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Derivan Paints: Striking It Lucky With Colour

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martin goddard Sponsoring Member of TMP writes:

Good to see some good news Mal. Keep it coming.


Revision Log
17 October 2007page first published

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Mal Wright Fezian writes:

Sometimes at a convention, you can be just dead lucky and find a real bargain. Often new figures, or perhaps some secondhand item you really wanted. Paint is, of course, vital to the wargamer, but I thought I had already seen all the ranges available and tried them all. So it was a bit of a surprise when I sighted the Derivan Minis range of acrylics, on the stand run by Mick Selman. Firstly that the containers gave you 36ml of paint; and secondly, that they did that for much the same price as the other, better-known brands.

Derivan MiNiS

Some examples of quantity are as follows:

Games Workshop  12 ml
Tamiya 10 ml
Model Master 14.7 ml
Vallejo 17 ml
Humbrol 12 ml

So on the issue of quantity, the Derivan were way out in front. On price per container, they matched Games Workshop, but when quantity is considered, you get three times as much with Derivan.

With that noted, I decided to look at the range of colours available. This can often be the downfall of a range. Again, I noted that the choice of colours offered was a wide one. Not only that, but even looking at the containers themselves suggested a vibrancy that I found quite exciting, and a promise of good results when actually applied to a model miniature. I therefore took the plunge and obtained nearly the entire range. I left out black and white, because I already had so much in other brands and presumed they would all be much the same. The same applied to some of the metallic colours, although I did make sure to get at least one. My range therefore consisted of a very wide selection, even if not total.

I later asked the manufacturer the following:

Is the range aimed at any specific era or section of that market?
The range was created in consultation with a number of miniature/model painters to suit their requirements, and covers quite a range of eras and sections of the market.

On returning home, it was a while before I was able to use the range on any miniatures. But when I did, I was delighted with the result. I tested colours against similar colours from other brands and was very impressed. However with time limited, I was unable to paint more than a few troops from Corvus Belli to add to my Ancient Numidian army. I might add here that I had also chosen a range of inks, and these proved of high quality, too. The result was so pleasing that a few days later, I could not resist trying these paints in another form. This time I repainted some of my 1:3000 scale warships, using the Derivan to match camouflage shades. Smoke Grey was one that particularly impressed me. Payne's Grey is always important, especially for mixing, and that too was of a very high quality. On enquiring with the makers, I was informed that in order to achieve such good shades, they had to use "good quality pigments and clean formulations."

As many would know, I am also a maritime artist. Old Dominion Game Works were in need of cover art for their forthcoming WWI version of General Quarters III, Fleet Action Imminent. Therefore, I needed to leave my own miniatures for a while and move to artworks on canvas. Having sat down and done the background with the usual tubes of acrylic, I was not all that satisfied. The vibrancy I wanted was not there. So I reached for the Derivan bottles. This was not done lightly. After all, a canvas takes up a lot of paint and I wanted them for my miniatures, but the temptation to try them was too strong.

The result was, in my opinion, startling. Not only were these paints first class on figures; they also went great on a canvas. Over the next couple of weeks, I finished three artworks for ODGW and felt that the paint had added an extra dimension to my work, as well as being very easy to use when compared to my usual tube acrylics. Paintings have to be very well varnished, so I was a little concerned about what would happen when that was done. It was something I need not have been concerned about. Nothing was lost and the entire depth of colour I wanted was still there. Especially the ocean shades provided, and those I was able to achieve through blending.

This got me so excited about the potential of these colours, that I actually completed two works that were not actually commissioned. These were Arctic Storm and HMS Skate - the former set in the dull waters above Norway, the latter in the North Atlantic. Once again, I was more than happy with the results. Arctic Storm has become one of my very favourite works.

During a short break, I used the same colours to re-paint some buildings. Again the results when used on plastic were very good. When sprayed with varnish, the results remained very good. I am now planning refresher paint for some of my other scenery (when I have the time), because again the results were first class.

