Acrylic paints have an acrylic resin binder and use water and/or alcohol as a liquid. They are easy and safe to use, permanent, quick drying, low odor and are suitable for brush and airbrush. Currently, they are probably the most popular type of paint used in scale modelling.
Since acrylics can be thinned and equipment cleaned with alcohol or water they are very user friendly. However, care is needed because they can dry very quickly and when dried are difficult to remove – airbrushes should be flushed with thinner every few minutes of use with acrylics. Most manufacturers produce thinners for use with their own ranges and to be absolutely safe you should stick with these. Water and alcohol will act as a thinner with most paint ranges, but will not always give such good results and it is not always possible to mix acrylic paints from different manufacturers.
This is a pity because although acrylics are very different to enamels, they are every bit as good which is why they are used so widely today. However, it has taken a long time to squash the image of acrylics being for children. The one application where acrylics do not do well is where different colors need to be blended seamlessly, such as is often the case with figure painting. Some figure painters will use acrylics for the clothing, but stick with oils and enamels to paint the face.Acrylic paints have been available for a very long time, but traditionally were used by artists for painting pictures. Acrylics came as a thick paste in tubes which was either applied with a palette knife, or thinned with water for use by brush. When specific ranges were introduced for modelers in small pots, their low odor and low toxicity were emphasized rather than any of their other qualities. This gave the impression that they were suited to younger modelers and not equal to the existing enamel paints used by ‘serious’ modelers.
A wide range of additives are available for acrylics to make them more or less glossy, transparent (glaze) and slow drying time.
Safety Advice: Whatever type of paint you are using you should wear a good respirator when airbrushing.