Matte Varnish

Before proceeding with my weathering project I wanted to find a matte varnish that would actually lay down an unmistakable matte finish. I first noticed the problem of shiny matte when I went to seal my first weathering attempt – the corner of the boxcar. The finish went from very dry matte to an unmistakable sheen – ruining my wonderful work! I decided to find the perfect matte before proceeding. For years I’ve been using trusted favorites such as Testor’s Dullcote but I’ve never been happy with the finish. I generally found the result too shiny – not really matte at all and much more of soft sheen. I believe it really ruins the look of a nicely finished model makes the result look toy-like. I really wanted to find a matte varnish that would do a better job.

After spraying this with Krylon Matte spray there is an unmistakable sheen on the boxcar which ruins it and makes it very unlifelike.

I spent an afternoon recently testing different matte varnishes and sprays. Starting with the rattle can variety:

  1. Rust-oleum – Matte finish for hobbies
  2. Rust-oleum – Matte clear chalkboard
  3. Krylon – Matte finish
  4. Tree House – Clear acrylic matte coating

I first sprayed painted some plastic cards I made from plastic sheet. I actually used my boxcar red primer out of the can. What is interesting is that the paint is actually a very dry and not-at-all shiny matte. By spraying onto the card in a sectioned off area I would be able to compare the matte finishes.

The results confirmed what I already suspected;: they were all resulted in a light sheen and were not matte enough for my purposes. The best one of of the lot was the Tree Studio Clear Acrylic. It came closest to the matte finish I was aiming for.

All too shiny. The left hand side of the card is the matte spray. Compare it to the original matte color on the right.

I then decided to test some other products this time using my airbrush.

They were

  1. Vallejo Matte Varnish
  2. Tru-color matte finish
  3. Humbrol enamel
  4. Model Master

The Humbol enamel I felt could have done a good job but got very messy thinning it with thinners. The cleanup of the airbrush was a pain as well and it won’t work well when I am working fast and I need a quick varnish spray.

The Tru-color was good but I couldn’t find a good thinner. The makers say that you don’t need to thin the varnish but the result was that it blocked the nozzle on the airbrush which I then had to disassemble and clean.

The Model Master was pretty good with a nice matte finish that was noticeably better than the spray cans. However the main problem was that it left an unmistakable chalk effect across the surface.

Vallejo Matte Varnish was perfect. It really gave out a great matte finish with no chalking. I diluted it 50/50 with airbrush thinner. It was easy and quick to mix up and then clean up after. I imagine that it could be diluted with alcohol as well at some point.

The winner – Vallejo Matt Varnish. The matte finish was almost exactly like the original matte surface.

I feel that I really hit the mother lode with the Vallejo Matt and I’m now very excited by the fact that I can now get an almost perfect matte finish on the model.

I did a further test with the Vallejo matte. this time on a gloss card. The matte completely flattened the gloss.