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I haven't been into it for the past 20 years or so, but after finding one of their shops a few weeks back I decided to look at painting Warhammer / Citadel Miniatures again as a hobby.

I was really enthusiastic about it until I saw the price of the (acrylic) paints, and after researching a little, it doesn't seem like their "starter" kits give you all that much for the money either.

So I was wondering if there was any particular range of paints which work in a similar way, for a fraction of the cost.

Like I said, I'm trying to get back into this and therefore not sure if it's going to be a permenant thing or just something I want to try, so this isn't exactly a "I want the product but don't want to pay for it" kind of situation.

Any ideas or advice? Thanks.

  • I can't offer you any alternative recommendations, as I don't paint myself, but I'm part of a few large groups of people that paint minis and other figures, and Citadel are highly recommended. You may find that getting something cheaper results in a poorer experience that pushes you away from the hobby. In many areas, the stores the sell Warhammer products often host painting nights, where you could attend and use some communal supplies, including paints. – Web Head Jun 4 at 17:37
  • They might not be any cheaper but I've heard good things about tamiya acrylics. They're popular for RC models and other larger but detailed work. – Chris H Jun 5 at 7:47
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    @ChrisH I've used Tamiya gloss, the pricing is fairly similar to Citadel, but they're definitely another good option for mini painting. I believe they're one of the options that frequently gets used for GunPla and similar models with a lot of fine detail. – Allison C Jun 5 at 12:56
  • Thanks @ChrisH - not sure on the availability of Tamiya paints here in the UK but I'll keep a look out - Although if they're not much cheaper it seems that they still might not be what I'm looking for at this time. Maybe as I start to work on miniatures that I purchase in the future though. – W.H. Jun 6 at 12:13
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    Cheers @ChrisH - I'll check out a few model shops ( well, the ones that still exist in town ). Not too keen on buying online, but we're at a point where it's probably the best place to shop, so I'll look around. For now I'm going to check out some budget artist-acrylics which I can probably pick up at some local stationary shops. I checked out The Works yesterday - Decent looking paint sets, but poor brushes! – W.H. Jun 6 at 12:29
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Citadel paints are essentially just acrylic paints. If you're not sure you want to make the investment yet, you can use any standard craft-grade acrylic paint while you practice; I'd recommend investing in a flow medium to help prevent obscuring the small details in your miniatures, and not starting with any valued ones. (Dollar store plastic army men are a great way to practice.)

The advantage of Citadel and other paints formulated for miniatures is that they're designed to use on very small, very detailed objects. Basic craft acrylics tend to be designed for use over larger areas on larger objects, and thus tend to be thicker with a coarser pigmentation. Miniature paints use an acrylic medium with a greater flow, and pigments and mica (metallic pigments) with a finer grind, to enhance their appearance on miniatures. This difference in formulation contributes to the difference in price between the small pots of miniature paint and large bottles of craft paint.

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    Thanks Allison. I was in town yesterday and found a few shops that sold sets of these Acrylic paints - about £6 for 20 12ml tubes, with a nice selection of shades - so I'm definitely looking to buy this sort of thing as an introduction to the hobby. I have a ton of Heroquest miniatures from the 1989 game so I'll be using some of them to practice on, as well as some cool furnature pieces. Was planning on using water to thin the paints but I'll keep an eye out for a flow medium to use instead. – W.H. Jun 6 at 10:11
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The benefit of the miniature-specific paints are that they are ready to go right out of the container with the right medium for painting miniatures and a decent amount of pigmentation and opacity.

You can get similar cheaper results by adding a flow medium to lower-end artist-quality acrylics. These aren't the "craft" paints that cost $1.50 and come in the 2oz bottles, these would be brands similar to the Liquitex Basics line of fluid acrylics. The difference is that the artist paints have more pigmentation so the colors are more saturated and give you better coverage.

You can also go one step cheaper and use the craft paints mentioned above (Apple Barrel, Ceremacoat, etc.) with either a flow medium or just distilled water to thin them out, but it's very hard to get deep saturated colors that way, and it can take several coats to cover over dark-colored mistakes with a light color. I personally find it's just not worth it, but it's how I started out and it was good enough to let me know that I liked painting minis.

For a cheap alternative to artist-quality flow mediums, you can try Flood Floetrol, it's sold at most hardware stores, costs roughly $7 a quart. A quart is about 5 times more than you'll probably ever be able use but I haven't seen it in smaller quantities. It's made for latex based paints, but it works fine with acrylics. The benefit over water is that it doesn't dilute your colors nearly as much as water. You can generally get away with 2 parts Floetrol to one part artist paint before you start to lose color, although you'll probably find that you want much less than that for the best ratio.

  • The main reason I didn't suggest lower-end artist-quality acrylics is because the price savings isn't there compared to miniature paints per unit (per volume, it's absolutely cheaper). This is great information from experience! (I just jumped straight to Citadel, myself.) – Allison C Jun 5 at 16:36
  • Thanks Dstinard. I'm generally all for buying the "official" products, but in this case the price really is a factor, considering that I just want to dip-my-toe, so to speak. I'll definitely look into buying a flow medium and invest in a decent set of brushes though (I saw some cheap ones yesterday that I could tell were not going to give a good paint result). Do you know if you can buy empty pots similar to the Citadel ones? I'd like to transfer the paint from the acrylic tubes into something a bit more usable. – W.H. Jun 6 at 10:19
  • @W.H. Craft stores do often sell various small paint pots, yes. They don't always seal very well, so I'd only transfer small amounts of paint to them at a time, but they're helpful when the original container is harder to work with for whatever project you're doing. – Allison C Jun 6 at 14:19
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    Thanks again @AllisonC. I'll check some more online tutorials, but found this video which seems to be worth trying - youtube.com/watch?v=sCCEGX-P90o – W.H. Jun 6 at 16:24
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    So here's some bad news: when you add a flow medium to paint, there is no formula because even different colors from the same brand can have different consistencies. It's just a skill you gotta learn, but the good news is that it's not hard. Start with the paint, then add half as much flow medium. Stir it in, then check the consistency and paint a bit on newprint or scrap paper or your cat to see if it's going on smooth, covering well, and not leaving brush strokes. I generally do about 1-to-1. – dstinard Jun 7 at 16:37

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