Model Painting

Best Paints For Miniatures – Reviews & Buyer’s Guide

Best Paints For Miniatures - Reviews & Buyer's GuideThis buyer’s guide will review five of the best paint for miniature products on the market. Even more than that, it will provide useful information about miniature paints and miniature painting in general.

Best Paints For Miniatures – Comparison Table

ProductTypeDimensionsWeight 
Vallejo Basic USA Colors Paint Set Water based 8.5 x 6.5 x 1 inches 10.4 ounces Check Price
The Army Painter Miniature Painting Kit with Bonus Wargamer Regiment Miniature Paint BrushOil 11.8 x 3.4 x 8.9 inches3.75 pounds Check Price
Liquitex Professional Soft Body Acrylic Paint SetAcrylic2.6 x 3.5 x 7.2 inches1.45 pounds Check Price
Liquitex Professional Soft Body Acrylic Paint SetOil4.2 x 2.8 x 0.8 inches4.8 ounces Check Price
Molotow One4All 227 HS 12er Set 1 Acrylic2.8 x 2.8 x 5.8 inches12 ounces Check Price

1. Vallejo Basic USA Colors Paint Set – Best Model Paint Set

Vallejo Basic USA Colors Paint Set ReviewVallejo is one of the most well-known manufacturers of paints for miniature, and for good reason. Its products have a high level of quality. What is more, they are durable and easy to apply. The Vallejo Basic USA Colors Paint Set is one of the best examples of the brand’s advantages.

Formulated with permanent pigments for fine arts, the paints included in this set are opaque and lightfast. Consistent and smooth, the paint covers surfaces well and does not crack or peel off.

Formula

The Vallejo Basic USA Colors Paint Set offers an impressive number of different colors. Better than that, though, due to its formula, this paint can easily be mixed in order to get different tones. This acrylic-based formula is rich, and it produces bright and vibrant colors after drying.

In addition, its formula makes the Vallejo Basic USA Colors Paint Set compatible with different delivery methods, including brushes and airbrushes. As if all that wasn’t enough, this formula dries fairly quickly and without changing colors.

Consistency and Uniformity

Best Paints For Miniatures - Reviews & Buyer's GuideIf you are looking for a paint for miniatures that is smooth and consistent, you don’t have to look any further than the Vallejo Basic USA Colors Paint Set. Despite being rich and thick, this acrylic paint spreads very well, resulting in great coverage.

What is more, this paint spread in a very uniform manner, making the application process an effective and efficient one. At the same time, this uniformity makes the application of various coats a precise process that produces fantastic results.

Uses and Applications

Being compatible with a wide variety of materials and surface types, the Vallejo Basic USA Colors Paint Set is a very versatile paint for miniatures. As a matter of fact, it works very well on the materials that are commonly used to make miniatures. Of course, this includes various different types of plastics and polyesters. More than that, however, this paint works well on wood, metal and even stucco. As a result, this paint can be used to paint miniature models and dioramas of various different types.

Overall

With everything on the table, it can be confidently stated that the Vallejo Basic USA Colors Paint Set is a great option for painting miniatures. Due to its compatibility with different materials, however, it can also be used for other arts and crafts projects. The fact that this set includes a great variety of colors is also a great advantage over its competitors. All in all, the Vallejo Basic USA Colors Paint Set is a product that is very much worth looking into.

Pros
  • Very versatile.
  • Does not fade over time.
  • Vibrant colors.
  • Easy to apply.
Cons
  • Can be easily scraped off a miniature model.
  • Somewhat pricey.

2. The Army Painter Miniature Painting Kit – Best Miniature Paint Set for Beginners

The Army Painter Miniature Painting Kit with Bonus Wargamer Regiment Miniature Paint Brush ReviewFeaturing 50 different colors, this paint set by The Army Painter is a great option for large, complex creative endeavors that require variety and versatility. Apart from all these colors, it includes various washes and technical paints.

