So, you’ve primed your minis, you know how to thin your paints and you know how to take care of your brushes now and you’re ready to paint your miniatures. To do this, you’re going to need select paint which to use to dress your forces up for battle. There are a ton of options available to you, and it can be overwhelming, but I’m here to help educate you so you can make an informed decision. As a commission painter, I have quite a lot of paint, but not all of it is one brand. I tend to bounce around and pick up paints from a bunch of different ranges to accommodate my color needs. While I can, and do, mix my own custom colors when I’m painting I still wind up buying specific colors to minimize the time I spend mixing and speed up painting. After nearly two decades of painting, I’ve used more types of paint than most, and each one has it’s own pros and cons. Lets run through some of the big names.
Vallejo is a company that is based in Spain and have been around for years. Modelers have been using them for everything from scale WWII models to wargames and everything in between, and they are one of the top names in paints for hobbyists and professionals alike. They have numerous paints, primers, brushes, washes and pigments. They can be purchased individually or in sets, with the sets containing entire ranges of paints for specific tasks such as skintones , non metallic metal, true metallics or any other number of specialty tasks. The sets are fantastic for newer painters not sure what colors to use for some standard things like leather or wood. They also offer a line of airbrush ready paints that are made to go straight through an airbrush without thinning the paint. Most of the paints and inks come in dropper bottles, which is great for the longevity and conservation of your paints. Dropper bottles let you squeeze out just what you need while keeping the vast majority of your paint from being exposed to air, which just makes sure your paints last that much longer to let you get that much more return on your investment. Vallejo also makes what is widely considered the best metallic paints available, as it’s Acrylic paint that uses very fine aluminum powder so it goes on incredibly smooth.
There are over 500 individual colors to choose from, and for all of the majority of your painting needs it will be almost impossible to not find the color you are looking for. One of the things to note is that there are no games associated with the company, they purely produce paints and paint products. While this sounds strange, it’s a huge selling point. Over the years there has been a ranges of paints produced by game companies that were amazing, but ultimately the game failed or players moved on to the next game and those companies stopped producing those paints. I have several pots of paint for long dead games that I’ll never be able to get again. While the paint droppers may seem small, you tend to get a lot of life out of the paints, making them incredibly cost efficient. The only downside is that sometimes they can be tricky to find locally, but online retailers have helped to make them more available. They are well worth your time to look into when making your purchases for model paints.
Games Workshop / Citadel
Another big name that you can find at almost any game store is Games Workshop or Citadel Paints. This is a paint range of 160 paints designed with their games in mind for specific colors. Not only do they offer regular paints and shades, but they also offer several technical and special effects paints. These are offered in 12ml pots that open up hinge style, and cover everything from your basic colors to the super brights. One of the great things about this paint range, is that due to the nature of their games, there are a lot of very bright and vibrant colors that you can’t find anywhere else. They also have several washes, shades and glazes available that make some of the finishing touches for your models that much easier. These are widely available, and can be purchased in sets or individual paints. These are designed specifically for miniatures and will give you a great starting point.
These tend to be a bit more expensive than other paints, and the pot style paints means you’re going to want to be careful with how long you leave the pots open and exposed to air. They are also produced by a third party company, and not directly by GW. This has always been the case with Citadel paints, and needs to be considered. Over the years there has been a few times where Games Workshop has changed the company that produces the paints, which can lead to color mismatches down the line. That said, where they really shine is their technical effects paints, shades and glazes. They have one of the largest ranges of colors available for shades and glazes, which really helps when you’re looking to give your models a wash. Their technical paints, such as Blood for the Blood God and Nihilakh Oxide are fantastic for adding finishing touches to your models such as blood splatters or corrosion. While there are several methods to do things like adding rust or blood splatters, the Citadel Technical paints make this job a lot easier, especially when you’re a new painter. I recommend staying around from the Imperial Primer, ‘Ardcoat and Lahmian Medium. While they work fine, they are a bit expensive for how much you get.
Army Painter Warpaints have started to become a staple for a lot of hobbyists. They offer a currently limited range of paints that are available individually or in pre boxed sets, but they are constantly expanding as they create speciality sets for various games like Zombicide . There are currently 42 wargame colors available, and they have been specifically designed to work well with the Army Painter Color Primers. These come in 18ml dropper bottles, and are relatively inexpensive. They are a bit thicker than some of the other acrylic paints, and some of the colors can have a bit of a weird consistency. Where they really shine are their color primers and the quickshade inks. While I normally recommend priming with basic colors like black, grey and white, the color primers offer a great way to get some base colors on to the model quickly. This can be particularly useful if you are looking to do a lot of troops, and the range of colors available make sure there’s a color for pretty much any application. I’ve used this to knock out tons of marines and to get some base colors on larger models like Gargantuans or Imperial Knights so I can start working on highlights and details sooner rather than later. And each of the primers has a corresponding warpaint to match it to ensure you can prime the models properly, and then touch up any spots you need to during painting without fear of it looking weird. The limited range of colors can be prohibitive if you’re using them as your sole source of paint, but they do offer a great starting point.
The Quickshade Inks are their strongest offering. These allow you to either wash or tint the models, which opens up a whole series of options for effects you can pull off. This started originally as trio of tones, Soft, Strong and Dark which is a series of browns that get progressively darker. These are great for washing and adding shadows to the models. Recently they’ve offered tones in a few colors, Green, Red, Blue and Purple. These are also great for shading over similar colors, or for use over lighter colors to tint and add depth. They are very similar to glazes but flow a little easier to get into the recesses. They are great tools to add to your paint shelf, and I’ve made extensive use of them to add power and ghostly effects to models. They are starting to become more available at local game stores, but online retailers are currently the best way to get a hold of these.
Privateer Press Paints
Within the last few years Privateer Press Paints, or Formula P3 paints, have been making quite a bit of noise. These paints are actually made by HMG, the company that made the paints for Games Workshop many years ago. There are quite a number of specialty colors available that are difficult to replicate with any other paint lines. They also come already pre scaled in triads in specific colors for their various factions. This makes it incredibly easy if you want to match studio paint schemes for your Warmahordes forces. Another selling point is that these paints are made with liquid pigment. This means that they can be thinned down quite a bit and the paint won’t separate. The colors retain their brightness and pop despite thinning, and makes them perfect for two brush blending techniques. This also lets the paints have very good coverage, even over darker primers, and lets them have a longer drying time. They are available in old style pots, and can be purchased individually or in faction sets.
They can be hard to find locally individually, but you can normally find the faction sets readily at your local game store. Now, they do have the downside of being tied to a game, so if anything ever happens to the game these could become hard to find. Also, in the past there have been some quality control issues. A number of years ago there was an issue with paints exploding, and there has been occasional bad batches of paints, but that hasn’t happened in quite some time. Overall my experiences with them have been very positive, and they are worth looking in to. They definitely have a spot on my painting table.
There are a ton of options available to you, more than I’ve listed here, and the worst thing you can do is to limit yourself. Experiment, try different paints from different companies and see what works best for you. There is no reason that you shouldn’t have a painting table full of different paints. Brand loyalty shouldn’t be a thing when you are working to make your models look as good as they can be. So what are your favorite paints to use on your miniatures?