After trying a lot of the different paint ranges on the market, I have finally settled on the combination of paint ranges that works for my miniature painting needs. The paints you think is best is a highly personal matter and because each painter will value aspects of the paints differently.
In this guide, I will go through the:
- What the important aspects are to consider when buying paints
- A rundown on the pot vs. dropper bottle debate
- What paint range I think you should pick as beginning Warhammer painter
- My suggestion on exactly what paints to get
- A few of my favourite paints and combinations
- What paints to get later on in your journey
- What different paint ranges you can choice from
10 criteria to judge Miniature Paint Ranges on
- Value (how many ml of paint do you get for your money?)
- Ease of use (how is the container to use? Do you prefer a dropper bottle to a pot? Is it clear what colours works well with each other)
- Viscosity (does the paint have your preferred consistency when it comes out?)
- Range of colour (some paint ranges have very dull colours, others brighter hues. Some paint ranges have a huge variety, others only has a few shades of each colour)
- Quality and variety of “Technical paints” (are the washes good and how many different weird and funky technical paints are there?)
- Quality of the container (some containers will let a lot of air in. This, in turn, can dry out the paint inside too quickly)
- Quality control (what are the chances of getting damaged paint? Does the paint change in hues from bottle to bottle?)
- Coverage and application (does the paint go on the model in the preferred way?)
- Availability (when you run out of a particular paint just up to the weekend, how hard is it to get a replacement in a hurry? Do you think that the paints will exist 5 years from now? 10 years from now? If not, is that a problem?)
- Popularity and conversion to other paint ranges (paint guides and tutorials are a big thing. If you consistently have a hard time following paint guides online because you cannot match the paints used, it will be annoying for you.)
Pots vs Dropper Bottles: pros and cons of each
A huge debate when it comes to paints will be the discussion on what kind of container is superior. You basically have two categories:
- A pot with a screw lid. You have to scoop the paint out on the palette or stick your brush directly down in the paint to get paint on it.
- A bottle where you slowly “drip out” the paint one drop at a time.
The container of the paint will in large part influence whether or not you think the paint range is any good. Below are some quick pros and cons for each type.
Pros of the pots:
- Easy for beginners to use: you can just dip your brush down in the paint and start painting. No need for a palette.
- It is, in general, easier to shake the paint enough: before you paint it is important to shake the paint thoroughly to make sure the different parts of the paint is mixed together. This will make sure the consistency and colour are the same every time. It can be very hard to shake the dropper bottles enough (even 3-5 min. shaking can be on the low sides for some paints). I find the pots easier to shake thoroughly than dropper bottles.
Cons of the pots:
- You can waste a lot of paint: when you scoop out paint on your palette, it is very hard to get the exact amount you need. Also, the paint will be stuck on whatever tool you used to get the paint out. Quite a lot of paint is wasted in this process.
- The paint (can) dry out quicker: some of the lids on paint pots are horribly designed (Citadel to name one). The paint will get stuck in weird places, making sure you cannot close the lid completely again after use. Once this has happened once, the problem will escalate and air will pour into the pot, even when closed. Cleaning the pots regularly can minimize the problem, but it is very cumbersome to get done. Because of this problem, it is very possible that a paint you left in the drawer for a few years will be bone dry when you get it out again.
Pros of the dropper bottles:
- No waste: Because you can just drop the exact amount you need down on the palette, you are not wasting a lot of paint getting it out of the pot.
- Easier to control when mixing: When you mix paint, it is very easy to get the exact amount of paint time and time again. You just count the number of drops from each paint.
- Can last for years: The dropper bottles will in general dry out much slower, making sure they will last you a very long time (even when left for years).
Cons of the dropper bottles:
- Requires a palette: Beginners can be slightly confused because they need a palette to pour the paint out on.
- Hard to shake: making sure that the paint has the right consistency is very hard with the dropper bottles. An agitator in all of them is, for me, a must.
- You cannot use it as quickly: at times you just need a minimal amount of paint (on an eye or something). In those cases, I find it slightly annoying to use the dropper bottles.
Best paints for beginning Warhammer painters
As I said, people value different aspects of paints more strongly than others. Some people hate the GW bottles with a passion (almost religiously), others insist that having 3 matching hues of each colour is the best thing ever.
When I talk to beginners just getting into painting Warhammer, I suggest that they just go with the Citadel Paint range.
A lot of internet warriors thinks this is blasphemy and the worst advice on the planet, but here is why I think that the Games Workshop paints are the best for beginners:
- The paint starts out a bit thicker and you can use it straight out of the pot. No palette is really needed (important for kids). Granted, most Citadel paints will look much better with a bit of water added. Too dry clumpy basecoat is, after all, beginner mistake number one.
- The paints I use from other paint ranges need to be shaken a lot. And I mean, A LOT. Even just shaking that sucker for 3 minutes is not enough. The paint separates inside the bottle and comes out in weird consistency (too wet) and without enough colour (the pigment has fallen to the bottom). This is a hassle intermediate painters can learn how to deal with, but a problem beginners should avoid.
- The GW washes, technical paints and especially the texture paints (if you want to see the texture paints in action go here) are things I could not even imagine back when I started painting in the 90'es. They are just so damn handy for beginners it is unreal.
- Did you buy some cool miniatures? Well, you can buy the citadel paint in that exact same store. This availability makes it great for beginners because they do not have to chase the holy paint range grail and they can get some needed guidance in store.
