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In-Depth Technique

How to simulate metal using Alclad paints

Get a realistic look with an airbrush-ready metallic lacquer
Clay's Tamiya 2006 Honda RC211V gets a boost from a realistic-looking engine and exhaust.
If you are familiar with my past builds or articles, you know that I like to think outside the box when it comes to building models. One of the things I really enjoy is thinking of different ways to do things, or finding new products that can do a better job than what's currently available.

One product that caught my eye a few years ago, and I started using, is Alclad's line of airbrush-ready metallic lacquer paints. Until then, I'd mainly used other Metalizers and I do still use them for certain tasks. But I was so impressed with the results I got using Alclad products that I now use them most of the time when I want to simulate any kind of metal.

I get a lot of E-mails and questions at shows asking about its use, so in this article, I'll explain the basics.

Ideally, I try to spray the parts that will need Alclad all at once. Scanning the kit instructions and paint callouts, I decided which parts will need to be metallic shades, and begin to get them ready for paint.
mounting the parts
Mounting handles can be anything from scrap styrene rods to toothpicks. Find a place that will be hidden, and mount the parts to ease in handling while spraying. After the parts are firmly attached, everything is sprayed with one coat of Valspar gray primer.
Frame and swing-arm pieces in oven cleaner
On this kit, the frame and swing-arm pieces are plated with a semichrome finish. I wanted to replace the finish with a more-accurate shade, so I cut the pieces from the sprue and dropped them in a cup with some oven cleaner to strip the plating.
Stripped pieces
The oven cleaner worked fast on Tamiya's thin plating. After soaking for 20 minutes, the pieces were scrubbed with an old toothbrush under hot, soapy water, and left to dry.
Two coats of Valspar primer
The frame and swing arm are assembled following the kit instructions, and get two coats of Valspar primer. I wasn't going for a chrome finish, so I undercoated both pieces with House of Kolor black base coat lacquer. If a chrome finish is desired, the base will need to be gloss black. But for these parts, a semigloss lacquer base will work fine.
Two coats of Alclad Aluminum
After two thin coats of Alclad Aluminum, the two pieces are ready for further detail-painting and assembly.
Spray parts with Aclad
I try to arrange the pieces in order, according to what colors I will spray, working from light to dark. Using the kit instructions and a few 1:1 reference pictures, I begin with the lightest-colored parts first, working my way up to the darker shades. Alclad is prethinned, and switching from one color to the next usually only involves dumping out the previous color, and adding in the new color.
Alclad colors
The colors are easy to mix; normally the gold color is a pretty bold shade straight from the bottle, but by mixing in some aluminum it can be quickly toned down to a more pale shade of gold, as seen on these engine pieces. After spraying the aluminum, I often dump in some of the gold and keep spraying, letting the colors mix themselves.
Engine assembly
As the engine assembly begins, the benefits are clear to see. By using a slightly different shade for each part, the entire engine has a bit more character, and a more-realistic appearance. The Alclad paints are durable during handling, which is a great asset.

Next we'll work on some heat-staining/welding marks, using the Honda's exhausts as an example. Using Alclad's new Hotmetals line of paints and a bit of Tamiya tape, we can transform those plastic pipes into some more-realistic-looking welded exhausts.
Exhaust pipes with House of Color base coat
The exhaust pipes were assembled, and sanded to remove any seems or imperfections. Once finished with the prep work they are primed with Valspar primer, and given a base coat of House of Kolor Black, just like the frame pieces earlier.
Exhaust pipes with Alclad Highly Polished Aluminum
After the base coat black dried for an hour or so, each pipe got one even coat of Alclad Highly Polished Aluminum. An even coat is important: too much, and it will dull the effect; not enough, and you’ll have areas of the black still showing through.

Alclad's new Hotmetals line
The new Hotmetals line consists of Red, Blue, Violet, and Sepia. I also use the original Transparent Yellow quite a lot. Good reference material is important here, too. Armed with the bottles of paint, exhaust pipes, reference material, and some Tamiya masking tape, it’s time to transform these pipes.

Pipes are masked for simulated weld seams and joints
The first step is to decide where you want to add the simulated weld seams and section joints. The 1:1 pipes are several separate bends of tubing all welded together, and at each joint the discoloration changes slightly from one spot to the next. Thin strips of Tamiya masking tape are used to mask off the polished aluminum for each line.

Pipes with Transparent Yellow and Sepia

With all the masking tape stripes in place, the first color to add is Hotmetal Violet. My reference showed that as the pipes left the engine they showed more cool shades, and as the pipes went along toward the exits, the shades got warmer. I tried to keep the Violet toward the beginning of the pipes, to match that effect.

Pipes with Transparent Yellow and Sepia
Transparent Yellow and Sepia are next. The yellow needs to be thinned slightly; it’s a bit thick out of the bottle. The other shades seem to be airbrush-ready. I work in the Sepia and Yellow as close to the violet as I can, but try to avoid overlapping it – resulting in a greenish-brown color. The sepia and yellow together work well to create the illusion of really hot metal.

Pipes with Hotmetal Blue
The final shade used is the Hotmetal Blue. I remove several pieces of the masking bands to allow the blue to show up next to the violet. Like the previous colors, be careful to avoid spraying the blue onto the yellow areas that can create an unrealistic dark green shade.

Final touches made to the pipes
With the blue applied and dry, the remaining masking-tape strips can be removed, and the airbrushing steps are complete. Final touches include filling in the exits with flat black paint, and doing any fine spot-painting over the welds with some chrome silver brush paint.

Pipes are test-fitted to the engine
A quick test-fit of the pipes to the engine gives a small glimpse into the look of the final product. The heat-stained exhaust pipes, combined with the various shades of metallic colors on the engine, really help to bring the box-stock kit engine alive.

Final assembly
Later in the assembly, the work put into the masking and airbrushing really starts to show. The Alclad line of paints gives great results without a lot of effort. By working patiently and logically, some great metallic and heat-tarnished effects can be produced.


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