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Tool Review
Tru-Color Paint Demos
Tru-Color Paint Demos
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by: Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]

Originally published on:
RailRoad Modeling

Tru-Color Paint recently announced new colors in their railroad paint product line and sent a sampling of them, and this review premiers them, plus others. Those new matte paints are:
    TCP-337 Seaboard Air Line Mint Green

    TCP-338 Seaboard Air Line Dark Green

    TCP-339 Chessie Hopper Yellow

    TCP-408 Matte Aged Rust

    TCP-412 Matte Steel

also sent a bottle of their thinner, TCP-015.

Hosting over 353(!) colors in their model railroad range of solvent-based paints, and 135 colors for auto modelers, Tru-Color Paint was formed by Rick Galazzo and Scott Cohen in 2008 in Phoenix, AZ. Both principals have extensive experience with formulating paint on the commercial scale and decided to branch out on their own in the model paint business.

The paints are airbrush-ready plus a selection (81 colors) designed for brushing. Among those colors are six flesh tones, colors for rifle stocks, leathers, woods, and weathering Their auto model paints are high gloss and metallic and pearlescent (Air Brush Ready). There are 32 matte sprayable colors in their series Structure, Trackage, Infrastructure, including stuccoes, bricks, rusts, etc. Finally, they make their own thinners, retarders, and clear coats.

To give an idea of just how precise Tru-Color's color selection is, I present this randomly cut-n-pasted selection from their 62-color range of Freight Car paints:
    TCP-181 KCS- Freight Car Brown; 1944-1960's
    TCP-182 ACL- Freight Car Brown; 1944-1960's
    TCP-184 Frisco- Freight Car Brown; 1944-1960's
    TCP-185 Central of Georgia- Freight Car Brown; 1944-1960' s
    TCP-186 L&N- Freight car Brown; 1944-1960's
    TCP-187 GTW- Freight Car Brown; 1944-1960's
    TCP-188 MKT- Freight Car Brown; 1944-1960's
    TCP-189 C&EI- Freight Car Brown; 1944-1960's
    TCP-190 Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha- Freight Car Brown; 1944-1960's
    TCP-191 Wabash- Freight Car Brown; 1944-1960's
    TCP-192 GM&O- Freight Car Brown; 1944 forward
    TCP-194 B&O- Freight Car Brown; 1947-1949
    TCP-195 Colorado & Wyoming- Freight Car Brown; All Years
    TCP-196 CN- Freight Car Brown; 1945-1960's
    TCP-197 Rock Island- Frt. Car Red; 1930-1960's
    TCP-199 Illinois Terminal- Freight Car Brown; 1944-1950's
    TCP-200 Soo Line- Freight Car Red; 1949-1955
    TCP-201 Texas & New Orleans- Freight Car Red; 1949-1955
    TCP-202 KCS- Freight Car Red; 1950-1960's (Certain Series Only)
    TCP-238 Tennessee Central- Freight Car Brown; 1938-1950's

Tru-Color is becoming so dominate in the model railroad community that Microscale Industries is revising their instructions to include Tru-Color.

Tru-Color paints are available in 1 and 2 oz. plastic bottles, and even 16 oz. bottles.

Tru-Color formulated these paints with acrylic pigments in a solvent carrier. The solvent contains a little acetone, about 5%, per Tru-Color. Clean-up is accomplished with plain acetone.

Years ago I had read old discussions that mistakenly stated that Tru-Color was a lacquer but that is not true.

The colors are ready to shoot through the airbrush right out of the bottle. Tru-Color recommends 28 psi through a medium-size tip.

To demonstrate the aforementioned colors I prepared styrene chips for each, and two railroad cars. I shot each color straight from the bottle, and cleaned the airbrush with acetone between colors. Yellow has always been a problem color so to really give it a stress test, I shot it over a dark brown model. The SAL greens went over a nice white base.

These colors are thin. Fortunately, the paint tends to dry well - fast enough that multiple coats don't run and yet slow enough that they did not "pebble" in flight.

Coverage was very good when I shot them at 30 psi. Lower psi with a couple of colors required multiple passes. It covered completely almost immediately. No detail was obscured.

