Getting your first paints - Part 2

Welcome back to Part 2 of my guide on getting your first paints. In this part I am going to look into types of paint as well as the brands that are out there.

Part 1

Acrylic vs Enamel

For those of us that grew up making model airplanes, we are probably familiar with the heady scent of turpentine and enamel paints. These are hard wearing, oil-based paints that are the bastion of the hobby modeller. The major problem with enamel paints is that they are not water soluble meaning that brushes and equipment will need cleaning with mineral spirits / white spirit / turpentine / methylated spirits etc. These are not the best chemicals in the world, give off rather potent vapours, may be carcinogenic, are expensive and also destroy paint brushes. There are some excellent uses of enamels and oil based paints in general but, unless you are a pro painter / serious tournament painter I strongly suggest you steer clear of these.

Acrylics are water based, sparing the use of harsh chemicals and although it is still very possible to destroy your brushes using them, with proper care, they will last a long time. Acrylic paints aren't as hard wearing however, they are not easily removed to undo mistakes and less easy to blend for similar reasons. They are thinnable with water, the brushes can be washed with water and the paint is non-toxic (I'm talking to the brush lickers out there!) are all strong points in it's favor.

Paint Pots

There are two fundamental types of paint pot - dropper bottles and flip tops:

Flip Tops are the classic acrylic paint pot, they have been around for as long as Citadel (now GW) has been putting out paints. Often these pots will dry out quickly as dried paint around the rim will prevent an airtight seal. It is not insurmountable but can be an issue. Flip tops seem to encourage painters to use the paint straight out of the pot - this is not what painters should be doing. I have ranted about wet pallets before but an issue with flip tops is adding the paint to the palette is more awkward as you need to use a brush or something to transfer the paint over.
Dropper bottles provide a small opening, helping preserve the paint for longer without drying out. They don't allow painting straight out of the pot but this encourages the use of a wet pallet which is a good thing. One thing about these pots worth mentioning is that I find they don't tend to mix very well. MIG addresses this with agitators in their paint pots, for other manufacturers, I'd suggest adding your own.


Ok well you can short cut this whole section if you want as it comes down to 'personal preference'. Having said that, I have some of my own thoughts about some of the more common brands you tend to see out there. Note that these are all acrylics - I really don't recommend enamels or oils for newer painters.

Games Workshop / Citadel

Traditionally the first paint set for budding gamers, these days I think Army Painter and Reaper have succeeded in taking away some of this market. GW provide a good array of paints. I feel they generally struggle with coverage when they get thinned however some of the more 'special' paints like the glazes and effect paints (like Blood for the Blood God) are excellent. I would suggest some of the other paints below for beginners both for price point and quality but there are some very good paints in this range. Flip top bottles I am talking here in the latest iteration of GW paints at time of writing (June 2017) - There have been several changes in the last few years however I believe these are produced in China.


Reaper has a huge range of paints including 'HD' paints designed to provide coverage for base coats using 'High Density' pigment paints. These paints are also designed to basecoat the Reaper Bones minis without priming. I have only used a few paints in the reaper line but they are good, consistent paints although they need very thorough mixing before use. Dropper bottles

Vallejo Model

Of the paints I have used, Vallejo Model are probably some of the best quality, they work well both with brushes and airbrushing however the color array is very muted, if you're wanting bright 'pop' then you'll need to look elsewhere. These paints are also not always the best for starting painters, the pigment density (opacity) can be variable depending on the color in the range and may take a few coats. They have a related Air range that are designed to run through an airbrush without further thinning. Although there are starter sets for the Model Color range, I haven't seen them in local stores as much as those from other manufacturers. Dropper bottles

Vallejo Game

This is a real mixed bag of colors, many of them have serious issues with coverage on a model however they are also some of the brightest tones available and are pretty robust for use with gaming figures. Supposedly the Game Color line is meant to be more resilient than the Model Color line but I've not really seen evidence of this. As with the Model Colors, there is a line of Air paints and it can be hard to find starter sets in local stores. Dropper bottles

Army Painter

Army Painter's recent tie in with games like Zombicide has really given it a lot more visibility for first time painters. The paints have mostly good coverage and consistent colors. Coming in dropper bottles means they aren't going to dry out and really motivate you to use a wet pallette even as a new painter. If you are just getting into the hobby, these are a great option with nice features like color match spray primers as well as quick shade for quickly getting your army up and painted. Once you are more experienced however, you may find some issues with thinning them, many of the paints have a tendency to bead on the model (espeically with the color primers). Some great starting sets can be found here. Dropper bottles


When I saw these and found out they are made by the same manufacturer as Coat D'Arms (HMG Paints), I was instantly intrigued. The paints from the line I have tried are all excellent with many of the same comments as for Coat D'Arms (see below). The P3 line has expanded quite substantially and I have only tried a few of the basic paints, not the washes, inks or metallics. Flip top bottles

Secret Weapon

Secret Weapon is a newcomer to the field of hobby acrylics with their washes being the line I am most familiar with and simply excellent, good tinting and shading. More recently they've been releasing a fuller line of paints that I am looking forward to trying. Dropper bottles


Manufactured by airbrush manufacturers Badger, these paints are designed to be used in airbrushes, this means they can be a little thin for painting on with a brush, the color range is also a little limited but they are great option for an airbrush as they can be applied directly into the cup (I often even mix them in the cup). Minitaire also has a line of primers called Stynylrez - these are without doubt the best primers I have used. Dropper bottles (strange shape)

Coat D'Arms

For American readers, this may not be a familiar brand however Coat D'Arms put out paints that used to be used by Citadel/GW back in the 90s - early 00s (before the screw top disaster). It is a pretty much identical color range. As someone that got into the hobby when these were Citadel Colour paints - I have a soft spot for them, they are what I started with, I find them to have great coverage, pigment density and they last forever as long as you keep the seal clean (I have pots from the late 80s that are still good). These paints are badly in need of thinning though and because they are in flip top lids, it's a bit of a pain transferring them onto a wet pallette. Flip top bottles Coat D'Arms and P3 are both manufactured by HMG Paints.


I have not tried Mig paints yet but everything I have heard about them from the little touches like including a ball bearing in each pot as a stirrer to the opacity, flow etc all screams top quality. They are not cheap but I am determined to give them a try soon. Dropper bottles

UPDATE: After some feedback on Reddit... there will be a part 3! It may take a week or two to get up but this new post will cover paints and

- Raggy, signing out