Getting your first paints - Part 1

Part 1
A few months ago, I started routinely stalking r/minipainting and one thing I noticed come up quite a bit is "I'm just getting started, what paints should I get?". Often this will get bundled up in with other more general questions about getting started but I saw a lot of 'what paints next' posts or even just paint specific posts. Often there is a mess of manufacturers vs color sets vs brush/airbrush and so on.

When I moved to the US, I was able to experience first hand the pain of building a paint set from scratch after 3 months in a shipping container dried out basically all the paints I had. I figured I would share my experience and learnings.

Testing Browns against a mini

The First Rule of Paint Club:

Get paint colors for the things you tend to paint.

I can't emphasize this enough, especially if you are painting up an army - you don't want to be mixing the main colors of the army for every single model. It's a pain in the arse and it's going to produce inconsistent results.

The Absolute Essentials

A lot of this should be pretty well known, and fairly self evident but in my mind the following colors are the ones that absolutely should be in every painter's kit:
Black, White, Grey, Ultramarine Blue, Blood Red, Dark Green, Goblin Green, Elf Flesh, Bronzed Flesh, Bright Yellow, Bone.
This list is not exhaustive and it misses a few colors that I wanted to speak to in more detail (below) but it has a good overview.


Red is a super tough color to paint. The coverage is usually pretty terrible and can take more than five coats for good coverage. I have found that this can be helped a lot by building up browns into reds or even better investing in a dark red as well as a blood red. The other difficulty with red is highlighting and this is another reason to invest in a dark red - it can form the shadows, allowing a red layered over it to pop and seem like a highlight.


Browns and Flesh colors account for half of my paints (if I exclude washes). Why? Brown is both a super common color and a super complex one. Brown can be made by basically blending up all the other colors but at the same time you can see the differences in browns very clearly, whether it has more red or green, is lighter or darker, more or less flesh-like. This may sound weird but think terracotta brown vs a softwood, vs a hardwood.

These differences are also super important when painting models - leathers and furs shouldn't be the same shade of brown, similarly human hair comes in a whole array of browns. You want to easily differentiate these, shade down and highlight up from them. It's very possible to do this from scratch but not very easily or repeatably. You will also find browns forming the base for yellows more often than not and this is another important use for it.


Metallic paints are usually distinguished from other paints by having a different label or bottle top; the reason for this is that they contain small metallic flakes in the paint along with the paint, medium, water etc. Regular readers may have heard me sing the praises of NMM (non metallic metals - metal effects painted using regular paints) for not having to deal with paint flecks, sparkles, clumpy paint and a whole array of other reasons that I just don't like them. This hasn't stopped me from painting with metallics on occasion but I prefer not to. Having said all of that, I understand that a lot of people prefer it and want to know how to do it well. So...
Metallics can't really be mixed with regular acrylics because it dilutes the metallic flakes and generally looks weird. There are work arounds such as metallic mediums but for anyone less than full pro - I suggest making sure you get a triad for each color you want to work with (Silver, Gold, Bronze etc) and just work with those, this will simplify your process a lot.


For new painters, this is the single best way to step up your game. Although it is reasonable to focus on just a brown wash and a black wash for a while, I tend to recommend an array of washes that will mirror your paint set: red, green, yellow, blue, brown and black - this allows you to keep using the wonder drug without all your minis looking 'dirty' or 'muddy' as endless brown washing is prone to result in. For the money - I'd strongly recommend the Army Painter Quickshade set. They are not the best washes out there (I think Secret Weapon holds this honor) but it is a great selection of effective washes for a good price point. These will get you going and really help give your models shape quickly and easily.
For applying washes I strongly recommend the following:

  • Make sure the whole of the mini is dry before doing any washes
  • Apply the wash liberally on the appropriate area (not so liberally that it will run into other areas)
  • Have a piece of paper kitchen towel and (dry) second brush on hand
  • Once the wash is applied correctly, use the second brush to wick up any excess wash and anything that is pooling on a raised or undesired surface. Dry this second brush on the paper towel.
  • With the wicking complete - LEAVE THE MODEL ALONE! Trying to apply multiple washes at the same time is a bad idea.
Join me next time as I discuss some specific manufactures of paints as well as the style of paint pot you can get. I will also speak to Acrylic VS Enamel for the Humbrol fans out there.

- Raggy, signing out