Citadel Colour Sub-Assembly Holder Review

Designed to help painters master the tiniest of details on the smallest of components before they are attached to the rest of a model, the final product in Citadel Colour’s latest wave of tool releases and updates is the Sub-Assembly Holder. Today, we’re going to have a look at what it is like to use.

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Citadel Colour Sub-Assembly Holder Review – Summary

Whilst it plugs a gap in Citadel’s range of good-quality hobby tools and other products, the Citadel Colour Sub-Assembly Holder’s slightly different take on sub-assemblies ascribes a little too closely to the rest of Citadel’s range in order to be universally useful.

Whilst it’s a useful thing for any Citadel enthusiast to have in their hobby arsenal, it’s unlikely that Citadel’s sub-assembly offering will appeal to the wider hobby community.

Citadel Colour Sub-Assembly Holder Review – Introduction

We’ve slowly been munching our way through Citadel’s recent wave of new hobby tool releases. So far, we’ve had a look at the excellent new Painting Handle XL, the Assembly Stand (a product I have found extremely useful to have in the weeks since reviewing it), and the new and convenient spinning Spray Stick.

This leaves only the Citadel Colour Sub-Assembly Holder to look at.

If you’re a new or intermediate-level painter, you might not have heard of painting in sub-assemblies before. Painting in sub-assemblies (or sometimes just called “sub”) is a techniques employed by more practiced and experienced painters who want to ensure they are able to apply the maximum level of detail to every part of their figures. Painting in “sub” also allows painters to reach parts of their figures that might otherwise be quite hard to access – the inside of capes, underarms that are close to torsos, faces and so-on.

A lot of people do it with heads. It’s easier to paint a head or a face as a sub-assembly than it is to try and reach all the sculpted details on a face when the head is already attached to the rest of a model. Take a Space Marine for example: once the face is on the body, there’s a great big backpack, two huge shoulderpads and a raised bevor/gorget close to their necks.

Take, for example, the Primaris Captain that comes with Warhammer 40,000: Imperium. I don’t mind admitting that, like a fool, I glued on his head before realising how difficult it would be to paint the left-hand side of his face. See below.

Citadel Sub Assembly Hodler Review Why Sub Space Marine


That’s why sub-assemblies are important.

Citadel has previously never released a product like a sub-assembly holder. A lot of painters tend to opt for their own sub-assembly setups, often involving pinning bits of a model to a piece of cork, or attaching parts via tack or putty to their favourite painting handles.

So what does Citadel’s system offer?

Citadel Colour Sub-Assembly Holder Review – Design

Citadel’s new range of hobby products is designed to all work in tandem with everything else in the range. Its Painting Handle and Painting Handle XL slot into the Assembly Stand and the arms of the Assembly Stand can be removed and attached to the Painting Handle XL. The tools are all designed to be used together as part of a single, cohesive construction and painting experience.

Enter the Sub-Assembly holder.

Citadel Sub Assembly Hodler Review 3

Made of the same plastic as your models and attached to a sprue, the Citadel Colour Sub Assembly Holder is comprised of two parts: a pair of “Fluted Bases” (the things that look like the bottoms of wine glasses or goblets) and 44 Part Holders (the little spiky things).

Citadel Sub Assembly Hodler Review 4

Here’s one of each so you know what I’m talking about.

Citadel Sub Assembly Hodler Review 1

The Parts Holder is designed to be pushed into the Fluted Base, and the Fluted Base is supposed to then be gripped with a Citadel Painting Handle.

Citadel Sub Assembly Hodler Review 2

Just like that, your sub-assemblies are ready to paint!

Citadel Colour Sub-Assembly Holder Review – Testing

There are, in fact, two things

That you need to have at your side in order to be able to make full use of the Citadel Colour Sub-Assembly Holder.

The first is a Citadel Painting Handle. Don’t try and be clever and use the Citadel Colour Sub-Assembly Holder without the right painting handle; they are small, unergonomic, and are as a result very difficult to keep hold of.

The second is a pin vice.

See, the Citadel Colour Sub-Assembly Holder is made from the same plastic as your miniatures for a reason: its designed to be glued to your component. The process is straightforward: drill a little hole in your model, put a tiny dot of glue either in the gap or on the sharp tip of one of the 44 Part Holders and push the two together. Hold them steady for a moment whilst the glue sets, and then you can paint at your leisure.

