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I have several model paints that I use for miniature painting which I need to use in order to maintain color consistency. In their natural state they are too thin for my taste. Almost like an ink or a wash (They're supposed to be regular paints, not specialist or contrast paints). They tend to run into small details, and I need to use a lot more coats than usual in order to provide consistent coverage.

Is there a way to thicken these paints slightly. For example, some kind of additive that I could mix in?

Leaving it on a pallet for a while helps but it's not 100% consistent each time.

Yes, I'm looking for alternative paints of the same color from other suppliers, but that's a different question.

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    Have you ruled out settlement of the pigment by trying to mix what's in the container?
    – fixer1234
    May 17 at 13:15
  • Yes, it's just an annoyingly thin paint. May 17 at 13:40

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Acrylic paint is sold in different viscosities for different purposes. It is basically acrylic medium plus pigment. The acrylic medium is the binder that holds the pigment together when it dries. It's watery, and depends on the water to keep the acrylic polymer dilute so it doesn't start to cure. If you let it start to dry, it will begin to cure. That will give you a short working period when the paint is more viscous, but it isn't really a solution to your problem.

The pigment can consist of colored and non-colored powders that don't go into solution. Non-colored pigments can be used as thickeners or to add inexpensive bulk. The colored pigment is the expensive part, and also acts like a thickener. What you need is more pigment, best added in the form of a paste-consistency material that adds more binder.

If you have a very similar color in thicker acrylic paint, you can mix in some of that to thicken it. Otherwise, there are some things you can add to your paint to thicken it. Some will affect the color and some will affect the opacity without changing the color much. Some can affect the glossiness of the dried paint.

Your best bet is heavy-body acrylic gel medium designed as a thickener. This is a paste-like acrylic gel that looks white/translucent, but dries clear. It will thicken the paint, but will also further dilute the already-sparing pigment. Depending on how much you add, it could affect the opacity, so it could potentially require several coats or a thicker coat. Since the gel medium contains its own binder, it won't degrade the strength of the dried paint film.

There are other materials you can use to thicken the paint, but they typically add white, which will desaturate the color, and may affect the strength of the paint film. These include:

  • gesso
  • modelling paste
  • paste made from talcum powder and either PVA glue or Mod Podge

People have used a paste made from cooking starch or flour with water, but the resulting paint is likely to get attacked by micro-organisms. You can thicken the paint with various dry powders, but that is likely to make the paint film brittle.


Joachim raises a good point in a comment that if the miniatures are plastic, any additive could affect how well the paint adheres if your paint is specifically formulated for plastic. It may take some experimentation, and any effect will be tied to the amount of material you add. You can always prime the miniatures.

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    I believe there are some differences between regular, artist acrylic paints, and the acrylic-based paints for models, so I'm not sure all these solutions will have the same effect here. I also can't really find anything specific on my quick search just now, but I think it has something to do with the bonding to the plastic material.
    – Joachim
    May 17 at 16:33
  • @Joachim, good point. Yeah, I don't know how any of the additives would affect bonding to plastic; that would probably require testing. I believe all acrylic paint is water-based, but maybe the paint designed for models contains something to make it stick to plastic better. One possible solution is pre-painting the model with a primer that bonds to the plastic and which the acrylic will bond to.
    – fixer1234
    May 17 at 16:40
  • @fixer1234♦, models are usually undercoated with either Army Painter spray primer or Tamia fine white primer. Occasionally with a store brand black primer. May 17 at 19:01

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