So returning to canvas, I had some works to do for TMP members. First was a rendition of USS Hancock. I started back with my usual tube paints because I was getting a little worried that the levels in the Derivan jars were getting a bit low. But having done most of the work, I just wasn't satisfied. As soon as it was dry enough, I varnished it so colours could not bleed through from underneath, and set about it with the Derivan. This was kind of exciting for me, because as I altered the shades of camouflage, and stroked shades into the sea, I could see the work coming to life far more than previously. The TMP'er expressed complete satisfaction when the work arrived in his hands, and the recipient of the painting, to whom he presented it as a gift, was also pleased.

Well, that worked. Next on to another TMP commission. This time it was to be a panoramic view of the Battle of Samar, which was fought against tremendous odds in 1944. A Japanese task force surprised a U.S. escort carrier group and it appeared that annihilation would result. But the small ships of the U.S. Navy fought back hard, gaining time for all but one of the carriers to escape, or to launch air strikes to deter the Japanese from following them. One of the most vivid memories of the person, for whom this was to be a gift, were the massive columns of coloured water sprouting up around his ship, which was USS Raymond. (This was because the Japanese ships used various shades of dye, so that when firing at long ranges they could tell whose shell splashes was whose.)

Having considered my plan of the work, there seemed no other choice but to reach for the Derivan again. Even on the palette they looked good, and as I applied the colours I could not help but feel a sense of satisfaction at the depth of shades, how well they mixed together, and how those applied separately, stood out from those blended. A pleasing result for artist, and from the comments of the TMP member who placed the commission, the finished work was very pleasing for him too. His response can be seen in the art section here.

So this week, I have been working on an American Civil War subject for the TMP member who ordered the USS Hancock work. Again the Derivan has come out, despite the bottles now getting ominously low! The paint has flowed and I'm very satisfied with the results. The work is not for display as it's not yet finished. However, the rest of my work can be viewed here, under 'art'.

What prompted this decision to write a review, was that having done what I could on the canvas for the day, I took a coffee break and having received some more Corvus Belli figures, decided to do some work on them. On picking them up and realising that I was simply using exactly the same paints as I'd been using all day on an artwork, it occurred to me that it was time to spread the word to the rest of the TMP members so those looking to renew their stock of paints, might consider trying try this new brand.

Yes, it is Australian, and I'm an Aussie. But I have no connections with the company, and indeed I was rather surprised when I found out these paints were from my own country. I had been using them for some time, before reading a label and noticing that. However I do confess to having a certain pride in seeing such a good Australian product.

The only problem I have experienced with this paint is a slight tendency for the fixer to separate from the dye, unless they are regularly shaken. However I note that if one shakes them before use, this does not seem to occur and they obviously blend back in well. They would certainly not be the only paints to suffer this problem, as it's one I've noticed quite a lot with other brands. However enquiries with the makers produced the following answer:

We are aware of the separation issue, this is caused by the high loading of pure pigment so in order to develop such rich colours there is a chance that they may fall out of suspension sometimes - however, storing your paints upside down may help prevent this to a certain degree - or at least prevent you squeezing out the fluid accidentally!

I mentioned at the start that I did not get the white or the black. Having seen the standard of the other shades, this is something I will correct when I next purchase some because if they are as good as the rest, they will be worth having.

Finally I have to say that considering how much you get per squeeze bottle, these paints are much more of a bargain, quality for quality, than any other brand I know of on the market. And despite the amount of use I have subjected them too since February, only a few containers have run dry. When I restock, I will feel rather pleased, that I'm not only getting quality, but also quantity for my rather stretched wargames dollars. I enquired with the makers about the issue of price and received the following answer:

Compared to other miniature and model paints, the paint is very well priced, and overseas artists will get great value on a simple ml for ml comparison. Also, depending on the strength of the AU dollar - they may even get a better price!
Derivan MiNiS colour chart

The range can be viewed here.