Buying Paints


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Mixing and Dispensing - Bottles Make The Paint

When you read about the paints below, you will see references to the bottle quality. The general consensus of painting wisdom is that peak performance comes from well mixed paint that is thinned as it is used. Both mixing and dispensing can be problematic with normal open jar paint bottles. One of the high end paint lines, Vallejo, uses a dropper bottle. This reduces the likelihood of bubbles due to shaking since the bottle is inverted to dispense paint, and it allows for clean and accurate dispensing of paint onto a palette for mixing. Here are some suppliers of these. You are looking for a 1/2 oz. plastic dropper bottle with a cap.

  • Western Plastics (AZ, USA) - Generally least expensive route, but you have to buy in large numbers. The bottles in question are shown in this picture.
  • Essential Supplies (CA, USA) - You have to get the site to show the whole list and then Plastic Bottles : Dropper and Nasal Spray Bottles; DB2 is the one that you will probably want.
  • Your favorite supplier of Vallejo paints can order them, as Vallejo sells them. Though this will probably be the most expensive route, it may also be your easiest one.

To assist you in mixing, you can:


Which Medium?

Medium, in this case, does not refer to a painter that can channel spirits. An art medium is the material(s) used to create the art. For miniatures painting, you will want to use a liquid paint. Two types are generally used, acrylics and oils/enamels. I only use (liquid) acrylics because:

  • Easy and less toxic cleanup - you only need soap and water for acrylics, but you need turpentine for oils/enamels
  • Paint is less toxic
  • Dry faster - sometimes that is a bad thing for advanced "wet on wet" techniques, but generally it is what you want and you can extend the drying time with an Extender/Retarder for those cases.
  • It's more common - not to be understated, this makes advice and examples of work easy to obtain.

Oils and enamels were more popular in the past, but with the advances in high quality acrylics, that has changed, from what I hear.

Which Brand Should You Buy?

You should really test these for yourself. I base all of these observations upon the the use of at least a good quality brush made of red sable bristles. I have broken this down into Non-metallics vs. metallics.

Note: I had reported good results with Delta Ceramcoat paints and I feel compelled to quantify that praise after further use. They are a craft paint, so it's no surprise that the pigments are coarse. They are a transparent paint, also, so when thinned, they lose consistency and opacity fast. However, they are still a decent choice for highlighting and shading and if you plan to use multiple layers for gradual shading anyway, you might find them to your liking. They are not good for drybrushing on a small figure, e.g. 54 mm or below, but are fine for drybrushing terrain pieces and larger items.


Good Paints (my opinion based on my experiences and comments by others)


Cel-Vinyl (italics are comments from Deane P. Goodwin)

  • Viscosity - Texture and consistency is similar to Vallejos. I thin with distilled water and/or extender.
  • Coverage/Opacity - Good coverage, especially as super thin washes. I use these sometimes at about the consistency of watercolor washes and leave a smooth line of pigment. Alas, no transparents, as these were originally formulated for cel animators to use. Transparents would be kinda counterproductive on clear acetate.
  • Containers - 2 oz bottles come with a long slender neck. It works similar to the Val[lejo] dropper top, but with a much larger opening and less control of paint flow.
  • Cost - About $2 per ounce.
  • Availability - One of the more difficult paints to find (see below for some online vendors). The only ready source I know of on a consistent basis is factory direct. There are a few game store that carry some of the line, but the online price IS the price a retailer pays, they tend to run somewhere in the neighborhood of 4-6.00 a bottle. Still comparable pricewise to Vallejo, but trying to talk the consumer into that kind of pricetag for paint is tough, hence most B&M outlets carry only a limited pallette.
  • Color selection - Wide variety of colors, from the Cartoon Colour Website - "44 colors, 32 grays, 646 tints, 10 radiant fluorescent colors, black, whire, and transparent base."
  • Personal experience - none yet...

Coat d'Arms

  • Viscosity - ?
  • Coverage/Opacity - I have heard a complaint about coverage with these.
  • Containers - ?
  • Cost - ?
  • Availability - Limited importers.
  • Colors - ?
  • Remarks - They make colored primers and spray paint that is made from their paints, so they have good color matching. However, some colors, such as green, do not have the identical paint in both spray and bottle form.
  • Trivia - This paint is what GW used to market before they switched to a newer, cheaper source.

  • Viscosity - "Smooth", "good dilution"
  • Coverage/Opacity - ?
  • Containers - "Good"
  • Cost - ?
  • Availability - Most art supply stores and some craft stores.
  • Colors -

Howard Hues

  • Viscosity - Others agree that the paints are thick from the jar, but thin nicely. Can be chalky.
  • Coverage/Opacity - Coverage is good.
  • Containers - Here I think I need a quote that says it all. "Their jar design just sucks! If you buy these, I recommend having an alternate bottle available immediately." Many people seem to have a problem with the bottles. They are hard to work with and the paint dries out.
  • Cost - ?
  • Availability - One of the more difficult paints to find (see below for some online vendors).
  • Colors - ?
  • Remarks - Certain colors are considered to be uniquely good from this set such as - their flesh colors, especially Flesh, Nubian and Oriental; Roan and Chestnut. By direct comparison, some feel Vallejo is better.
Model Masters (by Testors)

  • Viscosity - Good right out of the bottle.
  • Coverage/Opacity - I have only tried one, but it had complete coverage in one coat.
  • Containers - Screw-top metal cap on a glass bottle.
  • Cost -
  • Availability -
Partha Paints (Out of production)
Smooth paints, good dilution, and decent selection of colors. They have well sealing bottles, but no dropper or squeeze top, so dispensing for mixing is problematic. Some people love them, some people hate them.