Great! Right?

Citadel Sub Assembly Hodler Review 5

Maybe not.

See, ah, the amount of testing I can actually do with this product is going to be somewhat minimal. And the reason for that is that I don’t own a pin vice.

Alright, stop rolling your eyes.

The reason for this is very simple: I don’t tend to paint in sub-assemblies beyond occasionally painting faces or heads on character models separately. Then, I use a Rathcore Miniature Holder V.3 with an old allen key for a long-disposed-of phone case lodged firmly into the cork, and a lump of the modeling putty that comes with a RedgrassGames RGG 360 painting handle to stick my component to.

It might not be the most graceful of solutions, but it hasn’t let me down yet. And I think this is the attitude a lot of people are going to have. They aren’t going to want to swap their existing setup for this one.

So, one of the things about the Citadel Colour Painting Handle is that it removes the need for any tack or putty. One of the downsides of using tack or putty that both are liable to sometimes dry out and give up mid-paint and send your components tumbling to the floor. Another is that you can sometimes end up obscuring parts of your sub-assembly that you actually want to paint due to attaching a lot of tack or putty to the surface in order to secure it.

The Citadel Colour Painting Handle does away with, by supporting glueing the Part Holder to the model. That’ll hold your piece in place with no trouble. With your piece glued onto the holder, and the holder secure in the Citadel Painting Handle, it isn’t going anywhere.

But Citadel’s all-gas-no-brakes approach to attaching your sub-assembly to your holder has its own downsides.

Whilst glueing the component to the Part Holder means its very unlikely to fall off, the fact you have to cut the holder off the component you’ve painted means you’re going to have altered the shape of the miniature where the Part Holder was connected to the component.

Citadel Sub Assembly Hodler Review 6

Personally, the idea of drilling holes into parts of my figures, even for the sake of ease of painting, does not appeal to me at all. Plus, if you’ve glued a component to the assembly stand, you can’t remove it and manipulate it to get at the bit you’ve just drilled a hole into. This is fine if you’ve drilled into a contact point (which is the only place you should be drilling into if you can help it) as you won’t be painting that area, but drilling into a contact point comes with its own complications.

As we said above, the only place you really want to be putting holes into your miniature are places where they aren’t going to be seen – such as, for example, the bottom of the neck on a head, such as demonstrated on the cover of the Sub-Assembly Holder’s box.

Citadel Sub Assembly Hodler Review 8

This isn’t an area you’d paint, nor is it an area you’d see, so you don’t need to worry about putting a hole in it. But this is a contact point, and when you come to cutting the component off the Part Holder, you’re going to be left with a piece of Part Holder lodged in your figure. If this was attached to a contact point, you’re going to have to really try to clean it up to make sure the part attaches correctly.

The extra steps associated with this product – along with the extra purchasing and cost, as these Part Holders aren’t reusable and will need to be discarded after every use – will likely turn a lot of people off it, and they’ll be much happier making do with their pins and their tack or putty.

But at the same time, Citadel’s sub-assembly system is very convenient.

There are lots of holes into which the Part Holders fit: twenty on the new Spray Stick, and even more along the edges of the new Painting Handle XL.

Citadel Sub Assembly Hodler Review 7

Not only does this ensure that you can spray-prime (or airbrush prime) your sub-assemblies at the same time as the rest of your miniatures and their associated parts, but it also means you can ensure any sub-assembly parts are painted with the same mixes and blends as the rest of your figure. This ensures your paint job is consistent across all your parts, be they attached or not.

Anyway, if you are interested in this product, FauxHammer himself has curated a list of his favourite pin vices. You won’t really be able to use the sub-assembly holder without it.

Will Citadel Colour Sub-Assembly Holder Improve my Hobby?

As it often does with many hobby tools, whether or not a product that we review will in any way improve your hobby time is an extremely subjective matter, and one that is very difficult to advise on. People are just as likely to fall out over brushes and painting handles as they are over which chapter of Space Marine is the best.

But to try and answer the question above, the short answer is “no, but…”, and the long answer is “yes, however…”.

Whether or not you’ll enjoy using the Citadel Colour Sub-Assembly Holder depends on you answering yes to three questions.

