AFV Painting System: US Olive Drab (Model Air)

by Eric Christianson

thumbnail Paint: AFV Painting System: US Olive Drab (Model Air)
Reviewed by: Eric Christianson, IPMS # 42218
Company: Valejo
Price: $12.72 Set
Product/Stock #: 78.402 (6 paints)
Website: Valejo Paints
Product Web Page: View
Product provided by: IPMS


Among several integrated sets of Model Air paints produced by Vallejo for common AFV camouflage schemes is their U.S. Olive Drab set, consisting of four color paints, an Olive Drab Primer and a clear Satin Varnish.

Opening the box reveals a vacuform tray holding six half-size (quarter ounce) bottles, each one holding slightly less than half as much paint as one of Vallejo’s standard bottles. The assumption is that the paint set would be one-stop shop, with enough paint for (at least) single project, although my experience with Vallejo paints is that this set could easily be stretched across three or four normal-sized 1/35th scale builds.

A brief disclaimer

Let me confess up front that I am a big fan of Vallejo paints, and I have been using them religiously for over a year now, retiring all of my other paint brands as they ran out. I had some up-front frustrations switching from enamel/lacquer to acrylics, but these issues (described below) were worked out and I now use all three Vallejo acrylic paint brands with ease.

My Equipment and Mixing Formula

While I own several airbrushes, I rely on my trusty (old!) Pasche H, single-action, siphon feed airbrush for most of my work. This is important since I’ve found my success with Vallejo paints relies on an approach that (may) be different from others, and that the settings I use may not work for every situation, starting with air pressure.

Vallejo recommends 10-12lbs, which is too low for me, producing a scatter shot pattern that doesn’t even out until I push the pressure up to 20lbs. I can understand how gravity feed, double-action brushes may work with the lower pressure, but regardless of what mixing ratio I use, the lower pressure doesn’t work for me. Vallejo’s literature describes their Model Air paint line as not needing thinner, but company representatives have suggested using a thinning agent as well as a flow aid which slows the drying time of the paint. I use Vallejo 71.161 thinner and Liquitex Flow Aid for these purposes. Since I started using their paint, Vallejo has come out with their own retarder, but that was after I had purchased a life-time supply of the Liquitex product.

After much (!) experimentation, I have found a simple mixing ratio that works every time, and rarely, if ever, clogs my Pasche brush: one drop Flow Aid to every ten drops of Thinner, and an equal ratio of paint to thinner. So, for a typical paint session, I will mix two drops of flow aid, 20 drops of thinner and 20 drops of paint, in that order. I swish that around in a disposable plastic condiment cup, and then pour mix that into my color cup. For smaller jobs, 1+10+10, larger, 3+30+30, etc. Interestingly, I have found that I can successfully airbrush their Model Color and Panzer Aces paint lines using this same formula, although I sometimes have to moisten the tip with thinner to keep the brush from clogging.

An important note about airbrushing thinned acrylics

I also found that you can’t airbrush acrylics like enamels, lacquers, or acrylic-lacquers. If you hold the model in place until you see the paint on the surface, it is too late - the thin acrylic paint will most likely run. You have to keep the model and/or the airbrush constantly moving, and hold the model in such a way that you can see the reflection of the nearly invisible paint actually hitting the surface of the model. Acrylics must be applied in thin layers, using many passes: a lesson that took me a long time to learn.

Why I didn’t use the primer and varnish included in the paint set being reviewed

Vallejo sells a dozen or so primers in the most popular colors, including the Olive Drab primer included in this set. These primers work well, but I have found that unless you allow them time to fully dry and set up, they have trouble sticking to PE and other non-plastic materials, including track. The images show my results using their German Red Brown product on PE after drying for 24 hours, when simply handling, or when pulled up from a sticky board using common blue painting tape. I prefer to use a lacquer primer which dries immediately, and provides the ‘etched’ surface I need for subsequent coats on military vehicles. Vallejo paints work perfectly when applied on the primed lacquer surface after letting the lacquer de-gas and dry overnight.

Vallejo also provides a Satin Varnish that I have used, and it works very well. At this scale (1/35th) however, I prefer a flat finish, and I use their excellent Matt Varnish instead. This is just a personal preference.

So let’s get started

Vallejo provides the steps to use their Olive Drab set on the back of the box, along with pictures of a U.S. Halftrack. Since my review model is already primed with black primer, I skipped down to Step 3. I laid down a coat of Vallejo’s #016 US Dark Green (aka 71.012 Dark Green) on a primed (Dragon #3546) M-48A3. I worked the color from the center of the panels outward to preserve some of the dark pre-shade showing through from underneath.

Per Vallejo’s instructions, I followed this with their #43 Olive Drab (aka 71.043 Olive Drab) color, which adds a brown hue to the mix, and then finished with #044 Light Grey Green (aka 71.044 Light Grey Green). With each lighter color, I made sure that some of the darker shade underneath stayed visible, at least around the edges. This technique provides depth to an otherwise monochromatic finish. The paints went on beautifully, using my mixing ratio and setup, and resulted in an overall color light enough to stand up under weathering.

Clean Up

Cleaning up Vallejo paints is a breeze. I find that blowing several passes of tap water through the brush, followed by single pass of Vallejo 71.199 Airbrush Thinner works fine. After a dozen sessions or so, I disassemble the airbrush and give everything a good once-over with lacquer thinner.

One final note: I have found that I can spray Vallejo paints, one right after the other, in a single painting session, and that after drying overnight, airbrush or hand-apply any type of finishing product (acrylic or distillate-based) without encountering any problems whatsoever. This review was completed in a single session, including stopping to take photographs. Properly thinned, Vallejo Model Air is great stuff.


I am a big fan of Vallejo, and I have found a comfortable home among their huge line of paint and weathering products. The U.S. Olive Drab paint set is set is a good idea if you need to quickly obtain what you need for a project or two. I use a different primer and varnish, but I could very well have successfully used the samples that come in the set as well. Vallejo paints come in a huge variety, are odor-free, and allow me swap my heavy, uncomfortable vapor mask I use with distillate-based paints for a simple painters (particulate) mask. I am sold.

I would like to heartily thank Vallejo Acrylics for providing these paints for review, and to IPMS USA for giving me the opportunity to use them.


Box-Front Box-Back Contents Half-Size-Bottles Vallejo-Primer-on-PE-(2) Vallejo-Primer-on-PE M60A3-Primed-In-Black-Lacquer Initial-Paint-Coat-(016) Second-Paint-Coat-(043) After-final-paint-(044)