Choosing Paints for Miniatures.

        One piece of advice I would give to miniature painters is to investigate a variety of paint brands. Independent shops are good for this since they usually stock a number of brands.
        For basic colours such as black, white etc it is only prudent to buy them from the company that offers the best value. MP paints are my usual first choice for these. Their paints come in pots that are at least twice the volume of GW and for half the price. It is perfectly good paint so you would be a fool to pay effectively four times the price for something no better.
        The other advantage is uniqueness. Some ranges include colours that other brands do not. And some of those colours are very useful!

        Tamiya are a very widely available brand. I find some Tamiya colours have a tendency to go gloopy over time. The trick is to store the pots inverted. Top of my list of must have colours in Tamiya is “Nato Black”. This is so called because it is one of the three colours used for painting NATO camouflaged vehicles. Nato Black is actually a very dark grey and thus has many useful applications. Firstly it can be used to highlight true black. Many things in nature are not really true black so Nato Black can be used to paint these instead. It is great for hair or furs. Nato Black itself can be highlighted by Tamiya German Grey and Tamiya Dark Grey. Dark Grey is a good colour to paint the eyes of a figure if you do not intend to paint the iris and pupil separately. Drybrush a little Nato Black on the muzzle of a flamethrower for a sooty look. Nato Green and Nato Brown are also worth adding to your paint collection. Not surprisingly, the Tamiya range is very good for basic military or natural colours. Flat Earth is a useful colour for wooden gunstocks, fence posts, dried mud and so forth. They have some good bright colours too, notably their flat red. On the subject of reds, Tamiya Clear Red (aka “TCR”) deserves a special mention. This is a very useful transparent paint for blood effects. Most of my zombies (below) have some TCR on them. I have used Tamiya Clear Green for a few slime effects but more useful is another clear paint, Tamiya Smoke. Smoke is great for creating ichor and similar effects.

        Tamiya metallic have some useful colours too. Their Copper colour is nice, and complimented by their Dark Copper and Metalic Brown. Metallic Blue and Bronze are also interesting shades to have available. The most useful of the Tamiya metallic colours is Gunmetal. This is a dark metallic grey and as the name suggests, an excellent colour for painting firearms or the darker varieties of armour.
        Some of the Tamiya Paints are gloss, so be wary of this when buying. I prefer to stick to matt paints and simply varnish them if I want a gloss finish. Usually I use Tamiya Clear for the latter. I did used to use Gloss Blue or Gloss Brown for painting in eyes, but I suspect the effect is unnoticeable in 28mm figures. Tamiya Semi-Gloss Black has proved handy for painting some items.

        Miniature Paints are also known as “MP paints”. Neither name is particularly helpful when googling! These are a very nice range of paints, however. As mentioned above, MP supply their paints in larger volumes and at a lower price than many other manufacturers. It makes sense to use these for basic colours if you can get them. Their Black and White paints are also sold as more fluid “Black Primer” and “White Primer”. If you undercoat models by hand, or just touch up your spray undercoating these are quite useful. These more fluid paints are also handy for fine jobs such as painting in eyes. On the subject of undercoating, the acrylic spray paint from the autoshop works fine if you use it intelligently. I costs much less than the stuff sold in hobby shops and does the same job.
        The MP range has some pretty useful unique colours too!. Pale Flesh is a colour I have used a lot. I consider it too pale for most flesh but it is a nice colour for painting teeth and other off-white items. MP Pale Flesh is a great colour to highlight GW Bleached Bone and can provide a “warm” white highlight for many other jobs, perhaps applied as a thin semi-transparent glaze. Don't let the name given to a paint let it blind you to its potential uses. Pale Blue is another colour I use a lot, being ideal for blue police shirts. The MP range has a number of useful and interesting colours. MP Dark Green is a nice possible colour for Orks or Goblins. Canary Yellow, Golden Yellow and Orange are much stronger paints than many offerings in these shades.

        The MP range has some useful metallic colours. MP Chainmail is effectively the same as the old GW Boltgun Metal. It is a great colour for sword blades and armour. It can also be used to highlight darker shades such as Tamiya Gunmetal. MP Chainmail can in turn be highlighted by GW Chainmail and GW Mythril Silver. MP Blue Steel is a distinctive metallic blue with a nice mirror finish. It is lighter than Tamiya Metalic Blue and can therefore be used as a highlight. MP Bronze and Copper are different shades to the Tamiya Paints of the same names and worth having as well. The Copper shade is more subdued and less orange, which is useful for certain things. MP’s Gold paint is more particulate than some paints of this colour that I have. It is best used painted over a darker metallic shade, such as old GW Brazen Brass. It is an excellent colour to drybrush over another colour.

        My Vallejo paints divide into two ranges, the Vallejo Model Colour range (VMC) and the Vallejo Game Colour range (VGC). I don’t particularly like the dropper bottles and usually unplug the nozzles to dip my brush into the pot. The Model range has a wide range of military and natural colours. The first colours I brought were Brown Sand and Cork when attempting to paint the skin of a Mexican bandit. Particularly useful colours are Pale Greyblue, Pale Blue, Intermediate Blue and Oxford Blue. Intermediate Blue is actually a blue-grey. Oxford Blue is a nice basecolour for Space Wolves. I also used it as the basecolour for the Warlock Purple robes of my WH40K priests(below). Pale Greyblue is a good highlight for greys and as a colder off-white highlight. German Camouflage Brown is a useful dark shade. Japanese Uniform Yellow is a nice shade for zombie skin. VMC Gunmetal Grey is a dark grey metallic similar to the Tamiya but dries to a less mirrored, duller finish. VMC Gunmetal Blue is an interesting dark blue that is darker than Tamiya Metalic Blue and is worth trying.