Even more than that, it comes with a regiment paint brush that was specifically designed to be used on miniatures. The paints themselves are consistent and smooth, and they spread very well on a variety of surface types.

Variety and Versatility

Without a doubt, The Army Painter Miniature Painting Kit is a product that stands out due to its variety. Coming with a remarkable number of colors, the set can be used to paint complex projects that require shading, lighting and using different combinations of colors. Even better, the inclusion of different washes and technical paints can help you create high-quality scenery projects.

In particular, this variety comes in handy when putting together wargame soldiers and other types of miniatures that require differentiation from one another.

Application and Uses

Best Paints For Miniatures - Reviews & Buyer's GuideOne of the most versatile miniature paint sets on the market, The Army Painter Miniature Painting Kit can be used by both beginners and experts with equally impressive results. Compatible with a wide range of plastics and polymers, the paints included in this set can help you color most pre-made miniature sets. Furthermore, it can help you add color to your own hands and crafts creations.

Additionally, because it features such an elevated number of colors, this paint set is perfect for wargame and fantasy sets.

Pigment

Coming in a 0.6oz (18ml) bottle, each paint product featured in this set has more than enough content to help you paint large miniature projects. Furthermore, each paint has a perfect semi-viscous consistency. Not too thick, this consistency allows you to stretch and spread the paint to cover large surfaces. At the same time, however, it is not thin enough to make it difficult for you to paint small pieces.

This balance of consistency also allows the paint to penetrate porous or uneven surfaces successfully, making this product very efficient when the time comes to cover base surfaces.

Overall

Taking everything into account, it’s easy to see why The Army Painter Miniature Painting Kit is such a popular product among wargame and fantasy miniature set enthusiasts. Offering a great deal in terms of variety, this set can truly help you get your creative juices flowing. While it is not the best product featured on this list in terms of sheer quality, it does produce satisfactory results. Additionally, it has a great consistency, and its paints are very easy and intuitive to mix with each other.

Pros
  • Features easy-squeeze dropper bottles.
  • Great for wargame painting.
  • Consistent and smooth formula.
  • Durable and resistant.
Cons
  • Takes a long time to fully dry.
  • May require additional coats of paint.

3. Liquitex Paint Set – Best Acrylic Paints For Miniatures

Liquitex Professional Soft Body Acrylic Paint Set ReviewIf you are looking for a paint set that can handle miniatures and other types of arts and crafts, this product may be right for you. Despite being very affordable, this set features high-quality paints that perform greatly on most surfaces and materials.

Due to its smooth consistency, this is a product that can produce base coats with full and rich coverage. Made of concentrated pigment, each of the paints featured in this set produces a strong, solid color that results in an even leveling and a satin finish.

Finish

As was just mentioned, the paints featured in this miniature paint kit feature a beautiful satin finish that is perfect for wargame and fantasy models. In addition, as it dries, each paint product featured in this set brightens and becomes smoother, resulting in a completely even, leveled and eye-catching hard coat. What is more, unlike many other paints with a satin fish, the Liquitex Professional Soft Body Acrylic Paint Set does not darken with time.

Mixing and Consistency

Best Paints For Miniatures - Reviews & Buyer's GuideDue to a bodiless acrylic base and a unique pigment formula, the Liquitex Professional Soft Body Acrylic Paint Set features a fantastic consistency that makes its application quick, easy and precise. Despite being somewhat thick, this formula has enough flow to be used in airbrush systems. At the same time, however, it is viscous enough to be used with a brush in order to create small details or cover large surfaces.

It should be mentioned, however, that this paint does not spread as well as some of the other products featured in this buyer’s guide.

Special Formula

Being formulated by a professional team of chemists and artists, each of the paints featured in this miniature paint set has a smooth, creamy consistency that makes it a joy to use. At the same time, after use, this formula creates intense, highly-loaded, permanent coats of color that can truly make your miniature project pop out and look its best. As if all that was not enough, the formula is perfectly compatible with a variety of materials, including natural and synthetic fabrics, wood, paper, clay, canvas, suede and even leather.

