Tru-Color paints review/test
Reviewed March 2018
by David Waples
Tru-Color is an acetone based acrylic lacquer which has been very popular with he model railroad community for some time.  The reputation there was strong and I was excited to give it a try.  There is a movement back towards lacquer based products so I wanted to give it a try.  I ordered some colors to do a demonstration with our model ship club.  I purchased the following colors.  Primer (TCP-007); White (TCP-1004); Dull Black #82 (TCP-1001; 5-O Ocean Gray Early 1941 (TCP-1018); Deck Blue(TCP-1010); 5-NG Navy Green Early 43 (TCP-1037); Norfolk 65-a Anti-Fouling Red (TCP-1000); and #2 Green 1944 (TCP-1033).  These would be used on three small 1/350 models.

I started by using the primer on a cleaned and prepped styrene kit of a Type VIIC from Bronco Models.  The primer went down very well.  Next I sprayed a dark gray on the hull using Tamiya paint.  The point being to compare the Tru-Color with another brand.  I then masked up the hull with Tamiya masking tape for the next color and painted it, again with Tamiya paint.  I removed the 
tape and the paint and primer came up.  I tried again and took off some of the tack from the tape and the primer still peeled off.  Not good! 

I did some research and found that some others were having the same problem with the paint lifting off their models after masking.  Something wasnít quite right so I contacted Tru-Color for some tips.  They suggested that I didnít need the primer and to pull the tape back over itself.  So, I tried painting the hull without the primer.  After masking the paint came up.  Not completely but bits and pieces.  So after a dubious start and simmilar issues being reported with this product I decided to do an in depth study of how this paint performs.  After all the model railroad community loves this paint!  Was it the primer?  Was it the Tamiya paint over the primer?  Was it styrene?  How would it perform on resin?  I decided to put the paint to the test and find out what itís all about.

I began with a test on styrene and photo etch.  In this photo I applied Badger's Stynylrez gray primer to the pointy end of the styrene.  The center section was left unpainted.  The bottom section was primed with Alclad's microfiller primer.  These are both primers that I've had good success with.  Also the Stynylrez is a water based primer and Alclad is lacquer based so it should be a nice comparison.  The photo etch is some extra material I had from North Star Models and was cleaned and primed with the Stynylrez primer only.  There are hundreds of tiny flood holes in this piece and I was concerned that the Stynylrez primer would clog them.  That did not happen!  Again, all pieces were cleaned prior to being painted.  I also scribed lines in the styrene to see if we would lose any detail in the process. 
Next some Tamiya tape was added to make sure the original primer coat was untouched.  The photo etch was not masked.  The rest would be painted with Tru-Color.  IMG_5830.jpeg
Then we painted the styrene and photo etch parts with Tru-Color TCP-1037 5-NG Navy Green Early 43.  To the paint I added 10% TCP-015-2 Thinner (previous test showed this to be about right ratio) plus two drops of TCP-310 Retarder.  The Retarder was used because I live in a very dry climate and wanted to extend the drying time of the paint as this paint dries very fast!  The painted parts were left for 24 hours to dry well.
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For accuracy the painted part was compared with Snyder & Short color chips and found to be a very good match.  The other colors I have also match extremely well.
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Tamiya tape was applied over the paint and allowed to sit for 24 hours.  I did not try to remove any of the tack from the tape.  Tape was not applied over the photo etch in this photo but was added later.  Note that both primers adhered well. IMG_5839.jpeg
Now the test!  The tape was removed pulling back over itself as recommended by the manufacturer.  As you can see in the photos below the primed areas held up extremely well.  The area painted over styrene showed the paint lifting.  IMG_5840.jpeg
Next the photo etch.  Interestingly where the photo etch had been primed with Stynylrez the paint did not come off at all.  Paint applied directly to the photo etch came off completely.  IF YOUíRE GOING TO PAINT OVER PHOTO ETCH PARTS YOU MUST PRIME WITH A GOOD PRIMER.  I also wanted to see how durable it was.  I applied Tamiya masking tape over the photo etch and removed it multiple times.  It eventually started to break down after a couple of dozen removals but I was impressed how well the Stynylrez primer held up.

Finally we wanted to test the paint on resin castings.  Two L'arsenal castings were used for this test and were cleaned thoroughly prior to painting.  The larger one was primed with Stynylrez gray primer and the smaller left unprimed.  The hull was painted with TCP-1000 Norfolk 65-A Anti-Fouling Red.  After 24 hours drying time I applied Tamiya tape to both.  After waiting another 24 hours I removed the tape. No paint was removed from primed hull.  While no chunks of paint came off the un-primed hull you could tell where the paint was applied that some paint came away.     Also as I hope you can see in this photo the primed area covered much better with fewer coats and had a more consistent color with no lost detail. 

All paints have their quirks.  Itís important to understand what they are.  I donít like high maintenance paints and I donít think this paint is high maintenance.  I found this paint worked very well but you have to know how to use it for best results. 
Tru-Color primer is not very useful.  It covered well but has issues adhering to styrene.  It behaves much as the finish coats of this paint.  If youíre not masking it may work out okay for you.    But why not just get a good primer that works well?
Use a good primer that adheres well.  I found that the water based Stynylrez and lacquer based Alclad primers performed extremely well providing a perfect and durable base coat with no loss of detail.  You may have a favorite primer but test it first.  Note that Stynylrez requires an airbrush with a large needle (.5 or bigger) and a lot of air pressure.  It can be thinned with water (only water!) but not recommended by the manufacturer.  The Alclad primer is very thin and no special needle size is required.  Both primers dry very smooth.
For Airbrushing the paint should be thinned with about 10% thinner.  I thinned at 10%, 20%, 30%, 40%, 50% and with no thinner and found 10% performed best.  Iím told that Acetone works well but have not tested it for thinning.  However I do cleaned my airbrush with Cutex nail polish remover which is 98% acetone and it did a great job cleaning out the airbrush.  I live in a dry climate and found that the retarder (TCP-310) was a must for a good finish.  It keeps the paint from drying before it hits the model.
Paint in thin coats.  Allow to dry between coats.  I tried flooding the paint on and it still was very forgiving.  Itís really wonderful paint to spray.  However you will get slightly better results if you apply in thin coats.  That said the paint dries quickly.
The finish colors are very accurate.  I have only compared a few colors but they match the Snyder & Short color chips extremely well. 
If you are masking the photo etch priming is a must.  The primers used did not detract from detail and I would recommend priming your photo etch first before using this paint. 
The paint adheres well to resin.  However I strongly recommend priming first for the most consistent results.  You will have a more consistent finish and use less paint in the process.
Although acetone naturally occurs in our bodies, I would recommend a respirator or extracting system to clear out paint fumes. 
Availability of the paint and color choices are excellent.  Currently they have the entire range of current and past USN colors and expanding to include other nations.  At the time of this writing they have also added some Japanese colors to their range and I would anticipate other colors coming available soon. 
Tru-Color is based in Phoenix and are very excited about their product.  I found their customer service excellent.  They had no trouble shipping to me in the US

In short, GOOD PRIMER is key, paint in thin coats, and youíll be very pleased with this paint.  I feel comfortable recommending this paint for airbrushing but have not tried brush painting it yet.  The colors are accurate, the paint performs well, and when used with a GOOD PRIMER (have I mentioned using a good primer yet?)  durability of the paint is excellent.  Pretty simple rules to follow.  Give it a try. 

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