The nature of flat paint and starship scales.


Sr Member
So I've been experimenting with various primers/paints, namely tamiya, vallejo, and stynylrez. I have noticed something about flat paints that never crossed my mind before. Flat paint is flat because it's rough, of course. Gloss paint is gloss because it's perfectly smooth.

I painted a 1:350 scale Millennium Falcon with Vallejo Model Air White Grey. Under normal lighting conditions the paint job looks very very smooth but with a flat sheen. However, if I take a flashlight from my smartphone and hold it at a glancing angle to the surface, if I look really hard, I can see a micro/pebbly surface.

When painting an object of 1:35 or 1:48 scale it wouldn't really matter. However, if I blew this Millennium Falcon up to actual real world scale, those tiny flat paint granules would now be the size of small rocks sitting all over and covering the Falcon's hull. I even looked at pre-painted factory Bandai kits, and their flat paint also shows this same texture under extremely harsh lighting.

So it got me thinking. Is there a flat paint that has less of this problem, while still renaming flat? Or is it that if flat pigment size were smaller than the human eye can detect, it would again appear "glossy" because it's smoothness is under the visual acuity. At smaller scales than say 1:144 (not to mention 1:350, 1:1000,1:2500), should we maybe be painting semi-gloss instead of flat to compensate for the small scale?

What are your thoughts?

Matte Painter

Jr Member
I've noticed this when taking photos of my models. In person they look fine but the rough surface really shows up in a photo. I've taken to sanding down with very fine grit paper after each paint application.


Well-Known Member
yep,i get this all the time.drives me crazy.
i rub down the acrylic matte paint surface with a oil based paint wash (for weathering purposes) which smooths out the roughness.
if that type of weathering is not required i rub down paint surface with a rubbing compound.
of course what happens is that you get a sheen or semi gloss appearance,you simply paint spray can or airbrush clear matte over it.


Sr Member
I have a bottle of Mr. Paint primer and light grey paint coming in the mail to test on my 1:350 Falcon. I have reached the conclusion that with acrylics, at least Vallejo and Mission Models, the flat base, the pigments that make the paint flat, simply dry too large for macro photography of something 1:350. Now, this surface would probably be fine on anything 1/72 or larger scale. You REALLY have to look hard to see the flat base granules with the naked eye. This is made even better by mixing Vallejo 50/50 with Vallejo Gloss Varnish, which levels a smooth and level surface, with a semi-gloss sheen. This semi-gloss sheen is ok though, because after weathering it with oils, and Gameworks washes, it will be knocked down flat.

I'm told that Mr. Paint lacquers have EXTRODINARILY fine pigments, and I'm hoping that includes the flat base pigments. Supposedly, lacquers dissolve the pigment in the solvent, as opposed to just carry it in a medium like acrylics. This allows for thinner and smoother application. I'll find out next weekend and report my results here. If it works, I may stick with Mr. Color or Mr. Paint for anything 1:350 and smaller. Saving the Vallejo and Mission models for 1:72 and larger.
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Master Member
Are you spray-painting or using an airbrush? Shouldn't be a problem with airbrushing; it's smoother than with a rattle can for sure.

Scarecrow Joe

Sr Member
My thoughts are that I dont usually look at my models with a flashlight. If it looks smooth with your eyes others will most probably see the same. Have you looked at the quality paint job of the original props up close. They look grainy and peebled but guess what? They looked awesome in the screen right? Its a non issue to me unless your basic painting technique suck and that is not an issue exclusively on the paint itself.