The Best Paint Brands for Miniatures: A Guide to Brands

Warhammer 40k Space Marine Paints

The Best Paint Brands for Miniatures: A Guide to Brands

As a miniature painter with over 20 years of experience, I’ve had the pleasure of using just about every major acrylic paint brand out there. My team at Warhammer Universe and I constantly experiment to find the optimal paints that provide vibrancy, coverage, blendability – all while staying within a reasonable budget.

After testing dozens of paint lines, I can confidently say there is no definitive “best brand.” Each has advantages that appeal depending on your skill level, preferred painting style, model types, project scope and other variables. I’ll break down the pros and cons of the most popular options to help you determine what paint properties matter most for your needs.

This guide combines insights from polling thousands of fellow hobbyists with my hands-on product testing. Let’s explore what makes each paint unique! Be sure to check out my YouTube channel after for more miniature painting tips.

Questions about Paint Sets? Click here for The Best Miniature Paint Sets

 

Comparing Paint Volume and Price Per mL

Before getting into individual brands, it helps to see how the basic value compares per volume. Here is a price breakdown of popular acrylic miniature paint options in 2024 showing the average US prices:

Games Workshop Citadel – 12ml pot – $4.55 – 38 cents per mL

Citadel Contrast Paint – 18ml pot- $7.80 – 43 cents per ml (most expensive per ml)

Citadel Air – 24ml pot – $7.80 – 32 cents per ml

Vallejo Model/Game Color – 17ml bottle – $3.99 – 23 cents per ml

Pro Acryl – 22ml bottle – $4.65 – 21 cents per ml (2nd most affordable per ml)

Army Painter – 18ml bottle – $3.50 – 19 cents per ml (most affordable per ml)

Scalecolor – 17ml bottle – $4.49 – 26 cents per ml

As you can see, when accounting for volume, Army Painter and Pro Acryl offer the best value based on cost per ml. Army Painter is the least expensive by a small margin. Meanwhile, Citadel ranges fall on the pricier end for what you get.

Before you paint make sure you know How To Thin Your Paints for Miniatures

Now let’s explore the key qualities that set each popular brand apart:

Citadel Paint

1. Citadel (Games Workshop)

The Citadel paint lineup will likely be most hobbyists’ first exposure to miniature painting. As Games Workshop’s official paint brand tailored for Warhammer models, Citadel offers a few key advantages:

Pros:

Massive selection with over 100 colors conveniently categorized by purpose
Uniform consistency and smooth application
Extensive painting guides and reference charts
Specialty options like Contrast paints and technical textures

Cons:

More expensive per ml than competitors
Frustrating pot design prone to drying out and messy compared to dropper bottles

If you’re just starting out painting Warhammer models, it’s hard to go wrong with the trusted Citadel range. The sheer amount of content and guides available make achieving quality results more approachable. Their Contrast and Shade washes also help accelerate basic techniques like shading and blending. Just be prepared to pay a premium for the convenience.

As your skills improve, experimenting with other brands can help you unlock even more vibrancy and realism while saving money. But loyal Citadel fans cite the consistent performance batch after batch.

Vallejo Paints

2. Vallejo

Of all the major paint makers, Vallejo boasts the most expansive catalog with options tailored to virtually every technique and historical period. They offer over 200 colors divided across these core lines:

Model Color – Ultra matte military and realistic tones

Game Color – Satin finish fantasy and sci-fi shades

Model Air – Pre-thinned consistency optimized for airbrushes

Pros:

Enormous color selection with exacting historical accuracy
Smooth consistency at a reasonable price point
Specialty lines for airbrushing, weathering, metallics and more

Cons:

Surface level separation that requires shaking before use
Stock inconsistencies (especially outside Europe)

While not quite as beginner-friendly as Citadel due to lack of integrated painting guides, experienced hobbyists almost unanimously praise Vallejo for the unrivaled flexibility. The historical color accuracy also makes Vallejo the perfect fit for military model painters working on aircraft, tanks and figures across eras.

Pro Acyrl Paint

3. Pro Acryl

Pro Acryl by Monument Hobbies, often referred to as “the Citadel killer,” has gained a die-hard following for its unparalleled vibrancy and coverage. This newer contender improving upon classic acrylic formulas with these strengths:

Pros:

Unreal pigment density allows full opacity in 1-2 coats
Vibrant matte finish that pops on the tabletop
Intuitive bottle dropper with anti-clog twist cap
Developed by renowned studio Creature Caster

Cons:

Limited color selection currently
Mostly web-based stock can cause shipping delays

I was blown away by how well Pro Acryl handled when wet blending and glazing despite its opaque base coverage. It might not have the largest palette yet, but popular colors combine seamlessly. The silky consistency also makes transitioning between highlights and shadows a breeze. If you want your models to stand out with unrivaled color intensity, Pro Acryl is worth the hype.