The first is “do you paint in sub-assemblies?” If yes, then ask yourself: “do I own a pin vice?’ If yes again, then finally ask yourself “do I already own/plan on buying the rest of the Citadel Colour hobby tools range?”

If you answer yes to all these questions, then the Sub-Assembly Holder will likely be a useful product for you – as long as you use it carefully, pay attention to where you attach the Part Holders to your components, and be very careful with your glue (because, as a reminder, the Part Holders are designed to be attached with glue). You’ll want to make sure you’ve got a good file too, and some good modeling glue.

If you answer “no” to any of the questions above, then it’s probably not going to do much for you. If you don’t paint in sub-assemblies, it’s pointless. If you do paint in sub-assemblies but have a painting handle you’d rather use or don’t like the rest of Citadel’s tools range, then you probably aren’t going to get the most out of the product.

Also, if you already have a preferred method of painting in sub-assemblies, I’d recommend sticking with what you know. I don’t plan on subbing out my Rathcore-putty-allen key combo any time soon.

Citadel Colour Sub-Assembly Holder Review – Price and Availability

The Citadel Colour Sub-Assembly Holder is available from Games Workshop’s webstore and is worth £8/$12.50USD/€10, but as we noted above, you’ll need either a Citadel Painting Handle or a Citadel Painting Handle XL in order to be able to use it properly, so there’ll be at least one other purchase necessary in order to get the most out of the product.

Also, because the product is designed to be used and thrown away, depending on how often you paint in sub-assemblies you will at some point run out and have to buy some more.

Citadel Colour Sub-Assembly Holder Review – Final Thoughts

Works very well with the other new Citadel Colour tools
Is designed to cut out the need for tack/putty
A handy thing to have if you’re a fan of Citadel’s recent range of tools
An interesting alternative to handling sub-assemblies
Requires other purchases
Gluing and cutting sub-assemblies from a painting handle feels a bit risky
Creates waste as not reusable
Could end up being fairly expensive depending on the rate at which you use them

I’m not really sure who this product is for.

That the Citadel Colour Sub Assembly Holder relies on painters and modelers having so many other things in order to be properly usable also cuts out a significant portion of their market. At the very least it requires a pin vice and a Citadel Painting Handle. In order to get the most out of it, you’ll need the rest of the Citadel hobby tools range and a decent file in order to remove any Part Holder nubs that get left on your figure when cutting them off. Beginners and some intermediate-level painters just won’t have this stuff.

If you’re painting in sub-assemblies, the likelihood is that you’re an intermediate- to advanced-level painted. If you’re an intermediate- to advanced-level painter, you’ve probably taken a step away from the Citadel Colour range and have your own painting handle and sub-assembly set up already that you’re familiar with. Because of this, you likely aren’t going to want to replace your existing set-up with Citadel’s hobby overhaul.

If, however, you are a sub-assembly painter and a fan of Citadel Colour’s range, then this is going to be smashing and you’re probably going to get a real kick out of it. But that’s quite a big if.

Citadel’s new hobby range is at the same time very clever but also shooting itself in the foot. That everything works together – from the painting handles to the spray stick and assembly holder, and now these sub-assembly bits as well — is ingenious.

But it’s a very exclusive club. There’s very little scope to chop and change Citadel’s hobby products with other independent products. This remains true of the Sub-Assembly Holder. Because it is so strongly designed to be used with Citadel’s other products, it is also not great to use with others. Sure, you could just slap a lump of tack or putty onto the top of your current painting handle and stick the Sub-Assembly Holder to the top of it, but Citadel’s Sub-Assembly Holder is trying to cut out the need for any tack or putty.

Tack and putty are great, as they’re versatile, reusable, and cheap, but they do fail every now and then. A little pressure in the wrong place and your part comes loose. By using Citadel’s system, your part is pretty much in place for good – but to get it there, you’ve got to be drilling holes and risk changing the shape of your miniature and damaging it in a different way.

It’s difficult, as there are as many positives to CItadel’s way of handling sub-assemblies as there are negatives. I feel it’s going to be a very marmite product.

People are either going to love it or they’re going to hate it.

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Rob has spent most of the last 20 years playing World of Warcraft and writing stories set in made-up worlds. At some point, he also managed to get a Master's degree by writing about Medieval zombies.

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