I love using oil base enamel paint. I often refer to it as the ‘gouache of oil-paint’ because it goes down so opaque. Have you ever tried to cover an entire area of your painting in flat red with tube paint and brushes? Remember the streaks and multiple, multiple coats it took? And ACK the drying time if it was oil! Then you may need enamel in your life.
Note, painting with enamel is always the last thing I do in a painting. (So don’t put acrylic over oil-enamel!)
The bonus of oil based enamel is you have much more mixing time than acrylic, yet it dries pretty fast. Within a few hours you can work over it.
My usual go-to brand for enamel paint is ‘Sign Painters 1-shot lettering enamel’. https://www.1shot.com/One-Shot/Products/Topcoats.aspx
Great product. Stuff of legend. Fabulous. I’ve used it for years. And as the product title suggests, it is what sign painters use. So you know it is durable… because they are signs after all!
Like this cool sign by https://www.johndoziersigns.com/vehicles
Now I have been in a crunch and tried some hardware store type oil enamel in the past, but I feel it did not cover like the sign painting stuff.
The enamel paints are so durable in fact, that it is the choice of artists in the custom car/bike culture. It is what pin stripe artists use for instance. Remember this is going on the outside of car so you know it is tough! Like well known pinstriper Charlie ‘one arm bandit’ https://www.facebook.com/onearmbanditpinstriping/
So how do I use Enamel in my normal illustration work? Usually when I need a graphic punch. Most recently in my painting of Zariel for Magic the Gathering. The designs at the bottom and some of the hyper green highlights and flame on the wings. Again I am sure you know how transparent yellows can be. And they are still a little transparent with enamel, but muuuuuch more opaque than tube paint.
I also used Enamel for the magenta backdrop to the beholder painting. Was able to get it done in one coat. Though you can see that is was a little translucent, allowing some textured strokes (which were on top of white) to barely show through.
But as much as I liked using Enamel paints, there was one thing I did not like. (Other than the smell.) And that is they are messy and come in cans that are traditional paint cans. (You know, the ones you have to open with a screwdriver.) For my uses, I need very little paint at a time, so I can spoon some out or do a small pour, but over time paint dries on the edges and you have trouble sealing the can lid and it dries out.
Enter Alpha6 Alphanamel. https://alpha6corporation.com/ (Note:I have no affiliation with them, I just love their stuff.) The colors are off the charts.
Just look at those awesome pastel colors, mixed and ready to go! I love that you can see the colors through the little plastic bottles (Sign painter cans all look the same from the outside.). But more than that I love that they ARE little. plastic. bottles. With a simple flip lid. Just a dollop will do, then with a flick of the thumb, it is sealed back up. Which again is good for the smell too because you can put the littlest drop if you want. Sounds simple, but I want to get to the pigment as quick as possible when painting and not feel pressured to stop, get a hammer and seal the cans back up.
The most intriguing color I’ve use so far is their Mermaid paint. Which is a color sifting paint. And woah does it shift! From blue to purple to green to pink! Something like that is usually reserved for expensive automobiles, but you get it in tiny bottle and can put it on with a brush! You can see this in action in my Gibson Voodoo SG custom video.
But it gets better, because each container has a little rattle ball inside for stirring up the paint. Also you can buy just the empty bottles for custom mixes and they have the rattle ball too.
But the main reason I got into enamels is, as discussed, they are pretty durable on there own, with no varnish. (Though Alpha6 does sell UV clear coats for them.) And this is important when making signs, customizing cars/bikes, painting on sneakers, (Yup they are good for that too.) and yes… painting on guitars! And I’ve done a few at this point! Just for me and for the fun of it. And I don’t have to seal them afterwards. If it is good enough for cars and sneakers, if it good enough for guitars!
Here is a video talking about the paint and showing the color shifting properties on this Gibson Voo-doo SG I recently finished.