There are all kinds of paints, some cheap, some more expensive. Considering the amount of time it takes to paint a miniature and how little paint is actually used, it just does not make sense to use inferior or cheap paint. While just about any type of paint will work for painting miniatures, most miniature artists prefer acrylic based paints. Acrylic paints are non-toxic, odorless and quick drying - all qualities desired by a miniature painter. There is nothing, however, worse than cheap acrylic paint - so get the good stuff. High quality acrylic paint from the art shop can be used, though acrylic paint designed for miniature painting that is in a dropper bottle is best. Of these, the most common and readily available paints are those made by Vallejo, Army Painter, Citadel and Reaper. I  used to use and favor Reaper paints but as I become more experienced my opinion changed and I now consider the Vallejo Model Colors as the highest quality paint available which handles well with any and all painting techniques. Please keep reading to hear specifics on each paint.


Reaper Master Series Paints

Reaper paints have a lot of colors and a lot of shades. The paints are available in Triad's of base tone, dark tone and highlight tone. However, the tone's are not distinguished enough to actually work as shadow, base and highlight and some tones are so close you don't really end up with as many colors as it first appears. Also, tones are not the ideal way to shade. For instance, red in the shade looks brown, not a darker shade of red, thus an appropriate shade of brown will shadow red the most successfully. (For this reason hunters stopped wearing red clothes, which did stick out in the sunlight, but in the shadows of the woods, hunters wearing read looked brown and got shot by their hunting buddies.) I really consider the Triad system of reaper useless. However, they have many wonderful colors that appeal to all painters. The real problem with reaper paints is their formulation. Pigment density is poor. What that means is that you get less actual paint in the bottle. Miniature paints are generally thinned with some thinner or water or artists favorite formula before application. When the pigment density is low, as it is with Reaper, mixing options become limited as the paint is quickly thinned to such a degree that several coats may be required to coat the figure. A further issue with Reaper paints is that they are formulated with to much of something that is not a binder. What that means is that if you thin the paint with water the pigment separates due to lack of binder and the paint become chalky and also may crack to look like a dry lake bed. The end result of the low pigment density and low binder quantity is that reaper paints never offer the best handling for any particular painting techniques. I find that using Vallejo Model Color Thinner works great to make Reaper paints not have the problem of chalkiness and cracking. Another problem with the paint formulation is that the pigment is much lighter then the other agents mixed into the formula. The result of this is that if you let your paints sit for too long, the pigment rises to the top and clogs the tip. In fact, if you don't paint for 2 years because you fell in love with a Jehovah's witness and so trying to redeem yourself and taking a sabbatical from completing your succubus collection,  by the time you get back to your beloved hobby, there will be so much paint pigment at the top of the bottle that you have to hand mix it back into a painting consistency. Not even a vortex mixer will stir it up at that point. The paint bottles themselves have poor quality labels that quickly fade and tear away. The Reaper washes don't cut it either. The issue with the washes is that the pigment is heavier than the wash medium used. The result of that is after you wash the miniature, as the wash is drying, the pigment rises to the top of that little puddle in that little low spot on your mini and you get a scurf line where the darkest part of the wash is not at the bottom, but a little higher. Looks just like your bathtub after a weekend of working on your classic car restoration. With that said, there are a couple things I very much like about Reaper paints:

Metallics, they have great Metallics that are as good as any of the best Metallics out there and there are many nice colors. So I still like to use their metallics.

Flow Improver: I love Reaper's flow improver for helping flow with any and all paint brands. It just works better than typical acrylic flow improvers or soap based flow improvers and makes painting those tiny things like eyeballs so much easier.

All of Reapers Paints can be seen at Reaper's website. While you can purchase Reaper paints at the Reaper website, my favorite place on account of the lowest prices, free shipping at low volumes and great service is Miniature Giant (They do have a referral program so if you do purchase from Miniature Giant, please submit my user name "Ernst" with your order so both YOU and I will get credit on anything we buy for the next 6 months!).


Vallejo Model Colors

I really love Vallejo Model Colors. The pigment density is insanely high and the pigment is very, very finely ground which provides smoother coverage and allows for better handling with any and all painting techniques. The pigment density is so high that you can cut the paint in half with a quality thinner and still paint better than with reaper  paints out of the bottle. You are literally getting twice as much paint as other bottles of that size by other makers. And, you can use it right out of the bottle for smooth one coat base coats if you are the kind of painter who likes to get away with just one coat of paint instead of building up layers. The high pigment density and quality binder allows you to thin the paint and use it with whatever painting technique you like with excellent results. The one minor issue of the paint is that if you make a blunder, say you are doing the eyes and you mess up and need to paint the skin color back on the face and try again, you have to make sure the face is at the right drying consistency. There is a point in the drying of the Vallejo paints where if you paint over them, they will peal. So you have to paint over a color when that color is still fresh, or when its dry, not in between. You will do this once and then learn and never do it again. Its a minor issue.

I don't love the Vallejo Model Color metallics. They are too thick to handle well and yet, don't cover very well. I prefer Reaper and Army Painter metallics.

Vallejo Model Colors pigment is heavier than the binder. So if you don't paint for a long while the pigment will sink to the bottom and the binder will rise to the top. If you don't mix well, just binder will come out of the dropper. Its normal for paint to separate when not being used and how the Vallejo separates is much better than how the reaper separates as mentioned above. If you loose some binder this way, just mix in some Vallejo Thinner or some slo-dry, etc.

Vallejo washes have heavier pigment than is the medium which is critical for a good wash, however, they don't wash around as well on the figure as Army Painter washes. They are better than Reaper washes but I prefer the Army Painter washes.