Army Painter Set

4. Army Painter

Army Painter earns its namesake catering to players needing to paint troops en masse – but their quality belies bargain pricing. At only 19 cents per ml on average, here’s what you get:

Pros:

Unbeatable value with 170+ colors in 18ml bottles
Exact color matching between primers and paints
Smooth application with great coverage

Cons:

Army Green and Dragon Red have transparency issues
Occasional separation issues need shaking

Beyond cost savings, Army Painter’s color matching system gives seamless transitions between primers, base coats and layers. Their coverage depth impressed me enough to make them my go-to for painting large mini lots. Plus, their Quickshade dip wash system helped me quickly shade an entire Warhammer army!

Some individual colors suffer fromtransparency compared to the line as a whole, with Dragon Red being notoriously finicky. But you can work around them while enjoying richer tones like Uniform Grey. At this bargain price point, Army Painter lets you stretch your dollar further than any option here.

Scale 75 paints

5. Scale75

This Spanish company enters with a refined line specifically formulated for next-level blending and realism:

Pros:

Silky consistency perfect for layering
Metallics and sophisticated tones unmatched
Matte finish adds realistic depth

Cons:

Limited color selection
Prone to drying out quickly

While not quite beginner material, I was floored by Scale75’s unrivaled metallic sheens that look convincingly like real worn metal. The earthy greens, yellows and reds also contained more sophistication than competing lines. Note Scale75 has higher pigment levels though, so expect to thin more out the bottle.

If you find mainstream paints looking “toy-ish”, Scale75’s refinement will bring that extra dash of realism. But the quick drying tendencies make mistakes less forgiving compared to thicker brands.

Looking for Metallic paints? Check here for How To Paint Metallic Colours for Miniatures

 

Honorable Mentions

Beyond major brands, many smaller specialty paint makers cater to underserved niches:

Kimera – Unreal skin tones, earth hues and mixing properties

Reaper – Smooth layering with great starter bundles

Turbodork – Eye-catching colorshift and iridescence

Before settling 100% with any paint lineup, I recommend sampling these wildcards too. Kimera Kolors completely changed how I approach realistic skin. Meanwhile, Secret Weapon’s weathering range introduced essential grime and rust textures missing from main brands.

Branch out and play with your palette – that experimentation will directly transfer to more dynamic, vivid models!

 

Choosing the Best Paint for Your Needs

With so many quality paint brands available, deciding where to start comes down to aligning strengths to your personal priorities:

Beginners should stick to Citadel or Reaper since integrated guides provide structure as you learn techniques. Army Painter also great here for maximizing volume.

Intermediate/Advanced painters gain more from Vallejo’s customizability and Pro Acryl’s unrivaled vibrancy. Scale75 metallics also help level up realism.

Airbrush Users will love Vallejo Model Air for ready thinness. Or thin Pro Acryl and Scale75 to flow smoothly.

Large Model/Terrain Painters should leverage Army Painter’s unbeatable value per full 18ml bottle. Apple Barrel craft paint also handy here.

At the end of the day, no perfect recommendation exists – personal feel and results come down to your painting style and overall vision for the models. That’s part of the creative reward!

I suggest buying 1-2 bottles from a few frontrunner brands to get a sampling. Play with consistency, blending and opacity to see what gels with your preferences. Over years in the hobby, I’ve organically accumulated a “best of” collection combining my favorite individual colors rather than sticking to any single brand religiously.

 

Warhammer 40k Space Marine

Conclusion

Don’t be afraid to mix and match – your models will benefit from a dynamic array of paint personalities at your command. If any brands catch your eye, be sure to check for full conversion charts online too so bottle colors sync intuitively.

Most importantly, just remember results come down to talent honed over time more than any magic paint properties. Master fundamentals like crisp base coating, dynamic blending, precision edging highlights and proper prep. The right paint will then take those models to the next level!

I hope this breakdown helps narrow your options – let me know if any other questions pop up!

Do you have to paint your Warhammer Miniatures to play with them? Find out here!

Related Article