Illustrated Guide

Have you already read the Tips and Tricks page and want more? Are you one of those folks who always reads the manual? If so, you are in the right place. This document includes detailed info with examples based on personal experience. Turbo Dork paints are meant to be fun! Therefore, for those with inquiring minds, this means experimenting with them. This guide was designed to give you a few fundamentals and to get your creative juices flowing.


The Paint

A is For Acrylic

Turbo Dork paints are made of powdered pigments and mica particles suspended in an acrylic medium. Like most other acrylic paints, they are fast-drying, water-soluble when wet, and water-resistant when dry.

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, changes to thicken the formulation were made to better accommodate hand brushing. The most recent remix does an excellent job of balancing the needs of both types of painters.

In addition to having a better hand brush feel, these changes have resulted in better coverage with fewer coats, even when airbrushing, and most importantly, the paint is now nearly freeze-proof.

Although like other acrylic paints in many ways, Turbo Dork paints are known for their distinct colors and effects:

Turboshifts are made with tiny glass-like flakes that work like millions of small prisms within the paint. Depending on how the flakes are made, different colors are refracted or reflected in the light. These paints change color depending on the type of light source and the angle with which the light is hitting the painted object.

Zenishifts were designed for (drum roll) a zenithal effect. They appear differently over different basecoat colors. It is almost as if there were two metallics in one bottle with one or the other dominating depending on whether the basecoat that the paint is sitting over is black or white.

Metallics contain pigments and small mica flakes to make the painted surface look like metal. They are similar to other acrylic metallics just brighter and wilder.

All three types of Turbo Dork paint are illustrated below with some of the OGs ---Afterburner, Bubblegum Crisis, and People Eater.

The Bottle

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

While the paint in a bottle of some Turboshifts looks like you would expect, many do not. Some are white in the bottle, others red, and a few greyish. Believe us, the right pigment is in the bottle even if the wet paint looks off. Do not freak out, the rainbow will show through when the paint is put to model =).

The photo below shows examples of different Turboshift paints, both as a blob of wet paint in the palette and dry on a finished model over a black basecoat. Forrest Flux (upper left), Ice to Never (upper right), Blue Raspberry (lower left), and Let Them Eat Cake (lower right).

In contrast, the paint in a bottle of a Zenishift tends to look like one or other of the shift colors. The split personality of a Zenishift only comes out when placed over the different base colors.

Shake, Shake, Shake --- Shake Your Booty

The pigments in Turbo Dork paints are LARGE and slowly sink to the bottom of the bottle with time. The micrograph below shows the range of pigment sizes for Absinthe (courtesy of Goobertown Hobbies Metallic Paints Explained with a Microscope!).

Needless to say, you need a uniform suspension of paint particles to get an even coat on whatever you are painting. Some folks use a mini paint shaker or vortex mixer to stir things up, but this is not required. 

There is a glass mixing ball inside each bottle, so shake it until you hear the ball rattling around. Then shake some more so that any pigments that have settled to the bottom of the bottle are suspended. The paint should not look thin without any flecks of pigment. The newer bottles allow you to see how well things are mixed inside.

Squirt Gently

Similar to other paints that come in squeeze bottles, the tip of a Turbo Dork paint can clog. The original bottles were very prone to this happening. However, the new, squat 22 ml bottles with the large pointy caps have a gasket that tightens down around the tip making clogging and drying out much less likely to happen.

Good Clean Fun

Now for a word about cleanup. When wet, Turbo Dork paints can be cleaned up with water. However, when dry, they form a hard, smooth film that is very scratch-resistant. While this makes a great paint, cleaning up can be tough. So be careful. Isopropyl alcohol (90% or higher) will dissolve our paints. Also Simple Green is great, particularly if you need to soak a model to strip it.

Putting Paint to Model

To Hand Paint or Not to Hand Paint - That is the Question

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. Using an airbrush works great for large areas where you want the surface to be super smooth. Also, airbrushing is the go-to technique if you want to set up an assembly line for a regiment of soldiers. Some sample models that work particularly well when airbrushed are shown below (right to left and top to bottom --- Blue Raspberry, Multiple Turboshifts, Hotline, Mother Lode, and Prism Power).

