Paints: A review

Well, seen as how I'm once again awake with insomnia, I thought i would take the time to do a review of the different brands of paint that I use. Kind of a compare and contrast between the differing brands. Mainly this is aimed at the people who use only GW's paints, which for the most part are not bad, but lack in a few key areas!

I've first of all reviewed each paint by brand, then a bit of a "summing up" at the end, to give you my feelings on them overall. Please note, that i haven't covered every brand that I use in total - some of the more esoteric ranges (Howard Hues, TensoCrom etc.) are very specific to certain jobs and hence would not really be of interest to most modellers. The ones i have covered are the main brands that should be available in most FLGS's.

Games Workshop

Well, these are the paints that I'm sure a lot of people started with! They come in flip top bottles, with each one containing 12ml of paint. They average £2.25 a pot (they can be found cheaper in bulk packages or from your FLGS). The range has been expanded in the last couple of years to include the "Foundation" ranges, which are highly pigmented colours designed for base coats, as well as the "Washes", which are highly thinned paints that replaced the old ink ranges; these are designed for washes over the miniature giving quick shading.

Mostly the standard range of colours are bright and highly pigmented; obviously designed for fantasy subjects!

I should probably get this out of the way the beginning, I hate flip top bottles - they are far too easy to knock over, they tend to dry out and worst of all, i get sloppy when using them and dip the brush straight in to the pot! (This is my number 1 tip for painting - always put your paint on a palette before using it).

With GW's colours (and other brands that use flip top bottles) I tend to decant the paint in to an empty Vallejo style bottle that I get from Sean over at SnM-Stuff. These is some wastage during the transfer process, but i find the dropper bottles much easier to control when painting, and they tend not to dry out anywhere near as quickly as flip top bottles.

In terms of quality, the GW paints are reasonable for the price. The coverage is generally good and they thin well with water. They are obviously readily available from GW stores, although they tend to be more expensive per ml than other brands. The foundation paints are nice to work with and I really recommend the washes to everyone, they made a big difference to the way that i paint.


Vallejo make 2 ranges of paints that I tend to think of (and use) interchangeably - they are the Game Colour (VGC) and the Model Colour (VMC) ranges. They also make the Model Air range designed for airbrushing. I will not be looking at this latter range, although i do have several in the range and they are very useful for airbrushing.

The VGC range is a more brightly coloured set of paints, mainly designed for painting fantasy models. It closely matches the GW series of paints (indeed many of the names are very similar). The VMC range is generally more designed for painting of scale military models (1/35 tanks etc) and hence has more muted colours; However, both ranges are sold in identical bottle sizes and they mix together with no problems at all. The bottles themselves are dropper types meaning you can control exactly the quantities that you want.

Both ranges are sold in 17ml bottles, with an average price of around £1.75 - as you can see, you not only get more, but it is cheaper than GW (5ml more for 50p less!!). They brush paint extremely well and mostly thin very well with water; The one exception is the black which splits horribly with water. For this I tend to dilute with the Vallejo thinner.


Tamiya paints are probably one of the most ubiquitous model paints outside of the fantasy miniature realm. Go to any model tank / plane / train shop and you will see racks of Tamiya paints next to the Humbrol enamels.

The Tamiya series of paints are of a different type of acrylic to both the Vallejo and GW. Whilst the VGC / VMC and GW series of paints can be happily mixed together with no side effects (in fact, the Vallejo and GW paints are almost identical in composition) the Tamiya paints will tend to curdle GW / Vallejo paints if mixed with them - however, they can be mixed with other Tamiya paints.

They need to be thinned with alcohol for painting and whilst they are indeed acrylics, they tend to be very poor for brush painting - they go "sticky" after only a moment or two! (As a side note, this can be used to create great blood effects; mix 1 part X-19 (Smoke) and 2 parts X-27 (Clear Red), leave for two minutes then brush paint for the best blood you will ever see!).

Tamiya paints come in 10ml screw top glass jars, for around £1.50. The jars are an absolute nightmare. Not only are they terrible to pour from due to the thick glass rim they also tend to get jammed immediately after the first use. Decanting immediately to vallejo style bottles is a must in this case!!

All the above makes it sound like i don't really like the Tamiya paints - but nothing could be further from the truth. Where they come in to their own is through an airbrush, where they become wonder paints. The finish is absolutely perfect flat finish, and the tones of the colours are very closely matched to the AFV I tend to use them for.

Privateer Press P3

Privateers P3 range is a fairly new range of paints. They are sold in packaged "faction" sets to match Privateers game ranges. Each pack contains six paints, sold in a pot very similar to the old style GW flip top paints.

The P3 range tend to have paired colours. Usually this will be a "base" colour and a "highlight" colour, so for example, you get Menoth White Base and Menoth White Highlight. In most cases the colours will tend to be very well matched together, although obviously using colour blends between the two will give you the best results. This is a very nice touch in the P3 range.

The colours are also amazingly well designed in terms of their balance. Every time i open a new bottle for the first time I tend to be surprised how well it works on the model - the pigmentation is thick but thins very well with water without separation. This is less surprising when you learn that the range was designed by Mike McVey (who is one of my painting heroes!).

Individual pots cost around £2.20 (for about 15ml) putting them up with GW in terms of cost per ml.


So, how do these paints compare to each other? Lets deal with Tamiya first - to be honest, unless you are airbrushing the only paints from Tamiya you need are the two for doing blood. In general they are not great for brush painting and they can be frustrating to work with.

With that out of the way, we are left with GW vs Vallejo vs P3 - all of whom sell a creamy workhorse acrylic paint that will mix well with any of the 3 brands.

Vallejo are my work-a-day paints. I have a near complete set and would not be without them. I find that they work out a lot cheaper than GW pot by pot and given how slowly i use most of them, doing internet ordering is not that much of a problem. The bottles are much better, being droppers from the start and the colours are rich and give reasonable coverage, even when thinned. In many ways other than the cost there is little to differentiate the GW and VGC ranges and hence GW loses out. Having said that, the GW washes are not to be missed - they are a very useful addition to any painters tool kit, and can general some very nice effects, especially Devlan Mud and the Black.

And so we come to the P3 paints. These are my current "Go-to" paints. I absolutely love them! In fact, i can see the day where i use them nearly exclusively. They feel like the gold-top of paint; the colour choices are excellent (and blend well together), the nice touch of base/highlight combos and the highly pigmented paint itself all contribute to making these (IMHO) the best miniature paints on the market today. If you haven't tried these yet, I highly recommend you grab a pack (my suggestion would be "Protectorate Colors" for the wonderful Menoth and Sanguine combos).

Hopefully this review will encourage people to step outside of the GW realm and try some other brands of paints - there are some wonderful products out there than can add a real splash of colour to your models!