Best Miniature Paints

Miniature models, in particular, miniature soldiers, have been in existence for centuries, with examples found in ancient Egyptian tombs. Tin soldiers were produced in Germany as early as 1730 and used as military models for battle planning in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries.

Best Paints for Miniatures (Updated March, 2020)

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Editor’s Choice

Games Workshop Citadel Shade Paint Set

1. Games Workshop Citadel Shade

  • Best Features:
    – officially licensed as part of the popular Citadel video game,
    – the set includes 8×12 ml washes (applied over base colors) and one brush.
  • Type: Oil
  • Nuumber of Colors: 8

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Vallejo Basic USA Colors Paint Set

2. Vallejo Basic USA Colors

  • Best Features:
    – adheres well to both metal and plastic,
    – 16×17 ml bottles, total of 218 colors available from this company
  • Type: Water-based
  • Nuumber of Colors: 16

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Army Painter Miniature Painting Kit with Bonus Wargamer Regiment Miniature Paint Brush

3. The Army Painter

  • Best Features:
    – giant war paint set of 50×18 ml bottles,
    – non-toxic,
    – includes brush,
    – designed for many different war game miniatures
  • Type: Water-based acrylic
  • Nuumber of Colors: 50

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Vallejo Medieval Colors Paint Set

4. Vallejo Medieval Colors

  • Best Features:
    – 16×17 ml bottles,
    – good adherence to metals and plastic,
    – metallic finish
  • Type: Water-based acrylic
  • Nuumber of Colors: 16

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Game Color Intro Set

5. Game Color Intro Set

  • Best Features:
    – this intro set has 16×17 ml bottles designed for war game miniatures,
    – non-toxic and non-flammable.
  • Type: Water-based acrylic
  • Nuumber of Colors: 16

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1. Games Workshop Citadel Shade – Best Miniature Paint Shading Set

General impression

This set is not technically paint but rather is referred to as a wash. It is diluted paints, meant to be applied over a base coat. The wash will darken the base coat, providing exceptional highlights such as shadows, dark lines, and highlights. It’s designed specifically for Citadel miniatures, but can be used with other miniatures as well. You’ll find more about washes in the Buyer’s Guide and Frequently Asked Questions sections below in this review.

Usage and technical details

The set includes eight definitive Citadel colors and a detail brush for applying them. They are designed for detailed work in crevices and crannies, to provide a more finished look than base coats alone.

Best features

While you can make your washes by diluting basecoat colors, these are already done for you, in an exact formulation that provides excellent coverage and adherence. They are designed to work on both plastic and metallic surfaces.

PROS:
  • Pre-diluted, no mess or mistakes trying to make your own wash formulations
  • Highly rated with over eighty customer reviews
CONS:
  • Only negatives noted were the quality of the packaging materials, and damages incurred during shipment

Conclusion

By all accounts, an excellent shading paint to add stunning and realistic details to your miniatures. Customer reviews are very favorable, and it seems to be a favorite among experienced painters. If you are at a stage in your painting career where you want to graduate from beginner status, try this set.

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2. Vallejo Basic USA Colors – Best Acrylic Paints for Miniatures

General impression

Vallejo has been making color products since 1965, expanding into paints for models and miniatures in the 1990s. This expertise is evident in this paint set, which is a nice cross-section of their full line of over 200 different colors. You can use this set for virtually any models, as the paints supplied to cover all the primary colors. Colors can be blended to produce lighter and darker tones as you prefer.

Usage and technical details

This set consists of sixteen individual jars in a basic cross-section of primary colors. It’s water-based acrylic, formulated for strong adhesion properties on all surfaces. Jars are 17ml or about .6 ounces per bottle. Dropper style bottles help keep paint from drying out.

Best features

Combine a long manufacturing experience, specially formulated paints for all applications, and a full set containing all the primary colors; you can dive right into your model painting career. This set is very highly rated overall, and specifically for value, ease of use, and beginners.

