Shaking, BB’s And Now: The Vortex

I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve become almost exclusively a user of Vallejo paint and its eye dropper bottle. I really do like ’em. They have a lot of pigment, and they almost never dry up. I swear I’ve had some bottles for fifteen years.

But that doesn’t make ’em perfect. That unique shape sometimes encourage all that pigment to settle to the bottom of the bottle and it can be really hard to improve its consistency.

I’ve tried lots of things. The most basic of those is shaking which is usually good enough–unless it’s not. I’ve tried a couple of other things too.

One can remove the dropper from the bottle and stick a paintbrush handle down there and swoosh things around. Of course then you have a paintbrush handle full of pigment you’ve got to wipe on a paper towel or rag and you’ve lost all that good paint. I was never sure this was the best solution.

Another suggestion was to drop a couple of BB’s into the bottle and when shaking the BB’s would bang around and bust loose all that stubborn pigment. I tried that with a few bottles, but it never really seemed to work very well.

Mind you, this is not a problem that occurred very often. Again, I really think Vallejo is a great paint and I rarely have problems with it-aside from clearing the dropper and that’s a whole other blog post.

However, the last few years I’ve used a lot of the Vallejo Model Air colors for painting planes. Mostly these are only available in themed sets. They offer a few challenges. These paints are designed to be used in air brushes and are usually pretty thin. Often they require two or three coats to really cover something, but I also think they’re just hard to keep stirred properly.

This weekend I decided to paint some of the Japanese planes I acquired in 2019. Just some A6M2 Zeroes from Raiden. Nice and easy. I also had the set of Air Model paints for the Japanese from Vallejo. Try as I might, and I made many efforts. all I could get out of the IJN Medium Grey bottle was runny yuck. I finally opened the dropper bottle and here was pigment stacked from the bottom of the bottle to the tip of the dropper. I got out the toothpick, the paintbrush handle, I shook it, I cursed at it, and though I now got pigment chunks to go with the runny yuck, it was still pretty hopeless.

There has to be a better way.

I resorted to the internet, looking for solutions. There are shakers for nail polish. There are shakers for craft and model paint. Both those possibilities had lots of negative reviews for two reasons–they were underpowered and burned out quickly. The rubber bands fixing the bottles to the shakers were inadequate and broke quickly and easily. Not what I was after

However after googling electric paint shaker I ran across this article reviewing various methods for getting your paint well mixed. I pondered the possibilities and decided that as much as I painted, perhaps it was worth looking into a vortex mixer.

The Joanlab vortex is very small, relatively quiet, and doesn’t vibrate the heck out of my painting area.

Of course I went to Amazon which has a pile of vortex mixers. These little dudes were made for mixing chemicals in a lab, and have heavy duty motors. They can cost hundreds of dollars. But there are some cheaper ones too. They work by rotating at the bottom at about 3,000 rpm. In most cases they could have my paint mixed in a few seconds.

I decided that because painting was such an important part of my daily life, I would opt for the Joanlab mixer. It wasn’t the cheapest model, but at about 70 bucks it was far from the most pricey. I’ve used it several times and I like what it does. Unfortunately it couldn’t save my IJN Medium Grey

One comment on “Shaking, BB’s And Now: The Vortex

  1. Pete S/ SP says:

    Great post- I’ve a couple of friends who’ve invested in vortex mixers and really like them.



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