When I started painting in the nineties, we held our miniatures by hand, took paint straight from the pot and never thinned our paints.
Oh boy, have things changed for people entering the painting hobby today. This is a Painting Handle Review of GW’s own device.
This article will be about a new toy in the hobby tools: a painting handle to hold your miniatures made by Games Workshop.
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What is the citadel painting handle?
The Citadel Painting Handle is a simple plastic knob, designed to hold your Warhammer miniatures while you paint them. This will make sure that you do not accidentally touch the model too much and rub off paint.
The handle is made by Citadel, Games Workshops own manufacturer of paints and hobby tools. GW lists the price at 5 £ or 8 $ (but it is possible to find it a bit cheaper).
What problems does the painting handle solve?
Different sorts of methods have been used for holding miniatures while painting. The Citadel painting handle uses a spring method of clamping the base of the miniature in place.
Having a method for holding your miniature while painting has a few major benefits:
- It is hard to paint a miniature by only handling the base. For most people, it is natural to hold the miniature by having the thump under the base of the miniature and your index finger on some part of the miniature (see below).
- Your fingers will contain oil and grease, and when you touch the painted areas of a miniature (as do on the Orruk axe above) you will slowly rub the paint off. This fine if you are just doing a quick basecoat followed by a wash because there it is possible to never touch a painted part of the miniature. It is something else entirely if you are doing delicate highlighting, wet blending or something else that will require multiple coats.
- If you prime your miniatures well and only paint plastic models, you might never notice rub off paint as a problem. This is because the paint sticks very well to the new plastic. If you ever try painting an old metal model or something made of resin, you will quickly find rubbing off paint to be a major problem on those materials.
- Some people complain about cramps when they hold a miniature by the base for extended periods of time. A painting handle can be more ergonomically for your hands and you can avoid some of those cramps.
How is the paint handle constructed, how does it work and how sturdy is it?
The citadel painting handle is a big plastic knob. The bottom is a handle and the top is the mount for the miniature.
The handle feels good in the hand, but some might find it too small (I have smallish hands). The mount works by pulling out in either side and slowly pulling back the springs inside.
Different miniature can now be put in place and will be held by the pressure of the springs into the side of the base.
The plastic is sturdy and feels like it can take a beating. Some funny dudes on the interweb have made reference that it looks like a certain type of adult toy, but I can tell by experience that it would be poorly suited for that kind of hobby.
The mount has a fair bit of weight in it, which makes so that the balance point of the handle is quite high up. This means that it falls over way too easily, so clumsy people should maybe avoid it. I find the handle to be a bit on the light side and would have preferred a bit more weight in the bottom.
The mounting mechanism goes from working really great to frustrating the hell out of me. Small bases is easy to get in and out, but I really had some trouble with 40mm round and cavalry bases (see video below of the mounting shuffle).
The good thing about the clamping method of sticking the miniature in place is that it really does stick in place once the miniature is there, and that goes even for heavy metal miniatures. The bad thing is that it is certainly a two-hand job to get big minis in and out, and three hands would have been much better.
I have created a small video so you can see each type of base go in and out of the paint handle (and how bad I am at getting a 40 mm round in that thing!). In the end, you will also see the dangers of having a painting handle that can so easily fall over.
What miniatures will fit in the holder
Because of the way the handle is constructed, there are only so many different sizes of bases it can take. GW tells us that the following bases can fit in the handle:
- 25 mm round bases (small infantry)
- 32 mm round bases (medium infantry)
- 40 mm bases (monstrous infantry)
- 60×35 mm oval bases (normal cavalry)
This means no big monsters or large cavalry, but the biggest downfall is that it cannot take 50 mm round bases. Quite a lot of models will be on that base size, so it truly is a shame.
If you want to mount bigger miniatures, you need to buy the new bigger XL version of the handle. It is the same thing, it just fits bigger models.
For all you rank and file gamers I have tried several square bases and the following do fit (albeit not as snugly as the round bases)
- 20 mm square
- 25 mm square
- 25 mm x 50 square (old cavalry base)
So this means no 40 mm or 50 mm square, or the old chariot base (or anything bigger).
What are the key benefits of the citadel painting handle?
- It requires no special preparation on the miniature or on the holder to get a model in place (okay, maybe it requires patience depending on your level of eye-hand coordination).
- When the miniature is in place, it does not come off by accident.
- The handle is quite cheap! (could be perfect as a small present). If it turns out you do not like it anyway, you only lost a few bucks.
- This is probably the easiest solution to see if a miniature holder is something that you would enjoy or receive any benefit from.
- The grip will be more ergonomic for most people, at least compared with holding the miniature by the base.
- The screw on the handle is the same size as different mounting accessories for cameras (if you where ever in need of a very cheap and not very good mounting handle for a camera).
What are the key downfalls of the citadel painting handle?
- With some other miniature holders, you rest your hand on the holder. The Citadel Painting Handle is too small for that, so you need something else to rest your painting hand on.
- I am nervous for the spring to lose its potency over time. What happens when it gets weak and won’t snap shut? Will the models begin to fall off?
- Only a limited amount of bases will fit. No room for non-standard based miniatures (reaper miniatures and other miniature products might not fit or fit poorly).
- I find it very cumbersome to get big models in and out of the holder. I need to fiddle around way too much on the model. If that is a model that I have painted something on, chances are that I will damage it more in the process of mounting it than I would in the actual painting process.
- Because of the mounting process, this is not a good holder when you do batch painting (paint the same colour and many different miniatures at once). It simply takes to much work to get models in and out.
- Because of the way the springs work, I have sent a few models flying because I mounted them wrong. The spring applies pressure on the bottom of the base, sending it flying upwards. Avoid my mistake and mount it will!
- The tendency of the holder to tip could damage your model
- I feel the handle puts too much pressure on the rims of my bases. Again, if this is a somewhat painted model I am looking to not damage it. If my paint handle does damage it, I have gained nothing by using it.
- The grip might not feel comfortable for every set of hands. No way of changing how it works.
What alternative painting handles / miniature holders are out there?
I have done quite a lot of research into the different painting handles that you can buy and make.
What would be the key reasons for buying or not buying the Citadel Painting handle?
Now, the burning question is if you should buy this paint handle or not buy this paint handle.
If you hate making stuff yourself, go ahead and buy it. It is cheap and it does get the job done. I find that my magnetic handle does not work great with resin and metal models, so in those cases, the citadel one works great.
The biggest selling point of the Citadel Paint handle is the price point. It is very cheap (at least compared to a lot of hobby tools and GW stuff) so it is easy enough just to buy, try it out and see if you like it or not.
If you are on the fence, I suggest putting it on your birthday or Christmas wish list. It can be a great little gift for your grandma to buy you.
My take? This is not the best painting handle you can get. You can actually make one, yourself, that is quite a lot better!