Vallejo Model Colors have a fair arrangement of colors and as they were originally designed for painting military models with period and army correct colors, so they have a lot of military colors, which means greens and dark olives. I bought ALL those colors, and really, I have way to many greens now that are very close to each other.

Vallejo Model Colors are said to not be very durable. However, when I tested durability as compared to reaper paints, I found it to be the same. Vallejo also makes a line of paints called Vallejo Game Colors. These come in many vibrant colors and are designed to be very tough for figures that will be regularly handled and occasionally ran over by a D20. The pigment density and fineness of the pigment grind of these paints is not as good as that of the Vallejo Model Colors so they don't handle most excellently for all painting techniques and are best used for painting to gaming standards rather than trying to reach your artistic high.

Vallejo Paints are not as available as are Reaper or Army Painter paints and I recommend that you purchase them from Valiant Enterprises. Valiant Enterprises is a wonderful company that started producing large scale figures in the late 60s. Starting in the 90s, Valiant Enterprises started to cast figures for other makers of miniatures and they pioneered resin casting for the miniature industry. They cast for numerous Kickstarter campaigns and figures for many other makers. If it was not for them, there would be a lot less miniatures to choose from as setting up casting facilities is to much for many miniature makers to want to deal with and so without Valiant, so many people would have  never gotten their miniatures into production. There is a very good chance that many of the miniatures you are painting that are from the late 90s onward were cast by Valiant. Its a company that has really furthered our hobby so I like to purchase Vallejo paints from them.


Army Painter Paints

Army Painter Paints is the latest paint brand I started to use after I heard about their washes. I just love their washes. They did with their washes what I spent years trying to formulate and was never able to. I noticed that with all the washes I tried that the pigment in the wash was lighter than the medium. So as the wash dried on the figure, the medium would rise to the top and leave a scurf line and so the darkest part of the wash was not the lowest spot, but a circle around that spot. I thought,  hmm, if i can find a wash base that is lighter than the pigment, the darkest spot will actually be at the lowest point where it should be. I tried many mediums to achieve this and never found the right thing. The best results were with egg whites - yes, I was desperate and so tried this medieval age paint medium. Army Painter figured it out. Their washes work, the only washes that REALLY work to shadow a figure the way you expect it to. Not only does the wash dry with no scurf ring, but as its drying you can push the wash around a bit and do an even better job of shading. I have not seen any other wash allow for this in this way. Army painter washes have made painting miniatures so much faster, especially when I am cranking out gaming standard paint jobs.

Army painter metallics are wonderful as well. Many good metallic colors that handle great. Good coverage and good flow.

The color paints themselves have a wide array of fun colors, though a darker walnut or chocolate brown color is missing. I very much like to use the paints especially on gaming standard figures as the consistency out of the bottle is very good for fast base coats and the paints dry bush very, very well. They also blend well for achieving higher artistic standards. They have the nicest bottles, with different color caps for washes, paints, and metallics and very nice and importantly, durable labels that actually show the color accurately on the label. The only drawback to Army Painter color paints is that they are very thick and hard to mix, they use a VERY thick medium, which, however blends very well and creates a nice smooth surface. You cannot mix them successfully with hand shaking, at least not with spending as much time shaking as painting, so its best to get a vortex mixer to mix them. You can't get a cheap vortex mixer to do the job with these thick paints. You need a high powered one that will cost around 100.00 plus, the cheaper ones will not mix your army painter paints. The one I use is the LabGenius HS120598DS Mini Vortex Mixer Advanced. It barely cuts it when it comes to mixing army painter paints, its the only small mixer that will do the job on Army Painter. The other model made by lab genius which is smaller will not cut it, or rather, will not mix it. Another good one that is even more powerful is but over twice as large and three times heavier is the Four E's Scientific Laboratory Vortex Mixer (These are Amazon affiliate links and so I thank you for the kickback if you choose to purchase one of these vortex mixers.) Vortex mixers are great to have to mix any type of paint as no paint mixes really great by manual shaking unless you are lucky enough to be able to paint regularly with no long term interruptions and thus keep them well used and well mixed. When not mixed properly, Army Painter paints pigment will sink to the bottom and you will get a very thinly pigmented paint coming out of the bottle that will not cover well at all. Army Painter paints do not have the pigment density of Vallejo Model colors but the pigment is ground fine and very smooth, so they are a joy to paint with, but you can't thin to the degree that you can the Vallejo paints and you are not getting as much usable paint in the bottle as with the Vallejo. The durability seems to be on a par with Vallejo Model Color and Reaper.


Organizing Your Paints

To work effectively an organized work space is critical. You want a place that is large enough and organized and you want that place set up so that you can easily clean the area. Dust builds up and lands on your mini to ruin a nice paintjob and so the area needs to be kept clean and dust free. The last thing you want is a place with 100 bottles of  paint, 8 brushes, some pallets, CD's, books, etc. laying all over the place along with a bunch of other stuff that makes it take an hour to move everything and clear out the dust. All you want is five things on your work table: a holder for your paints; a holder for your brushes; a jar of water, a pallet, and a holder for the miniatures that you are working on.

People often ask how to organize their paints. What I have done is taken 2 x 4 boards and drilled three rows of 1 inch diameter holes. The top row is drilled 1/2 inch deep, the middle row is drilled 3/4 inch deep and the bottom row is drilled 1 inch deep as per the picture below.

 The boards can be arranged as desired on your work space. I put one behind the other and raise the boards so that I can see all the paints easily.


Quick, Easy and Organized, just like I like it, so if you have access to a drill press this is a nice option. If you can find synthetic decking in 2x4 dimension it will make an even nicer paint rack as the synthetic wood has less friction than wood and the paints will come in and out of the holes with greater smoothness.