Adultery! Or: Why I Abandoned Citadel Paints

I have always been happy with GW/Citadel paints. Two hundred years ago, I switched from Humbrol enamel to oil paint (great pigmented colors). A century ago I switched to the nearly-as-bright Citadel colours (quick drying), though. We were happily married ever after.

I know GW’s competitors. I’m aware of the existence of a new technology called ‘internet’ and the SF-dream ‘buying online’. But buying a specific colour in a local miniature shop and have a nice chat with the nice GW-shop assistant makes me happy and has been convenient so far. I was getting doubts however about GW-paints and about the necessity of buying specialist ‘miniature paints’ in general after a creeping discontent with GW’s current range of acrylics. Despite positive reviews, I feel that the paint dries out relatively quickly and and doesn’t mix with water as good as the ‘old’ range.

I consulted that ‘internet’. A reviewer/ commission painter called Li’l Legend wroteabout Citadel’s pro’s:

The foundation range is highly pigmented to offer one coat coverage. Although this statement is slightly boastful, and untrue depending on the underlaying colour, these paints offer excellent coverage with thin coats. A must for low opacity colours like red and yellow if you intend to use a dark undercoat. 
The line of washes act as ready made ‘juices’ (used to subtly change the hue of colour) that leave a slightly satin finish when used. These are of an excellent quality and open up a whole new way of painting miniatures to every level of modeler. It is possible to paint very effective miniatures with a simple, neat basecoat and two to three layers of wash (…)

However, GW’s price is – as usual for GW – quite high, I noticed this weekend. With ‘high’ I mean that GW sells pots of paint for the equivalent of 27,50 per 100 ml. My DIY hobby shop sells cheap acrylics for 1, 2 or 3 euro per 100ml and a more expensive brand for 7,50 per 100 ml. I don’t and I will not whine about GW’s price policy, enough of that, but if the price is twice as high as other miniature paints and 26 euro more per 100 ml than cheap DIY, I expect a kind of self-applying wonder paint with a robo paintbrush. Money IS a reason. Always.

The same reviewer Li’l Legend said about that aspect:

Ultimately, you feel like you are paying for a brand name rather than an improved quality of paint. On average, when compared with other acrylic paints in the market, you tend to pay more for less paint wrapped in a duff pot. (…) The amount of paint exposed to the air when you open the lid means these paints have a low life expectancy (especially in with blood red).

So I checked some other reviews.

Vallejo and Army Painter

a1) Vallejo. Review1, Li’l Legend

One of the strongest advantages this range has over its competitors is the eye dropper style paint pots. When the paints are used only a minimum amount of paint comes into contact with the air and so extends the working life of the paint. For those who use an airbrush using the eyedropper is much easier to keep track of quantities and is much easier to squeeze into the receptacle. 

When shaken properly, this paint can be thinned down to a good degree for layering using just water. It is also very responsive to the range of additives and mediums that Vallejo sell.

a2) Vallejo. Review2, 2tough:

One more thing I want to point out is the quality of the paints. First off, like any hobby paint, you’ll need to add a touch of water to thin it down a bit. That being said, Vallejo paints flow really smoothly, adding to the quality of the paint and in the end, the finished model. In particular, Vallejo metallic paints are of phenomenal quality; they spread well, thin well and have very strong and pronounced colors. In addition to base colors and metallics, I also recommend the Thinner Medium for thinning metal paints and the Varnish Paints (Matte and Gloss); I use the Matte and Gloss Varnishes in the application of decals and to prevent scratches on my models, I cannot recommend them enough.

So just to review: Vallejo is a widely sold, high quality paint that comes in a canister that makes mixing easier and can save you money. On top of all that, I find Vallejo paints cost almost a dollar less per bottle then Citadel Paints, only increasing their value. For these reasons, I always point new players to Vallejo products, and I’ll do the same for you!

b1) Army Painter. Tale of Painters:

All in all, The Army Painter certainly doesn’t disappoint with their Warpaints. However the market for miniature paints is crowded. If you use the Army Painter method of spraying, base coating and dipping and want everything from one supplier, why not pick these up. The truth is, the Warpaint range is pretty limited and most painters have an own personal preference to their basic colours, so it’s hard for these to tempt you away from what you know.

When you look at the compatibly with the Colour Primers, that is when Warpaints truly shine.

b2) Army Painter. Mengel:

Most of the colors seemed pretty good. The consistency was average and they covered decently. They did seem to dry up a little faster then other paints I am use to, but this could have been due to any number of environmental factors. The one color that really disappointed me was the red. It was extremely thing with almost zero coverage. I had to do several coats to get anything even close to decent coverage and it left the model slightly streaky. I didn’t have this problem with any of the other paints I tried but if their red is this bad I would have to assume their yellow and white most likely have similar problems. 

b3) Army Painter Wargaming Monkey wrote

These paints match well against both Game Colour and Citadel. My main painting has been with the Pure red and the results are very nice. Coverage is much better than GW’s equivalent, required fewer layers in order to get the desired effect, this is especially the case with the Matt white which even when painting over dark layers provides exceptional coverage.

No Miniature Paint At All?

However I even briefly considered to abandon the ‘miniature paints’ and break my age-old habit of painting with special paint. According this excellent thread on Boardgamegeek I don’t need any ‘specialist miniature paint’ AT ALL. The thread starter wrote:

“I’m seeing a lot of misinformation spread on this board about paint quality of craft paints being inferior for purposes of painting miniatures, and needing Vallejo, P3, or Citadel paints to get a good result. In my experience, this advice on needing special toy soldiers paints to get a good result is just plain wrong and misleading, and I suspect that it comes from people who are probably heavily invested in these overpriced toy soldier paints already. So long as you thin your paints on your palette, the results from these miniatures paints and regular craft store acrylics is identical in my experience, and you get much more value for money by just using regular tubes of artists acrylics.”

The majority agrees. A certain Paul Stefano, apparently a top painter, disagrees:

“Miniature paints are far superior. Having placed in the top 3 at competitions at DragonCon and ICon, I’m speaking as someone who is not just painting to play with them.(…) I have found that apple barrel style paints after 7-10 years crackle. This pisses me off endlessly.”

“If you’re doing a minwax dip, like I did for my Space Hulk and many of my tabletop games, or just want playing pieces for casual play, you can use whatever you want.

A painter added:

I’ve tried non-miniature paints. They’re heavy and require thinning, and I’m not just patient or skilled enough to do the thinning consistently. So I just use Vallejo or Army Painter Warpaint.

The top five brands (link) are according to an Ebay article: Liquitex, Golden, Reeves, Grumbacher and Folkart. In my local art shop Liquitex is 8,17 for 29ml =13,85 per 100 ml. That’s more expensive than Vallejo: 2,25 for 17ml = 13,25 per 100 ml. Army Painter is 12,50 per 100 ml.

So I bought…

Army painter. Online – AAAARGH! But cheapest specialist paint, good reviews, good basic paint set, even cheaper than artist’s acrylics, and no need for thinning. I prefer speedpainting/dipping anyway. For authentic colours like Field Grey I will buy Vallejo, and sometimes Citadel/GW when convenient. I hope the GW-shop assistant still wants to talk with me!


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