Thursday, November 20, 2014

Vallejo Liquid Gold Guest Bastard Review

Time for another Guest Bastard post! This time we have our ol' pal Bubbles from Canada chiming in with a review of his latest hobby purchase, Vallejo Liquid Gold (VLG) series paints!

Without further adieu, here's Bubs:

A couple years ago, Vallejo released a range of eight metallic paints called the ‘Vallejo Liquid Gold’ (VLG) series, featuring metallic pigments that are soluble only in alcohol. Originally targeted at the fine arts, restoration and decorative arts spheres, these paints have recently found their way into world of miniature hobby painting and are marketed as more brilliant, durable and faster drying than traditional acrylic water-based paints. To this, my initial thoughts were “Okay, more metallic paints. I’ve already got a ton of them from various manufacturers, including Vallejo’s own Game Colour and Model Air lines – why would I bother with these?” So the first thing to address is…

What’s the problem with current metal paints?
With traditional metallic paints (e.g. GW’s metallic ranges, Vallejo Model Colour/Model Air, P3 Metallic paints), when you try to layer and blend them, you’ll still often see the separation of where one metallic colour ends and the next begins on your model, far more so than with typical non-metal acrylic paint colours. This is due in large part to the make-up of the paints themselves, which contain aluminium or silicate particles to provide their characteristic metal sheen. When you dilute the paints for blending, these particles will tend to separate from the pigment and the medium, leaving a messy puddle that’s hard to work with. You can see this for yourself simply by diluting a drop of standard metal paint on your palette. So unless you spend an extraordinary amount of time applying the right dilutions and carefully blending mixes of your metals (the exception being when airbrushed on, but this might not always be feasible for certain parts of a model), your end results probably won’t be quite be what you envisioned.

Real ‘Eavy Metal!
The VLG series is made up of actual metal flakes diluted in an alcohol-based medium. This formula provides a visibly more brilliant finish than traditional acrylics, but also means these paints have to be applied and treated in a much different way that what we’re commonly used to, as they can actually rust inside their pots or on your models if exposed to water before drying. The upside, however, is that these paints provide a far more brilliant and realistic shine than other metallic paints, and far easier to work with to achieve seamless metallic blends and transitions from your shaded areas through to your highlights.

Side by side comparison of standard metallic paints (left) and Vallejo Liquid Gold (right) on the undersides of a pair of Dark Eldar Hellion rear jets. Notice the smoother transitions in the metallics in the image on the right.
The Paints
The VLG series consists of eight different paints sold in 35 pots (compared to 12-17ml for most acrylic paints), which I found for $6 apiece. 

The available colours and their catalogue numbers are: Silver (790), Golden (791), Old Gold (792), Rich Gold (793), Red Gold (794), Green Gold (795), White Gold (796), Copper (797)
A small box set containing Silver, Golden, Old Gold and Copper is also available (I found it at my local hobby store for $22).

As you can see, six of these are gold variants, while the last two, Copper and Silver, can be used as a highlight and shade/base for the gold, respectively, depending on what look you’re going for.

How to Use Them
Prior to use, these paints will need to be shaken vigorously as the metal flakes will actually be weighted down to the bottom of their pots. With my 'White Gold' and 'Gold' pots, I actually needed a toothpick to mix the paints before using them the first time. If you want to dilute them further, you can only use 96+% alcohol as adding even the smallest amount of water will actually cause the paint to rust (maybe there’s a weathering effect there I haven’t tried yet!). These paints will also dry faster than want you’re used to, so you’ll need some isopropyl alcohol handy to clean your brush. This also means you’ll want a dedicated palette and brush for applying these paints that you must fully clean in isopropyl alcohol (you can usually find bottles of 99% isopropyl alcohol in the first aid sections of grocery stores or drug marts) before using again with any acrylic or water-based paints.

This leads me to my next point, you can’t mix these paints with other acrylics, as the water in the paint will cause rusting of the VLG paints (though you can apply washes/inks as normal once the paint is completely dry). The short drying times of the paints also means that mixing them on your palette won't really work as the mix will be dry before you get time to use it.

Like other metallic paints, applying a sealer or varnish to your model when you’re done will dull the metallic sheen of the liquid gold paints. Vallejo, however, claims that these paints are more durable than normal acrylics and hence don’t require sealing. For myself, I always apply my metallics after I’ve painted and sealed every other part of the model, so this won’t be breaking from my usual process.

As you apply the VLG paints, you’ll notice that they naturally blend much more easily than regular metallic paints and come to a very bright finish, that looks (to me at least) much more like real metal. Glazes can then be applied to tint or shade your models as you would normally.