For those who do not own an airbrush or are more comfortable painting by hand, we want to emphasize that an airbrush is not needed to make things shine with Turbo Dork colors, including Turboshifts. You can jump right in and hand-paint models with smooth areas or ones with textured surfaces with confidence. This is particularly true now with the new remix as described in the A Is For Acrylics section. For example, the models shown below featuring Crystal Cavern, Silver Fox, Ground Is Lava, Spicy Meatball, and Scarab (left to right, top to bottom) were all hand-painted.

Tip: Whether airbrushing or painting by hand, the trick is to thin the paint to a consistency that flows well, if necessary, and apply thin coats.

Airbrushes and Compressors and Nozzles, Oh My!

For airbrushing, it is recommended that you thin your paint as in the next section and then start with a 0.5 mm nozzle and 25 to 30 psi. You can adjust things from there on your equipment.

Also keep in mind that Turbo Dork paints, even when thinned properly, can settle quickly due to the large flakes in them. So you should be ready to mix things up between coats and to wipe the nozzle tip periodically. Lastly, we recommend using water for the cleanup of your airbrush. Avoid alcohol and airbrush cleaners containing solvents.

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. We have used our set of these items for the last five years at Turbo Dork HQ.

Through Thick and Thin

When airbrushing, thin with an airbrush medium and avoid using "airbrush thinners" as they tend to contain alcohol. Also thinning with water is not recommended as it can cause the pigments to fall out of suspension quickly. Start with a ratio of 3 parts paint to 1 part acrylic medium.

When painting by hand, you may not feel the need to thin. However, if the paint is too thick for your taste, then use an acrylic medium to thin it out. Alternatively, gently add a very small amount of water with a wet brush to the paint on a palette. Avoid a large amount of water or, as mentioned above, the pigments can fall out of the solution.

Tip: Some folks are happy using a wet palette while many others use dry ones. Plastic dry palettes work great but are hard to clean once the paint has dried. Therefore, Turbo Dork has designed a silicone dry palette for use with acrylic paints. The non-stick surface allows you to just pop out any dried paint making cleanup easy.

The Prime Directive

Each Turbo Dork paint has a recommended basecoat (black, white, zenithal, or colored) that is used for the example photos in the online store and in this document. The suggested basecolor is listed on the new bottle labels as shown below. To get the best results with the least amount of potential woes, we recommend using this color for the base before you start experimenting with other colors.

An acrylic primer by itself or an acrylic paint in the preferred color over a primer works well for the basecoat. Some folks prefer one with a glossy finish, but it is not required to get a good-looking paint job as shown below --- matte primer alone (upper left), gloss primer alone (upper right), Dark Net over matte primer (lower left), and Dark Net over gloss primer (lower right).

It's All About the Base

Turboshifts are very dependent on the color of the basecoat. This has to do with what makes a Turboshift a Turboshift. A Turboshift is essentially thousands of tiny prisms suspended in an acrylic medium. These prisms are engineered to show only a particular set of colors. Whatever light gets reflected from the basecoat through the prisms dictates the color you see. Therefore, having a dark background gives the truest color based on the prism’s design. In contrast, a light background can significantly change the final look of most of the Turboshifts (see photo below). Therefore, except for Mother Lode, black or another very dark color is always the color of choice for a Turboshift.

As noted above, Mother Lode is the exception to the black basecoat rule for Turboshifts. To get the mother-of-pearl look for Mother Lode, it should be used over white. That being said, putting it over black gives a green/blue shift that some folks like.

Contrary to the Turboshifts, Zenishifts look good over black and white --- just different. As the name implies, Zenishifts were developed for use with zenithal priming. The one thing to keep in mind is that they need a strong contrast between the dark and the light areas on an object to look their best.

Below is an example showing the black/white basecoat layer and an overall coat of paint with Twin Sons.

