Looking for the best paints for your miniatures? So was I and I almost bit off more than I could chew. I’ve done this type of post a few times before. When looking for the best Brushes for miniatures. And again when looking for the best Airbrushes for Miniatures. But the response to the numerous polls created for this “best paints” guide was more than overwhelming.
There were Over 18,000 individual votes cast, over 70 paint brands recommended and just under 400 comments made. It took 3 evenings just to calculate the poll results. But it’s done now, and I can share the summary below.
This is part of my series of top 10 tools for miniature painting. I plan to do one of these for all the essential mini painting tools. Due to the overwhelming responses on paint brands, I’ve upped the usual Top-10 list here to Top-15.
The Best Paints for Miniatures & Wargames Models – Selecting the Best Paints
Please be aware that all of the paints below are considered amongst the “best” paints available. Put simply, there is no single best brand becasue the term best is entirely dependant on you and what you want to get out of your painting.
Do you want an army done quick? Do you want to paint with quick drying time or slow drying time? do you want dense pigment for coverage in fewer layers or weaker pigment for layering and glazing? Do you want to improve the weathering effects on your mini’s? Do you just want the cheapest paint that will do the job? All of these considerations and more will make up the best paints specifically for you. Please be considerate that the product in the Number 1 spot is not better than the product in the number 15 spot. The order is purely based on popularity.
So, If all you want to know is ‘which of the below brands is the single best for all miniature painting’. I’m sorry to say; there isn’t one. Every brand on this list is worth your consideration.
I had this echoed to me on a recent miniature painting course I was on. It’s not just the paint brands but some of the individual paints within those brands that have particular strengths and weaknesses.
Below I will summarise those strengths and weaknesses of each brand as considered by the miniature painting community. After all, the real question you want answering here is “what paint brands ‘you’ should invest in and why?” So that you can spend that hard-earned cash appropriately.
The information below is intended to guide you in making good paint buying choices. For whatever you want to get out of your hobby.
The Best Paints for Miniatures & Wargames Models
15. Creature Caster – Pro Acryl
Slow Fuse Gaming/Monument Gaming/ Creature Caster (there’s some interesting history regarding the company name there) actually featured on our Best Brushes for Miniature Painters list. People are quickly falling in love with these paints. Whilst the Pro Acryl range is relatively new on the scene, they are lauded for having really dense pigment, ensuring great colour coverage in just a few layers.
Even though they are quite pigment heavy, they still thin very nicely and work great with brushes or airbrushes alike. Due to their properties, they are an excellent choice for blending and dry with a matte finish.
The entire range is acrylic based (if you couldn’t tell from the name). They currently consist of 24 colours & 5 metallics. These paints come in 17ml dropper bottles with a unique twist cap lid which prevents all clogging. (It’s the best bottle type in this whole list).
You can buy the whole set or individual colours, direct from the Creature Caster’s online shop. Creature Caster is a US based company so there are some slightly heavier shipping costs outside of this region. But they aren’t prohibitive costs (unless you want to buy individual bottles). Although they could do with an Amazon or eBay presence for wider reach.
This set is gaining popularity fast as more people hear of them.
Mig has an almost overwhelming range of paints. Primarily directed at real-world scale models such as Tanks, Ships and Aircraft. They have over 240 standard hues, many of which are matched to real-world colours. They also have ranges of metallics & crystal paints too. Not to mention their mediums and varnishes.
All of these paints come in 17ml dropper bottles and can be used with a brush or through an airbrush. they are one of the more inexpensive products on the market. But that doesn’t mean they are a “cheap” product.
A stand out of the Mig range is their set of weathering effects. Including Washes, Streaking Effects, Nature Effects, Water Effects Mud & Others. They even supply grass and leaves. Mig are specialists in the weathering field so if you want to grime up your mini’s especially vehicles. these are definitely worth your consideration. They even have a series of magazines walking you through all of the techniques so you can master them easily.
All of the products can be bought as individual pots/bottles or for some minor savings; They have a wide range of collective sets.
13. AK Interactive
AK is another brand who specialise in paints for historic scale models. You’ll find lots of similarities between AK and Mig. That’s because Mig Jimenez (of Mig) previously worked for AK. Parted ways and started his own company.
They have a paint range of over just under 400 paints with 100 (what they call) real colours. Matched to real-world historic vehicle & infantry paints. They also have a handy conversion chart matching their paint colours to other brands. This is available on their website. The acrylic colours range comes in the standard 17ml dropper bottles. Whereas the real colour paints come in 10ml pots (similar to the Tamiya’s Mini pots). All paints are suitable for Brush or Airbrush.
