Water Acrylic or Lacquer based paints?

Submitted by Paul Fisher on 02/15/2004. ( fishrnutt@new.rr.com )

I am just getting started in fish taxidermy and just completed my first class. I am looking for experienced taxidermists opinion on whether to use water acrylic paints or lacquer based paints. I have not bought any paint yet. Rather than buying both types and finding out which will work better I would like to know which you would prefer. Can you get competition fish mounts using water based paints? I will be using a Paasche VL air brush and painting mainly walleyes and salmon to start out. Thanks in advance for your responses!

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This response submitted by Raven on 02/15/2004. ( )

Im not an experienced taxidermist per se, but I am an experienced sculpture painter which is basically the same thing once it gets down to the painting stage. Look at repro fish and you'll see what I mean, no skin involved but painting stays the same. Anyway, I prefer acrylics primarily because I like to avoid solvent based paints. The drying time on acrylics is less meaning that any blending or transition areas you want to do can get a bit trickier. This can be offset by adding extenders to your acrylics. Lacquers stay wet longer so this is far less of a problem. Health issues are well documented with lacquer and other solvent paints. With acrylics be sure to wear a dust mask to keep out particulates and yer ok. Also with acrylics you can safely layer colour upon colour to achieve a lot of cool effects without fear of lifting up underlying colours.

I think a lot of it is just about personal preference - mine happens to be for acrylics *shrugs*

Raven, what are yo using?

This response submitted by JOhn C on 02/15/2004. ( )

Water based take longer to dry. Lacquers are almost dry when they go on, unless you really lay the paint in.

I have never found a water based I can get detail with, it always seems to give me trouble.

Lacquer is not as bad as people let on, yes you have to be carefull with it it will burn. Never had any proplem with it, if it dries out in the bottle you can add a bit of lacquer thinner and its good as new. It will not freeze!

Waterbased will freeze and on those odd seldom used colors seem to be time sensitive. They seem to go bad after a while.

You need to try both and find out what you like best.

...bass ackwards.......

This response submitted by BILL on 02/15/2004. ( )

..Johns right, lacquer is for all purposes, dry when it strikes whatever your painting.


This response submitted by Raven on 02/15/2004. ( )

At the time of typing I was thinking more bristle brush application than air brush.. hence the reference to blending etc. When air brushing I dont like solvents at all because of overspray etc. (just my own paranoia).

Some of the best acrylics I have found are vallejo paints. Designed for use on pewter miniatures, the pigment is VERY finely ground and has exceptional detail and coverage. You can imagine that on a pewter miniature an inch tall, the ability to capture extremely fine detail is critical... so be it chain mail armor or super fine trout scales, this stuff can do the job. More expensive than other acrylics tho.


This response submitted by George on 02/15/2004. ( georoof@aol.com )

Well, far be it from me not to to argue a point, but I use acrylics on my fish as well.
Lacquer paint IS DEFINITELY BAD, and not just for it's combustibility, but from it's chemical composition which can destroy your lungs. John's probably not old enough to remember the numbers of fish taxidermists from years ago who came to meetings with oxygen walk-around bottles.

In order to use lacquer safely, it is imperative that you have a paint booth of sorts to keep the fumes away from your lungs as well as wearing a good respirator.

With acrylic paints, you should still have both, and certainly a good dust mask to paint with at the very least. I'm no fish guru by any imagination, but I don't think my fish look that bad.

BTW, I DO USE LACQUER AS WELL. I use it anytime I'm trying to paint animal skins as it cleans up very easily with a Q-tip or flakes off hairs when brushed while staying intact on the skin.

I'd go with the Lacquer Paints

This response submitted by Coyote on 02/15/2004. ( coyote@wideopenwest.com )

They seem to blend in better for me. And as for drying they almost dry as soon as they hit what your painting. Just have a good paint booth with explosion proof lights, and a good resperator. I have tried water paints and have since sold all of them. You should also get a good assortment of oil paints, which you'll use for a lot of your washes.


I use water base when I can although I use

This response submitted by Cecil Baird ( ) on 02/15/2004. ( )

a chrome pearlescent from Lifetone that is only available in lacquer. I don't see what the big deal is. I can do anything with the waterbase I can do with lacquer. The waterbase does dirty up the airbrush faster but I take my single action apart fairly frequently anyway.

I think if you use waterbase you should be able to get used to it with no problems.

Water based is just as bad for you.

This response submitted by John C on 02/15/2004. ( )

George, the reason they walked around with oxygen tanks is more than lacquers. Body men too.

