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Suitable large brushes for static boat hull

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John Arnold 322/01/2018 22:02:50
141 forum posts
6 photos

Hello again

Could someone please share with me the type and size of brush they use and what they recommend for painting model acrylic paint on a static model hull (about 14"/340mm long). I don't see many brushes as large as say 1/2" available in craft shops (and I thought that a brush of at least this size would be preferable for painting a larger area). Maybe one from a hardware shop?

Are the acrylic sealers for models generally sandable? I know that some acrylic paints are difficult to sand.

I am thinking maybe a 12mm (1/2" brush? And made of what? Synthetic? I know that at art shops many of the brushes are of natural but surely not hogs hair (sable?).


Banjoman23/01/2018 07:05:33
1142 forum posts
2414 photos

Hello John,

As I do most of my larger surface painting with an airbrush these days, my collection of brushes is not enormous, but in the past I have painted a similar size hull to yours by hand, using acrylic model paints, and for that job I used an Isabey kolinsky sable brush, round size 3, with a to me satisfactory result. This particular brush is one of my favourites, although after more than 30 years it is coming up to retirement now.

You are quite right to suspect that hog's hair brushes won't be much use to you -- those are oil paint brushes, and will be much to stiff.

However, I would strongly recommend a visit to an good art supply shop if you have one within reasonable distance!

To my mind there is absolutely no question that top-of-the-line sable brushes from one of the well-known makers like Winsor & Newton are absolutely fantastic to work with. However, these are also very expensive -- maybe 30 AUD for a number 3 or 4 -- and there are also some excellent synthethics out there at maybe half the price or less.

I have decent experience of the Da Vinci Nova series of synthetics: **LINK** and will probably have a look at their sables soon, when I replace my old worn-out Isabeys.

However, I don't know what's generally available, brand-wise, down under, which is why I would really suggest a visit to an art supply shop, where you can both look at and feel the various types and sizes of brush, and also ask questions and more questions and get their suggestions. Basically, anything that'll be good for watercolour painting will do very well for model painting, too.

As for the shape of brush, you don't necessarily need a flat one to paint the hull. A round one in a slightly larger size (anything from 3 or 4 and upwards) will also work very well. A good quality, round size 4 will hold a surprising amount of paint, and will give very good flow in application, but will also provide precision where needed, thanks to its tip qualities.

As a rule of thumb I'd say it is better to buy fewer but better brushes, and that the most versatile round sizes for model work are those from 1 to 4, and in particular nos 2 and 3. With a quality brush, the tip on these will be good enough that you can paint really small stuff if you take a bit of care not to add too much paint to the brush, while when filled with paint, their bodies are substantial enough to carry fairly substantial amounts of paint. I do also have some 00 and 000 for really fiddly work, but use them much less often, and would consider them more in the line of nice-to-have than really essential.

Oh, and always, always, always clean your brushes after use! For acrylics, I use a standard liquid hand soap as cleaning agent! You can keep a pot of clean water on the table while working for just washing out excess paint, but once you're done, use soap under the tap to clean the brush thoroughly, and then re-shape the tip before you set the brush away to dry. I picked up the habit from my dad, who was an artist, to shape the newly-cleaned brush between my lips; it may taste a little of soap, but so far it hasn't killed me. Otherwise, use your fingertips, but in any case never, ever set your brush tip down in a jar or whatever -- it will be ruined in no time!

As for sanding acrylic model paints, it can certainly be done, but you need to be sure that they are fully dry and hardened all the way through! Acrylics can be a tad tricky in this respect, as they dry from the outside in. They can thus be perfectly dry to the touch, and fine for putting on a new coat, but still not fully dry underneath. If you then try to sand on top, the paint can either start sliding or will react badly to the heat generated.

As always, if you're not sure about a technique or whatever, do a test piece! That way you can make mistakes and learn from them to your heart's content without putting your model at unnecessary risk ...


Edited By Banjoman on 23/01/2018 07:06:28

Edited By Banjoman on 23/01/2018 07:08:58

Edited By Banjoman on 23/01/2018 07:09:53

Bob Wilson23/01/2018 07:47:03
1674 forum posts
181 photos

I often build models around the fourteen inch long size. Never having been much good at painting, or using an airbrush, I find that aerosol car sprays from Halford's UK are very good quality and easy to use. It does require careful masking off with paper masking tape. Here is spray job of red oxide primer for the underwater part of my passenger liner Kenya. It gives a real good finish. Usually when I describe my methods, the answer is "I could never do that!" surprise but that is what I do, and it really is not all that difficult (unless you convince yourself otherwise).


spraying hull (large).jpgkenya.jpg

Edited By Bob Wilson on 23/01/2018 07:48:07

John Arnold 323/01/2018 08:42:52
141 forum posts
6 photos

Thanks Bob and Mattias,

I considered using aerosol paints for the hull but could not source them from two of the largest hobby shops near to me.

I do like the model you Bob have built.

Thanks Mattias for explaining about brush sizes and I have a large art supplies shop 3 miles away.

I was concerned that if I used too small a brush that it might be difficult to get a good result using acrylic paint with lots of overlapping brush strokes as acrylic paints tend to start dying so quickly. I found a video put out by Billings on the construction of the particular model I have and they showed using what I thought was a too small brush to paint the hull.

One further question. Most paint manufacturers market an acrylic thinner. Are they so very different from water which house acrylic paints are thinned with? Should water NOT be used to thin them and wash out brushes?

Bob Wilson23/01/2018 08:48:27
1674 forum posts
181 photos

I see you are in Australia. I would image that your automobile accessories shops would have a large range of car spray paints similar to what we have in Halford's UK. The problem I have with airbrushes are that I do not like having to clean them after use, but that does not arise with spray cans!


ashley needham23/01/2018 09:12:53
6666 forum posts
160 photos

John. I agree with Bob here...air brushes are a fiddle to use and clean, spray cans so much easier!

