One of the more important and expensive choices for the hobbyist is what kind of paints to buy. Back in the day I had some GW paints. I disliked the white rubber tops. I found that the hinge tended to break and the lids became encrusted with dried paint. When I got back into the hobby I discovered that they weren’t the only game in town.
The majority of my paints come from the Vallejo range. I really like the dropper bottles. Not only do they contain more paint than the GW pots, there is less wastage. I can control how much paint I put on my palette easily. For the same reason it’s easier to mix paints too. Also, the dropper design exposes less of the paint to the air, keeping the bottles cleaner and the paint viscous.
Initially I bought a small number of paints. I wanted to be able to paint a full range of colors but not have to buy too much up front. I started with some vauge notion of being able to mix colors from the primaries and did some research. The best guide I found was on theback40k. That site recommended the following as a good (GW) starter set:
- Blood Red
- Blazing Orange
- Sunburst Yellow
- Snot Green
- Ice Blue (a light cyan)
- Ultramarine Blue
- Liche Purple
- Warlock Purple
Also black and white. I simply used a conversion chart and bought the Vallejo equivalents. I can honestly say that this was a great starter set. But what to add next? Here is what I suggest:
I quickly added some metallics to my collection, although for smaller scales like 15mm, I’ve read that non-metallic metallics are better. Using grey for steel and yellow for gold etc. I bought the Vallejo Model Air set. It contains:
- Bright Brass
- Blue Metal
- Gun Metal
- Black Metal
The quality is great although I do recommend using medium rather than water if you want to dilute them. Although, they are very thin paints so you shouldn’t need to thin them much. I really like the Bright Brass and Black Metal colors. I have used them extensively on the Sauroters project.
As for browns and greys, they are just really useful. Especially browns. Used as undercoats they give a lot of variety to the same colors. The greys help you to desaturate colors. This can be aceived with black and white but having greys make consistent mixing easier.
Washes are great too. I’ve heard them described as liquid talent. They certainly help a lot. Black and brown are all you need to start with. You can use other products like oil paint or woodstain to wash miniatures but if you are a beginner I’d recommend acrylic washes.
I also like glazes. They stay on top of a surface, contrary to washes which seep into the recesses. Glazes help blend colors together giving a smoother overall blend. They are not essential but are very useful. It’s worth getting say a green glaze, if you are painting a lot of highlights on a smooth surface, say power armour. Not worth getting if you are a complete beginner. Stick with the washes.
I have tried some of the GW Technical paints. Specifically the Martian earth paint and Lhamian Medium. They are a lot of fun but I don’t have much use for them at present. I may get some if I have a particular project I want then for in the future. Again, probably not worth it for the beginner.
All in all, for the beginner I’d recommend the 10 paint starter set above with a black wash, a brown wash and a steel, bronze and gold metallic. That should cost about 50 Euro in total. Not cheap by any means but about as reasonable as it’s going to get. You should be able to paint just about anything with it.
When I was researching about paints I spent a lot of time thinking about agitators (e.g. the little steel ball in rattle cans). Eventually I settled on glass beads. However, when I got my paints I didn’t fancy trying to prize the droppers out of the bottles. I haven’t had any problems with my paints so it seems like they are unnecessary; at least in the first year or so. Just keep the lids on and shake well before opening.