Have I mentioned that I use Tamiya TS-80 Flat Clear lacquer? Probably too often, sorry, but I view this product as important to my layout as anything else.
Until I gave it a try, I had experimented with acrylic flat clears via air brush: PollyScale/Testors, Badger, Tamiya, True Line Trains, Vallejo. I had mixed results. Sometimes I got a model that was flat and looked natural, sometimes I got a model that looked dusty or chalky, even when using the same product. I couldn’t get a handle on consistency to my satisfaction.
I had tried flat lacquer spray from Testors (“Dullcoat”) many years ago but did not like the control I had with the spray can. Being at a dead end with no other apparent acrylic flat coats left, I gave the Tamiya TS-80 a go. From the first try, I knew I had a solution. When applied, the model surfaces go dead-flat without any of that dusty look. The spray is fine for control, after all Tamiya designed these TS series of sprays for scale aircraft modeling where fine finishes are absolute. Here are some things I have discovered:
1. A very flat acrylic paint finish from an airbrush can often be scratched by a finger nail on a model surface. Spraying TS-80 will hide these scratches. I always apply it before weathering to “seal-in” the acrylic base coat, even if I did not apply gloss for decals. I have also used TS-80 on a couple of my cabinet collection models that were scratched with the result of a nearly factory finish.
2. I do not apply it after weathering by airbrush, dry brush, or powders, as these all tend to disappear or super-blend when TS-80 is sprayed. I normally weather by airbrush, then a little with powders in local areas (mostly in horizontal surfaces), and then hit the details with enamel dry brushing. I find that I do not need to seal in the powders as they are not applied in areas where the model is picked up. I do find that the flat coat provides a better surface for the powders to “bite” into.
3. It helps to concentrate when spraying to avoid getting too much on a model. I am clumsy by nature and sometimes I don’t pay attention to the distance between the model and the spray nozzle. The result is a lot of clear lacquer in one spot, However, I have discovered that if the puddle area is held horizontally, it dries very well such that the error disappears. A worst case was when spraying the roof of a Walthers heavy weight and I got so much of the spray on one spot. In the end, there was only a very slight cracking of the base paint. In this way, thankfully, it is very forgiving. In fact, I primer and painted the roundhouse interior in white using Tamiya sprays and they behave in this forgiving way too.
4. I use this on the layout scenery! I find that the grass tufts as supplied have a sheen that does not appeal to me. Spraying them with TS-80 not only makes them go flat, but it sort-of bleaches the color to something I find more natural. Of course, all structures get this spray, all automobiles/trucks and even the figures too. I have applied it to ballast and groundwork, but only lightly as the cinders went gray after a sloppy heavy application in one small area. No problem though, I broke out the airbrush and touched up that area with Grimy and Oily Black acrylics.
5. There is a gloss spray and I’ve tried it. It is good, but I use acrylic gloss via air brush prior to decals. Gloss on models doesn’t appeal to me in scale; however if I would like a bit of a lustre (like on a new diesel locomotive), I’ll spray Tamiya TS-79 Semi-Gloss. The Alco HH600s at Fillmore were treated this way.
It is expensive, but then again I’ve sunk plenty into Fillmore between all the mistakes, changes of direction, and probably too many locomotives (if there is such a thing). In fact, I don’t know how much a can costs. I just go and pick up a couple for stock every time I get supplies – it’s just that important to me.