🎨 Paints

Updated at 2023-02-02 01:30

Primer/Undercoat Paints: Primer is a paint used to form a uniform paint layer on top of a surface to paint on top of. It also hides small defects and allows you to select a color to build upon. Primer is usually applied with a spray can or an airbrush.

Base/Basecoat Paints: What we usually call "base" is just the primary paint of an area. It is the first layer of paint on top of the primer. Branded base paints are slightly more opaque than other paints but any paint can be used for basecoating if you apply enough thin layers ;)

Metallic paints are special base paints that have metallic flakes to make them shine like metal. Avoid thinning metallic paints, it may cause the metallic flakes to separate from the medium.

Highlight/Layer/Edge Paints: Slightly more translucent than base paints; used to add lightning effect on raised surfaces and highlight edges where a light source would hit. You can use any base paint as a highlight too, but usually you would use lighter color to highlight more dark variant of the same color.

Washes/Shades: Washes and shades are runny paints that will seep to the crevices of a model, making details pop out more. You usually slap them on with a large brush, but be sure to remove excess paint, so it doesn't become lumpy. Any paint can be used as a wash if you thin it enough, preferably with a proper medium that further reduces surface tension.

Glazes/Tints: A glaze is a thin, translucent paint that modifies the appearance of the underlying paint layer e.g. chroma, texture, hue. Frequently confused with a wash; washes flow into the small details, while glazes have higher surface tension and is used to cover the target area evenly. Glazes are not to make details pop, they are to harmonize the colors or create additional highlights. If you thin glazes too much, they effectively become washes.

Inks: Inks are transparent, runny paints with very high pigment density. Can be used to enhance other colors, create glazes or apply drastic tints. They don't gather in the recesses partially well, they just go everywhere, so they are not washes.

Dry Paints: A dry paint is very thick, almost like wet sand. The paint is used to highlight raised edges. Use tissue to soak up most of the paint and apply only tiny amounts at a time. Apply only using older or makeup brushes as drybrushing is not kind on the bristles.

Texture Paints: Texture paints are used to change the texture of underlying surface e.g. make it crackle or appear like sand. Sometimes you will color the area afterwards. Frequently used on bases.

Artist Paints: Acrylic paints that actual painters use on canvas. Usually too thick and many are too transparent to be optimal for miniature painting. They can be used but require a lot more experimentation.

Oil Paints: Oil paints have a very long drying time and require a lot of thinning with turpentine-like mediums. They are not recommended for beginners but can actually be really fun to use.

Games Workshop has two ranges of basic paints: Classic and Contrast. Classic paints are thicker paints that you are supposed to thin down yourself with water or other thinner before you paint. Contrast paints are pre-thinned and designed for speed painting by finishing the applied portions with a single layer of paint but you do still require a light undercoat, like a primer.

  • Green Stuff World has "Intensity Ink" range, similar to Contrast paints. They are cheaper, they have more unique colors and accomplish a similar finish.
  • Green Stuff World has "Dipping Ink" range, which is also similar.
  • Scale 75 has "Instant Color" range, but they are more diluted so can't recommend except for glazing.
  • Army Painter has "Speed Paint" range which is awesome but the paints annoyingly reactivate if you try to paint over or near it, even if let to dry for days.
  • Vallejo has the "Xpress Color" range which is likewise awesome.

Paint Dilution Ratios

Diluting paints isn't exact science since each individual paint bottle and its condition changes the ratios. Also, some paints are already diluted for a specific use-case e.g. Citadel Shades or airbrush paints.

When thinning for basecoating, your goal is a "melted ice cream" consistency that flows nicely off the brush.

  • If your paint starts to look watery or form bubbles, you've thinned it too much.
  • If your paint leaves streak marks on the model or doesn't flow nicely off the brush, you've thinned it too little.

Here are some approximate dilution ratios:

- Basecoat:      3:1 e.g. 3 drops of paint and 1 drop of water
- Highlights:    6:1
- Washes:        1:3
- Glazes:        1:2
- Drybrushing:  1:0 i.e. don't use water

I frequently just use my wet palette or dampen my brush a bit more.