Modder’s Tools: Persistent Paint Pens Revisited

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Modding, specifically working with paints is the most searched term on this website which is very understandable. For many beginners, handling or working with paint can be anxiety inducing. While most have experience with artwork, most people’s experience with paint only involves painting walls or the ceiling. It is in bridging that connection between using paints as a tool to create art rather than something strictly utilitarian is where beginners need help the most. The good news is that when learning to use paint, you can always start with something small and handheld. Even smaller than a rattle can and costs less than an air-brush setup: paint pens.

A previous article on this website informs users of its existence. It is mostly for labeling things due to its persistence. However, that is giving the mighty paint pen the short shrift. Because of its hand held nature, using it is much more instinctive than a rattle can or even an air-brush. If you have drawn or doodled before, it is basically the same experience, with some minor differences. Before you use it on your case modding project, there are some basic things you need to know first.

Oil-Based vs Water-Based

Whenever you are dealing with paint, you will always come across oil-based or water-based types. To keep things simple, let us look at the basic pros and cons.

Let’s start with water-based. These paints are very forgiving when it comes to mistakes since they come off with water rather than a thinner. However, they are not as permanent or clingy on non-paper surface without a primer. It is also advisable to seal them with a clear coat after. It is perfect for papers, cardboards and other porous materials since it is absorbed better.

Oil-based however work really well on metal and plastic, much more so than water-based paint pens. You can use it straight away without priming and it will stick much better than a water-based paint pen. However, since it is much more permanent, do not expect to just wipe away a mistake easily. Some oil-based paints require better ventilation as well as they give off noxious fumes.  So if yours smells funky, make sure to work in a well-ventilated space. Usually the ones that are safe boast about it lacking a certain chemical so you can easily tell just by looking at the packaging. It will sometimes say acid-free or whatever chemical they removed.

Keep in mind, these are very broad generalizations and some water-based paint pens actually stick very well on metal or plastic. It will depend on the surface, as some have chemicals on the primer or existing paint which could prevent it from sticking properly. Oil-based ones tend to have higher chance of sticking, so if you are unsure of what primer or paint was used and you need to write over something then go with oil-based to be safe.

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Ron Perillo

Ron is a non-binary tech writer that presently identifies as a reviewer but is currently transitioning toward modding.

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