        The Vallejo Game Range reproduces all the colours GW have dropped from their paint range over the years. Just a few years ago GW scrapped their entire existing paint range which hobbyists were relying on! GW have become infamous for treating their loyal fanbase with contempt in recent years and this was the final straw as far as I was concerned. That is why I do not buy GW paints anymore. The new range may be the greatest paints ever made, they can keep them. Rotting Flesh, Goblin Green, Graveyard Earth, Kommando Khaki, Vomit Brown, Bronzed Flesh, Bucolic Brown, Vermin Brown, Snakebite Leather, Vermin Brown and Bestial Brown -the old GW paint range had many useful colours. Luckily Vallejo Game Range is available. I will often use the old GW names for colours in this section since I am still using the old GW paints I do have. Mine still continue to serve and when they are used up I will replace them with VGC. VGC equivalents often have slightly different names.
        Dwarf Flesh is my default skin tone. Paint the cheeks and eye sockets with the darker Tanned Flesh, highlight the lighter bits with Elf Flesh. Dark Flesh is a nice red/brown colour nice for things other than flesh such as Adeptus Mechanicus robes, gun holsters and the like. Dwarf flesh, incidentally can be a useful colour for dried mud. Bleached Bone is another colour I use a lot. Blood Red, Red Gore and Scab Red are a useful triplet of colours. Brazen Brass is a useful dull red/brown metallic shade and can be used as a good basecoat for less opaque metallics. Tin Bitz can also be used as an underlayer for lighter metallics. A drybrushing or thin wash of Tin Bitz gives a quick tarnished or corrosion effect onto an object. I have already mentioned GW Chainmail and Mythril Silver. Mythril Silver can be thought of as your white for highlighting any metallics, not just silvers. A little GW Mythril mixed with any colour makes a metallic paint. I do not know if that is true for the VGC equivalent. Hammered Copper is a deep red and a useful compliment to the Copper shades mentioned already. VGC Metallic Medium can be mixed with colours to make a metallic. Painted over other colours it will often produce a Pearlescent effect.

        I first used Cote D’Arms paints when painting my Germans. Black-Green is a very useful colour for tattoos. Cote D’Arms offer some very interesting metallic paints including Metallic Green, Metallic Purple, Brass, Magic Metal (deep metallic red) and Metallic Blue. The Metallic Blue is between MP Blue Steel and Tamiya Metalic Blue so can be using in combination with them for interesting effects. Cote D’Arms Copper is a very rich, shiny orange colour and a useful compliment or highlight to the Copper colours already mentioned. Although the VGC range is supposed to mimic the old GW range I find their version of Flesh Wash a different shade to the original. Cote D’Arms Flesh wash may be closer. GW Flesh Wash was an important component in how I paint my Tyranids and I am not sure either of the substitutes will give the same effect. I am carefully husbanding my last supplies of GW Flesh Wash!

        P3 are another paint range worth investigating. Platinum, Molten Brown and Brass Balls are useful compliments to the metallic colours already mentioned. I only have a couple of their non-metallic colours but these are some interesting shades.

        Last, but by no means least we have the Wargames Foundry Paint Colours. These are by no means the cheapest paints out there if brought individually. If you can afford it buy one of the sets, which come with some useful brushes and some even come with figures to paint. WGF are good paints. They are very opaque, often only needing one coat. My painting style tends to exploit semi-opaque coats over a shaded undercoat so if anything I have to be careful with WGF paints to not put too opaque a coat on! Problem shades such as yellows may still need to apply more than one coats or need special basecoating. Usefully the WGF paints are packaged in triplets, making it easy to select shade and highlight. Don’t be afraid to mix and match however, or combine them with colours from other companies. Foundry do a special kit of flesh tones, and some of these shades are useful for painting items other than skin. Tomb Blue and similar shades are useful for painting jeans and other denim items. WGF’s metallic shades are useful since many of them cover with just a single coat, making them useful when painting in small items like buckles or jewelry. Shiny-Gold-Brazen and the three Burning Gold shades get used a lot. Burnished Copper has two shades close to Tin Bitz and a light pale copper shade, different to the other coppers already mentioned.

        All of the paints we have discussed so far have been acrylics. When I was young acrylic paints were something of a novelty and all of my painting was done in enamel. Took ages!
        Painting with enamels is rare for miniatures these days but I still use an enamel if there is a colour I cannot get in an acrylic. A colour to consider is Humbrol’s Metallic Black. A much darker shade than Tamiya Gunmetal, this is great for painting Space Marine Chaplains or really dark and evil looking warriors. Painting with enamels also adds a little more mechanical strength so a coating of enamel can strengthen a weak component. I had some plastic cowboys to paint and an undercoating of enamel black on their sixguns cured the tendency for the thin barrels to bend.


        If I do have to paint in enamel I always leave it to last thing at night. If I don’t I tend to touch the still drying paint while painting another part. Blutacking your figure to an empty paint pot may help with this.
        Pots of enamel should be stored inverted. This reduces problems with a skin forming on top.

        For more tips and tricks, see Tips and Tricks!

        If you have enjoyed this article or it has been helpful to you please feel free to show your appreciation. Thank you.