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I have lots of 1/43 unpainted, pink, plastic figures that came from fathers old train set that I would like to incorporate  into mine. My question is, what kind of paint should I use to finish them? I have some fine paint brushes and testor's paint that  I used on some structures I assembled but wonder if I could get by with watercolors which I'm assuming is cheaper and easier to clean up. Your thoughts please.


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I have painted a lot of plastic figures with the art & craft type acrylic paint that comes in about 3" bottles.  I mostly use satin finish and they look great.  However, it takes several coats depending on the color.  Consequently, this becomes very time consuming and tedious, except for the easy brush clean and lots of color choices.  The Testors oil paint probably covers better with fewer coats but also has fewer color choices and requires solvent brush clean. 

The right small brushes make a big difference too.

DunningStation posted:

.........wonder if I could get by with watercolors which I'm assuming is cheaper and easier to clean up. Your thoughts please.


Doubt that they will give you very good coverage for this use.  Any of the water based craft or model paints

for example:

would probably work better and also give you a far better selection of colors to use.

Last edited by mwb

First off most generic  crafts paint whether oil or acrylic are bottom of the well poor products.  Back before Testers killed the Floquil line of model paint I loved it though it's fumes were bad news.  Today Tamiya acrylic paints are very hard to beat, whether brush or sprayed.  Clean up with water and alcohol.    j

Last edited by JohnActon

Tamiya or Vallejo acrylics can't be beat. I especially like Tamiya. It thins and cleans with Isopropyl Alcohol. Vallejo cleans with water and dried it cleans with acetone. A particularly good flesh tone for caucasian folks is their Shadow Flesh. Lighten it with white for highlight areas and use straight for shadow areas. It makes a great base for rust too. DO NOT MIX VALLEJO AND TAMIYA. The alcohol causes Vallejo to clump. For air brushing, again, Tamiya works great with ISO, but use Vallejo or Testor's universal acrylic thinner for Vallejo airbrushing. 

You can really go nuts painting figures. It all depends on their ultimate usage and placement on the layout. If they're more than a couple of feet away, don't worry about painting pupils in their eyes, etc.

I use craft paints, but only on non-plastic porous surfaces. Its adhesion on plastic is sub-par. Once you get used to Tamiya, you won't want to use anything else.

Last edited by Trainman2001

I've painted several hundred figures for the layout, both metal and plastic. I've always given them a light coat of primer first - rattle cans are just fine. Something an expert painter of military figures taught me: prime in black. With black undercoat gaps in covering paint show as shadow, or detail.

I use acrylic artist colors, Liquitex or similar. Coverage is excellent, and the range of colors available is immense. I generally use matt liquid colors, but gloss is fine, just use a bit of matte spray to finish the job.


When I paint figures, I may (or may not) wash and rinse them in warm soapy water to remove any mold release agents.  After they dry, I'll spray-bomb them with a cheap gray rattle can primer.  After that dries, I go to work on them with el-cheapo craft store acrylic paints.  I keep a fair selection of basic colors on hand, but you don't necessarily need to keep a lot of shades in stock.  They're so inexpensive, that if a color is a little too dark, or a little too light, or not quite the right shade or hue or color, you can mix as required to get what you desire!  I keep a bunch of small plastic cups around (i.e., little plastic ketchup cups from a fast food joint) that I squirt a little paint in (only about what's needed), darken or lighten or tint as desired, and do my brushing.  I use a couple of other slightly bigger cups to put water in for brush cleaning.

When I'm done, it's all water cleanup (brushes AND cups) with virtually no wasted paint. 

I have painted over 3,000 Preiser 65602 Unpainted Seated People for 139 of my Lionel and Atlas O 21" passenger cars.

I use Testor's Flat Acrylic Paints or Tamiya Flat paints.  I do not spray the white plastic figures from Preiser.  They are clean on the sprue.  I use Tamiya Flat Flesh for skin tones.  For dark skin tones I have used Testor's Dark Skin Tone.  The color seems too shiny, so I use it for leather jackets on the figures.  This color paint gels quickly, but that could be a supply warehouse issue, ie. older paint.

The figures from China need two coats of paint due to the mold oil residue. The first coat of color seals the figure. The second covers imperfections.

I use Testor's Flat White as a base to tint for my five shades of pastels I use for women's clothing.  Men have four shades of brown, gray, blue and tan.

I am currently painting 14 more Presier 65602 24-packs.

Sincerely, John Rowlen


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I use acrylic craft paint to brush paint these plastic people, remember Paul's comment to pre-wash these plastic people in soapy water before painting, A good source for these craft paints is your local Hobby Lobby, check their web site and search for craft paints, the stores carry the Anita's, Americana,Folk Art and Delta Ceramcoat in many colors at reasonable prices. I have used all these brands with not issue, some are permanent, after painting and when dry, I brusk apply a clear acrylic sealer. If the stored paints lose the viscous flow  add some distilled  water to the paint bottle and vigorously shake the bottle to blend the water and paint pigments. Hobby Lobby also sells brushes for acrylic painting at reasonable prices. I have see some modelers of plastic car kits  air brush thinned acrylic craft paints, this can be see by searching the web for air brushing thinned craft paints.


1.Spray all of them flat black. 

2.Paint acrylics on flesh areas first.

3.Paint everything else.

4.Dry brush clothes over raised areas to highlight

5..Dust overall with brown powder

6.Spray Dull Cote

Tips - Use a clothespin to hold shoes when painting or apply hot glue to feet and stick to cardboard.

Boom - done!

Last edited by SIRT
A flat primer is a good idea. Paint is less likely to "run away" in an uncontrolled stream. Glosses are only for silk or wet cloth, wet skin/hair (oily=wet too) Semi gloss can even be too shiny. Satin or flat is best for cloths and most skin. (eyes get white gloss, lips maybe a gloss, maybe not...lipstick gets gloss. (if you go that small. A contrasting wash over faces to accent the facial folds&knooks is ok too.).. I start with eyes, dark accent line at the bottom, then white, then color, then flesh... teeth, flesh, then lips, unless sunken, then lips before flesh..etc. etc. You will likely have to trim a small brush or two for various stroke types. Count on messing one or two up learning to trim them. I prefer natural brushes for most fine work. I comb them wet, and treat them to mineral oil and or mineral spirit soaks to help keep them soft. A fold of paper, plastic wrap, foil, etc. can press a flat tip or taper back into a drying brush as well. Good luck.

John, just noticed your late January post above...great job painting the Preiser figures.  I attempted the process a few years ago and finally gave up without great results.  Obviously, you have the painting process perfected.  I recall having a difficult time settling on the right paint to use, especially for the skin tones.  Once I get farther ahead with the general scenery on the new layout, I may give the figure painting another try.  You've inspired me, and I look forward to seeing more your work on this thread...

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