1st, its careless use of paints.
2nd, lack of getting out of the shop, something about stagnat life style.
3rd, not using the charcoal mask!

The thinner would irritate the lungs and cause the little hairs to be numbed and not move the binders and pigments out of the lungs, this caused them collect the mucous in the air sacks, then its not long until the sacks are full and stretched beyond what the were designed to do, this is the onset of Emphazema. Covered by cigerette and poor conditions health wise

Then the fact many used, Asrenic and even cyanide to poison skins, both of which attack the blood stream, killing red blood cells.

My first show was a Taxidermy Review show, the next was my state show, then the 1st World Show, so yes I remember.

Dont count your cookies with water based, its just as bad! Learning to use it can be far worse than LACQUERS, because you dont think its hurting you, i.e. Only things bad for you smeel bad, right? WRONG!

With Lacquers you tend to know when you are over doing it. 2 part glosses emit, isocyanite a form of cyanide, as does urethane 2 part foams, plus foam emites formaldahyde.

Bottom line is none of this is good for you, but lacquers are still easier to use!

Cecil do you ever buff the Chrome paint? Give it a try and see if its not brighter when done.

No choice for me

This response submitted by Jeff Soto on 02/16/2004. ( jeff@jeffsfishmounts.com )

I have been doing fish taxidermy since 1974 and have always used water-based acrylics (WA) mainly because that is what I learned with and because they are very easy to work with, are not flammable and are very easy to clean up. I have tried to use lacquers because some of the metallics, candy colors and metal flakes are so much richer and brighter than WA, but I just couldn't stand the smell, fumes and clean-ups.with lacquer thinner. I got lacquer paint everywhere! On my fingers, dripping on the floor, and on the airbrush body. With water-based acrylics it's so easy to just spray water through the airbrush into a rag between colors and every so often spray some Windex to avoid any build-up of dried Acrylics. Clean-ups are a breeze with warm water. I have never had a problem with drying times. They seem to dry fairly quick. I have no problems doing fine detail work but you do have to be using a good airbrush (I use nothing but a Paasche H), and quality paint of the right thickness and correct air pressure. Most fish taxidermists have to work at it for some time and several fish paintings before they get comfortable and feel confident about their painting abilities. I recommend WA paints to start with but do try lacquers. Maybe they will work for you.. ..Good luck and have fun!

I believe most folks that have trouble with...

This response submitted by marty on 02/16/2004. ( )

...Waterbased paints are the ones that have been using Laquers and are having difficulty with the transition.

I agree with Cecil that most any affect can be achieved with either. I too mainly use Waterbased paints. But my pearls and metallics are all powders that I mix with the basecoat sealer as I believe most metallics out of the bottle look artificial. But then again, I haven't tried the laquer based metallics.

The only issues I have with "running" is not the paint but the waterbased basecoat sealer. I have a blow dryer handy when I lay on a thick coat of the basecoat (sometimes mixed with metallic powders) and immediately start blow-drying after hitting a heavy coat. And, I'll manytimes pick up the fish and turn it in several directions as I'm drying - again to keep the heavy coats from running.

These are really the only two circumstances that I need to be careful because I simply don't lay down any one color that heavy in most applications. I manytimes layer colors to get to where I want to be.

I'd recommend the Waterbased if starting out simply because of the fumes. John's right in that ANY unpleasant odors or paints floating in the air getting into your lungs cannot be good for you. And a mask or respirator (if laquer based) is a good idea with both. I also throw on the eye protection when I'm laying down heavy coats of basecoat because there's a lot of air-borne particles that make my eyes "fuzy" if I use nothing. (I don't have a paint booth or exhaust fan, but I do have an 1800 sq foot shop to disperse the airborne stuff).

Waterbased is quicker and easier to clean up too. I can paint several fish before breaking down and cleaning my airbrush with Waterbased paints. I clean and blow things out between EVERY color This is where I disagree with Tom Sexton's advice to "blend colors" w/o cleaning in-between, as I have more control this way. (Vs. not knowing EXACTLY when that new color is going to start coming out of my airbrush). I clean with water, windex and acetone if things get really gummy...

John, I haven't tried to buff the chrome pearl yet but...

This response submitted by Cecil Baird ( ) on 02/18/2004 at 19:32. ( )

when I referred to not having any problems with waterbase I was referring to the ease of use. However I have no doubt the spray can be bad for you from waterbase too. As far as lung problems with lacquer, my physician says he has more of a problem with brain and central nervous system damage than lung damage. Oh,Oh, I think I opened myself up to something here! LOL

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