go through the same frustration we did when we bought them, only to buy better ones shortly after, but it’s a bit of an investment, that can’t be ignored either.
The first time you’ve sprayed lacquers with a good airbrush you’ll love the investment because there’s no substitute for success! 😉
I wish you all the luck I can getting into airbrushing!
If you’ve got any questions during this journey I’ll try to answer any questions you might have. In this case you’ll save money by buying expensive from start though. There’s no way around that sadly…
January 18, 2021
Stort tack! Very kind of you to share the advice. Of course it makes sense. I’m sometimes too rational and don’t invest enough in my hobbies – but truly believe you get what you pay for. Really cool with the specific model recommendations. I’ll share my first brush painted models ASAP (colors and tools ordered) and for sure AB results in the future. Thanks again and keep up the good work!
January 22, 2021
Many thanks, super helpful and kind advice. I believe you’re right, and i seldom skimp on my interests if it’s something i know i’d like to explore properly. Your suggestions seem very reasonable, as i browsed a bit and it seems possible to splurge on AB kit as well. I bike a decent bit, and it’s similar in this sphere – diminishing returns after a certain point (but inflated ego!) vs great performance (ususally from approx 10k sek).
The compressor you recommend, on https://www.modellhobby.se/sv/kompressorer/81212-sparmax-kompressor-tc-610h-plus-achieve-for-airbrush-sparmax-tc-610h-plus.html is described as having a 40/60 psi switch – can you dial in more or less pressure beyond these two points? I also saw on Eskader modeller’s website eskader.se they have what seems like a similar and decent compressor on sale. If possible i’d love to support them being such an old business, still keeping a store open!
I’ve decided to paint the Hawker Hurricane i’ve started brush painting, and possibly also a Stuka and then decide. Either I keep painting (i’ve got approx 6-7 models i could finish) or jump the gun and get an AB even sooner.
Harder & Steenbeck have one airbrus for approx 799 SEK – would that be a decent option? Seems like it’s their entry model.