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Engine paint touch-ups, engine grey

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  • Member since
    September, 2008
  • 167 posts
Engine paint touch-ups, engine grey
Posted by NILE on Monday, July 09, 2018 9:49 AM

As my locomotive fleet ages, I'm noticeing the paint issues on some of my older models.  Most of these are custom painted, usually by someone else.  How do you mix colors to get the engine grey (black) that a lot of older locomotives had?  I'm not talking about NS black, but something a little lighter and grimey like first generation diesels.  Thanks.

  • Member since
    August, 2006
  • From: Franconia, NH
  • 2,761 posts
Posted by dstarr on Monday, July 09, 2018 2:00 PM

Well, either you buy it or you mix it yourself.  A lot of times, I have been able to buy model paint that is a good, or even exact match for the factory paint on a model.  You want to bring the model you want to touch up to the store, and look at how well it matches under both store lighting and daylight.  Color film (anyone still use that?) and digital camera color balance isn't all that good, and depends strongly upon the light under which you take the photo.  Bringing the model itself in is more dependable.  Buy a bottle of the best color match.  Take it home and paint a test patch on something white, like cardstock.  Let it dry, and check the color match again.  If you are lucky, the dry test patch will be a good match to the model's paint. 

   If you just cannot find a good match at the store, you mix it your self.  In the case of steam locomotives, you start with black, or grimey black and add white until the resulting dark gray matches the model.  Keep notes, you might want to mix it again, years later.  Again do the test patch cause a lot of paints look different dry than they do wet.  Also remember to check the color match under layout lighting and daylight. 

  I have been painting all my steamers with Krylon dark gray auto primer.  Sticks to anything, covers anything, dries dead flat. 

  • Member since
    March, 2002
  • From: Milwaukee WI (Fox Point)
  • 9,822 posts
Posted by dknelson on Tuesday, July 10, 2018 11:00 AM

Assuming the custom painter used a shade or color direct from the jar and did not mix their own paints, see if you can track down an old Floquil color chart since Floquil is quite possibly what they used.  Hobby shops used to keep the color chart on hand when there was Floquil to sell, and some may still have the chart.  The chart was also printed in Walthers catalogs back in the day (I am looking at the 2003 Walthers catalog as I write this, as it was most handy).

There are now equivalent colors to Floquil available and maybe you'll luck out.  But an exact match is improbable since even if you somehow found the VERY BOTTLE of paint your custom painter used, that paint on the engines has been exposed to years of light and wear.

Should you find yourself mixing up paints to try to match it yourself keep good notes about the "formula."

Dave Nelson

  • Member since
    January, 2004
  • From: Canada, eh?
  • 8,995 posts
Posted by doctorwayne on Tuesday, July 10, 2018 12:15 PM

I find that mixing paint to match a specific colour is more intuitive for me than it is a science, and have generally had very good success.
However, for mixing a grey, I'd start, if not with a grey that's already close to what you need, with white, then add black.  If you start with black, you'll likely run out of white before you get to the grey you want.

I usually do a not-too-precise test using "brushloads".  Select a brush, not too large, then dip it into the white, for example, six times, depositing each brushload on a scrap of plastic or metal, then wipe the brush with a rag or tissue, and dip it once into the black, adding that to the puddle of white.  Use the same brush to mix it.  If the colour looks close to what you want, paint it onto a similar piece of material, noting the proportions, and let it dry.
If the colour isn't suitable, continue adding black or white as your eye dictates, wiping the brush only between colour changes, painting a sample when it seems useable, and keeping track of the proportions as you work.

You may find that you can get quite close, but an exact match remains elusive.  This is often because another colour needs to be involved, perhaps a touch of yellow or red to shift the main colour just a bit.

By using this "brushload" method, you'll not waste large quantities of paint, and as you get a feel for how the process works, you may be surprised at how easy it can become.


  • Member since
    July, 2006
  • From: west coast
  • 4,537 posts
Posted by rrebell on Thursday, July 12, 2018 4:56 PM

Color matching is an art. If you endever to do this try to look beyond the color you see, grey can have blue in it or other colors. Make a batch that is close and then do toothpick blending (put a big drop of paint on a plate and dab a toothpick in the colors you think you need till you can fiqure out the formula, then add whats needed to the big batch) to see what you need to add to make it spot on.

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