It can be hard to select a paint that works well. Trail and error is the only real way to find out what will work best for you, but here's some suggestions from customizers.
Types of Paint
There are two types of paint available to the customizing community: acrylic and enamel. Most customizers choose acrylic paint for its quick drying time and easy cleanup. There is no harm in using both types of paint on a figure, nor is there harm to be made by mixing and matching the different brands.
Enamel paint does not come with a high recommendation for customizing. For one, the paint requires thinner to be cleaned up. Therefore, you will have to clean your brushes with this pungent material.
Another disadvantage is the drying time of enamel paint compared to acrylic. Many enamels take at least an hour to dry. This will provide a huge stumbling block to your hobby as you will have to take an significant amount of work time to allow your parts to dry.
There is also a problem in that some enamels have a sort of reaction with the plastic that the Joe figures are made of. This will likely result in a coat of paint that will never completely "cure", giving a sticky layer to the parts that you have coated with that paint.
Brands of Enamel Paint
- Testors - If you feel you must use enamel paint, you will most likely be using one of the Testors brands. Make sure to check there is no mention of "acrylic" on the bottle or you will get the wrong kind of paint.
- "Normal" - This is the type of Testors you will find in the model section of Wal-Mart. It really has no designation other than "Testors" on the bottle and is sometimes available in kits of paint.
- Model Master - The Model Master line comes recommended as it has an extensive selection of colors for your customizing work. You can find it in most any hobby shop and sometimes at comic shops. There is a line of acrylic Model Master paints, so be sure to check closely that you are buying the type you want.
Acrylic paint is a God-send for the hobby. Its best features are the quick drying time and easy clean-up. Since it is water-based, one only needs a small cup of water or sink to clean your brushes. One slight disadvantage to this type of paint is it seems slightly more prone to chipping that enamels are.
Brands of Acrylic Paint
- Testors Model Master - Again, this line comes recommended as it has an extensive selection of colors for your customizing work. Make sure your bottle is labeled with the term "acryl" to ensure you are picking up the acrylic version of the brand. Most hobby stores carry these side by side so be sure to check or ask before purchasing. You need to make sure you stir this paint a bit before using it to make sure it is well-mixed because, in my experience, it is prone to separating. It goes on very watery but covers fairly well. Once dried it leaves an extremely smooth surface with an almost production shine.
- Folk Art / Apple Barrel - A recent find to the hobby, this brand can be found in the craft section of Wal-Mart, Jo-Anne Fabric, or Michael's. There are many shades of paint available, with quite a few variations on even the basic colors. You might hear it referred to by both names listed. These are cheap in the .44-$1.00 range. They go on thick which can be problematic for colors like red, yellow, and white. They also tend to chip and scrape if you do not sand or clear coat.
- Both Apple Barrel and Folk Art paints are made by Plaid Enterprises. While there are some similarities in certain colors with similar names in each brand, others may have subtle differences, such as being lighter or darker than their counterpart.
- Delta Ceramcoat - Often found side by side with Apple Barrel and Folk Art paint. This brand also has a large array of colors and at the .50-$1.00 range. I found that over time figure parts that touch, like inner thighs, sort of bond together and end up peeling off. For that reason this choice is only recommended for customizers on a budget. If you can though. go with Apple Barrel or Folk Art over this brand.
- Games Workshop / Citadel - Many customizers swear by this brand of paint. Its primary use has been in painting the miniature figures from the various Games Workshop games, like Warhammer. Therefore, the paints are named with "cutesy" names like "Skull White" or "Elf Flesh". This paint has a thicker, syrupy consistency. It coats very well with a dull to flat shine. It is usally priced at between $2-3 a small bottle and can be found online or at Games Workshop stores.
- Tamiya - These paints can be found in hobby stores and seem to be primarily used for military models and trains. They come in about the same size bottles as Citadel paints but are about half the price. They are a little bit watery and take perhaps 3 coats to fully coat the piece. They are acrylics and come in both gloss and flat colors, with many, many colors available. Be careful when purchasing these because unlike other brands that put gloss in front of the color on the bottle Tamiya's are gloss unless they put "flat" on the bottle. They also have a very strong, bitter-strawberry smell and are flammable. In other words they flat out stink. They come in spray cans as well.