SMS | Heavy Metals Colour Set

Reviewed by Kevin Futter

During a recent show, I was able to catch up with Scott Taylor of The Scale Modellers Supply, whose initial range of paints I reviewed in 2016. Scott explained that the range had not only been greatly expanded since then, but that the formula had also been improved. They are an acrylic lacquer formulation, similar to Mr. Paint.

Scott supplied me with a set of new metallic paints, dubbed Heavy Metals, which contains the following colours:

The paints are supplied in glass bottles with plastic, screw-top lids:

Additionally, Scott supplied a bottle PL30 Jet Black, which he recommends as an undercoat for all the SMS metallic paints.

On Test

In order to put these new paints through their paces, I used the lower wing part from the 21st Century Toys MC.202 Folgore kit as a guinea pig:

I polished the port half with a set of Micromesh pads, and then followed it up with a couple of coats of Mr. Finishing Surfacer 1500 Black, to take care of any surface scratches:

In hindsight, I wish I'd used a grey primer, as the black base made it difficult to properly see how the SMS Jet Black was laying down.

SMS paints are billed as being pre-thinned for airbrushing, so I proceeded with my testing on that basis. I used my Iwata HP-C Plus airbrush with a 0.3mm needle, and the compressor set at the recommended setting of between 15 and 20 PSI.

In pouring the Jet Black into the airbrush cup to lay down the gloss black undercoat, I felt that the paint seemed a little too thick to spray unthinned, but proceeded to try it as advised. It soon became evident that my hunch was correct, as the result shows evidence of orange peel and a general sense of 'lumpiness':

To test my assumption, I thinned the paint by 50% using Mr. Color Thinner, and sprayed the starboard wing section with the diluted mix, and had a much better result. But still, the airbrush felt a bit sputtery.

Since the aim of this review was to test the metallics, and not the Jet Black base, I decided to polish out the orange peel, ready for continuing the test:

I masked off a panel, and started with PMT01 Silver. And again, I noticed that the paint seemed a little thick in the airbrush cup. At this point, I would normally have added thinner as a matter of course, but I needed to test the advertised performance straight out of the bottle. The airbrush sputtered again, but managed to deliver quite a pleasing coat of silver paint. I was suspicious, however, and decided to strip and clean my airbrush at this point.

And that's when I discovered I'd made a rookie mistake! Having not touched the airbrush for several weeks prior to this review, I hadn't realised that it wasn't in the pristine condition I assumed it was, and needed a clean. D'oh!

But here's where things get interesting: upon proceeding to the next colour, PMT04 Super Silver, I discovered that it was noticeably thinner both in the bottle and in the airbrush cup, than both the preceding paints. I checked the other paints, and it seems that both Jet Black and Silver were substantially thicker in the bottle than the other supplied colours, and require thinning to spray to their potential (irrespective of my dirty airbrush).

Unsurprisingly, the other colours sprayed like a dream, and completely nullified my apprehensions. The effect to the naked eye is very pleasing, and the photos below don't do them justice at all. Metallic finishes are notoriously difficult to photograph, and the graininess evident is a result of my sub-optimal surface rehabilitation (post-orange peel), rather than any feature of the paints themselves.

The other feature that the camera fails to capture clearly is the actual tones of the paints themselves, as the photos render them as looking a little more similar to each other than they really are. The Silver is a standard silver, similar to any other you might have seen. Super Silver is a slighter darker, richer version of the same colour, while Steel is a rich, metallic dark grey. Stainless Steel exhibits a pleasingly authentic quality.

Drying times were impressively short, and I was able to mask over previous coats in as little as 30 minutes. For masking I employed standard 3M blue painters' tape, de-tacked on my forehead before application. There was absolutely no evidence of the tape affecting the metallic colours in any way - no lifting, no patterning, and no evidence of metallic pigment residue on the tape itself.


Testing got off to a wobbly start before I sorted out my initial problems. And it's a salient reminder to always clean your airbrush before spraying metallic paints! After that, I can honestly say that I was quite impressed with them. They spray beautifully, with good colour density and excellent coverage. They dry quickly to a robust finish, and seem to resist masking nicely. They're also rather mild-smelling, and lack that pungent, headache-inducing aroma that normally accompanies lacquer-based paints.

My only criticism is the aforementioned inconsistencies with the viscosity of two of the colours, being noticeably thicker than the others, and clearly needing to be thinned for optimal results.

That said, when airbrushed at the optimal consistency, there's no doubt that these paints produce superb results, and I feel I almost need to apologise for making basic errors in the testing process that initially suggested a different outcome.

For the moment, the SMS range is available principally to the Australian market, but also internationally on a limited - but expanding - basis.

In short, get the consistency right, and these paints are wonderful. If SMS can solve the minor manufacturing inconsistencies I experienced, the range could easily rank among the best in the market. Just be sure to clean your airbrush first!

Many thanks to Scott Taylor and The Scale Modellers Supply for the review samples.

© Kevin Futter 2017

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This review was published on Saturday, September 23 2017; Last modified on Saturday, September 23 2017