All five of these paints sprayed without any trouble when I used them as-advertised. However, originally I shot them with a simple 42-year-old diaphragm compressor that maxes out at about 12 psi; Matte Steel clogged the tip time after time. (Fortunately, a squirt of acetone from a pipette cleaned the tip fairly quick.) I asked Tru-Color about that and they replied that the matte paints need about 15-20% thinner due to the additive to make them matte. My do-over with Matte Steel, at 30 psi and blended with four drops thinner to 20 drops of paint, produced excellent results with no clogging. Subsequent use of Chessie Hopper Yellow and three matte colors also sprayed with almost 1-pass coverage and with no clogging. Amazing how well things work when used as directed, huh?

The paint dries quickly. And in spite of the solvent carrier, there was no odor when I returned to the drying area (enclosed) about 20 minutes later.

Quality Control
After the paint had cured overnight I photographed the chips and models in direct sunlight. I have no references to match the SAL or Chessie colors to but they look right by the color images I have found. The dark green looks quite rich. (Aircraft (Japanese) modelers - it looks like a near dead ringer for Kawanishi Green.)

Health & Safety
Now for all the "California-blah blah blah-everything will kill you and the world is ending" warnings. Acetone is flammable, maybe even at 5%; I flunked high school chemistry so I don't know if it is more so than enamels and lacquers. So I did not shoot it into my electrically powered spray booth. Just straight outside and around the corner of my garage. I also wore a NIOSH Approved, OSHA 29 CFR 1910.132 standard respirator, safety goggles, and hospital vinyl gloves, and relished in plenty of fresh air (which is not much different than when I'm airbrushing "non-toxic" acrylics).

I'll say this. Model Master, Floquil, Humbrol - any enamel/lacquer paint - gives me a headache, sometimes even just the overspray that settled back on me. Tru-Color does not.

While I have a bottle or two of Tru-Color from when I visited their store back in 2008 or '09, I was probably scared off by the solvent and I don't recall using them. Now that I have tried them I do like them.

Their inordinately huge color selection is incredible. The paint dries well and, used with the recommended pressure and thinning ratio, airbrushes without complaint. Common inexpensive acetone is the recommended cleanup agent.

These are solvent paints so that may discourage some modelers and yet many modelers, especially professional model railroaders, hardly use anything but solvent based paints. From researching around the 'net, Tru-Color has been winning modelers away from their previous favorite brands; some professional painters advertise that Tru-Color is the only brand they use.

I am quite enthused by Tru-Color. These are definitely professional paints designed for the discriminating modeler.

Please remember to mention to vendors and retailers that you saw this news here - on RailRoad Modeling.
Highs: Ready to airbrush right out of the bottle. Fast dry time. Cleans up with inexpensive acetone.
Lows: Matte colors may require thinning or they can clog the airbrush tip.
Verdict: I am quite enthused by TRU-COLOR PAINTS. These are definitely professional paints designed for the discriminating modeler.
  Scale: N/A
  Mfg. ID: See Text
  Suggested Retail: $5.69 per ounce
  Related Link: 
  PUBLISHED: Sep 08, 2017

Our Thanks to Tru-Color!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

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About Frederick Boucher (JPTRR)

I'm a professional pilot with a degree in art. My first model was an AMT semi dump truck. Then Monogram's Lunar Lander right after the lunar landing. Next, Revell's 1/32 Bf-109G...cried havoc and released the dogs of modeling! My interests--if built before 1900, or after 1955, then I proba...

Copyright 2021 text by Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]. All rights reserved.


Just a couple of corrections for the record. Tru-Color Paint has never been a lacquer based paint and the basic formulation has not changed from the introduction of the product in 2007 to custom painters.
SEP 08, 2017 - 12:04 PM
The paint is not an acetone based product. It is just the fact that acetone is the most odorous component of the solvent mix that is used in the manufacture of the paint so that it stands out. The paint is actually less than 5% acetone. The polymer that is used to bind the finely ground pigments to the model is an ultra clear, highly flexible acrylic.
SEP 08, 2017 - 12:09 PM
Military paints have been added to the product line. So far 12 colors have been released (6 U.S. Naval Ship, 4 U.S. Air Force and 2 U.S. Armor). Each month until the end of 2019 (!) we will add 2-4 new military colors each month for U.S., Israeli, German, Italian, British and Japanese ships, planes and armor from WWI to present dates. Check out KitMater Network for new announcements.
SEP 08, 2017 - 12:16 PM

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