As we know from Paint Types 101, the type of paint you use for Gunpla matters. In this review, contributor Megaplamo weighs the positives and negatives of using Vallejo Mecha Paint for Gunpla customization, paying special attention to its colors and ease of use.
- It offers a satin finish (between matte and semi-gloss) suitable for Gunpla
- It can be used for hand painting
- It is pre-thinned to spray through an airbrush with zero preparation
- It is a water-based paint that has minimal to no fumes. This last point was especially important for me when I was still airbrushing indoors.
For those of you who follow me on Instagram, you may have noticed that most of my early airbrushed models were painted with Vallejo Mecha.
Vallejo Mecha Paint served me well when I was a beginner. However, as I began to learn more about paint, and grow as a model maker, I realized that this paint is not ideal for my needs. Its benefits are not unique to this particular paint, making it unnecessary for me most of the time. That being said, I went all in when I first started airbrushing and discovered this paint. I still have quite a bit left over that I still need to use in order to get my money’s worth out of it.
Let me start by saying Vallejo is a fantastic paint brand, one of the best of the best when it comes to hand painting. When it comes to Gunpla, I think that Vallejo Air, Vallejo Game Color, Vallejo Model Color, and Vallejo Metal Color are appropriate. It is important that they be thinned properly, used in small amounts, and applied by brush. Vallejo is the most accessible water-based acrylic, and often my preference, but when it comes to the Mecha line, it gives up one of its strongest attributes: its matte finish.
As I mentioned before, acrylic paints such as Vallejo are better suited for hand painting small details on your Gunpla. The lack of fumes makes it easy to paint for several hours anywhere in the house and get up close to your work without getting a headache. Since it is water-based, it is easy to clean up and you don’t have to worry about it melting through other layers of paint.
However, when hand painting like this, it’s better to use paint with a matte finish so as to better hide the brush strokes and avoid excess shininess. Paint with a satin, gloss, or semi-gloss finish is very difficult to finish smoothly without brush strokes being left behind. This would require a lot of careful painting and glazing, which is very time-consuming and can cause you to burn out when you could be using a much easier tool. This is why you often hear that Tamiya is not a good option for hand painting: it has a gloss finish.
The satin finish really excels when sprayed through an airbrush. (For the purposes of this review, I used the Iwata Revolution airbrush.) It’s perfect for Gunpla. There is only one problem: spraying acrylic paint through an airbrush is very difficult. You spend most of your time trying to keep the needle clean and adding paint thinner or flow improver (yes, even though this paint states that it’s airbrush ready most will need to use thinner). To get the most out of its satin finish, you will have to increase the PSI to 30 (about 2 bars); unfortunately, this information is not clear on the paint bottle instructions. Furthermore, cleaning acrylic paint out of an airbrush can be very time-consuming, cause burnout, and lead you to curse the gods of Gunpla.
In addition to being challenging to use in an airbrush, acrylic paint is susceptible to wear and tear over time. It’s fine in an area that is not near any moving parts such as an eye, wires, or on a mini-figure, but on an arm or leg or shoulder, you often risk damaging your hard work. The Mecha paint states that it has increased resistance to scratches and chipping, however, I haven’t personally noticed much of a difference when compared to other water-based acrylic paints. Vallejo states that by using its Surface Primer you can avoid this, however, I have only seen good results with miniatures that do not move. So if you choose to paint your Gunpla with all acrylics, be prepared to keep it in that pose permanently. While it’s true that lacquer paint can still scratch and chip, it has a much stronger bond and few issues occur when it is handled carefully.
Now that I’ve told you what I don’t like about Vallejo Mecha Paint, let me tell you what I do like. The bottle that it comes in is fantastic. Unlike Citadel paints, you have precise control over how much paint you want to use.
The pigmentation is great. The colors are bright, bold, and opaque—perfect for Gunpla and great for painting over mistakes. In fact, Vallejo Mecha Paint is comparable to the opacity of gaming paints like Citadel or the Vallejo Game Color line. The only exception seems to be the whites and yellows: they are a little on the thin side and require more coats and careful layering. By comparison Citadel’s Averland Sunset and Skeleton Horde can be painted over darker colors with two or three coats.
The paints are thin enough to use right out of the bottle with no paint thinner. Still, in some cases when painting small things, you may want more control over the thickness or viscosity of the paint.
The colors are “show accurate.” I’m not the best at matching colors, but as far as I can tell these are the same as the official Gundam colors on the box art and in the manual.
This paint does last a while over multiple projects, which for me was a blessing at first, and a curse now that I’d like to finish them up.
This paint has minimal fumes. But remember: you are still spraying resin pigments into the air and should wear a mask for your safety.
These are all strong points in Vallejo Mecha Paint’s favor. However, I would like to point out that most of these positives can be found in all other popular water-based acrylic model paints.
In conclusion, Vallejo Mecha attempts to provide something that isn’t really useful, especially when there are better options, even in Vallejo’s own line.
Summing it up:
- It does have a great satin finish, but only when airbrushed.
- It’s not ideal for hand painting, due to the satin finish.
- It’s not easy to use in an airbrush because it is water-based.
- It doesn’t have a strong smell, but you should still use protective equipment.
Is it bad paint? No. Are there better options for the money? Yes.
Could this paint be right for you? Personally, I think it’s only a good option if you want a satin finish, but you don’t have the space to airbrush lacquers.
So what if you are like me and have a lot of Vallejo Mecha Paint that you don’t know what to do with? The solution: use it to its strengths. Since it’s easy to hand paint with and doesn’t have an unpleasantly strong smell, I often use it to hand paint small details and then smooth it out with a matte clear coat on top. I’m usually pretty happy with the results, but when it comes time to replace a color, I choose one of the many other acrylic options, such as Vallejo Model Color, Citadel or Army Painter. If it’s a color I wish to airbrush, I choose one of the many lacquer options.
Megaplamo lives on the Gulf Coast of Alabama where he paints everything from Gunpla to vinyl garage kits. Megaplamo has been building model kits since the early 2000s and loves to share any and all information he has learned on his journey. You can find Megaplamo on all social media as @megaplamo although he is the most active on Instagram.