When starting to paint your miniatures, you might wonder: What colors are best to use? And how do I get the most for my money? There are lots of equally good colors from different companies like Army Painter, Citadel, Vallejo, and some others. Those brands often offer starter sets for paints.
This article gives you more information on the different types of paint starter sets for your miniature hobby and which one will be the best miniature paint set for you.
My pick for the “Best Miniature Paint Set” for Beginners
Overall you got 2 different versions of paint starter sets: smallish sets with up to 16 paints in them and big sets with loads of paints. On top of that you get various different bundles and extra tools and miniatures in some of them.
If you want a set with all you need as a beginner, you should get one with a miniature and tools you need. The best one for that is the citadel one. You need a primer with that, but then you are good to go.
If you are looking for a set with loads of paints to save some cash instead of buying them in singles, I think the best one is one of the big Vallejo ones. For some reason the other brands do not really make those “big bundles” and Citadel seems to be phasing them out.
What you need to get into painting minis
Generally speaking, there are only three things needed for painting your mini: A container with paint, a brush, and your mini. There are a lot more technical things you can get, but you might not need them in the beginning, like washes, varnished, and specific tools. Most brands offer you painter starting kits which provide you with brushes and some paint to get started. Some of those sets also contain little extras like miniatures or basic tools.
I recommend starting with brush-on paints. There is also painting by airbrush, but that is a technique that takes some time to master. Plus, airbrush paint is often more expensive and there are rarely any good-valued starter kits. You might also want to keep in mind to never use airbrush-paint for hand-painting. It is just too thin and does not provide good enough coverage when applied via brush.
You should also keep in mind to clean and prime your miniature before painting it. Sadly, there are basically no starter kits available for primers. There are two kinds of primers: Brush-on primers and spray-on primers. Generally, I would recommend starting with a white primer for lighter color palettes and black primer for darker color palettes. So, you might not need a whole set but only two colors in the beginning. I would also suggest you start with spray on primer, as getting good and neat coverage with a brush on primer.
What brand of startet set and paints to choose from
As stated above, there is a variety of different brands producing paint for the miniature hobby. Their paint comes in different kinds of containers, like dropper bottles or pots. Before you take a closer look at different starter sets, you might want to check what kind of container you like best. Citadel / Games Workshop paint mostly comes in pots, while Army Painter, Reaper and Vallejo provide you with droppers. There is also a company called P3 (Privateer Press Paints) that produce both.
Some people prefer one brand over another because of the color scheme. That is up to you, because in my opinion basically all of them are equally nice and fitted for miniature painting. You can see my pick for what brand and paints I think are the best, but in the end, it is all personal preference.
Another point is the pricing. Some brands are a little more expensive than others, but a lot of hobby shops also offer discounts on each on a regular basis. Maybe you can ask your local gaming shop if they can show you some color or if they have testers.
If you find yourself torn between two brands because of certain colors: Don’t fret! You can also mix and match, because most of the normal mini paints are acrylic paints. They all work together nicely. The important things about paint are color rich pigments that give good coverage – but keep in mind that all paints should be thinned before they are applied onto a mini.
What do you want in a starter set?
My main reason for buying a paint starter set is finding a good way to get into painting. I would like my set to provide paints and maybe some utensils I need in the beginning. An extra mini to try the paint out would be nice too. Some technical things like washes, primers and varnishes would also be nice to get in the bundle.
The good thing is: Most brands offer this kind of experience. A lot of paint starter sets are also cheaper than buying all their components separately.
If you are just starting out, you might want your set to have derivates from blue, red, and yellow. They should also provide you with black and white to lighten or darken your colors. This way you might not always have exactly color you want to use, but have more options for painting in general. They also make great gifts for getting other friends into painting too.
Some paint starter kits also provide you with instructions on how to paint. While this might be a good idea in themed sets, you can always find good tutorials online – often completely free of charge and provided by the original miniature’s brand. Check what kind of instructions your desired kit provides and if you really need those specific ones. For example: Army Painter likes to stick their painting guide into every paint set and call it a good deal. Most hobby shops also offer their guide for free.
Best Miniature Paint Sets for Beginners
Various Army Painter Starter Sets & Kits
Army Painter is one of the big paint companies that you can buy for your miniature paint. They offer a small variety in starter sets. They all promise to give excellent value, because the sets are cheaper than the individual paint bottles. Army Painter starter sets also come with neat extras. Beware that they change what kind of sets they produce all the time, so it is possible to find some older ones with sprays etc.
Army Painter: Warpaint Starter Set
The Army Painter “Wargames Starter Paint Set” contains ten paints, a brush and a free painting guide. As stated before, the painting guide is not exclusive to this set and can be obtained for free anyways. This set provides you with some good value and basic color. I am not the biggest fan of Army Painter, but a lot of people like them and they are good for beginners. But what is up with the “free” extra paint inside a paint set? I am paying for it, so no it is by definition not free.
If you want to try out something a little different, the all-metallic paint set might be something for you. It contains eight paint bottles and sixteen (“free”) mixing balls.
Army Painter: Mega Paint Set
There are also bigger sets, like the Army Painter Mega Set. It contains 50 to 60 different paints and a brush (depending on the edition). The good thing: There is also an Upgrade-Set available which provides you with all the other Army Painter colors that are not included in the Mega bundle. There is also an option to get all of their paints in one big bundle.
But the fun doesn’t end there. If you are good to go on paint, Army Painter might also help you out with other starter sets. They also offer brush starter sets, tool starter sets, and basing starter sets. So if you want to go beyond just painting, those can be of good value to you.
