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  • Storing Paint


    Well, if you're like me, you're a paint packrat. You have some secret blends
    of your acrylic Vallejo Game Color or your nasty Citadel GW paints and you
    would like to keep them to use for another miniature. Or perhaps you, like
    me, just hate wasting that mixed paint. Granted, it doesn't cost that much,
    but waste not, want not...So. How to store those paint mixes? How to get the
    paint from those nasty Citadel hex-shaped bottles into something much more
    manageable and useable, like those ultra-cool Vallejo dropper bottles? The
    answer comes from science! Well, actually, it comes from some of the stuff
    we scientists use in our daily work. That's right...plastics!
    In this article, I'll show you some of the fluid storage options out there
    that really work well for me and that won't cost you an arm and a leg.

    First up...
    Microcentrifuge Tubes

    Microcentrifuge tubes are used to spin small volume liquid samples
    at high g-forces to separate out the components. They come in a multitude
    of sizes, shapes, and colors, but of course for our purposes the clear polypropylene
    ones will do just fine. If you only have a small volume, you can use these
    to store it. The mix won't dry out and you'll be able to access it whenever
    you want. Moreover, when you want to mix the settled paint back up, just shake
    the bloody daylights out of the tube (or better yet, use a vortexer) and you'll
    be ready to go. The 2ml size is the best way to go, as these have a less angled
    conical bottom (like the one in this picture on the upper left, 3rd one in
    in the row), making it much easier to get settled paint to mix.
    In addition, these things are cheap. Shop around online and
    you can get them for around $10.00-$20.00 US for a bulk pack of 500 to 1000
    tubes. There is one major disadvantage, however; the snap-caps, while producing
    a tight seal, can also cause the fluid inside to "jump" when opened,
    so you need to be careful about that. This is definitely the cheapest way
    to go, however.

    One can alleviate the "fluid-snap" problem by using
    screw-top tubes instead. Again, a wide variety of colors, sizes, and shapes
    to choose from, including tubes with bottoms molded to allow them to stand
    up (somewhat precariously). These are very nice, but the 2ml tube you'd want
    isn't cheap, around $50.00-$75.00 US for 500. The reason is that they typically
    have an O-ring in the cap for the seal, and that ain't cheap, folks. But if
    money was no object, I'd definitely go with these.

    If you get the ones with the conical bottoms, or even the ones
    that are self-standing (but just barely), you can also get a wide variety
    of racks and boxes to hold them. This is where the screw-cap tubes really
    shine, since they fit much better next to each other than the standard ones
    do. Shown here is a pretty nondescript generic microcentrifuge tube rack that
    can be had in packs of 5 from about $15.00 US. They work. They can't be turned
    upside down. Lord help you if the cat knocks it off the table and all of your
    nicely-arranged tubes go flying. So I'd use boxes. You can get cardboard microcentrifuge
    tube boxes very cheaply, or you can go with the more durable plastic ones.
    Either way, you'll want a storage box for the tubes you use.
    Larger volumes can be dealt with, as well. Shown below are polyethylene
    scintillation vials, used for measuring radioactivity from various samples.
    No, the tubes aren't radioactive; they're perfectly harmless. This type comes
    in both 5 ml and 7 ml sizes and has a tube diameter of 16mm (for the 7 ml
    volume) or 14.2mm (for the 5ml volume). They can only be obtained, however,
    in larger quantities, typically 500 or 1000.

    The advantages are many. If you're painting up an army, you
    can mix larger volumes of your paint mixes and store the mixed color indefinitely.
    These caps also seal with a molded seal rather than an O-ring, therefore making
    them less expensive. You'll pay around $45.00-$60.00 US for a pack of 1000.
    Yes, that's a lot of tubes, but you could share them with your friends! You
    can also obtain racks for these, but I haven't seen boxes. I'll bet they exist,
    or you could rig up a box with cardboard inserts that would keep them organized
    and safe from tip-over.
    Finally, note that you can get scintillation vials in borosilicate
    glass. Don't. They are crystal-clear but the lids tend to leak, the vials
    can break (plastic won't, of course), and they are exhorbitantly expensive.
    Nobody seriously buys them without government grant funding...

    These vials are probably the cream of the crop if you've got
    relatively small volumes to work with, typically up to 3.5ml. These are cryovials,
    designed to be used to freeze valuable samples at liquid nitrogen temperatures.
    They're strong, durable, won't crack without serious abuse, and can be used
    in the same boxes that microcentrifuge tubes are stored in. You don't want
    them sterilized, so you can get bulk packs of 1000 tubes with caps in the
    largest size for about $75.00 US. The 2.0 ml tubes are cheaper, at $60.00

    Fluid Tranfer

    I have a solution for you here, as well. Disposable plastic pipettes, as
    shown in the figure below:

    These are dirt cheap, at around $15.00-$20.00 US for a box of
    500. They're about 16 cm long, 8 mm in diameter at the stem, and dispense
    20 drops per ml of fluid, meaning each drop is about...ummm...1/20th of a
    ml, or about 50 microliters. Interestingly, that's about the same as one drop
    of a standard Vallejo bottle paint (yes, I've measured it. Anal of me, I know).
    This allows a much better, more accurate mixing of paint and diluent, whatever
    your diluent may be (water, future wax, acrylic medium, acrylic/watercolor
    extender, whatever). (Oh, and for those in the know, you can't use a pipettor;
    you know, one of those fancy Rainin things. I've tried. The paint is just
    too viscous). They also rinse pretty well as long as the paint didn't dry
    on them, so they can be used a long time before the bulb finally gives out
    and cracks along the seam. You can use these to dilute paints in your tubes,
    or suck up and save your secret blend of 11 colors that nobody, not even Honza
    or Haley, have figured out yet .

    So, where to go shopping for all of these cool plastics? There
    are many US and international sources and distributors for these kinds of
    materials. The prices I've quoted are from Perfector Scientific (,
    who seem to have pretty good prices. There are other suppliers of these items;
    the best thing to do is let your browser do the walking using a search engine.

    Hope this gives people some new ideas about paint storage. Finally, note that most of these photos come from the perfector scientific web site. If I'm recommending their products, at least I could show you what they look like, right?

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