  • Viscosity - You might want to thin it slightly out of the bottle.
  • Coverage/Opacity - Average to good.
  • Containers - Screw-top plastic cap on a plastic bottle. Known to seal very well.
  • Cost - about $2
  • Availability - these are harder to find currently. With Ral Parth joining FASA, then FASA closing its doors, things are up in the air.
  • Personal experience: They were decent. I only dumped mine because of the decreasing availability of a source.
Reaper Paints

  • Viscosity - I thinned the paint very slightly out of the bottle.
  • Coverage/Opacity - Over black or white primer it may take two coats to completely restore the out of the bottle color. Nota bene: I thinned the paint slightly.
  • Containers - Screw cap paint pots with a little skull shaker in each pot, which is cool if nothing else.
  • Cost - about US$2 per 3/4 ounce bottle.
  • Availability - Readily available. Most game stores that stock miniatures will also sell these paints.
  • Color selection - They have a good selection of colors.
  • Personal experience - this paint comes in a decent thickness. I found it necessary to dilute it slightly. For complete coverage over a white or black primer coat, you may need two coats, but that should be fine. It goes on smoothly and the little plastic skull shakers in the bottles are a neat idea.
  • Tricks - I am told that diluting with airbrush medium, a milky water and glycerine mixture, is preferable to just water so that you retain opacity.
  • Trivia - I am told that this company produced the old Partha Paints line.
Vallejo (Company website), a.k.a. Model Color
This is the top-of-the-line. Many miniatures painters rave about these. Unfortunately, you will probably have to order them online or via mail, but from what is said about them they are worth the effort. I have not yet tried these as I am happy with what I can accomplish with the very much cheaper Ceramcoats, but I am tempted to buy these on a weekly basis.

  • Viscosity - "Good out of the bottle." "Dry slow."
  • Coverage/Opacity - "Complete in one coat."
  • Containers - Squirt bottle with well-sealing screw top cap, allows you to dispense desired amount easily.
  • Cost - Expensive.
  • Availability - One of the more difficult paints to find (vendors).
  • Color selection - Wide variety of colors.
  • Personal experience - none yet...


OK Paints

Americana (by DecoArts)
Similar to CeramCoat, but coverage is not as good.
Citadel Paints (Citadel Colour)
  • Viscosity - Thin.
  • Coverage/Opacity - May take two coats to get color down, but the colors are good.
  • Containers - These are the primary reason that Citadel paints are just "OK" Screw-top plastic cap on a plastic bottle. Notorious for extremely premature drying and leaking.
  • Cost - About US$7 per ounce.
  • Availability - Any store that sells Warhammer products will almost certainly have these in stock.
  • Remarks - It seems that the general consensus is that Citadel made better paints in the past. In fact, the paints that GW used to sell are now sold as Coat d'Arms (see above). Some folks feel that these paints are good if you simply buy better bottles and immediately switch the paint over to said bottles. GW switched to a French company that made more translucent paints and the jars really are quite poor in quality.
  • Personal note - I still like Citadel's metallics...

Ceramcoat (by DeltaCrafts) - What is generally called a "craft paint". Folk Art and Americana are similar, I tried all three and like this one best. I am currently experimenting with these.

  • Viscosity - Too thick coming straight out of the bottle. I find that 2 or 3 parts paint to 1 part water works well.
  • Coverage/Opacity - Somewhat inconsistent opacity/coverage, but the best out of the craft paints that I have tried, and this can be readily mitigated with multiple coats. The pigment in this paint is pretty coarsely ground. As a result, it functions like a translucent paint. Overall, this paint is probably best used for shading and highlighting, if at all. Note that generally all paints will have coverage issues with reds, orange, and yellow, and ceramcoat is no different, these colors will not cover black or near black colors very well.
  • Containers - The bottles are great; they keep a good seal and are squeeze tops, so dispensing is a snap.
  • Cost - Fifty cents (US$) an ounce!
  • Availability - Craft paints in general are very easy to find, they are sold at just about any craft or hobby store.
  • Colors - About 300 colors are available in the line, so getting the right premixed shade is pretty easy.
  • Personal experience - I am continuing to use these for minis as I am getting accustomed to them. For folks that paint up from dark to light in numerous shades, the low opacity is not such a big problem. They are still great for terrain and such, when you need cheaper paint and lots of it. When I use them I generally use one of two ratios (remember Delta uses dropper bottles, so this is easy to accomplish with accuracy, provided you also have an eyedropped of water and glycerine handy):
    • Normal painting (paint on coat, wait for it to dry, then paint on more) - the minimum dilution I would use is 8:2:1 paint:water:glycerine, otherwise there is too much paint.
    • I am currently experimenting with greater dilutions and more complex additive mixtures


Folk Art (by Plaid Arts & Crafts)
Similar to CeramCoat, but coverage is not as good, in my limited experiences. However they have some cool paint medium accessories, such as Glass and Tile Medium which is a very affordable brush on primer and it can be mixed with acrylic paints for colored priming.
I am told these work well and they are in flip top bottles.

