Initial thoughts: GSW Colorshift and Scale75 Metallics

As part of my hoarding of paints and tools, I’ve been trying out some new products lately, and figured I would share some thoughts on them. One caveat before I get into the reviews — I will include photos, but because of the nature of metallics and especially color shift paints, it’s going to be difficult to capture the effect on film.

Green Stuff World Colorshift

These paints are a little unusual. I’ve gotten all three sets, because every time I would see a new set at a show, I would jump at it, only for it to collect dust because I couldn’t figure out what to do with it. Where I kept getting hung up was on shading and highlighting. When I do my metallics, I don’t like to just paint something silver and call it done. It has to be shaded and highlighted, just like the rest of the model. Shade and highlight colours are dictated by colour theory, which brings up an obvious issue. If I’m painting with paints that change colour depending on the viewing angle, just what colour am I supposed to use to shade and highlight something that is green some of the time and purple others?

Anyways, I had somehow manage to mangle the assembly of a Bandai HG ball gundam (no small feat, given how idiot-proof Bandai kits are), so I figured I woudl clean it up as best I could and use it as a testbed.

The instructions say that you are supposed to apply them over a gloss black primer for the best effect, which seemed a little odd to me. After all, the point of primer is to adhere to the model and provide a surface for the paint to adhere to, and a smooth, shiny surface is by nature going to have less tooth than a matte surface.

However, I did spot some gloss black Stynylrez at a hobby shop, so I figured I would give it a go. I’m not sure if it was the product or something I was doing wrong, but I found this to be a little tricky, with the application being nowhere near as idiot-proof as the regular matte Stynylrez. I eventually found priming with regular black Stynylrez then going over it with the gloss to be a better approach than trying to spray the gloss straight onto the model.

The first issue I had, which is immediately obvious as soon as you take the paints out of the box, is that the colour(s) of paint in the bottle has little to no relationship with the colour of a surface painted with colorshift paints. So, you will have to paint the lids of the bottles with the corresponding paint if you have any hope of knowing what colour is which, which is something that I do to all my paints anyways.

The biggest issue, however, has to do with coverage and consistency. Coverage is pretty poor, and isn’t helped by the fact that the instructions dictate that it is to be applied over black primer. Further, it has to be applied in very thin coats, otherwise the medium ends up drying in a sort of thick, milky consistency. Doing all this over a gloss black primer can be extremely difficult with a brush, and even with an airbrush it is very easy to flood the surface and ruin the finish. As for touching up mistakes, forget about it.

I will give them this though, they go through the airbrush pretty nicely.

With the airbrush, the shading and highlighting issue actually turned out to be not much of a problem. Since they need so many coats to build up coverage and are applied over a black primer, simply varying the number of coats between your highlights and your shadows will help give it a shaded effect. Go for full coverage on the first couple coats, and from there, you can transition into just doing a zenithal for your last coat or two.

So, it’s tricky to apply, but how does it look? Well, to be honest, I’m kind of underwhelmed. First, the colour shift effect isn’t as pronounced as I was expecting it to be. Second, there is a bit of an issue with the finish. The pigments are fairly large, so on a close examination, it looks less like smooth, machined metal and more like something that was covered in glitter.

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In spite of all that, I do think it can still have its uses. I think it would look good on something like a Convergence of Cyriss army, and at gaming table distances, large, sparkly pigments are less of an issue.

Scale75 Metallics

When it comes to metallic paints, I find myself agreeing largely with Vince Venturella, who is better than me at both painting and creating content. I like true metallic metals; there is just something about the shine that pops when you’re looking at the miniature in real life. The problem is that most metallic paints designed for miniature painters are basically trash.

The one exception to this rule is Vallejo Metal Color. Not Vallejo Model Air, not Vallejo Game Color, but Vallejo Metal Color. The stuff that comes in the bigger bottles with the black and silver labels. This stuff blows your GW Leadbelcher and your P3 Quick Silver out of the water. However, there is one problem. Since it is designed to cater to the scale model crowd, specifically aircraft modelers, the range isn’t well suited to what we do. Out of their 16 or so colours, they have about five different colours of aluminum but only one copper and one gold — and the gold isn’t even very good, having a weird green tone to it that might be useful if you’re painting the golden scepter of some evil lich lord who just radiates corruption and necrotic energy, but isn’t great otherwise.

So, after hearing a lot of people talk up the Scale75 metallics and seeing them being used on twitch streams, and seeing a local game store get a rack of Scale75, I decided to take the plunge and try it.

