One of the questions I see from time to time is which brand of miniature paint is the best between the half-dozen or so big brands in the paint business. A lot of people have their own opinions, and people will throw around names like Vallejo, Citadel, P3, and Warcolours. Ask that question in a painting group on facebook, and it’s like throwing a steak in front of a bunch of hungry dogs. Everyone is going to volunteer their favourite brand, and they’re all correct, for themselves.
Here’s the thing: while some people find the slight differences in formulation to matter, and others may have brand loyalty or enough OCD that they can’t stand the sight of two different brands of paint on their paint rack, for most of us, it doesn’t really matter. All the big brands out there that I’ve tried are pretty good, pretty similar, and aside from Citadel which is always a little more expensive for a little smaller pot, are more or less the same value. Just pick up something that is not too hard to get your hands on, and which you don’t hate the delivery method. That is, something that doesn’t come in horrible pots. For my money, Reaper MSP fits that bill nicely, but your mileage may vary.
That said, I feel like one should always experiment, and that there are some brands out there that have a few gems that are worth picking up, even if it’s not your usual brand and will look out of place on your rack due to having a slightly different shaped bottle than your Vallejos.
Vallejo Metal Color
Speaking of Vallejo, their metal colour paints are hands down better than any acrylic paint on the market. Formulated for airbrush use, they can also be brushed on as well. With finely ground pigments so they go through the airbrush, they are basically drop and shoot and also give a very nice, smooth finish. With the brush, they have great coverage with a very thin coat. The only problem is they have something like 16 different shades of silver and one gold and copper. This is kind of disappointing for anyone who paints fantasy subjects, as we need different shades of gold to do true metallic metals or to just represent different shades of gold, brass and bronze. Further, unless you’re the sort of hardcore scale model aircraft builder who can tell the difference between aluminum, titanium and duraluminum (and knows which one is correct for the inside of the landing gear doors on a late-war Me 109G-6), you probably don’t need to pick up the whole line. The Gunmetal Grey is one of the darkest colours in the range and is a good starting point for a lot of true metallic metal techniques, so pick that up as well as a midtone and bright silver and that will probably be good enough.
P3 – Metals and paints
Unfortunately, there are two small issues with Vallejo Metal Color which prevent me from using them all the time. Since it doesn’t come in many shades of gold and is a little thin for some applications, I like to have a second metal paint as a backup. For this, I go for P3. They have a decent range of metallic paints, and their Molten Bronze and Rhulic gold are excellent rich golds.
But that’s not all; there are a few really nice colours in the P3 line that regularly make it into my repertoire. Gravedigger Denim and Frostbite are my go-to paints for highlighting black, and Coal Black is a greenish bluish blackish colour that has a lot of applications and is a very useful addition to your collection.
The one problem, of course, is their paint pots. I would love it if PP would do a CID on their paint pots, because pots are unpaintable trash and dropper bottles are OP.
Citadel Shades & Technical Paints
When I started this article, what did you expect? These shades are so popular among miniature painters that they’re regularly referred to as “talent in a bottle.” While I wouldn’t quite go as far as saying they are idiot-proof or a suitable replacement for talent, they are an amazingly useful product. It’s hard to describe, but whether it’s the pigment density or the surface tension, they just go on right. Nuln Oil is my most used, though a lot of people like Agrax Earthshade. Also, it may sound strange, but Druchii Violet is the perfect shade for brass and gold bits.
Citadel also makes a line of technical paints, some of which which are very useful for specific effects. I wouldn’t necessarily go for their texture paints as that seems like the most expensive way to base your models and could be easily replaced with various textured artist mediums, but the others are good for specific uses. Typhus Corrosion is good for a quick addition of general grime, and Nihilakh Oxide is good for doing a corroded copper verdigris effect. Finally, Blood for the Blood God is a great way to make realistic blood, but be warned – it is very red, which is suitable for fresh blood, but not so great for dried blood. As a result, it’s better on something like the dagger of an assassin who just ganked a dude than an orc or skeleton who is too stupid to wash his blade after stabbing people.
Badger Stynylrez Primer
If you’re airbrushing your primer, this is your go-to. It’s just drop and shoot, can be brushed on as well, and comes in many different colours. Be warned, however, that some people have reported issues with primer freezing in transit, and while Badger is taking care of it with their usual excellent customer service, it is something to be aware of. So if you live in Canada like I do and don’t have a local supplier, it’s probably a good idea to stock up in summer.
Reaper Brush-On Primer
Sometimes you need to brush on primer or do a little touchup, and for this, I trust Reaper’s Brush-On Primer. Since Reaper started out with metal figures, their primer is presumably formulated to work well on metal. I’ve never had a problem with this primer on metal, unlike certain others (Vallejo, I’m looking in your direction…). And while I’m on the subject of Reaper, their Punk Rock Pink is just a wonderful colour, and has found it’s way into my army because the only thing better than kicking someone’s face in is kicking someone’s face in while wearing pink.
When it comes to miniature paints, there isn’t really a “best brand.” Some people may find a best brand for themselves, but even for those people, there are probably a few paints that are good enough that they are worth going out of brand for. There is really no harm in experimenting. And while you’re at it, don’t just limit yourself to hobby paints, sometimes the art store has some good products as well.