PROS:
  • High ratings, with this set on the market over five years for proven performance
  • Manufacturing experience
CONS:
  • No accessories such as brushes included

Conclusion

Given the outstanding quality ratings, the decades-long color history of the manufacturer, and the advanced technical formulations, these paints are certainly one of the best acrylic paints for miniatures. The set could be a good introduction to the entire Vallejo line as painters start to grow and develop their techniques.

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3. The Army Painter – Best Rated Model Master Paint Set

General impression

Conceived by two Danes over ten years ago, this paint company had a vision of cutting the time spent painting miniatures to increase the time spent using them. This mega-set is designed for use with the Warhammer game figures, although the paints can also be used on other miniatures.

Usage and technical details

This award-winning set comes with fifty dropper style bottles of 18ml each, a detail brush, and a painting guide for Warhammer figures. All paints are non-toxic, water-based acrylics.

Best features

While linked to a specific gaming set, these paints can be used on any miniature figurines. You get a vast array of colors and formulations in this set, including basic colors, metallics, washes, and paints for special effects. A base coating brush and detailed paint guide are included.

PROS:
  • High overall rating, plus additional high ratings for presentation, ease of use, and value
  • Winner of 2016 Best Hobby Accessory award
CONS:
  • User comments about watery consistency, requiring multiple coats to cover miniatures

Conclusion

If you have been painting miniatures for a while and want to graduate to the big time, this is the set for you. At the same time, it could also be a beautifully complete set for a beginner. It has master-level colors, quality, and presentation. Perfectly matched with Warhammer miniatures, this is a mega-set for master level miniature painters.

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4. Vallejo Medieval Colors – Best Model Paint Set

General impression

This is another sampling of the Vallejo color catalog, in this case featuring colors best described as medieval. It’s an Amazon choice product, featuring sixteen dropper-style bottles of paint at 17ml each. Formulated for models and miniatures, it will give excellent adherence on all surfaces, but especially plastics and metals.

Usage and technical details

All paints are non-toxic, water-based acrylics. They are formulated with permanent pigments, and promise smooth, uniform consistency and flow, with no visible brushstrokes.

Best features

Coming from a long-term paint and color manufacturer, you can expect good quality and consistent product application. The set features standard paint colors, in all the primary colors or variations of them, and also three metallic colors, representing a good cross-section of Vallejo’s catalog of 218 paint colors.

PROS:
  • Highly rated overall, and Amazon choice, and also well-rated for beginners, for ease of use, and value
  • Highly experienced manufacturer
CONS:
  • No accessories such as brushes included
  • Some customers mention specific colors as too thin inconsistency

Conclusion

These paints are specified as highly suitable for model painting, as well as miniatures and figurines. Vallejo is a recognized manufacturer and has provided quality products since the 1990s to painters. With a special formulation to increase adherence, these paints make a perfect match to model painting.

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5. Game Color Intro Set – Best Miniature Paint for Beginners

General impression

This is our final entry from Vallejo and is an introductory package for beginners in the world of miniatures. This assembly of colors is perfect for war games or fantasy miniatures and figurines. They are also an Amazon choice, coming with sixteen primary colors, more than enough to welcome a beginner to the miniature painting world.

Usage and technical details

This set contains 16x17ml eyedropper-style bottles of paint, covering most of the primary color array. All paints are non-toxic, water-based acrylics. Designed for wargaming miniatures, they are also suitable for other types of models and figurines.

Best features

Coming from a quality, experienced manufacturer, this basic set contains all the colors you need to get started painting miniatures. The color selection is broad enough that you could use it as a stand-alone kit, make additional colors by blending primary colors together, or supplement it by purchasing other Vallejo starter or master sets.