Overall

All in all, the Liquitex Professional Soft Body Acrylic Paint Set is an affordable, effective alternative to many of the more sophisticated products of its kind on the market. Despite its modest presentation, each of the paints featured in this set is smooth, creamy and colorful.

Compatible with a wide range of materials, this is a product that can help you refine arts and crafts projects of various different kinds. As if all that wasn’t good enough, all these paints are durable, resistant to UV rays, resistant to water and pH neutral once they are dry.

Pros
  • Smooth consistency.
  • Dries very quickly.
  • Great coverage.
  • Versatile.
Cons
  • Requires mixing to get most colors and tones.
  • Can be difficult to apply.

4. Games Workshop Citadel Shade Paint Set – Best Paints For Warhammer Miniatures

Games Workshop Citadel Shade Paint Set ReviewOne of the most popular products of its kind among painters of miniatures, the Games Workshop Citadel Shade Paint Set is a great option for detail-oriented color enthusiasts. Offering great coverage an opaqueness, these paints do not require you to use many coats in order to get the desired result.

Largely, this has to do with the paints’ acrylic base. Despite making it somewhat thick, this base ensures color consistency and ample coverage no matter what type of surface you are painting on.

Consistency

Featuring an acrylic base and remarkably opaque, the Games Workshop Citadel Shade Paint Set has a way of fully covering even the most uneven surfaces. For that reason, despite being somewhat thick and not particularly flowing, the paints included in this set provide a fantastic level of coverage.

As all modeling and diorama-making enthusiasts know, this can be particularly useful when attempting to create bases for your designs. At the same time, however, these paints can be used in combination with a small thin-tip brush to create small details.

Paint Categories

Best Paints For Miniatures - Reviews & Buyer's GuidePerhaps one of the most interesting things about this product is that it divides its paints into different categories such as base, shade, layer, glaze, edge, technical and so on. For beginners, this feature is very productive and useful as it makes choosing the perfect color very easy.

What is more, this feature can help you plan your painting process on a step by step basis. Without a doubt, this is something that can help you elevate the overall quality of your miniature painting projects.

Color

Without a doubt, one of the reasons that make this product stand out is its color scheme. Instead of offering the typical set of basic colors, this set features a combination of unique tones and shades that will help differentiate your finished project.

As if that wasn’t enough, this set can be purchased in different color presentations that you can choose according to the nature of your miniature or modeling project. No matter what custom color set you choose, however, rest assured that all the individual paints included in it are vibrant and strong without being too bright.

Overall

Without a doubt, this miniature paint set has some beneficial characteristics. The variety it provides in terms of color is noteworthy. What is more, its categorization of the paints can help you plan your painting process in advance. Considering its affordability, this is a very good product.

Pros
  • Easy to apply and use.
  • Easy to mix and combine.
  • Unique colors.
Cons
  • Does not include a white paint.

5. Molotow One4All 227 HS 12er Set 1 – Best Extended-Coverage Paint for Miniatures

Molotow One4All 227 HS 12er Set 1 ReviewUnlike all the other products reviewed in this article, the Molotow One4All 227 HS 12er Set does not feature containers of paint. Instead, it features thick-tip markers that release a high-quality and solid acrylic-base formula.

Despite being opaque and thick, the paint that is released by the markers provided in this set provides fantastic coverage. Additionally, the markers are completely refillable.

Application and Coverage

Due to their presentation, the paints featured in this set are very easy to apply. Even better, they are very efficient, providing a fantastic level of coverage without wasting any material. Consistent and smooth, the paint provides a creamy flow that makes painting easy and fun.

Surface Compatibilities

Without a doubt, one of the best features that this paint has to offer is its ability to be used on a variety of surfaces. Whether it is plastic, paper, canvas, wood, stone or ceramic, the paint adheres to the surface in a leveled, consistent manner that creates a smooth protective coat. Amazingly, this is just as true for porous surfaces. In fact, this water-based acrylic flows greatly into recesses on your miniatures.

