Why use TAMIYA THINNERS such as X-20A and Lacquer Thinner when as we have all seen DIY Videos on YouTube of scale modellers making up their own 200L or 50 Gal Drums of “thinner” for the same price of a 250ml bottle of thinner from the hobby store.

Yep, a little bit of this and a little of that, bought by the gallon or 4L jugs works wonders…right‽

Now you are ready to paint that expensive model, with expensive paint with home brewed moonshine thinner. Wait a minute, did you just hear that needle drag across the record in your mind like I did?…my brain telling me…there is something wrong with this picture?

Wait a minute, let’s think this through. Our kit cost us maybe $100 or more for a good one to hundreds or more for larger scale. Next we add after market Photo Etch, some Resin Figures, various accessories, Metal Barrels and Metal Tracks, now we have spent another $100 or more depending on the desired enhanced outcome.

Next we purchase TAMIYA PAINTS because we all know they are high quality, one of the finest. Skilled advanced modellers know how to formulate the correct desired colours drop by drop giving them an endless array of colour combinations for accurate representation of all fighting forces, land, sea and air. What about scale effect, yes that too!

Drops, what do you mean drops you ask? Yes when using an airbrush most paint jobs are completed using a matter of drops, not bottles, or spray cans full, but drops. How many drops make up 1ml? We will answer that in a bit.

In modelling, tools are everything and one of the most essential is an airbrush. To a beginner an airbrush is expensive, yes for a good one like IWATA, Harder & Steenbeck, or Badger, it is. Experienced modellers will tell you quality is everything. The efficiency of paint application and minimal use of thinners and cleaners means an airbrush will pay for itself time and time again over a lifetime of use if properly maintained.

Getting back to thinners, a little knowledge is dangerous and all of a sudden we can be chemists without understanding the science behind the paints.

Are we actually going to mess around with our premium paint chemistry using home made moonshine thinner to save a few dollars? I don’t know about you, after expending much excitement and energy in the satisfying and rewarding build along with the financial commitment, I am not about to hack my paint job with a back room, even use it as mouth wash, super cheap do anything paint thinner.

Like everyone else, I like a bargain and it feels good to be frugal, but this is not the time to cheap out.

Purchase and use the recommended manufacturer paint thinners because there is science behind it.

The Science of Thinner with Paint

What Makes A Good Paint?


Pigment is what gives paint it’s colour, the opacity to cover the substrate.

Vehicle and Binder

Vehicle is the liquid that stick to the surface of the object being painted while the binder keeps it mixed up together for consistency such as acrylic resin.


The carrier is the delivery boy of paint, the solvent liquid and dispersant creating a flowing action onto the surface, otherwise the paint would resemble tooth paste.


Additives are the secret sauce that make the paint great after extensive research and development. Good quality paint doesn’t happen by accident, it’s painstakingly created. Proprietary additives is what makes paint different from one manufacturer to another.

In our next article we will talk about the paint and what makes it ‘paint’.

What Thinner To Use?

Both TAMIYA Thinners X-20A and “plastic friendly” Lacquer Thinner are excellent for TAMIYA Acrylic Paints, each for it’s own application technique.

For a matt finish use X-20A for a beautiful airbrush application. Using Lacquer Thinner creates more bite, meaning bonding more to the plastic styrene surface. Both have excellent adhesion properties and lasting durability.

Advanced and expert modellers will use the thinners to achieve different results.

Thinners also help reduce tip dry, the dried accumulation of pigment on the airbrush needle tip. TAMIYA Paint Retarder is an excellent drying modifier significantly reducing airbrush tip dry and is ideally used for figure painting when using a brush.