Illustrated Guide

Have you read the Tips and Tricks and want more? Or if you are one of those folks who always reads the manual, then you are in the right place. This document includes a number of detailed tips with examples, history, and personal experience thrown in.

Still need questions answered? Join the Turbo Dorks Facebook Group and ask away. We have an amazing community that is always willing to help.


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The Paints

A Is for Acrylic - Acrylic paints with their own set of distinct properties

The Bottle

Somewhere Over the Rainbow - Don’t worry if the color of paint in the bottle is not what you expect

Shake, Shake, Shake — Shake Your Booty - You need to shake the bottle very, very well

Squirt Gently - Make sure the bottle tip is clear before squeezing

Good Clean Fun - Use alcohol for cleaning up 

Putting Paint to Model

Through Thick and Thin - Dilute the paint properly

The Prime Directive - Stick to the base color recommended on the bottle to begin with

It’s All About the Base - Read more of the science of the base color

Patience Will Be Rewarded - Use numerous thin even coats of paint

Airbrushes and Compressors and Nozzles, Oh My! - Use a large nozzle and high pressure

To Hand Paint or Not to Hand Paint? - Pick a suitable model for the painting method used

For Your Protection, Er, Rather Your Model’s- Add a clear protective coat

Going the Extra Mile

The High School Mixer - Mix different Metallics but be leery of mixing Turboshifts when wet

To Infinity and Beyond - Turbo Dork paints are “normal”, just use your imagination

Think Out of the Box - These paints are for more than tabletop miniatures

A Pictures is Worth a 1,000 Words - When photographing, have light from multiple angles



The Paint

A is For Acrylic          Index ↑

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 create a sparkling effect on the paint surface making it look like metal.

Turboshifts take Metallics a step further by using small prisms to create a surface with different colors depending on the light source.

Zenishifts are Turboshifts that appear different over different base coat colors. They appear almost as if they were two metallics in one bottle with one or the other dominating depending on what color base they are sitting over.


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The Bottle

Somewhere Over the Rainbow          Index ↑

Some TurboShift paints look different in the bottle than they do in use. Colors like Blue Raspberry look white in the bottle rather than showing the brilliant blues and pinks/purples that it has 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 =). 



turboshift colors in the bottle - white, red, grey



Shake, Shake, Shake --- Shake Your Booty          Index ↑

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. There is a mixing ball 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.



If you end up using Turbo Dork paints often, you might want to invest in a mini paint shaker or vortex mixer. Repeat customers swear by them.



paint shaker



Squirt Gently          Index ↑

There are have been several photos posted on Turbo Dorks of dramatic messes when a bottle was squeezed too hard --- the tip shoots out and most of the paint in the bottle ends up on the work surface.



mess from squeezing bottle too hard



Similar to 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 thumb tacks to clean out the tip. An old cake tester also works well.


Good Clean Fun          Index ↑

Now for a word about cleanup just in case you ignored the previous step. Turbo Dork paints form a hard, smooth film that is very scratch-resistant when dry. While this makes a great paint, cleaning up after them be tough, so be careful. Isopropyl alcohol (90% or higher) will dissolve our paints as well as Simple Green is great if you need to soak a model to strip it.



alcohol and Simple Green cleaning materials



To quote Greg, “I wanted to make a good paint but it’s almost too good sometimes.”


Putting Paint to Model

Through Thick and Thin          Index ↑

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 color.

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 flow improver in addition to an airbrush medium, not on it's own. We do not recommend thinning with just water on its own, at least for airbrushing.



airbrush paint materials



Bottomline there is no one set formula for diluting for airbrushing that works for all of the colors. It seems like folks start with a ratio of 2 parts paint to 1 part medium for most colors. 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.

Paint, to be used for hand-brushing, is a little easier to accommodate. Most colors are fine from the bottle. However, some are thicker than one might like and can be thinned with airbrush medium, contrast medium, Lahmia medium, or by gently adding small amounts of water with a wet brush to the paint on a palette.



hand painting materials



Using a wet palette has gotten mixed reviews. A plastic dry palette is fine, but if you are someone who likes to clean it afterward, you may have a real chore ahead of you. Using a disposable paper paint palette solves this problem.


The Prime Directive          Index ↑

Each Turbo Dork paint has a recommended color for the primer (black or white). This is the base coat color used for the example photos in the online store. While there are some exceptions, black is the color of choice for almost all of the paints. The suggested base color is listed on the bottle label.



primer listing on bottle label



To get the best results with the least amount of potential woes, use the recommended color for the primer. If you are an experimenter at heart and want to see what different colors look like over different bases, then 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.



matte versus gloss primer



Management recommends matte Badger Stynylrez for airbrush work. For those without an airbrush, a good quality rattle can primer designed for use with miniatures, such as Army Painter, works well. Take a look at these posts for more information on white and black primers.