Again though, just like with Mig Jiminez – the stand out here is the weathering products. They provide Weathering pencils, Streaking Effects, Dust Pigments & Real Metallics. They even have a series of books and other resources so that you can learn how to apply the products for amazing results.
You can get all of these products individually or in various sets.
Badger’s Minitaire range is another series dedicated to miniature painters and model makers. Like their Stynylrez Airbrush primer paints (which I love). These paints are specifically designed for airbrush use. But you can brush them on if you wish. They come in 30ml dropper bottles with flip-cap & pour lids. Each 30ml bottle is about the same price as other range’s 10ml – 17ml bottles. After a shake, they will run through most airbrushes without the need for thinning.
There are 80 colours in the set and getting the complete set makes the price a bargain. If you are looking to airbrush entire armies to get them out of the door quickly. Then a few bottles of this would be perfect for your initial base coats and highlights. If you really want to save money. The Complete paint set is a steal. They are just a bit tricky to find online nowadays.
Warcolours are another great range dedicated to miniature painting. Almost directly comparable to ranges like Creature Caster’s Pro Acryl set. This range has over 180 paints in 15ml dropper bottles. They also have a nostalgia ’88 range. Which matches the colour, bottles, feel consistency and…. erm… smell (apparently) of the Original 1988 Citadel Colour range.
The one-coat base paints have a matte finish and are pigment dense for good coverage. The rest of the range has a satin finish. Many users have lauded these paints for their behaviours when layering and glazing. Another set that works well through an airbrush.
10. Secret Weapon
Secret Weapon is another company focussed on miniature painting products – Mainly resin products for modding existing wargames such as Warhammer or Infinity. Their paint Range is rather small. Their mech Acrylics range has 30 Colours and their Weathering Acrylics also have 30 paints.
The stand out for Secret Weapon though is their large range of washes (again 30 of them). Using these paints to pin wash or shade your miniatures really adds depth to the model without much need to thin them. Thanks to how fine the pigment is in these washes. you’ll ensure that the colour depth sits exactly in the recesses you need them to.
The range comes in 20ml dropper bottles for application with a brush or airbrush.
There are a lot of claims online that the Coat d’arms paints are the same as the 80’s to early 00’s Citadel Paints. And that the manufacturers of these paints were the guys who Supplied Games Workshop with that Citadel range. As far as I can tell, this hasn’t been confirmed, but I’ve emailed the UK distributor to ask. From several comparisons online, these are comparable to the Classic Citadel Colours.
Update 08/05/19: I managed to get a contact at Coat d’arms who had the following to say.
[When Coat d’arms was purchased by its new owners in 2006], According to the previous owner they were using HMG Paints in Manchester [UK] to manufacturer a range of WW2 paints. [Games Workshop] was also using HMG and when GW dropped HMG as a manufacturer and moved to a French Manufacturer, Coat D’arms used the same paint formulations as GW to create a fantasy range.Coat d’arms
So there you have it, if you are desperate to match those classic colours. This is the only way you can do it now. Coat d’arms will be sending us a sample set soon. So watch this space and we’ll have our impressions and comparison up as soon as we can.
These paints are loved by oldhammer fans for that nostalgic look & feel. The even come on the classic (80’s Citadel era) flip-cap bottles.
8. Green Stuff World
Green Stuff World – named after the popular moulding compound (properly known as Kneadatite). Which was used to manually sculpt the master models for Citadel Miniatures before Digital Sculpting took off. The term ‘Green Stuff’ popularised by Games Workshop and other model making companies who used it. GSW is a company focussed on miniature modelling customisation.
GSW specialise in products that are somewhat outside of the usual box. Their products help you create features and effects which are truly unique to their brand. A favourite amongst converters.
The real standouts of their range are the Metallics, Colourshift (Pearlescent & Irridescent) paints and Fluorescent paint. Along with their ‘out of this world effects paint, such as Spider Serum for creating realistic webbing.
All products can be purchased from Green Stuff World directly and come in individual (various sized) dropper bottles, They also sell some theme sets.
Tamiya is a well-known brand of scale models. For miniature painting they are really smooth, pigment-dense paints that generally finish with a matte to satin texture. Their Tamiya Color glass bottles with twist caps come in 2 varieties; standard 23ml or the mini 10ml. With over 50 standard colours available.
Most people pick these up due to general availability in their region over other brands, they are very common in most hobby stores. But the most commonly used colours by most miniature painters aretheir clear colours. Which are similar to Games Workshop’s Gem Paints.
Simply apply a clear coat over a metallic surface to tint that colour and give a candy effect where the metal shine is below a lacquered surface. This is especially good for jewels.
Another thing they succed with are their compact Weathering Master Sets, which are small parces of 3 dry pigments with a provided applicator brush.