PROS:
  • Highly rated Amazon choice product also recognized for value and presentation
  • The manufacturer has been in the color business since 1965
CONS:
  • Some users cite difficulty in mixing paints if they separate

Conclusion

This is a perfect starter set for someone new to the miniature painting arena. You get all the basic colors, and this set opens the door to a catalog of over two hundred different colors from Vallejo. As an intro set, it would be nice to include a brush with the kit, but it is still a great value for a beginner.

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Buyer’s guide

In this part of the review, we will present some key terms, specifications, and features from the world of paints for miniatures or models. This extra knowledge should help you to make a better, more informed buying decision, and get good value for your purchase. If you have more specific questions, you can visit the manufacturer’s website or other online resources.

Licensed Kits

Licensed Kits

Some of the kits here mention specific licenses for war game miniatures, such as Citadel and Warhammer. In most cases, you will find painting guides specifically linking a given color of paint to a miniature. There is no requirement to follow the licensor’s guidelines, but if you favor authenticity, a licensed paint kit might be appropriate for you. Following these painting guidelines, of course, means you will most likely be buying paint from that licensor.

Paint Containers

Paint Containers

Air is the enemy of paint, and the type of paint container you choose could impact the life of the paint. While larger-opening bottles may make it easier to remove paint for blending or dilution, they also allow a greater surface area for air to contact the paint and dry it out. We recommend the eyedropper style bottles, where the only air contact will be in a small area through the nozzle of the bottle. The paint below the nozzle should stay fresh for an extended period. These bottles are also extremely efficient for dosing out small amounts of paint for thinning or blending.

Adherence

Adherence

Adherence refers to the ability of the paint to stick or adhere to the surface of the miniature or model. You’ll note that many of the paints in this review mention being formulated for plastics or metals, and some claim superior adherence to all materials. Good surface preparation is key to attaining strong adherence properties. Surface preparation is discussed in more detail below.

Pigments

Pigments

Pigments are powdered materials that are mixed with a liquid base (water for most of the paints in this review) and binders (to maintain the solution) to obtain the desired color. If you’ve ever purchased paint at a big-box store, you’ve seen them add three or four different pigments to the base paint to get the desired color. Pigments are typically metallic based, but some newer pigments are organically produced.

Supplies

Supplies

In addition to the paints reviewed here, newcomers to miniature painting should also be aware of additional supplies necessary to fully enjoy this hobby. First and foremost are a wide variety of brushes, from wider ones for the base coating to smaller ones for detailed lines and shading. Primer paint is normally used to put a base coat on the figurine; then, the detailed colors are applied on top of that. Sealer spray should be used to protect the final product, especially if the figurines are expected to be handled regularly. A good sealer will make the paint last longer. Sealers are not so important on figurines and models that will go into display cases and not be handled, but they will still help protect the miniature against fading from exposure to light. Finally, we also recommend a dedicated work area, if possible, with very good lighting. Without adequate lighting, it will be very difficult to identify and correctly paint the miniatures with the detail you desire.

Oil-based vs. Water-based Paints

Oil-based vs. Water-based Paints

As we noted above, paint is a liquid base mixed with binders and various pigments. This liquid base will normally be either water-based or oil-based. Each has advantages and disadvantages, so ultimately, the choice will come down to user preference. Water-based paints are easier to dilute, clean up easier and faster with only soap and water, and tend to dry quicker. Oil-based paints may exhibit more durability, but require special thinners for dilution and solvents for cleanup. They dry more slowly and may be applied in thicker coats, sometimes leaving unwanted textures.

Paint vs. Wash

Paint vs. Wash

We’ve talked enough about paints in this section that no further explanations are necessary. We have not, however, looked into the color washes offered in some of these paint sets. A wash is a very dilute paint, used to create accents, color tinges, and highlights as a topcoat to other colors. For example, on a black jacket, a gray wash could be used on spots of the jacket to indicate age or wear. It could also be used near seams and crevices to replicate the effect of shadows. Using a wash is a good technique for painters at all levels of experience to master, as it really makes the detail and authenticity stand out. You’ll see further discussion on washes in the Frequently Asked Questions below.

