Testors Dullcote is a very useful clearcoat for a variety of hobbies, including building plastic models and model railroading. However, Dullcote is in short supply in 2020 because of the COVID pandemic. So here’s my favorite Testors Dullcote alternative. It’s reasonably cost effective and DIY.
You can make a Testors Dullcote alternative from Pledge Floor Gloss and Tamiya Flat Base. Best of all, you can mix it to exactly the sheen you want.
DIY Testors Dullcote alternative
When I suggest using a floor cleaner on models, people tend to look at me funny. But it turns out Pledge Floor Gloss isn’t a floor cleaner. It’s actually a glossy clear acrylic finish. And it’s incredibly useful. The only problem is SC Johnson changes its name every 2-3 years, and a lot of stores that used to carry it don’t anymore. It used to be called Future Floor Polish, and then in 2008, they started changing the name. But the link above works, if you can’t find Pledge Floor Gloss at a store near you. It’s amazing stuff, and it’s been a hobbyist secret for years.
Be sure to get the Pledge Floor Gloss that comes in a 27 ounce squeeze bottle. The stuff that comes in spray cans is a completely different product.
Now I know you’re saying it’s the opposite of what you need, because it’s glossy, and you want dull. But you can make it dull. For that, you need another product: Tamiya Flat Base.
A lot of people have tried Tamiya Flat Base and been unhappy with it, but that’s because you don’t use it directly. Flat Base is meant to be mixed with paint to dull it down. If you apply Flat Base like paint, it makes a mess.
The way to use Floor Gloss and Flat Base to make a DIY Testors Dullcote alternative is to mix the two together. I mix it in very small quantities and test it to make sure I have the sheen I want. There’s a chart floating around that suggests the ratios to use, but I found I got different results.
I generally use a minimum of three parts Floor Gloss to one part Flat Base to get a really flat finish. To get something flat with a very slight sheen, you can vary the ratio from 4:1 up to almost 10:1. Once I get close to a 10:1 ratio, the finish looks satin to me.
And since it’s an acrylic, it won’t react with the finish you apply it to, unlike solvent-based clearcoats.
Mixing Floor Gloss and Flat Base
To get the best results, stir the Flat Base before you use it. The last time I went to use mine, I found it had separated a bit. Flat Base should be almost milky, and semi-translucent.
You’ll need a small plastic cup to use as a measuring cup. The next time you use up a bottle of liquid medicine, save the measuring cup. It doesn’t matter what unit of measure you use, as long as you’re consistent.
You’ll also need a bottle to put it in. You can clean out a medicine bottle or empty paint bottle, or buy an empty paint bottle. I like to use a small bottle and mix up my Testors Dullcote alternative in small batches. Otherwise it tends to evaporate before I use all of it.
I mix it into the bottle, then stir it thoroughly. While Floor Gloss is clear, it get milkier once you mix in some Flat Base.
What I like to do is start with a ratio of 3:1, then test it and let it dry. A thin coat of Floor Gloss/Flat Base dries surprisingly quickly. If I want a bit more shine, I add one more part Floor Gloss, then test again, and add more if I’m not quite happy.
You can apply it with a brush or use an airbrush. Pledge Floor Gloss is self-leveling, because it was designed to be applied with a mop. That means you can brush it onto a model and it’ll hide your brush strokes on its own if you leave it. You can also apply it with an airbrush if you have one. Some people use it as is, others thin the mixture 3:1 with isopropyl alcohol to thin it down a bit. If you get a run in the clearcoat, touch it with the corner of a piece of tissue. It will quickly wick away the excess.
Using these techniques, you can paint in gloss so you can apply decals easily, then get a realistic flat or semi-flat finish.
Is it cheaper?
Mixing up your own isn’t much cheaper than buying Dullcote. But I find it’s helpful to be able to control the sheen for what I use it for. It seems like I always want a finish somewhere in between what Testors and everyone else offer, and this lets me get it. Plus, since it’s an acrylic, it cleans up super easily. I also think it’s easier to get a smooth finish with it than with the Testors product. And unlike hardware store clearcoats, I’ve never, ever had a problem with Floor Gloss wrinkling my paint. As a Testors Dullcote alternative, I wouldn’t say it’s cheaper, but it definitely has a time and a place in my toolkit.
I do plan to get more Dullcote when it becomes more readily available. At the very least, the Testors product is convenient.
And speaking of Testors… Am I the only one who has a problem with their little jars of paint drying out? Here’s what to do about that. Those dried-out jars are probably salvageable, and it’s easy to keep it from recurring.
Tamiya Flat Base is a hobby shop item. If you have a hobby shop near you, especially one that deals in plastic model kits, pay them a visit. Those types of shops often carry Tamiya products. Buy from them when you can, because those types of shops are a vanishing breed. If you don’t have a local shop, buying from my Ebay link at least supports a hobby shop somewhere else.
Pledge Floor Gloss is something that frequently turns up at estate sales. If there’s an estate sale in your neighborhood, drop in and look through the cleaning products. You may find an old bottle of it. Floor Gloss used to be called Future Floor Finish, Pledge With Future Shine, and Pledge Floor Care Finish. I see old bottles of Future (possibly decades old) at estate sales very frequently. It doesn’t go bad, so if you see a bottle of Future at an estate sale cheap, grab it.