As of today, March 31st 2016, Secret Weapon Miniatures is selling a line of acrylic paints. This initial line of 15 colors is aimed at weathering. These colors cover most of your needs for rust, rubber, wood, dust and mud.
These paints are acrylic using a high-density pigment. The high-density pigment allows a greater dilution without sacrificing coverage. Even though these are designed with weathering in mind, they are paint and therefore, can be used for any purpose. Rust or not.
It is to be noted that these paints are made by Reaper. If you ever tried the Reaper Master Series, you will feel at home. The main difference, Secret Weapon paints offer a more liquid consistency to facilitate airbrushing. Otherwise you can expect all the good things you know and love from the Reaper paint lines.
I received the 6 colors above prior to release in order to have fun with it. It took me a while to find something proper to test them on.
My initial test was during the Calgary Masterclass II. Having to work on Infinity bikes, I was lucky enough to have one of the new desperadoes bike. I decided to test the yellow for coverage.
The initial coverage on a white undercoat was decent. It took 3 or 4 layers to have an even coverage which is usual for acrylic based yellow in our industry. Rebuilding the yellow on top of the shadow to smooth out the blend wasn't ideal. But again, nothing abnormal for a yellow so, so far so good.
For the purpose of the class, I had to move on from there and left it alone. So I had to find another medium to push these paints more, for what they were designed to do. Unfortunately, none of the lined up project fit the bill. So I created my own.
For some reasons, whenever I order some Star Wars Lego, they keep sending me some Ninjago minikits for which I have no interest. Luckily, I had kept them so I had the idea to make a small scene with them. Painting Lego should be fun. It would also allow me to test rust, scratches, blending, airbrushing and brush application.
In order to vary the color palette, I used an ivory, a blue and a silver not part of the initial paint line.
Airbrushing: The paint airbrushes really well straight out of the bottle (you should still thin them lightly though) when used with a medium sized nozzle. Coverage is good, flow is good, pulverisation is good.
Light thinning is required for smaller size nozzle. Water works but isn't reliable in the long run as you will encounter slight spattering. I would suggest a medium based thinner in order to keep a good flow and pulverisation without reducing too much the pressure.
Overall this paint really works well for airbrushing. Its consistency requires only minimal thinning that can easily be done straight in the cup. No need to worry about premixing the paint and thinner. These will definitely be added to my paint racks.
Regular Brush: The lighter consistency allows quick work without much thinning. Blends can be easily obtained without too much effort. The drawback is that the lighter color (in this case the yellow) lacks a bit in coverage power despite the high-density pigments. It is important to note that this is only in regards to the yellow as it was the only light color I received prior to launch. It is unclear if the impact will be the same on the other light colors of the range at this point. Yellow is hardly a good reference color due to its finicky nature.
Coverage on the other colors clearly benefit from the high-density pigments. You can easily obtained an even coat with 1 or 2 layers. The lighter consistency helps in avoiding the marking/striking you obtained from other high density paint.
Overall I really liked how the paint worked and reacted. As previously mentioned, you can easily obtained smooth blends without too much effort. The attention, during the design of the formula, was clearly on finding the right balance between brush work and airbrushing. On that level, it is a clear success.
Weathering applications: Several painters are accustomed to weather with pigments and oils, not acrylic. Acrylic paint allows more precision. Pigments are great but are usually messy and it is difficult to obtain rust pattern on small areas. Rust pattern can easily be achieved by stippling or by using a blister foam.
Other times, you will just want a quick streak without resorting to oil, hence the acrylic for a quick job. Either way, it is an extra tool at your disposition that can also be used in combination with dry pigments, oils and washes.
Color selection: The 6 rust colors work perfectly together. It creates a great progression to obtain realistic effect. The spectrum is large enough to cover most situation. The rest of the line, at least on paper, seems to provide a solid base for most weathering purposes.
Here are the final results of my exploration and it will not be the last time I'll be using these paints.
How do these paints compared to Scale Color, Minitaire and P3? They clearly are not in the same ball park. Quality wise, I have nothing to say against the Secret Weapon paints. They are as good as the three others mentioned above. It all comes down to what you are looking for in your paint range.
Scale Color provides a thicker paint with a more translucent aspect that works perfectly with the way I work. It can be easily blended into nuances. Scale color wouldn't be my choice for blending on large surfaces though. It is more what I would call a finition paint. Basically something you use to enhance your initial airbrush work. It also have a spectacular matt finish.
P3 provides great coverage (except for yellows, again) without being too thick. When it comes to airbrushing, it needs to be thinned in cups, not directly in the airbrush and provides a fair amount of dry tips. Yes P3 airbrushes great but it definitely requires more attention. In all honesty, I've been using less and less P3 since I've started using Scale Color. But again, all my work is initially airbrushed so I don't depend on a paint with good coverage for basecoats and initial shadows and highlights.
Minitaire is like the black sheep in the lot. Minitaire is basically solely for airbrushing and therefore is hard to properly compare to the others. I wouldn't use it with a brush. The wide selection allows great work in the initial stages of a project. The Secret Weapon range provides something along the same line in term of readiness to be airbrushed. But again I wouldn't get rid of my Minitaire for one simple reason: color range.
The Secret Weapon main issue is its limited palette. It is aimed at weathering and provides every colors you need for this purpose but it leaves you wanting more. Its readiness to be airbrushed combined with it lighter consistency without having too much of a negative impact on coverage makes it a great paint range. It is clearly a great addition to your paintline.
It is always difficult to clearly state if a paint range is for you. Like with brushes, we all have our preferences. In the end, it all comes down to what you need and what characteristics fit better with your painting style. I can definitely state that the Secret Weapon range is of good quality, that it airbrushes well and has a great selection of colors for weathering purposes that can also be applied in your every day painting.
In the end, it is up to you to test them for yourself and see what is the best way to integrate them in your range. One thing is clear, they are definitely worth a try.