Reaper are another company dedicated to miniatures. They provide a great paint set consisting of 208 different paints in their Reaper Master Series.
Paints come in 15ml dropper bottles and have a matte finish.
These paints are highly recommended as they are good to work with for anything from base-coating & layering to glazing. You can buy individual bottles, theme sets or the 2 larger boxed sets, each containing halves of the entire range.
Reaper showcase that their paints operate in a Triad system. This essentially means they showcase 3 paints which work together, such as a Base colour, then a supporting shadow and highlight colour. It takes some of the guesswork away for a beginner looking to apply simple blends. This is very similar to how the Citadel paint system works (Games Workshop just don’t call it a triad, they call it the Citadel paint system, but it’s the same thing).
Scale 75 is yet another company focused on miniatures & models. Their paint ranges all fall under the Scalecolor banner. They are more popular across Europe simply due to local availability. Scalecolor (63 paints) & Warfront (63 paints) are pigment dense and have a matte finish. They also have their Fantasy & Games range (48 paints) which are slightly more diluted, but brighter hues with a satin finish. I got my first couple of these paints for a recent miniature painting course I went on and can directly attest to both their coverage and excellent workability.
All paints come in 17 ml dropper bottles and are available as individual bottles, theme sets or collections of each range. Their Flesh Paint Set and NMM paints sets (Gold & Silver) contain everything you need for mastering those techniques.
Another standout of this range are the Inktensity inks which are really colour rich. Perfect for boosting your existing palette.
Privateer Press Paints (P3) – The Formula P3 range is to Warmachine & Hordes, what Citadel is to Warhammer. Another series of paints with incredible coverage. As advertised these paints have a slightly slower drying time than most, making them more workable on the model leaving fewer streaks. Excellent too for those who like to wet-blend.
The range is more limited than Citadel with less than 100 total paints, which includes metallics, washes and inks.
The other way these paints stand out is that they haven’t adopted dropper bottles. These 18ml pots are similar to the classic Citadel pots with flip-top caps (you could always transfer them to dropper bottles). Yet you don’t see as many people kicking off at them as do at GW for not having Dropper Bottles. Available as individual pots or in faction-specific collections of 6 paints. P3 also has a mixing guide showing base paints and their intended shadow and 2 stages of highlight colour. Similar to the Reaper Triad system of the Citadel paint System.
Like the name says, this is a company dedicated to miniature painting with a huge range to back it up. They have a generally neutral approach (as they have partnered with some newer tabletop miniature games) to all wargames brands and offer guides to paint the majority of them using their paints.
The paints are almost directly comparable to the Citadel range in regard to coverage and consistency but many users say that Army Painter is the better of the two. The added benefit is that they come in dropper bottles. These dropper bottles are also 18ml – making them (marginally) the bottles with the most paint volume on this list (for standard bottles). They also have a series of Army Painter Dungeons & Dragons, these, however, are in 12ml bottles.
Update: This article previously advised that the standard line was in 12ml bottles. This has been corrected as only the Army Painter Dungeons & Dragons is 12ml bottles. The standard line, and Zombiecide paints are 18ml. Thanks to the community and everyone who advised on this.
The set consists of 124 paints in total, splitting down into 96 standard paints, 8 metallic paints, 11 washes & 9 effects paints.
The best features of this range are their 100% colour match between their Primer Spray paints and their base colours with matching names. Additionally, they have their Quickshades. These are essentially large tins of their excellent wash colours with an included varnish. With these, you simply paint a miniatures base colours, dip it into the tin, then shake off the excess. Your mini is tabletop ready. Both the colour-match primers and Quickshde Tins are excellent if your focus is getting a decent looking army on the table as fast as possible.
The paints are available individually. they also have a starter set, washes set, ink set, the (most commonly purchased) mega paint set, an upgrade set for the rest of the paints which are not in the Mega Paint Set. Finally, they have complete warpaints set of all their paints (although this is limited).
Vallejo is commonly known to have “the” paint range when it comes to miniature & model painting. They have more ranges and colours than anyone else on the market.
The most commonly known ranges are Model Color (known for their historic model colour matches) and the Game Color range (for wargames & fantasy models). Both of these ranges have an Airbrush equivalent range (Model Air and Game Air respectively). They also have the Mecha Color range, produced to satisfy all the Gunpla modellers. And the Panzer Aces range which are matched to WWII vehicle and Uniform colours. All of these paints come in 17 ml dropper bottles, are available individually or in numerous themed sets and in large collection boxes.
Beyond those ranges, they also have their incredible metal color paints, which are all water-based metallics that provide excellent shine. A step up from these, however, is the Liquid Gold range which is alcohol based and provides almost real metallic surfaces.