Application Methods

Application Methods

While painting miniatures by brush are far and away, the most common approach, there are other techniques also. Paints are available in paint sticks or markers, which can be used in base-coating applications, and other larger area applications. They are really not suitable for detail work. Similarly, spray cans of paint can be used in the same way, then painted over by brush to obtain the appropriate level of detail. Some painters will also use airbrush equipment. This involves spraying the paint, but, unlike the spray can, uses a very small nozzle that can work in small, detailed areas. Airbrushing requires very dilute paint, so it will flow through the small lines and, therefore, will take multiple coats to get the proper effect. It is capable of replicating the work with a brush with time savings. Complete airbrush kits are available for purchase in many places, but they can become a little on the pricy side.

Surface Preparation

Surface Preparation

Most miniature figurines are going to be produced in a mold press. Here, blocks of steel or other materials have a carved cavity in the shape of the figurine or miniature. Depending on the material of construction, this cavity is then filled with either metal or plastic, and the mold is closed. It’s then subjected to heat and pressure to get the finished miniature. In many cases, to make it easier to get the figurine out of the mold, the inside is treated with a mold release agent. Some of this agent will adhere to the miniature, and without treatment, the pain will have difficulty adhering to the surface of the model. It may also cause unwanted technical effects like orange peeling or streaking. Fortunately, surface preparation is quite simple. All that is necessary is to wash to miniature in a soap and water solution, then rinse and let it dry completely. At that point, paint adherence should not be an issue. There are also commercial treatments available.

FAQ

1) How long does it take to paint a miniature?

Obviously, this answer will vary tremendously based on how the task is approached. If you have twenty of the same figurines and finish one color across all twenty, then go back and do another color on the first one, etc. you will gain considerable efficiency. Conversely, if you only have one miniature and have to wait for prior coats and colors to dry, it can take quite a long time. The best answer I’ve heard to this question is “longer than it takes to paint my living room.” Reviewer comments give answers from an hour to a week.

2) How many paints do you use for your miniature?

This question also has a lot of different answers. One manufacturer offers over two hundred different colors. The same manufacturer also offers basic sets with sixteen colors. Obviously, costs will be different. You can buy a base set and use it as it, or get a little variety by mixing base colors, using washes, and other techniques to add variety to your miniature. You can do the same thing easier with individualized colors, but as noted, your cost will be more. We recommend starting with a base set, and supplementing it with additional colors as you gain skill and experience.

3) How to thin paints for miniatures?

Thinning paints is quite simple if you are using water-based paints. Put paint on your palette, add a couple of drops of water, and mix. The consistency can be adjusted by adding more paint or water. Thinner paints will flow more evenly on your miniature, leaving behind fewer brush marks. The downside to using thinned paints is that multiple coats will likely be needed.

4) What are the steps to painting miniatures?

The highlights of this question were drawn from the website creativetwilight.com, with a little further explanation added. In addition to this question, the site has extensive information on painting miniatures that could benefit beginners and experienced painters alike.

  • 1. Remove the miniature from the sprue. The sprue is the web-like plastic that has held the pieces together during the molding process. Some one-piece miniatures will not have a sprue.
  • 2. Assemble the miniature. Again, some one-piece miniatures will not require this step.
  • 3. Clean the mold lines and seams. This step will clean off any extra metal or plastic flashing leftover from the molding process and add realism to the finished product, as you will have eliminated any artificial lines.
  • 4. Glue the model to the base. This eliminates the need to handle it during painting, and to provide a base for future use or display.
  • 5. Prime the miniature. Use a quality primer to improve adherence of subsequent coats.
  • 6. Apply paint base coat. This will be your first layer of colors, applied over the primed miniature.
  • 7. Add additional layers for shading and highlights (washes, glazes, etc.).
  • 8. Paint the base.
  • 9. Seal the model. Sealing the miniature will provide added protection to the paint, especially if the miniature will be handled excessively.