​Re acrylic thinners...Hmmm...tricky one...if I were spraying acrylic I might use a proper thinner, but what's the difference to using water?? only the manufacturer would know I reckon. You could always try water and see what happens, should work in theory.

​Brushing, I use a synthetic bristle brush, something between 12mm and 18mm if I want a really flat surface and the surfaces ARE flat, sourced from an art shop. I find the drying is the issue, keeping dust off. I don't use acrylics on large surfaces and wonder how quickly they dry and whether this affects the self-smoothing of the paint with regard to any brush marks?


Banjoman23/01/2018 09:17:41
1142 forum posts
2414 photos


You're welcome!

Bob is of course right to point out the possibility of spray paints! Personally I don't like them very much, but that is not meant to suggest anyone else should stay clear of them, just because I do.

My personal reasons for not being too keen on spray paints are (a) I haven't used them much, and in consequence am not very good at applying them properly (a lack of practice that is of course entirely of my own doing); (b) the overspray is much more important than with an airbrush; (c) they usually smell rather strongly and often need to be applied outdoors; and (d) although you can get them from specialist shops mixed to any colour you want, you can't mix them yourself, which makes experimenting with shades of colour more difficult.

None of this is to say that they should be excluded from consideration -- every technique has its drawbacks and advantages. You just need to try and figure out what is most important to you.

As for airbrushes, it is true that they require meticulous adherence to proper cleaning routines, or they will start acting up, giving problems or even refuse to work properly. Airbrush equipment can also be very expensive, so it is not something I would recommend unless your pockets are so deep it doesn't matter to you, or you know that it is a set of equipment that you will want to use for many years to come.

Bob is also quite right in saying that automotive spray paints are widely available and definitely worth considering if you want to spray paint. If you do opt for that, though, but have little or no previous experience, I would seriously suggest that you get a can or two and use those to paint old wine bottles or plank offcuts or whatever until you get a feel for how they handle and how the paint behaves. Getting curtain runs on a test peice is no biggie; on your model is no fun at all (although it can of course be remedied by sanding back). If they are solvent based, you also need to beware of pinholing (where solvent is trapped underneath too thick a layer of paint and when it dissolves leaves a small pockmark).

I reiterate: whatever technique you decide to go for, do test pieces first until you feel sufficiently confident about what you are doing to apply it to your model! It'll cost a wee bit more in paint and time, but makes for big savings on frustration and heartbreak ...


Edited By Banjoman on 23/01/2018 09:17:58

Edited By Banjoman on 23/01/2018 09:18:19

Colin Bishop23/01/2018 10:00:04
4548 forum posts
6070 photos
399 articles


As you will hve realised from the above, everyone has their own preferences on the basis of what works best for them. I do use automotive paints for primers and the red primer is a good match for underwater paint although it needs to be sealed.

When using fine enamel or acrylic paints I have had good results with the larger artists nylon flat brushes which are quite cheap, they have light brown bristles. The paint brushes out well and the nylon filaments are easier to clean than traditional brushes as the paint doesn't stick to them.


John Arnold 323/01/2018 10:21:58
141 forum posts
6 photos

Thanks again everyone.

Ah yes automotive spare parts shops. Yes they have aerosol spray paint cans and I have used them in the past on cars (minor repairs) and didn't have any problems (apart from the fumes and having to mask with lots of newspaper for the overspray sad).

I guess I could find the bottom of my pocket to afford an air brush system but I have to consider that this may be my first and last boat build and so probably not a good idea.

I have been trying out different coatings on scrap timber already (as you suggested). I have found that the 'sanding sealer' (suitable for furniture etc) which I purchased some time ago works ok on both pine and the 3-ply timber (deck) which came in the kit. I also tried it on some balsa wood (difficult to seal) and it worked well (2 coats) so I will probably seal the hull with it before applying the acrylic primer on order UNLESS one of you learned chaps suggests otherwise.

Why balsa wood I can almost hear you asking. I had to purchase a small piece of balsa wood to cut a 1mmX4mm strip to replace the incorrectly supplied 0.5mmX4mm pine strip - very annoying. Thankfully it was just one strip I had to replace.

I am still considering 'investing' in a 12mm synthetic brush for the hull as I am concerned with using a small brush requiring lots of 'strokes' using an acrylic paint especially as it is summer here in Australia and the past few days 35C-40C. I remember well painting the ballustrades on my outside patios/decks last year using acrylic paint and trying to prevent brush marks which was almost impossible. I do prefer enamel paint for that reason but prefer easy cleaning of brushes when using acrylics.

Dave Milbourn23/01/2018 10:22:51
4013 forum posts
282 photos

If you use a simple external mix airbrush like the Badger 250 then cleaning it is not a big deal. You can wipe out the jar with a tissue then fill it with solvent and drop the nozzle, paint tube and gasket washer into it. Give the whole lot a good shake up then drain the solvent and dry the parts with kitchen roll. Occasionally give the nozzle and paint tube a poke around with a pipe-cleaner and solvent. If you develop this as a discipline then it really isn't much more of a bother than cleaning and drying a decent sable brush. The 250 and its larger brother the 250-4 is ideal for larger areas such as a hull. An expensive internal mix and/or dual action airbrush would be a waste of money for this sort of job.

I use Halfords car sprays for all but the small parts but they are getting eye-watering as regards price.

Dave M

(This was posted before I read your comment about it being your first and last model, but the advice is still valid for anyone else).

Edited By Dave Milbourn on 23/01/2018 10:24:46

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