Turbo Dork paints are made of a mixture of pigments suspended in an acrylic medium plus additives. Like acrylics from other companies, they are fast-drying, water-soluble when wet, and water-resistant when dry. However, they have their own set of distinct properties due to the type of pigments used and the unique formulation of the acrylic medium. There are two general types of Turbo Dork paints and one subtype:
Metallics contain pigments and small mica flakes that sparkle the paint's surface, making it look like metal.
Turboshifts take Metallics a step further by using small prisms to create a surface with different colours depending on the light source.
Zenishifts are Turboshifts that appear differently over different base coat colours. They appear almost as if they were two metallics in one bottle, with one or the other dominating depending on what colour base they are sitting over.
Some TurboShift paints look different in the bottle than they do in use. Colours like Blue Raspberry look white in the bottle rather than showing their brilliant blues and pinks/purples when used over a black surface. Blue Raspberry is not alone in being white when wet. This is a property of a subset of Turboshifts, including 4D Glasses. Other Turboshifts like Dark Net have a dark red tint in the bottle. Finally, some, like Sky Rat, are grey in the bottle. This is all normal. So do not freak out; the rainbow will come out!
The pigments in the Turbo Dork paints are large and slowly sink to the bottom with time. Needless to say, you need a uniform suspension of paint particles to get an even coat on whatever you are painting. A mixing ball is inside each bottle, so shake it until you hear the ball rattling around. Then shake some more. The paint should not be chunky or look very thin without any flecks of pigment. We do not recommend storing your paints upside down as that mixing ball or pigment can get stuck in the tip.
Like many acrylic paints, they benefit from being a vigorous shake, and we’re huge fans of using a vortex mixer or mini paint shaker.
Like other paints that come in squeeze bottles, the tip of a Turbo Dork paint can clog. Make sure the tip is clear before you squirt. Folks use toothpicks, needles, or thumbtacks to clean out the tip. I use a paperclip!
Never squeeze too hard, or you’ll end up with a mess and much wasted paint. On the plus side, your desk will look awesome.
Turbo Dork paints form a hard, smooth film that is very scratch-resistant when dry. While this makes great paint, cleaning up after them can be tough, so be careful. Isopropyl alcohol (90% or higher) will dissolve our paints. If you need to strip a model, Bio Strip works well.
The first set of Turbo Dork paints was designed for use in an airbrush so the formulation was rather thin. Then, as the paints became more popular and more paints were added to the line, the formulation was changed to better accommodate hand-brushing. What happened, however, was that some paints ended up thicker than others. This was due to the unique mixture of pigments and medium plus additives that go into each colour.
When airbrushing, pretty much any acrylic-based thinner should work. However, it is recommended that you use an airbrush medium to thin with. The Turbo Dork folks use Golden Airbrush Medium. Others have reported using flow improver as well to great effect, but we recommend using a flow improver in addition to an airbrush medium, not on its own. We do not recommend thinning with just water alone, at least for airbrushing.
At Exit 23 Games, we use Vallejo Airbrush Thinner and Flow Improver.
The bottom line is that no one set formula for diluting for airbrushing works for all colours. For most colours, folks start with a ratio of 2 parts paint to 1 part medium. However, you will have to use your own judgement. Some internet references say that the thickness of the paint should be the consistency of milk — you can go with that if it helps.
To be used for hand-brushing, paint is a little easier to accommodate. Most colours are fine from the bottle. However, some are thicker than one might like and can be thinned with an airbrush medium, contrast medium, Lahmia medium, or by gently adding small amounts of water with a wet brush to the paint on a palette.
To get the best results with the least amount of potential woes, use the recommended colour for the primer. If you are an experimenter and want to see what different colours look like over different bases, read the next section before trying this at home.
A matte primer works well. Some folks prefer a primer with a gloss finish, but it is not required to get a good-looking paint job. At Exit 23 Games, we love Vallejo Surface Primers, but any rattle can primer will work fine.
Turbo Dork metallic paints work fairly independently of the base colour, so putting them over something besides black will not surprise you. The finished product may not be as intense over a lighter-coloured base. Please note that painting something dark like Cool Ranch or People Eater over white takes some patience to get even coverage.