Various Citadel / Games Workshop Starter Paint Sets
Citadel is the house-brand for paints by Games Workshop. Their starter kits are – of course – specialized on Warhammer. But they can be used universally for all kinds of miniatures. Most of their starter sets are “[Faction] + paint” sets. So they contain three minis of a certain faction and six paints to go along with them.
My personal favourite kit is actually from Citadel. It is the “Warhammer 40,000 or Age of Sigmar: Paints + Tools Set”. I recommend this for everyone, even if you don’t plan on getting more Citadel colors or don’t want to paint Warhammer minis.
The set contains thirteen different paints, one starter brush, a moldline scrapper (this thing is the best), and some clippers. In my opinion, this set really provides you with everything you need to get into painting. The clippers help you get the mini out of its mold, and the moldline remover helps you get rid of the moldlines afterwards. Besides this, all you need is a good primer and you are good to go.
I think this bundle is the best valued bundle you get within the starter kits. A big plus for me on the 40k version: One of the colors it contains is Averland Sunset. This is one of the few yellow paints that actually provide nice coverage for lighter tones. I use this color to prepare lighter / yellow-ish spots on my mini and paint them with the actual color afterwards. This way there are no darker or miscolored spots within my yellow paintjobs.
From time to time Citadel also produces some big bundles. These always go out of stock pretty quickly, so you will have to keep and eye out for them and snag them while you can.
Various Reaper Starter Kits
There is a company called “Reaper” that produced specific kits for learning how to paint. Sadly, most of those kits were US-only or at least hard to get in Europe. Still, I wanted to give you a good overview over those kits as well, because in my opinion they are worth it.
While Reaper also offers some kits with just paint, their “Learn to paint kits” are something even better. I personally know of two kits, namely “Learn to paint kit: Core Skills” and “Learn to paint kit: Layer up!”. I think those are great for beginners. You not only get eleven different paints, but also two brushes and three miniatures to experiment on.
If you find a reaper “Learn to paint kit”, I would recommend getting one if you only just started getting into painting. This way, you are provided with everything you need to start painting plus some extra miniatures to try out on. Thus you do not need to worry about “ruining” some of your precious and maybe expensive minis by screwing up the paint job.
If you are not specifically looking for a “Learn how to paint kit”, Reaper also offers starter paint sets. Those contain thirteen different colors and no extras.
Various Vallejo Starter Kits
Vallejo offers different “Paint Sets”. They each contain 16 different colors and no extras. The “Basic Colors Paint Set” contains 16 very basic colors. They are easy to mix and provide you with a good variety to start off. There is no “specific” tone that can only be used in one kind of setting.
Other sets by Vallejo give you more different colors. There are also the “Game color sets”. They contain eight different color tones specifically composed for a certain theme. For example, you can get one with browns and greys for wild animals, or one with green and more darker tones for Orcs and Goblins.
While in my opinions those sets are a little to specific to start out with, there is one “Game color set” I recommend. It is the “Skin Colors” set. Those might give you a good start when using minis from lots of different factions or races.
There is also big Vallejo sets of various different sizes. I have one big one that I use a lot. The good thing is that it comes in dropper bottles, so even though there are colors that I have not opened in like 10 years they are still super fresh.
There are just soo many different versions of starter sets for Vallejo. Just remember to check if it is “game color” or “model color”. They are both great and I struggle to tell the difference other than viscosity and hue of colours (game colour has more bright colors where model color is more brown muted and brown).
What if I don’t find the right colors in my paint set?
Most sets provide you with the basic colors needed for painting. If a set comes with just enough colors but one, you could just buy the set and get that one color separately. On the other hand you can also mix and match colors to get that one color you are looking for. Normally, it is a lot cheaper buying a set of colors than individual ones. So, you might just want to check the math.
Are themed starter sets worth it?
If you plan do get into the hobby only for one specific game, you might want to check for themed starter sets. For example: There are various Army Painter base sets just for the Zombicide. For basically every expansion you can get a specific paint set to match the intended color schemes for Zombies and Survivors. There are also some Dungeons & Dragons themed sets.
If you actually want to get into painting by buying a themed set, take a look at the components. For example the Zombicide 2nd Edition Paint set contains 20 colors, a brush, and one special minis for your game. “Phil the cop” is a new survivor that can be used in Zombicide and also comes with his own Survivor card.
But beware: Some themed paint starter sets are actually more expensive than buying all their components separately. Most sets give you a handful of paint bottles, maybe a brush and sometimes even a mini or two. So you might want to check if you really want to use those colors and need the brush. Compare prices, if you are unsure. Check if the colors you are really going to use make up the majority, compared to colors you are less likely to use.
What about no-name acrylic starter kits?
While there are many starter kits from specific miniature-brands, a lot of hardware or craft stores also offer little kits with acrylic paint. A lot of them are also suitable for painting miniatures. Most of them only contain paint and no extras like paint brushes. If you are unsure, just ask the clerk of your craft store.
The only problem with no-brand products or paints from the Arts & Crafts section might be their lack in quality. Often miniature paints are a little more durable. Most brands also provide you with varnish. You put a layer of varnish onto your painted miniature so the paintjob does not get damaged by playing with the minis. This might also be a possibility when using cheaper paints.
Just be careful if you ever buy used paint, no matter if brand or no-name. You should always take a good look before actually buying, since some paint might already be old and halfway dried up. Maybe you can also ask a friend if they want to share a paint set with you. Just make sure the quality of the paint is fitted to your painting project.
It doesn’t matter what brand of paints you choose to buy, as long as you are happy with the contents of your starter kit. A starter kit might help you get a little easier into the hobby. You can just go buy one and start painting instead of having to choose which colors might fit your mini. In the end, you need to check what starter kit provides the most value (or extras!) to you and what you want out of it.