Man up and go to the makeup aisle

Sometimes you can find hobby stuff in the most interesting places. Lids from bottles of Tropicana orange juice make great bases for fantasy figures, a sandwich container and some baking parchment makes for a great wet palette, and with a little bit of creativity, just about anything can be either terrain or basing material.

But, one place that is often overlooked by a lot of hobbyists is the makeup aisle. Given the, shall we say, “demographic profile” of a lot of modellers and wargamers, that may not be too much of a surprise. But, if you keep an open mind and are confident enough in your sexuality that you don’t mind using a paint brush with a pink handle, there is actually a surprising amount of useful stuff there.

Organizing your paints

If you’re anything like me, you have a lot of hobby paints. And you are slightly obsessive compulsive when it comes to keeping your workbench organized, needing everything to have a place and everything to be in its place. Fortunately, us modellers and miniature painters aren’t the only ones who collect large amounts of brightly coloured paints in small bottles.


Nail polish bottles are about the same size as most paint pots, and some people have as many of those as we have paints. As such, there are plenty of storage solutions to keep them organized and accessible. If you simply google “nail polish rack” and shop around a little online, you can find a lot of ready-made storage solutions that are perfect for hobby paints. Because they target a larger audience than the hobby community, these are often cheaper and a little nicer than some of the stuff targeted at us. Further, because not all nail polish bottles are the same, these are well-designed to efficiently hold many different kinds of bottles, from tall and skinny dropper bottles to short, squat Citadel pots, to bigger 30mL bottles in  way that allows you to get more paints per square foot than some of the laser cut MDF alternatives that have holes for each paint.


No, I do not have too many paints.

Makeup Brushes – the best dry brushes

When it comes to dry brushing, a lot of us just use any sort of beater brush, often something that used to be an actual mainline brush but has since become too frayed or damaged for regular use. However, the best dry brushes have a few characteristics. First, they are nice and soft, which allows you to slowly build up the colour and reduces that dry brushed look that we all know and don’t love. Second, they should come in useful shapes like flat and filbert brushes. Finally, they should be cheap because you will wreck them, so it’s not a good idea to get too attached.

Enter makeup brushes. You can get them at the dollar store, or buy them in bulk online. They come in all kinds of useful shapes and sizes, and if you go to the right source, they’re super cheap. They’re also nice and soft, because apparently women don’t like to poke themselves around the eyes with stiff, hard brushes. Because of these properties, they are also good for applying dry pigments to models for weathering and such.

Believe it or not, brushes that women use to dry brush pigments onto their face are good for dry brushing paint and pigments onto models. Who knew?


Also, a big, soft makeup brush is great for dusting off your models without damaging the finish, so if you’re bringing a model to a show or just want to dust off the stuff in your display case, a makeup brush is a handy thing to have.

Files and sanding sticks

Getting back to nail care, there are a lot of things used for doing one’s nails that can also be useful for models. If you look around, there is an assortment of files and sanding sticks which look remarkably similar to a lot of more expensive products from hobby shops.

For example, look at what I just found in the makeup aisle the other day. This is a sanding block for doing your nails. It’s got seven grits in one, starting with a rough grit for reshaping nails and progressing to finer and finer grits to smooth and polish your nails. While I haven’t had a chance to use it extensively yet, so far it is pretty great for sanding down seam lines and polishing out imperfections.



Not everything you need for models can be found at the hobby shop. Sometimes, you can find great things in the strangest places. The makeup aisle at a dollar store is one of those places, with all kinds of files, sanding sticks, organizers, and brushes that have all sorts of modelling applications.

Also, is it just me, or does the Tamiya weathering master kit look a lot like rebranded makeup?




These are a few of my favourite paints…

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

Image result for vallejo metal colorSpeaking 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

Image result for p3 frostbiteUnfortunately, 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

Image result for badger stynylrezIf 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.

ThINKing outside the box — acrylic artist inks

Sometimes, when it comes to finding hobby supplies, it’s best to go outside the hobby store or the FLGS and look outside the box a little. Art stores in particular can have a wealth of useful products because, if ancient cave paintings in France and Indonesia are any indication, artists have been at this for a while, much longer than us hobbyists.

IMG_2275One of the more recent additions to my hobby arsenal has been the acrylic artist inks made by companies like Holbien or Daler- Rowney, which would likely be available at just about any store which caters to the artsy types.

Both the Holbien and Daler-Rowney FW inks come in glass bottles, approximately 30mL, and are about $10 or so at the art store I frequent. The bottles are very short and squat, so there is little to no danger of spilling them, and the cap has a built-in eyedropper to transfer the inks onto your palette. While the glass in the bottles seems pretty thick and resilient, I would recommend a tight grip when you are shaking them for obvious reasons. The downside is that they are much heavier and bulkier than your average Vallejo-style dropper bottle, so they can be a little annoying to store and transport, especially if you’re someone like me who gets very particular about keeping his hobby supplies organized in an efficient manner. Overall, though, as someone who very strongly prefers the dropper bottles to paint pots, I really like the little eyedropper in the cap and have no major complaints about the packaging.

Inside the bottle, these inks are fairly similar in composition to acrylic paints, except they have a very thin, almost water-like consistency, and a very high pigment density. Daler-Rowney has about 40 different colours in their line, and Holbien has a few dozen more, though with the Holbiens, you will want to be careful that you’re getting the pigment-based ink and not the dye-based stuff. As you can see just by looking at the bottles, some of these colours are extremely bright and vibrant. The intended use for these products is seems to be calligraphy and other forms of 2D art, as the labels on the Daler-Rowney FW inks indicate that they can be used with a variety of different types of pens in addition to a brush or airbrush, however they will work well on miniatures and play nice with your standard hobby acrylic paints.

