Comparisons of paints for the base coat for wooden details

edited July 2014 in Painting Castings
One of the greatest things about SWSM kits are the detailed resin castings of wooden objects. These wooden objects are to start off with a "wood-like" base coat of paint using something like PollyS Earth or Floquil Earth. This goes back lots of years and is filled with tradition from the old craftsman kits. I have had kits that were 40 years old and they said use Floquil Earth to colour wooden objects.

Well the times have changed and modern paints have improved by leaps and bounds. The current best practice is to use rattle can spray paint to put on the base/primer coat for castings. The pigments and spray nozzles are so good that they are beginning to displace the airbrush. I see that people are replacing PollyS and Floquil Earth with a Krylon camouflage paint for wooden objects. The most often recommended "Camo" paint to replace Earth paint is Camo Khaki. So I wanting to keep up with the times, I when out and bought a can and sprayed some resin castings. When the paint dried the base coat looked green and nothing like the old Earth colour. I double checked the can to see if I picked up the wrong can, but it was the right can.

Hmm, when I look at the photographs of castings being painted, the base colour didn't look anything like the old colour "Earth". This got me thinking. Did Krylon make a "Earth" colour and was it available in Canada. So I went to the big box stores to see if could find it on the shelves, but no one stocked it or planned to. I looked on Krylon Web site and it is NOT available in Canada. Period. What to do?

I tried to use the Khaki, but things did not look right. So during a recent trip to Cleveland, NRMA Train Show, I stopped by a Walmart and picked up a few cans of Camo Sand. When I got home I tried it and it looked much more like Earth. Yippie. But why do people say to use Khaki?

So the scientist/photographer in me said "... why don't you over analysis the question..?" I resided the temptation for a few hours and could not help myself. (I think I need help!) So here is a few bits of data and pictures to show what I meant.

So I decided to test some sample paints to compare them and to find out which ones were closest to Earth colour. In this picture you can see the 6 paints I tested. From left to right; Tamiya Wooden Deck Tan, PollyS Earth, Flquil Earth,a Custom Mix from Lowes, Camo Sand and Camo Khaki. The paints were applied to a White art board. The solvent based ones (tamiya and Floquil) had to have two coats to get uniform colours. The rest it just took one coat.


I then let the paint dry and went outside with a Macbeth colour chart and took a photograph in a clouded sky around 3:00 PM. I then imported it into Photoshop Lightroom and colour calibrated the white balance of the image to make sure the colours were true.


I then measured the average RGB and CYMK values for each colour swatch to ensure I over-analysed the paint.


Things to note here,

- White is very white proving the white balance worked
- Both Earths and Lowes are very similar
- Camo Sand CMYK is close to the Earths
- Camo Khaki CMYK is very different

So Camo Sand is a good replacement for PollyS and Floquil Earth and Camo Khaki is not. Camo Khaki is closer to the colour of wet dirt.

Before you crucify me; I'm not saying don't use Camo Khaki for a base coat for wood, just know that it will shift your colour palette and accommodate for that shift. For me, I will use Camo Sand on wooden objects until a best method comes along and I am willing to change. One thing I did notice with Camo Sand is that it does go on rather think, no matter how far away I spray from. I had to use compressed air to get the wet paint out of the fine cracks to see the fine details. Maybe more practice will help. (BTW: I like the way the Tamiya paint applies and I don't mind it being a bit thin.)



  • I'm a big fan of the camo sand color. I use it for all of my wood castings as a base coat.
  • That's great color research. I see the green in the Camo Khaki, but the Sand looks like a great base. I'm getting ready to paint my first Sierra West castings for the HO Tool Shed, I will pickup a can of the Sand color.
  • Marty, nice research here and I am saving this info. for my records. With that said, my opinion is not to get too hung up on just one color of primer for wood stuff, which you elude to. Varying the primer coat shade along with the various wood palette of chalk colors will give a nice varied end result to the wood items. I would also suggest that proper coverage is more important than the color shade, as you mentioned one went on too thick and this is not one certainly does not want to cover up or dull any fine details on these wonderful castings. I have used Floquil Earth and the Khaki and I don't recall any issues with the end result. In fact, I have primed (actually base color coat right over the bare casting) many wooden crates with many different colors and then went over them with the chalks with great results. Based on your research, I will be switching to the sand as my prime (get it!) color for most of my wood stuff...thanks! Ken
  • Ken,

    One thing I did notice was that the colour density for the two sprayed on camos was very consistent across the sample swatches as compared to the others that were brushed on. I think it was due to the even distribution of the spraying and the volume of paint coming out of the nozzle.

    You can be good and bad.

  • Yea, when I have primed things with others colors with a brush I used thinned down paint more like a wash. One nice thing with the brush priming that I liked was using a floquil or equivalent and just as the paint/wash gets tacky but not quite dry I apply the dry chalk and get really nice coverage as the tacky paint holds the chalk well without affecting the texture.

    Hopefully I'm more good than bad!

  • I use the Tamiya wood deck now. One thing is whether to out down an enamel base or water base. One of the SW techniques involves thin washes of enamels with a final wash of acrylic - I've tried several methods and this to me is still the best. But I've been told you can do acrylic on enamel but not the other way around although for resin details this may not matter much. For white metal I've read one should only use acrylics- enamels will blacken over time on metal. Don't know if this is true. rattle cans now are really good. Michaels carries Liquitex or whatever they are called which are great and have an interesting colour range - I've tried several.
  • Thanks for the info Marty.... Great to see the different paints and results.
  • Marty, excellent report - thank you!

  • Good to know there are others who over analyse a problem(whether real or perceived)! All kidding aside, Thank you for the research! I have seen where the base coat could indeed influence the top coat depending upon the color(s) used. Shawn
  • Marty, great paint research project. Thank you for sharing here. I like the consensus that one color is the end all color for a base coat. I favor using a couple of shades for various pieces depending on how much weathering I want to do down the road. From your samples, I'm leaning toward the Tamyia Deck Tan and the Camo Sand. Thanks again Marty.
  • When I took Brett's "shopping list" and filled it, I bought Rustoleum's "sand" color instead of Khaki. I have several bottles of Floquil and poly Earth on hand from the 'feeding frenzy" and took one to match up with can lids. Glad I made the right pick! Thing is I'm not sure about the airbrush being displaced. Rattle cans are either on or off when you paint. There isn't much in between. The airbrush gives me more control, less overspray and more mileage on the paint. I've been known to milk rattle cans, let the paint off-gas and shoot it in my airbrush. I'm not typical though. I've been a custom painter for a lot of years and have a fair variety of equipment. Bottom line is I get better results with my airbrush. I'll try it out of the can though. Always open to different techniques!
  • edited January 2016
    Sorry for the double post. not sure why that happened. Missed my daily sacrifice to the IT Gods, I guess.
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