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Enamel thinning question

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  • Member since
    June, 2017
  • From: Louisiana, for now
Enamel thinning question
Posted by Michelle on Wednesday, July 05, 2017 3:25 PM

I'm scared this has already been asked and answered, but I keep getting lost in my searches and am confusing myself... 

To use the little square bottles of Testors enamels with an airbrush, does it have to be airbrush thinner, or can it be just the regular thinner/brush cleaner? I plan on picking up mineral spirits tomorrow for cleaning my brushes, and know in a pinch I can use it to thin, but it seems more recommended to use an actual thinner for the painting. 

My apologies if this is an aggravating question... 



  • Member since
    March, 2003
  • From: Western North Carolina
Posted by Tojo72 on Wednesday, July 05, 2017 3:39 PM
It's a matter of choice,I prefer to use the Testors Universal Enamel Thinner for spraying,but clean up with the hardware store stuff.

  • Member since
    December, 2002
  • From: Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, England
Posted by Bish on Wednesday, July 05, 2017 3:46 PM

What ever you normally use to thin your paints will be fine. For enamels i tend to prefer the own brand thinner.

''I am a Norfolk man, and i glory in being so''


On the bench: Rudel Stage 3

                     Academy 1/72nd Apache AH.1

  • Member since
    September, 2012
Posted by GMorrison on Wednesday, July 05, 2017 3:52 PM


I've gone full circle and have come to the conclusion that the Testors brand is the best for their paint. I'm sorry I can't post an image just now (grrrh) but it comes in a 1/2 pint steel can with a red paper label for about $ 10.00. 

I'm currently building two 1/350 aircraft carriers at the same time, and going through jar after jar of Model Master paint. Using the Testors thinner has led to a series of successful a/b sessions.

Hardware store stuff is just not really predictable. 

Ditto for Tamiya "acrylics". Their brand of thinner gets the most consistent results.



  • Member since
    June, 2017
  • From: Louisiana, for now
Posted by Michelle on Wednesday, July 05, 2017 4:12 PM
Wow, thanks for the quick replies. I think I should've given a little more background. I'm just getting back into the hobby, after a 4 almost 5 year hiatus and am slowly getting my supplies back from my ex. Trying to use what I have on hand right now since the closest hobby store is at least an hour drive from where I am, but have three hardware stores within 5 minutes of where I am. The thinner I have just says Testors enamel thinner & brush cleaner. It's a smallish clear jar, 1 3/4 ozs. Eventually I plan to get the airbrush thinner, just life is getting in the way of me being able to get there tomorrow, or even in the next week or two, which is why I'm planning the mineral spirits/lacquer thinner for cleanup. I wish I could remember if this is what I used before or not... Michelle


  • Member since
    September, 2012
Posted by GMorrison on Wednesday, July 05, 2017 4:48 PM

Hi Michelle,


Hobby stores are so hard to come by. I only get to one, and that's when I'm away on business. I've been having good luck with Amazon Prime. Stuff is at or below HS prices, and with Prime I get free shipping (in a manner of speaking) and delivery within a few days.

EDIT: so I looked at Testors website, and a few other forums (sub edit: there is a LOT of pretty horrible advice out there, like using lighter fluid and or Goof Off).

Testors says that their four enamel thinners, 1148, 1156, 1789 and 8824 are "interchangeable". With the caveat that 8824 is "diluted" for airbrush, whatever that means. I have used 1789 in the a/b with no issues.

I'll just repeat Morrison's Second Law: there's never enough time or money to do it right, but somehow there is to do it over. I've learned the hard way.

Sorry to preach, but better to be safe with that model.

  • Member since
    June, 2014
  • From: New Braunfels , Texas
Posted by Tanker - Builder on Wednesday, July 05, 2017 6:02 PM

Hi Michelle ;

  I have to go along with  " Grrr " good ole " G " again . I use the Testors brand exclusively . Same with Tamiya and Vallejo .Their thinners are made for their products . After exhuastive testing , they know what's best with their paints .

      The only thing I use a generic thinner for is cleaning the A/B/ or my very old , but still like new , hair bristled brushes .  This is the reason why I use Sable mostly and Ermine when I can get them . No brush strokes are obvious .  Camel Hair is used for flats .

    My brushes go from what I call two hairs all the way to sign painter's curving letter brushes .( The Sign Painter's brushes have longer bristles .)    T.B.

  • Member since
    September, 2012
Posted by GMorrison on Wednesday, July 05, 2017 6:28 PM

I need new brushes. Mine are all worn out. Modeling ones, that is.