Tip: As shown below, gray does not exactly cut it in some cases. You should be prepared to do a heavy spray coat with white or to add a bit more paint by hand afterward to bring out the difference.

In contrast to the Turboshifts and Zenishifts, the Metallic paints work fairly independently of basecolor, so putting them over different colored bases should not surprise you too much. The biggest exception to this is Pearly Gates which must be placed over a white basecoat to show up as white versus silver.

The rest of the Metallics fall into two different classes. The first is a group of paints that look brightest when used over black. These tend to be the true metals like Gold Rush and Silver Fox as well as those shown in the example below.

It is recommended that paints in the second group of Metallics be used over a similarly colored basecoat as opposed to black. For example, Pucker is to be used over yellow and Sakura over pink.

Previously, it was recommended that most of the colors in this group be placed over a white basecoat to bring out their vibrant colors. However, based on feedback from others and our internal testing, it was found that using a colored base is more user-friendly, requiring fewer coats to get the same effect.

A comparison between a colored basecoat and black can be seen below for several of these paints.

Go on, we know you want to ask, "What do these Metallics look like over the original white as well as other colored bases"? Therefore, take a look at the photos below. All of the models shown were done in Multipass. The model bases show the acrylic paint color used for the base layer. The differences are subtle but there to give you a feeling about experimenting with other base colors. It should be noted that some base colors require more coats of paint to get complete coverage.

Patience Will Be Rewarded

Whether you are using an airbrush or hand brush, apply thin coats and let the paint dry thoroughly between coats. Do not use a single thick coat for Turboshifts as this will obscure the shift effect. If the paint pools or builds up in spots, you are putting it on too thick. Be patient the shift will start to come out more with each new coat that you apply. The fact that this happens is kind of a miracle.

Tips for the new remix paint:

Metallics - 1 to 2 coats are enough to get good coverage and good sparkle.

Zenishifts - 2 to 3 coats work well to bring out the contrasting colors.

Turboshifts - It usually takes 3 to 4 coats to achieve maximum effect as illustrated below (left to right) with 1, 2, 3, and 4 coats of 4D Glasses.


For Your Protection, Er, Rather Your Model's

Turbo Dork paints are tough but painted models intended for play or travel could benefit from being sealed with a protective clear coat. However, there is always a concern that a particular varnish may not play well with the paint used.

We have tested a large number of the varnishes traditionally used for acrylic-painted miniatures. We found that they showed no signs of crinkling or clouding when applied over a dry Turbo Dork-painted surface. However, solvent-based varnishes or sealants will eventually make things crinkle.

In general, varnishes with semi-gloss or gloss finishes end up looking similar to the original shiny Turbo Dork painted surface. This, of course, depends on the brand of sealant used and is illustrated here with Da Ba De and a polyurethane varnish - None, Matte, Satin/Semi-Gloss, and Gloss finishes.

Tip: If intending to use paints that are either solvent-based or diluted with a solvent over a Turbo Dork painted surface, be sure to seal the Turbo Dork layer first.

Going the Extra Mile

It's Just an Illusion

In some ways, just putting a Turboshift to a model is like playing with magic. Zenishifts even more so. However, there are also a few specific paints that you should know about that bring a sparkle to the party.

Some "special effects" with Turbo Dork paints are illustrated below: left to right and top to bottom --- All That Glitters, Sparkle Motion, Rainbow Roll, and Mother Lode.

Tip: A good trick to try is to use Mother Lode or Pearly Gates over the clear portion of a model. The 4D Glasses dragon shown below is sitting on a rock painted with Mother Lode for an interesting shimmering effect.

The High School Mixer

Turboshifts are like the loners standing on the far side of the dance floor. They do not always mix well with others when wet. Turboshifts have been designed to have the appropriate balance of light-bending prisms to achieve the desired color changes. Therefore, although you can mix two turboshifts be forewarned that you may not get what you think you should. Mixing two Turboshifts with the same underlying color, e.g. white with white or red with red, seems to work best (see the Somewhere Over the Rainbow section).

