Last Updated on December 18, 2020 by Dave Farquhar
Testors is a brand that’s been around for decades. It’s by far the most common brand of model paint for hobbyists. Here are my Testors model paint tips to reduce frustration, give you better results, and save you money. After all, a hobby should be enjoyable, not frustrating.
Tips for mixing paint
Testors paint can separate rather quickly on its own, especially the metallic colors. I put a small brass washer, screw, or nut in the jar to help me mix it quickly and easily. With a piece of metal in the jar, I can just shake the jar to mix it. Shake it up and down long enough that you can feel the metal running around, then rotate the jar in a circular motion for a few seconds to scrape the pigment off the bottom of the jar. Then shake the jar up and down for about a minute to thoroughly mix the paint. You’ll get a truer color this way with less wasted paint.
Use better brushes
If you buy a pack of Testors paint that comes with a brush, throw that brush away. Get a pack of artist’s paint brushes from a craft store like Michael’s or Jo-ann. Even their cheapest brushes are far better than the ones Testors gives you with their paint.
When you’re finished with a brush, clean it with paint thinner, blot out the thinner and paint on a paper towel, and repeat until it’s completely clean and put it away. If you clean your brush religiously, it will last years.
Refill your thinner bottle
The Testors paint thinner bottle is only a quarter ounce in size, so it doesn’t last long. When you run out of thinner, buy a can of mineral spirits. A quart-sized can will outlast 128 Testors bottles, while costing about as much as four of them.
Refill jars for common colors
At around $2 for a quarter ounce, Testors paint is expensive. You can save money by buying larger cans of Rustoleum paint, and either refilling your Testors jars with Rustoleum, or painting straight out of the Rustoleum cans. The color selection will be different, and you may not be able to find a match for every color. But for really common colors like black and white and the primary colors, you can probably find usable matches that cost a lot less.
Wash your model
Spray your model down with Simple Green to remove any oils from its surface, then rinse and let it dry thoroughly. Paint sticks much better to a clean, degreased surface. Simple Green is cheap and safe for plastics.
Paint adheres and covers better when you use a primer first. I like Rustoleum gray primer, but even cheap house brand gray primer will work. I prefer gray primer to white, as gray is much less noticeable if you happen to miss a spot.
Let the paint dry thoroughly
Oil-based paints like Testors take a few hours to dry. While you can probably handle the model after a few hours to apply decals and a topcoat, it’s safer to let it dry overnight, if you have the patience.
Use glossy paints for better decal adhesion
Testors comes in gloss and flat finishes. Flat is more realistic, but decals don’t stick well to flat paint. It’s much better to use gloss, then apply your decals. If the color you need is only available in flat, apply a bit of Pledge Floor Care Finish (not cleaner) to the spot where the decal will go and let it dry. This clear acrylic gloss finish really helps decals stick well. I talked about this and more in my entry about waterslide decal tips.
If you want a realistic flat finish, you can get that after the fact. That leads me to my next tip.
Use Dullcote for better realism
After you paint and apply your decals, spray the model with Testors Dullcote to give a flat, realistic finish. Or you can use my DIY alternative, which you can mix flatter than Dullcote, or slightly less flat, depending on your needs.
Keep the paint from drying out
At $2 per bottle, you probably don’t want your Testors paint to dry out. And if it does, you probably want to salvage it. Here are my tips for dealing with and preventing Testors paint from drying out.
On a related note, I have some tips for assembling a plastic model kit. There’s a lot of overlap here, but if you’re painting kits, you’re probably building them too.
If you want to restore an old model, here’s how to remove paint from plastic safely. Then you can repaint.