For airbrush users, I would caution against firing them through your expensive airbrush. The metal flakes aren’t formulated for airbrush use and unless you’re using a large needle, you could be setting yourself up for a messy time. Vallejo does make a dedicated line of airbrush friendly metallic paints as does Andrea Miniatures, both of which I can highly recommend and provide great results. They each have a wider range of colours than the VLG series and are airbrush friendly (especially the Model Air) but neither provides the same high level of sheen as the brush-on VLG.

Step by Step Gold
As an example, here is a quick step by step of how I've been doing my standard 'gold' with the VLG paints. I've only taken one picture for every two layers as the blends are so subtle, they would hardly be visible for each step - hence the 3 steps below that are actually 6 steps.

1) Base in VLG Red Gold (794) (undercoated in black or a deep brown ), followed by VLG Old Gold (792)

2) A first highlight layer is done in VLG Gold (791), followed by a second highlight in VLG White Gold (796) that is focused at the edges only.

3) The corners and sharpest edges are given a final highlight of VLG Silver (790) and a light glaze of GW Druchii Violet is applied.

So are these paints pure gold?
After only a short period of use, the VLG series is quickly permeating its way through all my painting projects. The finishes and blends I’m getting out of these are better than any metallic paints I’ve ever tried. If Vallejo produced a wider range of silvers (what’s really missing are deeper and darker silvers) I would seriously debate getting rid of all my metallic paints and switching over to these. As it stands, they will now be the work horses for all my coppers and golds, as well as the ‘shinier’ silvers.

If you have Tomb Kings, Dwarves, Chaos Dwarves, any breed of Elves/Eldar, Blood Angels, etc… I would highly recommend having a look at these paints. Personally, for ‘dirty/rusty’ looking armies like Orcs and Ogres, these might be overkill, but that’s what I love about this hobby: no two people will consider the exact same colour options for the same army and there are no rules to how you want your models to look. Maybe your Ogre Tyrant polished his Thundermace to a brilliant sheen with the blood of virgin High Elves, or maybe your Flash Gitz got their names from packing chrome plated shootas, either way, they’ll be eye-catching on the table.

• Brilliant shine
• Look far brighter, smoother and more realistic than standard metallic paints
• Go on easily with a high degree of coverage, on par with GW Base/Foundation paints in terms of coverage but with better flow.
• Less ‘granular’ appearance than typical metallic paints and lower tendency to leave visible brush strokes.
• Claim to be more durable than normal metallic paints and therefore do not require varnishing/sealing

• Alcohol based paints – need a dedicated brush and palette
• Cannot be mixed with other colours
• Require 96+% isopropyl alcohol (99% is usually readily available from first aid sections of grocery stores and drug markets for a few dollars) for dilution/thinning
• Not safe for fine airbrush work, could perhaps be used with larger needle sizes (0.3mm+)

Bro Tips
• When painting, finish all your non-metallic sections on the mini first and seal the model. Apply the metallic after this, so you won’t be dulling the sheen of the metallics with the varnish/sealer.
• Once you’ve decided to do your metallics with the Liquid Gold, clear your painting area of all water and acrylic paints. You don’t want to accidentally dip your brush in your water pot or mix your LG with acrylic paints in a moment of lost concentration.
• Leave the airbrush on your desk. Use your airbrush for your acryllics and seal the model, before using the LG strictly with a dedicated brush to be washed in alcohol.
• Base areas that are to be silver in black; areas that will be gold in brown or green; and areas that are to be copped in a reddy brown.
• You can apply acrylic inks/washes on top of the LG paints, just be sure they are completely dry before doing so!
• Don’t lick your brush – you’ll run into the rust and clump problem and they taste like shit.

Overall, I rate these paints as:
Looks: 9/10 - they would get a 10 if the range and colour options were wider
Usability: 7/10 - great coverage and pretty straight forward to use but you need dedicated tools and can’t mix them with your other paints.
Taste: 1/10 – seriously, don’t put your brush in your mouth with these ones.


Thanks Bubs for the tremendous tutorial! I'm definitely keen to give these a shot on my next project!

Would like to contribute an article to the blog like Bubsy here? Then follow this link here my good man!


Tony said...

Thank you for the 'head-up'.


Christian Taylor said...

Just a small correction: in the image "Side by side comparison of standard metallic paints (right) and Vallejo Liquid Gold (left) on the undersides of a pair of Dark Eldar Hellion rear jets", the picture on the right is actually the one done with the VLG paints, the one on the left with standard GW metallic.

Rogers said...

Got 'er squared away, bubsy!

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