Boasting excellent coverage, great workable fluidity and the sheer size of the products available. Vallejo paints are widely considered to be the best paints for miniatures & wargames models. These are the paints most people go to when they realise there are possibly better paints outside of the brand that got them into the hobby.
The Best Paints for Miniatures & Wargames Models – Honourable Mentions
As I said in the opening, there were over 70 paint brands listed, below are just some of the other considerable options. It really goes to show you can use just about anything you can get your hands on. Remember, it’s about using the paint that works for you and the project you are working on. Don’t let anyone tell you that you are wrong for using a particular paint or brand. there may be better ones for the job you are doing. But just ignore the trolls who are doing nothing more than validating their own purchase. Stay open-minded.
- Apple Barrel
- Wargames Foundry
- Folk Art
- Revell Aqua
- Daler & Rowney
- Kimera Kolors
- Alclad II Metalizers
- Creatix/Wicked Colours
- Delta Ceramcoat
- Jo Sonja
- MP (Miniature Paints)
- Mr Colour
- Abteilung Oils
- Partha Paints
- Life Colour
- Mr Hobby
- Mr Paint
- Pacific 88
- Scale Fantasy
- Mission Models
- Prince August
- Alba Colours
- Martha Stewart Metallics
- Winsor & Newton
- Derivan Matisse
- Gaia Color
- Maimeri polycolor
- Montana Markers
- Pokorny (Dwarven Forge)
- Royal Talens
- Warlord Games
As if this surprises anyone. And I just want to put a reminder in here that this list is ordered by brand popularity. Not on which paints are the “best”.
This is so that people actually read the article to decide what’s best for them, instead of just skipping to the number 1 spot and buying what’s there.
Explaining this brand would be rather pointless. If you are reading this article, it’s highly likely that you already use Citadel Paints. Games Workshop is the most popular Miniature Wargames brand by a large margin. It’s only expected that their paints are the most commonly used brand.
The range get’s some stick but it’s a decent range of paints that is readily available in most regions. The Citadel system makes it easy to apply base colours and know the equivalent shades and highlight colours. If you are getting into Wargames specifically Games workshop, The paint guides available are like no other. Following these guides and using the Games workshop system will get you good results with nothing more than concentrated practise. The barrier to entry with this range is much smaller than with any other product. The real stand out products in the Citadel line is their shade (wash) paints.
They come in 12ml flip-cap pots (although you can easily transfer them to dropper bottles, as many people have). You can buy them as individual pots, starter sets, and category sets such as Base and Layer. Citadel also offers an airbrush range matching their existing base colours too.
The Best Paints for Miniatures & Wargames Models – Final Thoughts
So, the summary is no different than the opening really. There are a number of different paint brands to choose from and are likely others that aren’t even listed here.
For beginners, it’s clearly better to stick with the brands that match your models as there will be simple guides to follow in order to quickly get some confidence with using brushes and how each paint behaves. It makes it simple to get your armies looking how you want.
If you are into large army painting, it’s likely you’ll stay with that brand for a long time. Mainly to ensure your army colours are consistent by using the same paints. (Probably Citadel, Army Painter or P3). You can start with other brands, but, as a beginner, you’ll need to manage with knowing the paint name equivalents too. Assuming you are following tutorials. Tools like Army painter Quickshades and their 100% Primer to paint match will get an army on the table very quickly.
But it does feel great to stand out on the tabletop, so using some slightly different versions of your armies colours can help you here which is where the other brands come in handy. If you’re ok with dealing with the guides using different colour names than you have (or you could just write the alternatives on the bottle). Then dive in with one of the special wargames brands, or get your Vallejo collection started early.
If you are into the hobby more for the painting or aren’t too bothered about your army consistency. Please try out at least 1 paint from the other dedicated brands to see which feels right to you. Using better paint, won’t instantly make you a better painter. But it can certainly help get you in the right direction.
Vallejo seems to be the main go-to brand for the majority, but they aren’t all magically better paints. Try out one of their many starter kits. If you want more realistic colours, grab the Model Colour Series. For more of the fantasy hues, the Game Colour range is your best bet. It’s worth trying out both the standard and air range too, even if you paint with a brush, the consistency of the air range in many cases is suited to super smooth brush layering, glazing and blending.
The range’s with standout weathering and texture effects are worth a look if you want to go down those routes for battle damaged and weathered models. These products can push things to a whole new level.
In many cases, the choice will be dependant on your budget and local availability. Just don’t ever commit yourself to one brand, or you’re just limiting yourself. Always be willing to try out something new. You may just find the thing that gives you your specialist edge…
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