Anyways, there are a couple of uses that I’ve found for them so far. In addition to using them for glazing and inking your miniatures, they can also be used to help you paint difficult colours like yellow, orange and white.

Thin your paints!

Our average hobby acrylic paint such as Vallejo or P3 consists of a bunch of pigments floating around in some sort of acrylic medium. It’s why you need to shake your paints before you use them, to mix up and emulsify any pigments which have settled out. These paints tend to be not completely opaque, which is actually a good quality if you’re using techniques like glazes and preshading. However, because of the nature of the pigments, some colours tend to have more or less coverage than others. Black can cover pretty much everything up with just one thin coat, whereas yellow and white, with naturally weaker pigments, just don’t have the same opacity.

As a result, trying to create a smooth, opaque base coat with a brush in a colour like yellow can be difficult. The paint just doesn’t cover well, especially if you have a dark colour paint or primer underneath. One way that newer painters sometimes respond to this frustration is to try to glob on a thick coat, but that brings in its own issues. Thick coats obscure detail and show brush strokes, and the uneven coverage from a thick coat just doesn’t give good results. It’s no surprise, then, that “thin your paints” is a meme-worthy piece of common advice given to new painters.

The proper way to do it is in multiple thin coats, however the challenge is that by adding water or some other medium to thin your paints, you end up reducing the pigment density. For a lot of colours, this isn’t really a problem as even thinned out, you can still get the coverage you need with one or two coats. But if you’re starting with a colour whose coverage is kind of iffy at the best of times like yellow and then reducing the pigment density even more, it is going to be hard to accomplish your goal of getting a smooth, clean coat.

This is where our artist inks come in. Because of their very thin consistency, they can be used instead of water as a thinning medium. And because they themselves are jam-packed with pigments and come in some very vibrant colours, you can get the paint consistency you want to lay down a smooth coat while maintaining the pigment density you need to get decent coverage. You will still probably need multiple thin coats, and I would still recommend an undercoat as an intermediate step in extreme situations like trying to paint yellow over black, but this is going to save you a lot of time and trouble and give you a much better result than either globbing on a thick coat or struggling against paint that just doesn’t cover what’s underneath.

Further, when you’re painting freehand, symbols and markings, thin paints and a good brush** are key. By thinning your paints with these inks, you can get them to the perfect consistency such that they will flow nicely off the tip of your brush, and still maintain the coverage you need to get the effect you want. Reaper paints thinned with a white ink was how I painted the bear paw on the front of my Grolar, and that seemed to turn out quite well.

Glazing with inks

These inks can also be used as a glaze to tint your miniatures. On my shelf of shame, I have a few thrall warriors that I’m using to try out different colours, because I figure zombies are notoriously not great at coordinating their sartorial choices. So, with them all assembled and primed using the zenithal*** technique, I figured they would make perfect subjects for an experiment on whether these inks might be good for the “sketch style” that has been all the rage for the past year or so.


Sketch style is an increasingly popular way of painting miniatures which has been heavily promoted recently by people like Matt DiPietro. With this technique, you start by zenithal priming, then add some black to the shadows and white to the highlights to create a value sketch on the model. Once you’ve got your values blocked in, you apply coloured glazes and inks using a sort of paint by numbers style technique in order to tint each area the colour you want. The underlying values end up showing through the glazes and inks, creating highlights and shadows without the need for advanced time-consuming techniques like blending and layering.

In the picture, you can see the result on a couple thralls, next to some of their companions who haven’t been inked yet. While I would say that I probably should have highlighted the whites a little more instead of just hitting it with the airbrush from above and calling it good enough, these inks did a marvelous job of colourizing the sketch, and you can see some clearly defined shadows and some bright highlights on the shoulder pads. If you use a lot of inks and glazes and that sort of thing in your painting, or you are interested in moving into sketch style, I would definitely consider picking up a bottle and trying it out.

Other Uses

With the vibrancy of some of these colours and the high pigment density, I would imagine these inks would also be very good for things like fire, lava, and other glow effects. A bright yellow in particular would probably go a long way in conveying the intensity of the heat and light being given off by a campfire, as well as blend the underlying colours of the flames together. For the more fantasy-oriented, between these two companies, there are enough different colours out there that you could do all sorts of cool magical flames.

Also, if the label is any indication, these inks should be able to be shot through an airbrush pretty easily. While I haven’t tried it yet, I would imagine with their very finely ground pigments and very thin consistency, you could probably just drop them in the cup and pull the trigger with no thinning or other additives required. I’m sure you can get some quite nice and interesting effects, especially on a preshaded miniature. Vince Venturella did a product review on the FW inks recently on his youtube channel and he goes into a few other uses as well.

Final thoughts

Acrylic artists inks may not be the sort of thing that you are likely to find at your local hobby or game store, but they are a useful addition to any hobbyist’s arsenal. I’ve been using them for a couple months now and although I have the feeling that I’m just at the tip of the iceberg so far when it comes to their many uses, I’ve found them to be quite the addition to my repertoire. So, for those of you who have used them before, how did you find them, and what sort of tips, tricks and techniques would you recommend?


**What constitutes a good brush and how to take care of one so it remains a good brush could be an entire article of its own, but suffice it to say that what you’re looking for is a big enough belly to hold paint (no, put that 10/0 down and back away slowly), a fine enough tip to get that paint where you want it, and bristles with the right amount of springiness to work with your style.

***Zenithal priming is a technique where you prime the whole model black, then with either an airbrush or a rattle can, hit it with some white or light grey primer from above, or from whatever direction your light source is coming from, giving you a quick preshade. Value sketching is similar, only you take it one step further by painting in deeper shadows and brighter highlights with black and white paint.