- GW are pumping out paint guides, tutorials and tips videos like wildfire. All of them use Citadel paints as a common reference. When you are first starting out, it will be very frustrating for you if you cannot use the paints the instructions come with. This alone could be reason enough for going with the Citadel paints as a beginner.
- The quality of the paint is, at least, on par with the other ranges. Just picking the most convenient option first will let you use your energy on the more important decision (like what army to get!). When you are more experienced, you should start to branch out.
Exactly the paints to get when starting out
It can be easy to go out and buy a crapton of different paints. Chances are, that is not the best solution for you. You will be better off selecting the paints you are going to need now and then slowly expanding as other needs arise.
If you are just starting out, chances are that you are going to be painting an army. I suggest having a skim of my paint guide to armies because it dictates what I recommend here:
- Decide on two colours opposite each other in the colour wheel. This will give you a nice contrasting scheme (red and green, orange and purple and so on). Buy a tone of each of those colours. Then buy a pot of each colour, this time slightly lighter than the one you picked earlier.
- Get a wash/shade for each of those two colours. Now you have what you need for painting those to colours (basecoat, shade and the colour for a highlight on top).
- Look at the army you are going to paint. What is the flesh tone going to be? Get a paint for the flesh and a shade/wash for that colour as well.
- Got armour? You need a metallic colour for that as well as a wash (browns and black works great).
- You need a black colour and a white colour (they are just always nice to have)
- Having something to paint bone and cloth is almost always needed. I use Ushabti Bone for this all the time (with the wonderful Agrax Earthshade on top).
- You need a primer for your miniatures. Spray is fine, go with a grey or white in the start. GW sprays are okay, but not the best. Army painter is good.
- I also suggest getting some texture paints for your bases. These paints can make some awesome looking bases without much effort. Great for beginners!
- Lastly, it could be worth it to look into some technical paint. They are great fun to use (blood splatter, green goe, rust effects and so on).
If you are so inclined, you can also just buy the paints it says on the box or in one of GW's painting tutorials. They are easy to follow and they tell you exactly the paints you need.
My favourite paints
- For metal paints nothings beats Citadel. The pigment is superior and all around a better finish. I usually paint dented old metal (WAAAGH!), so I go for Agrax Earthshade on top – but any black brown wash can work.
- For cloth, bone and other beige stuff my go to is Ushabti bone with Agrax Earthshade on top. You don't even have to highlight that stuff. Sweet looking stuff!
- To be a real destruction player, I need a lot of rust. Thankfully a drybrush of Typhus Corrosion followed by Rusa Rust (with a finish of the metal colour again on top) is a quick, good looking method.
- For Wood, I really like Zandri Dust with brown wash on top. Picks out the wood grain in a very natural way.
- The Citadel black it great, but their whites are kind of crappy. The citadel whites go grainy after just a moderate exposure to air, so consider getting just any old white in a dropper bottle (creamy whites works better than straight up white).
Best paints for intermediate painters
For intermediate painters, I suggest continually getting a couple of new paints from different paint ranges. Slowly, over time, you can replace colours from Citadel with paints from other ranges that you prefer more. The important thing is: experiment!
- I have ended up with a big (200+) collection comprised 50/50 between Vallejo and Citadel paints. When I decided to branch out of and get something on top of my Citadel paints, I just went for a big set from Vallejo. Because of the bottles, they can last for really long – so no big deal that there are some of them I am not going to use for a while.
- I almost exclusively use the wash and technical paints from Citadel (I guess I am used to how they work so find everything else subpar).
- On the other hand, most of the “Dry” range from Citadel is really horrible (I find they dry out completely and are actually worse to drybrush with than others). Also, the primers from GW are a bit hit and miss.
- I find the dropper bottles from Vallejo to be really good, but they truly need an agitator (small ball in the paint) to shake it together properly.
Different Paint Ranges for Miniature Painting
- Citadel paint: Pots, good for beginners, a large number of nice technical paints.
- Vallejo Model Colour: Vallejo makes two kinds of brands, which is slightly confusing. I find that the Model colours are more muted tones and the coverage is better than the game colour (think lots of camo colours for painting real world uniforms).
- Vallejo Game Colour: the game variant has more vibrant colours, but I the coverage is not as good as the Model Colours
- Army Painter: Kind of okay. I dislike most of the army painter stuff, but their paints can be ok in a pinch.
- Reaper Master Series Paint: I find that the paint separates quite a lot. Not something I would recommend.
- P3: Really good paints. Not dropper bottles.
- Foundry Paint: Never had the pleasure
- Warcolours: Never had the pleasure
Other notes and tips
- The paints talked about here is acrylic paint designed for miniature painting. The acrylic paint has different features that are very important (the paint is slightly opaque so the colour underneath is somewhat visible, you can change the consistency of paint without changing the colour and the dry time is very quick). Do not go out and buy cheap non-acrylic paint (oil-based, enamel) and use that. It is very hard to work with and can look HORRIBLE if you do not know what you are doing.
- If you are going to use your paints in an Airbrush, you will need flow improver and LOTS of it. Airbrushing is a whole different beast and it might even be worth it to get paints designed just for that. Citadel and Vallejo make an “air” range of paints.
- Opinions vary wildly with regards to paint. Do not be surprised if people get offended if you say that you do not think that dropper bottles are that important or that Citadel paint is fine. This is, after all, the interwebs.