Now, before I get into the product, there are a couple things that I would like to address. First, there is the question of availability. It’s still difficult and expensive to get Scale75 in Canada; only a very small number of stores in Canada carry it, and ordering from the Scale75USA website means you get to deal with the joys of currency conversion and customs. Even if you are lucky enough as I am to have a local store that carries it, it is still a little pricey. At the one local store that carries it and which has good prices on most of their products, I’m paying $6.50 a bottle. This is definitely above average for miniature paint, and for me, there is a bit of a psychological leap between being able to get a bottle of paint for a fiver and not.

Second, I feel like Scale75 is one of those brands that there is a lot of hype out on the internet for. They’ve successfully positioned themselves in the market as the serious paint for serious painters. The paint itself might be that good for all I know; I haven’t seriously tried out their non-metallic paints yet. However, I tend to be naturally suspicious of things that look like fads, so there is something that rubs me the wrong way about these paints. I’m not going to run out and get rid of all my paints to go all in on a new brand just because it’s the new hotness, and I’m content with my current paint collection for now, so unless it turns out to be legitimately that good, I’m happy to stick to my assortment of mostly Reaper, with a few P3s, Vallejos, and Citadels for flavour. After all, if Reaper paints are good enough for Kirill, I suppose they’re good enough for me.

Anyways, Scale75 has about ten or twelve different metallic paints, in various shades of silver, gold and copper. The gold and brass colours are my main focus because they fill in a gap that all my other paints have left.

The first thing you will notice when you compare Scale75 to its competitors is the the pigment size. If you look close enough at most metallic paints, you can see that the tiny glitter-like flakes in them, which is simply the nature of metallic pigments. As a result, it’s impossible to get the very smooth finish that you might see on machined metal. Scale75 metallic paints seem to have pigment ground much finer than most of their competitors, which contributes to a better finish than most.

With their finely ground pigments, they also airbrush well. I had no problems with my Xtreme Patriot with the 0.35 mm nozzle. You can airbrush them almost straight from the pot, however a drop or two of flow improver can go a long way.

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The top part of these… things… were airbrushed with Scale75 gold metallics

Playing with the hairy sticks, I was immediately struck by how much smoother they are than most of the metallic paints I’m used to. Consistency is a bit thinner, but not Vallejo Metal Color thin. Coverage is decent, though Duncan’s advice of two thin coats probably applies here as with most metallic paints. You can highlight with them and get decent blends, though I’ve get to do a big, display-level TMM project that has large metallic areas with them.

In fact, I would go as far as to say that they behave in a way which is fairly similar to normal acrylic paint. This doesn’t sound like much, but as anyone who has dealt with metallics can tell you, it’s a big compliment.

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Stabby guy with some brass bits done in Scale75

I think I still prefer the Vallejo Metal Color just because of the sheer coverage and workability of the VMCs, however the VMC has a very thin consistency, closer to an ink than most miniature paints, which can take a little bit of practice to get used to if you’re coming from something like Leadbelcher. This also isn’t always welcome when you’re utilizing techniques that prefer a thick paint like drybrushing. The Scale75 is a little closer in consistency to traditional metallic miniature paints, however it blows them out of the water. I do also have the Badger Metalsmith paints to compare them to, but that is more of a paint system than a paint and I’m too lazy to play alchemist every time I want to lay down some gold paint.

In short, these Scale75 metallics are a great addition to your hobby arsenal. Out of all the gold paints I’ve tried, they’re the best on the market, though they kind of win by default as most gold paints are pretty mediocre. If I was to give someone advice on what metallic paints to start out with, I would probably tell them to buy VMC for the silver metallics and supplement that with Scale75 for the golds.

The most important question

In this review, you will note that I may have left out one of the most important questions as it pertains to any miniature paint: how does it taste?

For the Color Shift paints, since they are best applied with an airbrush in multiple thin coats, and you probably aren’t going to be blending them, it shouldn’t really come up very often. As for the Scale75 metallics, they don’t taste bad right away, but if you keep working with them, licking your brush as you go, you will notice a bad taste in your mouth. However, they are so much better than other gold colours that you might as well grab a beer and wash it down.

The final verdict is that I would probably give the GSW Colorshift paints a C, and the Scale75 paints an A. The GSW Colorshift paints just don’t quite live up to my expectations, though they can still be useful, while the Scale75 metallics are my new favourite gold paints though they haven’t dethroned Vallejo Metal Color for my silvers.