What the Ratings Mean

I guess I really should provide some kind of guide explaining what my “ratings” actually mean. So here goes. Keep this in mind–a higher score is always BETTER. Five stars is best. Zero stars is worst. I’m not one of those people who have strange, obsessive ideas about numbers. I don’t avoid fives and zeros because “nothing is perfectly good or bad.” That’s definitely on the spectrum. I’m on the spectrum. I’m just not on that part of the spectrum.

Self Leveling

This is the ability of the paint to smooth itself out after it’s been brushed on. You apply the paint wet, then, as it dries, the paint becomes smooth. Some paints (like Tamiya Gloss Acrylic) do this really, really well. Others, like Vallejo Model Color, do not do it at all (incredibly to me). This one rating is the single most important quality that a paint has to have in order to used for brushpainting. If a paint can’t smooth itself out, then it really needs to be sprayed on. Trying to “smooth” it with a brush is a self-defeating practice I call scrubbing.

Need for Additives

I added this to have a single rating that describes if the paint can stand on its own, or if it needs some chemistry experiments to make it work. If a paint scores low on this item, it needs a lot of additives to be used in brushpainting. If a paint needs only distilled water for thinning, and nothing else, it gets a “five star” rating.


This is a rating of how well the paint covers in one coat. Some paints, like Humbrol Acrylic, cover beautifully in one coat. They may not do anything else well, but they have that quality. I included this because I think it’s important to some people and it should be listed. Vallejo Model Air has excellent coverage, but it needs additives to be brushable. The best paints, in my opinion, have mediocre coverage. I don’t judge paints, in general, on coverage. Including this item as a portion of a overall ranking is one of the philosophical questions I may need to think about.

Proper Drying Time

You can tell from the clunky name that this item is problematic. Paint should dry over a period of an hour or two. Not fifteen minutes. That’s way too fast to be good for brushing. It won’t have time to self-level if it sets up that fast. Twenty-four hours is acceptable. But paint that takes days to dry fails in this category because 1) I don’t want to wait that long, and 2) you end up with fingerprints if you pick up the model. This category is problematic, because the same number represents “too fast” and “too slow.” This may be changed. I wanted to keep the number of categories manageable.


This is a category that really means “is it incompatible with something that is widely used or important in some way?” I thought about calling it “incompatibility” but a high score for “incompatibility” seems counter-intuitive to me. This whole category is really about Gunze Sangyo and their incompatible paint. The stuff reacts to a lot products (clear finishes) and you really need to go “Gunze only” to use it. That’s bad. I intend to use this score to point out paint that is “too proprietary.”


How well does the paint stipple? I do stippling a lot to create “faux” airbrushing like this:

It’s very hard to do stippling with a very dark color next to a very light one. The Vallejo Model Air worked so well for this that the excellent stippling characteristics raised the overall score for the paint.

Stippling depends on the paint not drying too fast and remaining self-leveling over small areas with minute amounts of paint. I included it as a separate category because you can tell a lot about how a paint will brush from this one rating.


A paint can seem entirely dry and then, after you handle it for a while, fingerprints will appear. This is true for Tamiya Gloss Acrylic specifically. I’m not sure if this is a really useful rating, because of the cumulative rating. This may just be confusing things. More study required.


I do not use masking. But for those who do, this is important. Low adhesion means that paint will just pull off with the mask. Vallejo Model Color adhesion is so poor that you can knock the paint off the model by bumping it with a tool.

Keep an eye on your tools.

Line Drawing

A very important ranking. I thought about calling this “brushability” but settled on “line drawing” even though it’s vague. It means “does the paint allow you to take a full brush and draw a nice clean line?” Some paints (Vallejo Model Color) make drawing a line difficult due to brush drag and fast drying. This rating might be easier to understand if it were called “brushability” but I’d still have to explain it. It means, really, whether you can brush it on or not.


Now we get into more “meta” issues that aren’t really about paint quality. Such as “how easy is it to get?” and “can I find my color?” The problem is that the cumulative ranking reflects this. So Vallejo Model Color, a dreadful paint, gets high marks for “availability” and “color selection.” I think maybe I should re-think these items. The problem is, availability and color selection are important. I think Vallejo Model Air is good paint, for its amazing stippling ability and its availability and the color selection. Paint like Mission Models has a very small color selection. It’s also hard to get–it might go away when the maker runs out of money. So…should the overall rating reflect that or not?

Another thing wrong with this ranking is that while Revell Aqua Color is available all over Europe it is not available at all in the U.S.–so is it available or not?

Color Selection

All of my comments about “availability” apply here as well. Note that this is not about “color accuracy” or any of that nonsense.


This is important. Tamiya paint gags some people. I find it a curiously refreshing aroma of freshly poured tequila. If you haven’t spent any time face down on the floor of a Mexican cantina, you may not like the smell so much. Also, it’s obviously not doing your lungs any good. Some paints smell worse than others. The less smell, the better. A higher score means less smell.


I felt likeĀ I had to include this, but it’s really not such a big deal (to me). On the other hand, I’ll just say that a lower price gets a higher score.

Total Score

I think the total score is just an average of the other scores. I hope it is.

Finally, I’ve been having a lot of fun with the ranking plugin. It’s called “WordPress Review” and it works pretty well. I may decided to alter the current list of ratings for paint. We’ll see.


I’ve added another default category–PACKAGING. I can’t believe I left that out. All Vallejo colors and any paint that is sold in a plastic squeezy bottle will get the lowest rating for packaging. Clear glass bottles with good seals (Tamiya) get the highest rating of five stars. Strange stuff like the Revell Aqua container or the Humbrol acrylic container would score somewhere in the middle. I would have to think very hard about using Vallejo Model Air or even Revell Aqua Color over Tamiya–because of the beautiful Tamiya packaging. I re-use paint bottles for mixing new colors. I NEED to see inside the bottle to see if my color mixes are blending properly. Revell’s packaging just isn’t good. Vallejo’s is totally unusable. I’d have to BUY bottles and move the paint to usable packaging. That’s not something I want to do.







2 Replies to “What the Ratings Mean”

  1. Seems to make sense, and it basically concurs with the way I read the reviews so far.

    Do you guys still get the Tamiya 23ml bottles over there? They were the standard Tamiya paint available back then. I arrived back on the modelling scene to find the new 10ml ‘mini’ bottles as the only option. Those 23ml bottles really are great both for volume of paint, and using once empty.

    1. Yes, we still get the larger bottles in U.S. We also get the smaller ones. It seems inefficient to me, but what do I know?

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