  • Viscosity -
  • Coverage/Opacity -
  • Containers -
  • Cost -
  • Availability -

Polly S Fantasy (by Floquil)

Out of production.

Polly Scale Military (by Floquil)
I tried one.

  • Viscosity - Good out of the bottle.
  • Coverage/Opacity - Complete.
  • Containers - Screw-top metal cap on a glass bottle.
  • Cost - Average.
  • Availability - Average. Many stores that sell models may have these.

Metallics (for general comments, see the appropriate non-metallics entry above)

Good Metallics

  • Citadel Paints (Citadel Colour) - Metallics are a little on the thin side, but still very good. I personally have taken to pouring Dwarf Bronze (used in my Tyranid army) into an empty squirt bottle like those used for craft paints.
  • Accent Crown Jewels - Specifically recommended by someone else, now I just have to find them...
  • Model Masters (by Testors) - I have tried only one but it worked well. They also have some more exotic airbrush options that claim to give a very realistic metal finish.
  • Polly S Fantasy (by Floquil) - My favorite metallics for coverage. They go on smoothly and one coat is adequate to establish the color. However, they are out of production.
  • Polly Scale Military (by Floquil) - I am told that these are as good as the Polly S Fantasy metallics.

OK Metallics

  • Americana (by DecoArts) - I find that all of the craft paint metallics are a little too thin.
  • Ceramcoat (by DeltaCrafts) - I find that all of the craft paint metallics are a little too thin.
  • Folk Art - I find that all of the craft paint metallics are a little too thin.
  • Partha Paints (Ral Partha) - A little too thin for my tastes.

Unknown Metallics

  • Coat d'Arms
  • Golden
  • Liquitex
  • Vallejo
  • Gunze Sanyo

Color Guides, Comparisons, and Equivalents/Conversions

Using your favorite search engine, you may be able to track down which colors from one line of paint will match another. For example, "vallejo citadel color comparison" pulls up a number of sites with suggestions. Other useful keywords include equivalents and conversion.

Where Can You Buy Them?

Support your local stores if at all possible! Try to get them to carry the paints you like. If you have a "real" gamestore nearby that supports your hobby with good discounts and/or a place to play, then help keep them alive. The extra 10% you might save from mail order or online ordering will not be worth it if your local store goes out of business! That said, sometimes the store does not have what you need. Here are some vendors:

Paint Vendors by Brand Name

Brand Vendors
Americana Probably any local craft store, but if that does not work out:
DecoArt's Where to Buy Page - DecoArt is the manufacturer of Americana.
USA - Cartoon Colour Company

Probably any local craft store, but if that does not work out:
DeltaCrafts's Where to Buy Page - DeltaCraft is the manufacturer of Ceramcoat.

Citadel Just about any game store has these, and probably any of the other sites listed here.
Coat d'Arms
USA - Brookhurst Hobbies
Folk Art Probably any local craft store, but if that does not work out:
Plaid's Store Locator - Plaid is the manufacturer of Folk Art.
Gunze Sanyo
Metallics only
Canada - Michigan Toy Soldier
USA - Michigan Toy Soldier
Howard Hues
USA - The Last Square
Humbrol Enamel
Canada - Michigan Toy Soldier
USA - Michigan Toy Soldier
Asia - S.T.O.R.M. Singapore
Australia - Eureka Miniatures; Megohm Miniatures & Games
Canada/Alberta - Sentry Box
Ireland - Mithril Miniatures
Spain - Guinea Hobbies
USA - Strange Cargo, Michigan Toy Soldier, Fantization, The Last Square, Attactix (no online presence for their Vallejo paints yet), Brookhurst Hobbies, New Wave,
USA/TX/Houston - Little Wars Houston
USA/CA - Minimadd
UK - NU Gaming
Winsor & Newton Oils
Canada - Michigan Toy Soldier
USA - Michigan Toy Soldier
Winsor & Newton Inks
USA - The Last Square


Brand Vendor
(Kolinski Sables)
Australia - Eureka Miniatures
Canada - Michigan Toy Soldier
USA - Michigan Toy Soldier, Fantization, The Last Square, New Wave
Winsor & Newton
Canada - Michigan Toy Soldier
Ireland - Mithril Miniatures (synthetics)
USA - Michigan Toy Soldier
Richard Oliver
Ireland - Mithril Miniatures (Kolinsky & sable/synthetic)

Ceramic Palettes - Well Style


[USA] Texas Art Supply

[UK] Jackson's Art Supply

Questions? Comments? Please let me know via my questions/comments form!