It’s All About the Base          Index ↑

Our metallic paints work fairly independently of base color, so putting them over something besides black will not surprise you. The finished product may just not be as intense over a lighter-colored base. Please note though, 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. These are Meredith’s pastels (Taro, Yuzu, Momo, Maguro, Sakura, and Matcha).



Omakase paints



and 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 color.



bright light metallics



Turboshifts are more dependent on color of the undercoat. This has to do with what makes a Turboshift a Turboshift. A Turboshift is essentially thousands of tiny prisms suspended in acrylic medium. These mica prisms are engineered to show only a particular set of colors. Basically whatever light gets reflected back from the undercoat through the prisms dictates what color you see. Therefore, having a black background gives the truest color based on the prism’s design. Other dark undercoat colors 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 color can make.



Mother Lode over black and white



Lastly, there are the Zenishifts (Bubblegum Crisis, Prism Power, and Twin Sons). These are schizophrenic Turboshifts that just show up differently depending if they are over a dark color or a light color. 



zenishifts - primed and painted



For more information on different base colors, take a look at this blog post

One can always "rebase" a section of a model with a bit of white over something primed black or vice-versa. This comes in handy when you want to add a few bits of pastel paint or modify the area covered by zenithal priming.



Patience Will Be Rewarded          Index ↑

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 if you see thin white areas, you are putting 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.



number of coats for turboshifts



Airbrushes and Compressors and Nozzles, Oh My!          Index ↑

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, it is recommended that you start with a 0.5 mm nozzle and 25 to 30 psi. You can adjust things from there based upon the thickness of the actual paint and your equipment.

Also keep in mind 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.

For newbies willing to make the investment and have the space in which to use it, we recommended a Badger No. 105 "Patriot" Airbrush, a Master Airbrush Cool Runner II Compressor, and a Master Airbrush Portable Hobby Airbrush Spray Booth. This equipment is very serviceable and will not break the bank.



airbrush equipment


To Hand Paint or Not to Hand Paint, That Is the Question          Index ↑

Basically, there are a few general principals that may lead one to choose between airbrushing and hand-brushing. Using an airbrush works great for large areas where you want the surface to be super smooth like the plastic spoons used for testing colors. Unfortunately when hand-brushing, one is likely to leave brush marks on the surface of such items. A classic example of something made for airbrush work would be a Gundam figure or even a dozen eggs.


example of airbrushed items


In contrast, an airbrush is not needed to make most models shine with Turbo Dork colors, including Turboshifts. You can jump right in and hand paint smaller models or larger ones with with textured surfaces where brush marks will not be an issue. For instance, a dragon covered in scales, a figure wearing a silk or satin robe, a tiny marine carrying a big honking sword, or, as it happens, a regiment of nine dwarfs a-dancing all work well.



example of hand brushed items



For Your Protection, Er, Rather Your Model's          Index ↑

Painted models intended for play or travel should be sealed with a protective clear coat. However, there is always a concern that a particular varnish may not play well with the paint used.  None of the varnishes traditionally used for miniatures painted with acrylics (Testors, Vallejo, etc.) that Turbo Dork tested showed signs of crinkling or clouding when applied as a thin coat over a dry Turbo Dork painted surface. In general, varnishes with gloss finishes end up looking similar to the original Turbo Dork painted surface. The photos below shows Da Ba Dee with either no varnish or varnished with different finishes.  


different varnished - part 1



different varnished - part 2



Going the Extra Mile

The High School Mixer          Index ↑

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 color changes. Mixing them when wet can screw this all up in unexpected ways. Metallics, on the other hand, can usually be mixed when wet with other metallics. For example, equal parts Pearly Gates + Gold Rush = a new custom Platinum Blonde. For more examples see this post.



mixing colors



To Infinity and Beyond          Index ↑

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 colors work well. Take a look at this post or this one for some ideas to get your creative juices flowing.

This figure was painted with the Chill Out matched set of Turboshifts, Purl Grey edging, and a dark blue wash in the crevices. 



highlighting a model



Tip: Looking for the right color for your next project? Check out the website: you can filter the paints by color-group as well as by shift. 


Think Out of the Box          Index ↑

Although most folks use Turbo Dork paints on some form of a model in plastic, resin, or metal, there are reports of the paints being used on many other types of surfaces including canvas and wood. In addition, they have been used in a variety of ways beyond tabletop miniatures. There has been jewelry with Turbo Dork colors, cosplay armor, fishing lures, and skateboards sporting the paints, goggles for a dog, and even color-swatch spoons on tee-shirts. A particular fan favorite was a 3D-printed rose for Valentine’s Day.


When one paints an ideal,
one does not need to limit one’s imagination.
Ellen Key


A Picture is Worth a 1,000 Words          Index ↑

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.

Greg, however, is a professional 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.



camera 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."



example of photo



Please share your pictures on your social media (#turbodork or @turbodork) or post them on the Turbo Dorks Facebook Group.