For decades, Floquil paints were a fixture of model railroading.  They were the only paints I used from the 60’s until their virtual demise when the original formula was discontinued.  To say the loss of Floquil was significant to my scale modeling would be an understatement.  Because Floquil had such unique qualities, it factored into many of the choices of how I went about constructing a model ... Mainly because it was durable and actually stuck to what you applied it too.  In essence, you could almost think of it as a building material rather than just a coating.  When fully hard, you could easily color sand it.  With the right liquid cement, you could glue to it.  When applied directly over styrene, it became virtually one with the surface.  You never had to worry about any type of masking material pulling it up.  It was impervious to all decal setting solutions.  I especially liked that I could scribe a razor clean line into the paint.

But for all its great qualities, Floquil had its own set of issues. At the top of the list was the health hazard of inhaling the fumes.  The main component in Floquil was an organic compound known as Xylene.  Xylene was responsible for the characteristic smell of Floquil.  Xylene was also a small component of lacquer thinners of the day and while you could thin Floquil with lacquer thinner, the other components in lacquer thinner typically degraded the quality of the paint and ruined the shelf life ... so you always wanted to thin with Dio-Sol.  When painting with Floquil, it was essential for your health to work with extremely good ventilation.  Whenever spraying Floquil, I would be in front of the open garage door with a respirator mask and nitril gloves.  I knew several pro painters who suffered liver and blood issues because they ignored the warnings on the label.

Floquil Warning Label
Floquil Respirator Mask and Gloves

Floquil also had a problem with color consistency, especially in the later years of the original formula.  From batch to batch, You were never were quite sure what Pullman or Coach green was going to look like.  So the color chart became pretty much useless.  That didn’t really matter to me as for the most part I mixed my own colors.  But here again, that could be tricky because Floquil’s colors were sort of “dirty” colors.  For instance, red would not be pure red ... there would be something else mixed in ... so as you were adding a bit of this or that, you might get surprised.  It wasn’t unusual to end up with quite a bit more of a mixture than I really needed.  But that was OK, because in my heyday of model railroading, I was buying Dio-Sol by the gallon and paint by the box.

Floquil Color Chart
Floquil Paints and Dio-Sol

Back in the day, Model Railroader Magazine would publish painting guides for diesel locomotives.  It was always fun to imagine all the various color schemes coming to life.  And if you were lucky, you actually got a chance to make it happen.  I always felt honored when my friend and mentor, the well known model railroader Oscar Neubert, would ask me to paint one of his creations ... as in this case.

Southern Pacific Diesel Paint Diagram
Southern Pacific F7 Black Widow

Airbrushing Floquil on plastic could be challenging.  According to the red book, you were supposed to first spray a coat of their “Barrier” to protect the styrene.  In all the years that I used Floquil, I can honestly say that I never used any “Barrier.”  I never wanted to add another layer of something else to cover over the detail.  I know I had a bottle, and as I recall it seemed like it had a similar smell to Testors Gloss Cote.

In any case, the trick was not to overdo the amount of Dio-Sol on the styrene because it would actually soften the plastic.  You had to be careful spraying into corners or against a taped edge because Floquil would build up fast and get a bit grainy due to the combination of overspray with the high VOC Dio-Sol thinned paint.

If you want to know all the ins and outs of using the original Floquil paint, click on the image of Floquil’s painting miniatures book.  It was meant as a complete instruction manual for using Floquil paints.

floquil painting miniatures guide