Overall

Easy to apply and convenient, there is no doubt that this is a product worth looking into. However, also due to its presentation, it is not particularly effective for creating small details. At any rate, the Molotow One4All 227 HS 12er Set 1 is a great backup paint set for when the time comes to cover a larger surface.

Pros
  • Consistent and reliable.
  • Vibrant colors.
  • Works well on different materials.
  • Patented capillary technology.
Cons
  • Difficult to mix.
  • Does not include a box or case for easy carrying.

Best Paints For Miniatures – Buyer’s Guide

Let’s talk about paint types and their uses for brush painting scale models.

Acrylic Paint

First, let’s look at the advantages of acrylics. Acrylics are water based paints, which means they’re less toxic than some alternatives, making them safer for younger modelers. They’re also lower odor, which means they can be used in less well ventilated areas.

As they are water based, they can thinned by simply adding water, although acrylic thinning products are available. Acrylics have a fast curing time, usually about an hour, meaning you can paint multiple coats in a day.

Brush cleaning is also very easy. Just swirl the brush in some water with a splash of soap.

However, acrylics also have their disadvantages.

Acrylics don’t bond well to smooth surfaces, and this effect occurs. To help avoid the problem, wash all the parts in warm soapy water before assembly. If the acrylic paint is still not sticking, the surface may need to be lightly sanded with a very fine sandpaper, or have a coat of primer or enamel paint applied.

The fast drying time can also be a disadvantage, as the paint can dry with brushstroke marks still present. It also makes them difficult to blend, to achieve mottling or airbrush effect. Once the paint has dried, it becomes waterproof, and this means it can’t be removed without sanding, which may cause damage to the model if not done carefully.

Oil based Enamel Paint

Okay, so another type of paint commonly used by modelers is oil based enamel paint. Let’s look at its disadvantages.

The first thing to notice about enamel paint is the smell. It should only be used in well ventilated areas, as the fumes have been linked to health problems.

As they are oil based, they have to be thinned with enamel thinners or white spirit, which also smell and are toxic. Brushes must be cleaned in white spirit to remove the paint, and it may help to wash them again in soapy water to remove any residue. Curing time is an issue for some, as for enamel paint to cure fully it can take around 24 hours, especially when thinned.

You have to be very careful when applying any further oil based solutions over the top of enamel, as it can remove the previous coat of paint.

However, enamel paint also has its advantages.

Enamel paint sticks well even to smooth surfaces, and is hard wearing, meaning it won’t accidentally chip off once dried properly. The slow drying time means that the paint has time to even out on the surface, reducing visible brushstrokes.

Another advantage of the slow drying time is that it can be blended to achieve an airbrushed effect. Once dry, and if needed, the paint can be stripped off quite easily with white spirit or turpentine.

Watercolor paints and  pencils

Watercolor paints can be used on models for weathering. They can be reactivated with water or a damp cotton bud, making them good for washes.

Watercolor pencils can also be used for a variety of weathering effects. To make the watercolor permanent, it would need to be sealed with a coat of varnish.

Gouache or poster paint could be used on cardboard terrain, but otherwise it isn’t of much use to modelers, as it isn’t hard wearing and it doesn’t stick to plastic.

Oil Paints

Oil paints are mainly used by figure painters because of their extremely slow drying time. This makes this easy to blend, so soft skin tones can be achieved. They can also be used for other forms of weathering, like creating discoloration in paintwork by blending them over the top of a previous coat of paint.

If they’re thinned with linseed oil thinner, they are slow to dry and leave a glossy finish.

But if they’re thinned with white spirit, they dry faster and with a more matte finish. Only artist quality oil paint should be used, although it is quite expensive.

Lacquer paint

Lacquer paint is best applied with an airbrush. It’s highly toxic, but dries instantly and very hard. It can then be polished to achieve a very high shine finish. The plastic must be primed with a special primer, otherwise the paint will dissolve the plastic, and special thinners and paint leveling solutions may be required.