In contrast, mixing two different Metallics does indeed result in some new, interesting, and relatively predictable shades. However, when mixing a Metallic and a Turboshift the Metallic will dominate, potentially wiping out the shift effect. Lastly, Metallics also play well with other non-metallic acrylics and inks. However, their shine is likely to fade.

A few of the most successful mixes are featured below.

Turboshift + Turboshift
Turboshift + Metallic
Metallic + Metallic

To Infinity and Beyond

This section is intended to get you thinking about all the things you could do using Turbo Dork paints from a quick project job to that major project you have dreaming about.


There are plenty of examples throughout this document of using Turbo Dork paints with each, but it should be noted that they work well with inks and other acrylics including one-step paints. However, they do not play well with solvent-based paints unless there is a sealant layer between the two.

Tip: For a fast, easy way to show off these paints, use an appropriately colored one-step paint for the basecoat followed by a surface coat with the Turbo Dork paint. As shown in the examples below, this results in an automatic shade/highlight effect --- Silver Fox over a blue-grey one-step (left) and Cartridge Family over a brown one-step (right).


However, you can do so much more with Turbo Dork paints than to just paint gun muzzles or highlight a one-step paint. As illustrated in the following sections, a variety of standard miniature painting techniques can be used with all three types of Turbo Dork paints. These include such things as shading/washing, dry brushing, layering/highlighting, edging, feathering, stippling, glazing, and dark-lining.

Tip: To answer the most asked question --- yes, a wash placed all over a model will darken the color of the paint somewhat and potentially may dull the finish depending on the wash used. You can get around this either by recess shading or by drybrushing the original paint on top of the overall wash once it is dry. The latter technique is illustrated in the photo below: Miami Sunset alone (left) and Miami Sunset washed with Nuln Oil and then drybrushed with Miami Sunset (right).

The monster from the Tip above proved to be a nice figure to do more with. The photo below shows how it could be further enhanced in four ways using just Turbo Dork paints and a few simple techniques (washing, drybrushing, layering, and edging).


The photo below is a collage of in-house detailed, larger works put together to inspire you and show off some more complicated techniques.

Tip: Detailed painting descriptions for these models can be found in Momma Dork's Miniature Musings.

Think Out of the Box

Although most folks use Turbo Dork paints on some form of 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, toys, and an electric mixer. In addition, there have even been posts with Easter eggs, Christmas ornaments, skateboards sporting the paints, goggles for a dog, and color swatches on tee shirts. A particular fan favorite of the Turbo Dork team 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

Photos depicting the "think out of the box" things mentioned above can be found on the company's Facebook and Instagram pages as well as the Turbo Dorks Facebook Group page.

A Picture is Worth 1,000 Words

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, particularly with the Turboshifts. 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. In addition, if possible take advantage of natural lighting. You can mimic a photo booth outside by placing the model in a corner close to a building. Once the sun shines in the area you can shoot away. Alternatively, if it is too cold or hot for the outdoors, use some lighting with bulbs the the daylight range (5,000 to 6,5000K) tucked up in a kitchen corner. 

Tip: Taking photos of Rainbow Roll is the exception to what was said just above. For this paint to show up properly you need to have the model in a darkened area and use something like a flashlight to just light up the front

The majority of photos for this guide were taken by a non-professional on a slightly older phone with a simple camera app using the "outside" trick or with illumination inside an airbrush hood. The LED light bars were originally installed to provide better lighting while airbrushing but proved to have a second use during bad weather. 

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

Get A Little Help From Your Friends

If you buy your Turbo Dork paints from your LGS, you may be missing out on a fount of information about each of the different colors. Take a look at the individual product pages on the website, e.g. 3D Glasses. These pages include a description of the paint, notes about what basecoat is best, Universal Color Language descriptions for the color-blind, selected related colors, and a small gallery of painted models.

Still, need questions answered? Join the Turbo Dorks Facebook Group and ask away. We have an amazing community that is always willing to help. You can also address questions to customer service at