My icon brushes are in good shape but they are reserved for that. 

Michelle, you have me thinking again about another airbrush.

  • Member since
    May, 2011
  • From: Honolulu, Hawaii
Posted by Real G on Wednesday, July 05, 2017 7:11 PM

I prefer to use Testor's airbrush thinner for their enamels.  It comes down to keeping the pigments properly suspened while thinning.  I have found that regular paint thinner causes some color pigments to clump.  When I see little dots of pigment in my airbrush cup, the paint finish on the model is never great.  I normally use lacquer thinner for thinning and cleanup, but the new can I recently bought does not seem to do either job well.  The thinner itself may have a different formula now, making it less useful.  I tried experimenting with all the thinners I have, and the Testor's airbrush thinner seems to work best.  It also works well for brush painting.

For cleanup, the Testor's airbrush thinner works great.  But since I can't seem to get the economy-sized refill at my LHS, I use Gunze Mr. Color's thinner first, then follow up with lacquer thinner for final rinse.  Strangely, the Gunze product is readily available in large bottles where I live.

  • Member since
    November, 2008
  • From: Central Florida
Posted by plasticjunkie on Wednesday, July 05, 2017 8:23 PM

Speaking from experience, I use Testors in the red can for thinning enamels. I also use the small Testors bottles along with their MM line of military enamels (soon to be discontinued as I read about it here on FSM forum).

I was using the thinner from Home Depot/Lowes to make my own enamel and oil paint washes but the pigments were not being properly diluted. Testors thinner works like a charm every time. If I left the wash sit for a few minutes, the mix separates into a gritty composition requiring more mixing while this doesn't happen with the Testors thiner.

I have been air brushing since the early 1970s and still have my original air brush, a Badger 150 that I still use along with two other Badgers and a Neo. I use lacquer thinner from Home Depot for cleaning all my brushes. LT will remove even dried enamel and acrylic paint. Never submerge the trigger/air valve area but use the LT to shoot thru and to wipe the cup and tip internals. 




Too many models to build, not enough time in a lifetime!!

  • Member since
    January, 2010
Posted by rob44 on Wednesday, July 05, 2017 8:48 PM

I use mineral spirits for thining oil paints. For most of my enamels I use lacquer thinner from the big box stores. Which I also use th clean my enamels air brush.

I sue 2 airbrushes, one for enamels and one for acrylics. Acrylics AB cleaned with Windex, alcohol and then acrylic thinner.

  • Member since
    July, 2004
  • From: Sunny So. Cal... The OC
Posted by stikpusher on Thursday, July 06, 2017 3:52 AM

Another vote for the Testors Universal Enamel airbrush thinner in the can for use with enamels. I use hardware store paint thinner and lacquer thinner for clean up of my air brush. But the best results I have gotten with enamels is with the Testors airbrush thinner. Works just fine with other brands of enamels as well. The "brush cleaner" stuff in the square bottle is ok, but not as good as the can stuff.

If there is a Hobby Lobby near you, you can get the stuff more economically than the $10 MSRP when you use the HL 40% off coupon on your phone. 


F is for FIRE, That burns down the whole town!

U is for URANIUM... BOMBS!

N is for NO SURVIVORS...

       - Plankton



  • Member since
    December, 2013
  • From: Orlando Florida
Posted by route62 on Thursday, July 06, 2017 7:36 AM

I use hardware store mineral spirits for all my enamels, testors, humbrol, floquil, oil paints, even some aero masters I still have with no issues.

  • Member since
    November, 2009
  • From: Twin Cities of Minnesota
Posted by Don Stauffer on Thursday, July 06, 2017 9:18 AM

I used to use the Testors thinner for actually thinning the paint, while I used hardware store turpentine/mineral spirits for cleanup.  However, the Testors thinner in the bottle is quite expensive, so I held out for the half pint cans.  There was a period where the half pint cans were not available in my area, so I started using hardware store turpentine for thinning. I had to make a very slight modification of my thinner ratio, and got used to it, so normally now thin with the hardware store stuff.

Be sure, however, if you use the hardware store stuff, that it is turpentine or mineral spirits.  There is a stuff being sold as "paint thinner" that is an artificial stuff, and has a milky appearance.  That stuff has particulates in it.  I will no longer even clean up with that stuff. If the bottle or can does not say either turpentine or mineral spirits on it, I will not buy it.

Don Stauffer in Minnesota


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