My personal preference for brush painting scale models is to mainly use enamel paints, because I think the finish you get from them is slightly better, and they’re more versatile than acrylics. However, I will use acrylics for small details that I want to get dry quickly.

Considerations for Selecting the Right Paint for Miniatures

Opacity

Best Paints For Miniatures - Reviews & Buyer's GuideWhen applied to a surface, paint is either opaque or transparent. Depending on the type of effect you are looking to create, you should take a paint’s opacity into account. Typically, dark-colored surfaces require a paint that is more opaque than transparent.

On the other hand, surfaces that are light in color look their best when painted with a product that is more transparent than opaque.

Body and Viscosity

The body and consistency of a paint have the ability to affect its application. According to these factors, the form of application may also have to vary. Take into account that a thin or body-less paint may work well with airbrush application systems. On the other hand, paints that are viscous and rich in their consistency are typically better applied using brushes. At any rate, paints that are consistent and viscous can be thinned-down by mixing them with a small amount of water.

Lightfastness

Lightfastness is a term that refers to the level of susceptibility a paint has to fading or changing colors due to exposure to sunlight. When looking for the right paint for your project, make sure to get a product that is lightfast as it will ensure a long-lasting paint job.

Color Shift

Often, paint products change their tone and color as they dry. For example, acrylic paints tend to dry darker than they appear when they are still in the container. When buying paint for miniatures, take this effect into account.

How to Paint Miniatures – Step-By-Step Guide

1. Clean and Prepare the Miniature

Best Paints For Miniatures - Reviews & Buyer's GuideMore often than not, manufacturers apply a release agent to the miniatures when they are placed in a mold. This agent helps the miniature leave the mold cleanly. However, this substance will not allow the paint to stick well to the miniature. For that reason, it’s important to clean the miniatures before applying paint to them.

2. Remove Flash and Mold

Typically, miniatures are made using a two-part mold. Even when using high-quality two-part molds, the process leaves a mold line wherever the two parts met. To ensure that your miniature looks its best after painting, remove said mold lines with care.

3. Apply a Primer

Best Paints For Miniatures - Reviews & Buyer's GuideIf you think that the paint will not properly stick to the miniature, try applying a primer first. Apart from helping the paint stick to the model, a primer can help you get the right tone and color by providing an undertone for the paint.

4. Attach to the Base

Most miniatures include a base that will help them stand firmly. Typically, this base comes separately to the miniature. Before starting the painting process, attach the miniature to its base using a strong glue.

5. Prepare the Colors

Unless you want to improvise, it’s important to prepare a color scheme for your miniature project. If necessary, you can mix two or more paints in order to get a particular color or tone.

6. Apply a Basecoat

Best Paints For Miniatures - Reviews & Buyer's GuideAfter deciding on a color scheme, you may begin the painting process. First, apply a base coat. If your paint is thick, thin it down using some water. After the basecoat has dried, apply a second coat of paint. Repeat the process until the miniature is perfectly covered.

7. Apply a Wash

If you want your figure to look more complex and detailed, you may want to consider applying a wash after painting it. By allowing a thin mixture of color that is darker than our base color to flow into the cracks, creases, and crevices of the figure, you can bring out shadows, making your figure look even better.

8. Drybrush or Blend

By applying a very small amount of paint of a lighter tone than your base coat, you can highlight certain surfaces on the model or miniature figure. Typically, this is done by gently applying the paint onto surfaces on the figure that are raised or protruding.

Conclusion

Without a doubt, using the right paint can help you make your diorama look its best. Apart from adding realism and depth to your project, the right paint can protect it from sunlight, water and other potentially-harmful external elements. Hopefully, this guide will help you choose the perfect paint for your modeling endeavors.

About the author

Bill Murphy

Bill Murphy

Bill Murphy is an avid model railroader, offering advice for model enthusiasts on the YourDiorama website. For more helpful tips and information, visit https://yourdiorama.com

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