Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Ancient Jade Armor, an experiment in lacquer

So I know the 2.0 rules for the Chinese Federation have not yet been released, and I know that Derek and the gang have worked to pare down the MAR list, so I'm sure Ancient Jade Armor is no longer it's own standalone MAR. Still, I've decided to paint the hulls in a magic jade tone. I say magic, as the paints I'm using are just that: magic. What follows is my intro to spraying Alclad lacquers on a very small scale...

The product is Alclad Prismatic Blue to Green, or ALC-201 Scarabeus. It is a prismatic lacquer that provides a color-changing effect when viewed from different angles and under different light. These lines are popular with the RC car crowd, as the effect is very strong when used on clear lexan car bodies with large, flat, smooth panels. While my Chinese ships have lots of (tiny) intricate detail, I decided to give it a whirl and hope for the best.

Spoiler alert: I was not disappointed.

Since the lacquer is transparent, it needs a smooth, high gloss basecoat to ensure the prismatic effect is not lost. At the recommendation of a few RC enthusiasts at the hobby store, I went with a gloss black. However, I needed to mask off the ships to preserve the basecoat. Enter: silly putty! (Lots of it)

Silly Putty, *not* chewing gum
Masking the ships proved fiddly, though after a few I found myself working into a rhythm and everything got a bit easier. Why not brush this on and eliminate the need for masking? Simply, the alclad lacquer is made for the airbrush, and spraying it on ensures a nice, even coat. Being that I needed to spray the top coat anyway, I used the airbrush for the base coat as well. Hence all the silly putty.

Once masked, the ships received a gloss black base coat. After that dried, I nervously sprayed my first coat of the Scarabeus blue-green. At first I saw nothing, and was a bit disappointed, until I simply rotated the ship under my lamp. Bam! As the light changed, the hull exploded in shades of green. I grinned foolishly and continued down the line.

Ancient Jade Armor, work in progress
Another essential facet is a high gloss top coat, to smooth out the surface and help enhance the prismatic effect via specular reflection. Spraying the gloss coat on instantly cranked this paint job up to eleven. It was only after the gloss coat that I was able to rotate the ships and see the full blue to green shift.

Pro's: Ease of application, impressive final effect (even on small, multi-faceted details)

Con's: Product is a lacquer (primarily concerned with safety and cleanup)

Even the skimming Bastions got the Jade Armor treatment

I'm choosing not to list the masking and prep work as a con, as that is a direct result of my chosen paint scheme and painting order. However, given this was my first time spraying a lacquer, a good deal of care was needed. I opened windows and turned on ceiling fans to ensure proper ventilation, and a personal respirator is a definite must. Additionally, you need lacquer thinner to properly clean your airbrush, both during and after the painting session. I found myself cleaning the airbrush a couple times over the course of two nights work, though I was using a small nozzle size to ensure a tight spray pattern. Also, make sure to use a glass container for your washing/cleaning "dirty painting water" cup. Lacquer thinner will eat right through a plastic cup. Trust me on that one...

Tricky to photograph, impressive in person!

Overall I'm extremely happy with the result. One small downside, given the nature of the prismatic effect relying on lighting and viewing angle, the color shift is extremely hard to photograph. Apologies there, as the photos simply do not do it justice. When I rotate the ships in my hand, the hulls flash from solid blue to bright metallic green, which is exactly the effect I wanted to represent the magical jade armor.

The medium/large/massive segment of the fleet
What's next? Washes, building details, and brass accents.

Then repeating this process on 20 frigates and 8 destroyers, oof....

1 comment: