Considering my most recent experiments with painting the Tohaa figure from the Infinity range, I thought it appropriate to bring up a topic that has been debated in the past. Specifically, what to use when thinning out your paints.
I've heard many different options, from Flow Aid to dish soap, acrylic thinner to the official Lahmian Medium now put out by GW. I also don't want to forget the tried and true water option as well, though people differ on whether or not tap water is good enough, or is distilled water the way to go.
But what should we use? Does it even matter?
What I won't be debating is whether or not we should be thinning our paints. This is already widely accepted as a need. For those of you who think dipping straight from the pot is acceptable, I would simply ask that you read on with an open mind.
Why don't we list out the options, and see where that takes us. I've got my own opinion, but I'll save that for later.
Liquitex Flow Aid
This is a paint additive that many like to use. It's touted to improve the flow, absorption and blending of any water-soluble paint. My main problem with Flow Aid is that it specifically says in it's own description, that it contains no binding agent, and applying to to a non-absorbent surface may result in poor adhesion. A bonus though, is that it has a slight drying-retardant effect. I've known folks who love this stuff though, so I can't knock it completely, I just hesitate to use it because of it's own disclaimer.
Testors, Tamiya, and other companies all make acrylic thinners, or mediums, that you can use to thin your paints. The benefit to using these, is that they formulated the same way our paints are, and bond/mix extremely well with the paints. Many folks will use them to thin out hobby paints for use in an airbrush, and for that purpose, I would highly reccomend them. Tamiya and Vallejo both put out thinners that work well for airbrush use.
Yup, you heard me. There are a ton of folks out there who swear by the use of a bit of water, with a drop of Dish Soap added in to thin their paints with. The reason why I separated this from the water options is specifically because of the soap additive. Honestly, I've never had luck with this. Too many soap choices, all formulated slightly differently, will give too many random results. This is me being picky, maybe, but I like consistency in my paint, and I like my dish soap reserved for scrubbing resin.
Lahmian Medium by GW
Please see the above entry for Acrylic Thinner. Do not buy this horribly over-priced little pot of acrylic medium. It won't work better with GW paint, or any other paint than the Tamiya brand will, and you'll get more for your money with any of the others than with GW.
Very doable, and I've used it many times in the past. You, or your parents, are paying for it anyway in your water bill, so why not use it for your hobby? The main downside with Tap Water is that some folks have a high calcium concentration in their tap water, and if you like to use a wet palette when painting, that can actually do bad things to your paint if you let it sit to try and use it again later.
Notice I said "Distilled", and not "Bottled". There is a difference. I've had to use distilled water ever since I bought my house, because the water in the town where I live has a notoriously high calcium content. Yes, I spoke from experience in the above statement. Distilled water is a pure water that is perfect for thinning paints. A gallon of it typically costs under 2 dollars, and can last a long time.
The one thing that water doesn't do, is add anything to your paint. everything else added something in it's make-up to the paint to thin it, without losing part of the make up of the paint itself. Water, however, adds nothing. That leads me to my final entry:
Be they GW washes, or Secret Weapon (the only two I've tried this with), washes are an excellent way to thin your paints. Just don't ever use an ink to thin with. it won't work because it has a different make-up than acrylic paints and washes do. See, while every option above does indeed thin your paint, it doesn't add to the pigment ratio while it thins. Using an acrylic-based wash, though, does add pigment, so your ratio of pigment to liquid make-up doesn't decrease!! The only kicker here, is that you will change the base color of the paint you start out with when doing it, as you're basically mixing colors here. Just keep that in mind.
In the Tohaa Infinity figure I just finished, I used Washes exclusively to thin my paints with, and I couldn't be happier with the results.
So what would I choose out of the options I listed? Depends on what I was doing. For airbrushing, I would invest in some Acrylic Thinner, but for painting, I will stick with either Distilled Water, if I don't want my base color to change, OR a Wash if it called for it.
In the end, it's all just A Matter of Opinion anyway. What's yours?