As with everything in life, there are a few exceptions, metallic paint-wise, where the recommendation for primer is white. The pastels (Taro, Yuzu, Momo, Maguro, Sakura, and Matcha).
These other metallics (Curacao, Multipass, Pearly Gates, Pucker, and Absinthe). You can put this latter set of paints over black instead of white, but they will lose their soft, pale tone and take on a deeper colour.
Turboshifts are more dependent on colour of the undercoat. This has to do with what makes a Turboshift a Turboshift. A Turboshift is essentially thousands of tiny prisms suspended in an acrylic medium. These mica prisms are engineered to show only a particular set of colours. Basically, whatever light gets reflected back from the undercoat through the prisms dictates what colour you see. Therefore, having a black background gives the truest colour based on the prism’s design. Other dark undercoat colours may work similarly, but lighter ones can significantly change the final look.
It is recommended to use a black base for all of the Turboshifts except Mother Lode. In order to get the mother-of-pearl look shown on the website, Mother Lode should be used over white. That being said, putting it over black gives a green/blue shift that some folks like and is a good example of the big difference that a change in base colour can make.
Zenishifts (Bubblegum Crisis, Prism Power, and Twin Sons) are schizophrenic Turboshifts that show up differently depending on whether they are over a dark or light colour.
Tip: One can always "rebase" a section of a model with a bit of white over something primed black or vice-versa. This is handy when adding a few bits of pastel paint or modifying the area covered by zenithal priming.
Whether you are using an airbrush or hand-brushing, apply multiple thin, even coats and let the paint dry thoroughly between coats. Do not use a single thick coat. This can obscure the turboshift effect. If the paint pools or you see thin white areas, you put it on too thick.
For Metallics, 2 coats are usually enough to get good coverage and good sparkle.
For Turboshifts, the shift will start to come out more with each new coat that you apply. Usually, it takes 2 to 3 coats to achieve maximum effect. The fact that this happens at all is kind of a miracle.
While you can use either an airbrush or a paintbrush to apply Turbo Dork paints, folks who own an airbrush and are comfortable with it tend to reach for that first. For those individuals, starting with a 0.5 mm nozzle and 25 to 30 psi is recommended. You can adjust things from there based on the thickness of the actual paint and your equipment.
Also, remember that Turbo Dork paints, even when thinned properly, can settle quickly due to the mica in them. So you should be ready to mix things up between coats and to wipe the nozzle tip periodically.
Some general airbrush tips: At Exit 23 Games, we recommend applying some Thinner to a paper towel and wiping the airbrush nozzle regularly.
IF you need to step away from the paint desk, empty the airbrush’s paint cup and add a couple of drops of Thinner to prevent clogging. (Thanks to James at Siege Studio for the Airbrush lesson!)
For newbies willing to make the investment and have the space in which to use it, we recommended a Harder and Steinbeck Evolution, a compressor and a Portable Hobby Airbrush Spray Booth. This equipment is very serviceable and will not break the bank.
Turboshifts are like the loners standing on the far side of the dance floor. They do not always mix well with others or each other. Turboshifts have been designed to have the appropriate balance of light-bending prisms to achieve the desired colour changes. Mixing them when wet can screw this all up in unexpected ways. Metallics, however, can usually be mixed when wet with other metallics. For example, equal parts Pearly Gates + Gold Rush = a new custom Platinum Blonde.
It is hard, but try to think about Turbo Dork paints having a “normal” paint surface. Dry brushing, feathering, stippling, layering, and highlighting, as well as washes, glazes, shades, inks, and even contrast colours work well.
Everyone wants to get good photos of their finished work and usually is disappointed that the photos do not capture how good it looks in real life. Most of us are not professional photographers and do not have a lot of fancy equipment.
However, Greg (The mastermind behind Turbo Dork) is a professional photographer and has freely given out tips over the years. His best advice for shooting Turboshifts is to figure out a way to get light coming at the object from different angles like this in an amateur setup.
Greg once suggested taking a model outside to take advantage of the natural lighting. "Find a way to position it in a corner, then back it up close to the building in such a way that it mimics being in a photo booth. Wait till the sun shines directly into that area and shoot away."
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