The video link below will also provide you tips and techniques on painting miniatures:


5) What kind of brushes should I use?

Brushes come in a vast combination of sizes and materials, and can usually be purchased in either round or flat configurations. While there is a formal scale for brushes, there is enough variation from one supplier to the next that makes it best to look at them and make your choices. Most experts will recommend that you have a larger brush for priming and base coating, a 000 – 5/0 size for small areas, and a 10/0 – 20/0 size for the finest areas of detail. The picture below will give you some idea about the sizing scale, and the comparative sizes from one brush to the next on the scale.

acrylic brushes sizes

6) Is there a best brand of miniature paints when it comes to competition quality?

As with just about any product, the conflict between one over another goes on and on. Coke vs. Pepsi. Ford vs. Chevrolet. Each individual painter will have his own preferences for the brand of paint used. In our research, there really is no one “best: brand. We recommend that the user experiment with a variety of different paints. Individual jars can be purchased at a low cost until your preference is established. Look for key features such as level of opaqueness, color consistency from batch to batch, general ease of application, and yes – as you might expect – cost.

7) What is dry brushing miniatures?

Dry brushing is a method of highlighting certain areas of your miniatures. It’s accomplished by accentuating the specific spots you want to highlight by applying a very light coat of paint, slightly lighter in color than the base coat. As a technique, you load your brush, then wipe almost all the paint off it before applying to the miniature – hence the term dry brushing.

8) What is a wash in painting miniatures?

A wash is another application technique to highlight specific areas on your miniature. Look at the base coat in the area you want to emphasize and pick a color slightly darker than the base coat. Dilute your color until it is about the liquid consistency of milk. You can also buy pre-diluted paints to be used for washes; the first item in our comparison table above is a good example of that. If you are using water-based paints, this dilution step will be with water. Gently brush the paint across your miniature, and it should flow into all the crevices and folds of the model. You can add more paint if it does not come out as dark as you like. Washing is a good technique to show a shadow effect by darkening specific areas on the miniature.

8) How do you paint miniatures well?

The same way a musician gets to Carnegie Hall – practice, practice, practice. There are several instructional books in the marketplace, which will help you understand the overall concepts, brush choices, and various techniques in painting miniatures. Still, realistically, the only way you will get better at it is to have a brush in your hand and paint them. You can start with simpler pieces, using basic colors, and eventually move your way up to the more complicated and ornate miniatures, with a wide variety of colors and techniques.

8) How do you remove paint from miniatures?

Occasionally, you’ll have a need to remove paint from your miniature figurines. This might because you just made a mess of it while painting, or maybe you’re going back and re-doing some of the miniatures you painted as a novice. In either case, it is possible to strip off the old paint and start again. The overall process is quite simple – soaking and stripping. The miniature should be soaked in a liquid that will loosen the paint. Many reviewers recommend using the original scent and color Pine-Sol for this purpose. Soak the miniature for a day or so, then use a stiff bristle toothbrush to scrub the paint away. If thicker coats of paint had been applied, you might have to repeat this procedure once or twice. Make sure you work in a well-ventilated area, and it would not hurt to wear latex gloves to protect your hands.

Conclusion

If you want a truly escapist hobby, painting miniatures might be exactly the right entertainment for you. It requires exacting concentration, attention to detail, patience, and maybe even solitude. At a minimum, you will have several examples of your talent to put on display in your residence. At the next level, you may have large numbers of miniatures to use in various war games and fantasy games. You can even turn painting miniatures into an income. Take a look at the miniature below, which is for sale on a popular selling site for $45.

figure

If you think this is a hobby that might interest you, we’ve presented five of the best paint sets for painting miniatures, models, and figurines. Start with a basic set, see how you like it, and then expand your paint inventory as you see fit.

We hope this summary has been helpful to you and given you some tips and knowledge to help you launch your new hobby.

Maria
Maria
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