A home for my thoughts.

The Tamiya Modeler Guide

I make 1/72 WWII Luftwaffe models and I almost exclusively use Tamiya paints and products. These are the standard procedures I have settled on over the last decade.


I no longer prime, but if I did - I would use the following method:

Thin to 1 Tamiya Liquid Surface Primer to 2 Thinner (1P:2T), using Tamiya Lacquer Thinner. Airbrush with Iwata HP-CS 0.3mm at 20 PSI at about 2 inches from the surface to be primed. Can sand with 3200 or 6400 grit sandpaper for exceptional finish.

Commentary: I realized I was only priming because everyone else does. When I stopped priming I encountered no change in paint durability. Subsequently, I performed a series of dedicated experiments and found negative benefits (lost detail and time) with no improvement in paint adherence. I tested using Tamiya, Mr Surfacer and a Mig AMMO primer. If I was going to prime anyway, I would use Tamiya as it came in 2nd place in my experiments (behind no primer at all).

I will admit that priming does have a lot of value in covering the model in a uniform color to reveal seams and areas needing touch-up. I simply use a paint as the base layer-- a white or a grey.

Warning! Mr Surfacer curdles in contact with Tamiya X-20A and completely gums up the airbrush.

Tamiya Paint

I use only Tamiya Acrylic paints (start with XF) with the exception of metallics. For metallics I use Alcad.

Thin to 1 Paint to 3 Thinner (1P:3T), using Tamiya X-20A thinner. Tamiya Acrylic paints must be thinned to airbrush.

Commentary: Previously, I thinned at a ratio of 2 Paint to 1 Thinner (2P:1T), using Tamiya X-20A thinner. I did not have issues with this mixture, but I switched after a series of experiments showed me that 1P:3T leads to a finer, smoother coat.

When cleaning an airbrush or a mess, I use Tamiya X-20A primarily. I also use Tamiya Lacquer Thinner or even Isopropyl Alcohol 95%. Tamiya Airbrush Cleaner is great for cleaning the airbrush by allowing it to soak in the brush or dropping parts into a jar of it to allow for soaking.

If I need to clean a Tamiya paint bottle so I can re-use it-- Isopropyl Alcohol 95% in a warm ultrasonic cleaner works amazing at removing all paint (or alternatively Windex). Windex can remove Tamiya paint, but I don't use Windex for any reason other than cleaning old jars -- this is to avoid any complications from cross contamination.

When I thin my paints, I put the thinned paint into a dedicated dropper bottle and then label the bottle with the name, mixture ratio and the PSI to use. I can then use the dropper bottle to directly add paint to the airbrush.

Clean the rim of your Tamiya paint bottles every time with thinner to help ensure the bottle seals properly. Bottles that dont seal well will dry out or lose the proper ratio of thinner to pigment.

Inspect your Tamiya paint bottles at least once a year. Some will dry out or thicken due the aforementioned lack of a tight seal.

The best method to mix Tamiya paint is a mechanical stirrer. A metal ball bearing in the paint jar + a vibrating mixer is an alternative, but I don't do that anymore. Shaking the bottle puts the paint all over the lid and the inside where it may dry and crust up. If you keep the bottle flat and use a mechanical stirrer, you will avoid paint drying on the walls of the bottle and then the resultant paint chips falling into the paint.


General painting: Iwata HP-CS airbrush with a 0.3mm needle at 15 PSI while keeping the airbrush about 2 inches from the surface to be painted.

Detail painting: Heavily thin the already pre-thinned mixture from above. 1 Pre-Thinned Paint to 7 Thinner, again using Tamiya X-20A. I add the X-20A to the airbrush and then add the pre-thinned paint and mix with a stirring stick or toothpick. Iwata HP-CS airbrush with a 0.3mm needle at 10 PSI.

Paint Retarder: While I do have Tamiya Paint Retarder (Acrylic), I don't often use it and it is not part of my official regiment.

Drying time and durability: Tamiya acrylics dry very quickly (in under 5 minutes) and can be expedited with air from your airbrush with no negative impact. However, I do not mask over new paint until it has had at least three hours to dry-- usually go for overnight. When I do mask, I use Tamiya masking tape (yellow) and will reduce it's tackiness by placing on skin and lifting a number of times. I have never had an issue with Tamiya paint being lifted by masking tape.

Stripping Paint

To remove Tamiya paint that has dried on a model, use a cotton pad lightly doused with Tamiya Lacquer Thinner. Lightly apply, repeatedly. Paint will become easier and easier to remove. More and more paint will be removed until you are back to the bare plastic. No negative effects should occur. Use a cotton bud doused with Tamiya Lacquer to focus on specific areas of paint to remove.

With some skill, you can re-paint and blend your new paint into the areas where the paint was not removed. I removed the paint from half of the underside of one of my models then repainted and blended the two paint jobs together. That model later one first place in it's class at a show!

Mixing Luftwaffe RLM colors

Tamiya does not carry Luftwaffe RLM colors so you must mix your own. Through research on the web and my own experimentation I arrived at the following mixtures for the common RLM colors. I wish I recorded the sources of the mixtures I found on the web, but I did not so I appologize for not being able to link to those sites. These mixtures looked the best when compared to the two references I have on hand (Monogram Luftwaffe Color Chips & AK Real Colors Reference Book).

Sometimes Tamiya models of Luftwaffe subjects contain suggestions for mixing Tamiya paint to achieve various RLMs. I tend to ignore these suggestions and use the below table.

RLM 02 XF22:1 XF49:1 XF2:2
RLM 70 XF27
RLM 71 XF61:3 XF2:1
RLM 72 XF63:2 XF61:1
RLM 73 XF24:2 XF27:1 (Lightened with a few drops of white to contrast with RLM 72)
RLM 74 XF24:3 XF27:1 White:1
RLM 75 XF-24:5 XF-50:1
RLM 76 XF2:7 XF23:1 XF66:2
RLM 79 XF59:3 XF64:1
RLM 81 XF51:1 XF64:2
RLM 82 XF5:1 XF2:2
RLM 83 XF61

Using Mr. Hobby Aqueous Paints

Thin to 1 Paint to 1 Thinner (1P:1T), using Mr. Color Leveling Thinner or Aqueous Hobby Color Thinner. Manufacturer advises a range of 1P:1T to 1P:1.5T ratios.

Commentary: Mr. Hobby Aqueous line of paints is a good alternative to Tamiya, you can use all your Tamiya thinners, and it has similair performance when airbrushing. Caution: There are two similair Mr. brand paint lines-- Mr. Hobby Aqueous (acrylic) and Mr. Color (lacquer). So far, I have only tried Mr. Hobby Aqueous. I have had good results with Mr. Hobby.

Primary benefit over Tamiya is these paints come in RLM colors so you can avoid having to make and preserve your own batches. Dries slower, but more durable.

Can clean up using Tamiya X-20A, Tamiya Lacquer or Tamiya Airbrush Cleaner.

Drying time and durability: This paint acts like Tamiya but with one noticeable diference: its a semi-gloss. It's harder to tell what sections are dry because everything will look somewhat wet. When dry, much harder to scratch than Tamiya-- the flat finish of Tamiya looks great but is very prone to scuffs and scratches.