Advice on acquiring paints


Sovereign Court

Hi everyone,

So I was mistaken on there not being any painting advice threads, so I redacted my previous thread. However, I thought I might put it to you all to see what might be the most economical way to purchase painting supplies.

Do you recommend the Reaper learn to paint kits? Will any acrylic paint do? What kind of brushes are best? I realize that many of these questions may just be answered by the various guides, but I thought that perhaps a consensus approach would help me decide on where to start, and to get a bit more of a dialogue about best approaches and what not.

The most economical way? Acrylic craft paints from your local hobby store (e.g. Michael's if you're in the US - I've seen people use both Americana and FolkArt paints).
Are they the best? No, not for miniature painting. Some people do use them for base colours on large miniatures or terrain since they're cheaper when it comes to volume.
Reaper's LtP kits are an OK place to start, although you'll, of course, be limited to the paints in the kits.
The most widespread miniature paints are from Games Workshop, Vallejo, and Reaper with paints from Army Painter getting more widespread too.
As for price, GW is usually the most expensive while Army Painter is just a smidgen cheaper than Reaper and Vallejo.
How much they each cost is down to where you buy them from.
Which brand is best... really comes down to taste. Vallejo has two ranges (model color and game color) with airbrush versions of both (these are pre-thinned, but with excellent coverage still).
Reaper has their triads (shadow, mid-tone and highlight).
Army Painter has some excellent washes and spray primers that match their normal paints.

Speaking of primers, make sure you prime your miniatures first, before you start painting them. This will make the paint adhere much better to the minis so you avoid it peeling off after a little handling.
You can buy special spray primers (like I mentioned above, Army Painter has a range of primers of various colours that match their other paints, even a silver one) while others just use a cheap primer from e.g. Walmart.
The trick is to prime the miniatures with short bursts and thin layers so you don't get any details clogged up.
There are brush-on primers out there too (e.g. Vallejo has a primer designed for airbrush, but it can easily be put on with a brush too).
The first primer you should get is a white or light grey primer.
Make sure you wash your miniatures first with some soapy water (especially plastic or resin miniatures). That'll take off any release agents used in the production and any oil transferred to them from your fingers.
Note: if you plan on painting Reaper Bones miniatures you should know that some of the spray primers out there react badly with the material they are made from. Brush-on primers should work as should the Army Painter spray primers.

The best brushes are those you're most comfortable with.
It is generally said that the best are Kolinsky Sable brushes, with the crème de la crème being Winsor & Newton Series 7 or Raphaël Series 8404. Both of those lines are generally quite expensive and you can certainly get by with brushes of "lesser" quality.
For starters I'd invest in some of Army Painter's brushes, if you can get a hold of them. They've been given fairly high praise for the price.

If you don't have it already, you should also get a hold of an X-Acto knife and a couple of jeweller's files to remove flash (leftover material from the casting process) and mould lines.

Last, but not least, make sure you thin your paints before applying them to your miniatures. That way you'll get a smoother finish and will avoid clogging up any detail. Some just use water (go out and buy some distilled water to use for this, you'll avoid any annoyance with impurities and calcium in the water) while others mix up other thinners or use airbrush thinners. Just go with water for now. :-)
While it might seem annoying that with some colours you'll have to apply two thin layers to get a good coverage, you'll get a smoother finish in the end.

That might seem like a lot to take in. Feel free to ask any questions (I hope I'll remember to check in regularly). :-)

Sovereign Court

Thank you much for your advice. I think I have a lot to do to prepare myself, but I'm eager. Reaper bones comprise the bulk of what I have to paint. I've heard people say that they don't need priming, but is that not true?

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 16

First and foremost:




Buy the kolinsky sable watercolor, size 2 round. If you can't afford the Series 7, settle for Windsor and Newton artist watercolor series, or something comparable. I use the artist series. It's pretty easy to find them on sale at Dick Blick's or at Plaza Art stores.

IT MAKES ALL THE DIFFERENCE. It is much easier to paint with a good brush, because high quality brushes do not lose their tips/their tips don't bend or splay, and when you're painting something at a 28 millimeter scale, you want that tip to keep its integrity!

Moreover, while, yes, it is more costly up front, it will save you money in the long run. A well cared for high quality brush will last you two to four times as long AT LEAST as the "cheaper" brush, meaning ultimately you will be spending more on your "cheap" brushes because you will have to replace them more often.

I told a friend getting into painting this advice. He said, "Oh, but I'm new, I don't want to waste money on my lack of talent." I told him he would regret it and he must get good brushes. A year later, he finally bought high quality brushes and he said, "Oh my god, why didn't I listen to you? I could have painted better so much more quickly if I'd had these brushes all along." (A good brush makes you paint "better" because it's easier with a good brush to paint detail and cover consistently without leaving brush marks. It won't make you more talented of course, but it works with you to get the end result you want, rather than against you, which is what a cheap brush does.)

Buy a little brush soap (cheap) to clean the brushes after every use, and store them upright (I've seen some advice to store them on their sides so excess moisture doesn't go into the ferrule, but I feel like that would just make the moisture settle to one side).

If there is ONE thing you invest in for minis, it should be a good brush.

The only "cheap" brushes you should have are for drybrushing and terrain painting.

Thus ends part 1.

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 16

Part 2:

Reaper Bones do not technically need to be primed if you paint them with Reaper paint. They are formulated to work specifically with Reaper paint. Some other paints will bead off if you do not prime first, same for any other mini. So if you choose not to use Reaper paint, you will need primer for your Bones. I would suggest getting some primer anyway. Most brush on primers are fine; I use acrylic gesso but that takes a little getting used to. Spray primers--most recs I see are for Krylon matte black/white/gray primer that you can get at any old general purpose or automotive store, let alone at a craft store.

You should at some point experiment with different primer colors. White, black, grey all have pros and cons, and it's down to preference and painting style. I like to build up dark to light so I often use black primer. Others swear by white and get great results. If you're going no primer for now of course Bones default to white, but of course you could just paint them gray or black if you wanted to try something different.

I do really like Reaper paints. They have a nice consistency and only need to be thinned with water --- BUT it is important to note they feel and work differently from other paints because they do already have paint additives like flow improver mixed in. I personally find them worth the money.

However, pretty much all the miniature-brand paints are good--Citadel, Reaper, Vallejo, Privateer Press. They each have a different feel. It may take time to figure out what works for you. As time and money comes available, you might buy one from each and see how you like it. Certainly some of the packaged kits are a good way to start. Otherwise starting colors I suggest are black, white, gray, light brown, dark brown, cream, yellow ochre, metallic gold, metallic silver, and red, yellow, grass green, royal blue, light blue, purple. You may wish to throw in flesh tones and other colors as you see fit depending on your project.

If you prefer to go cheap and buy craft acrylic, make sure you buy some acrylic paint thinner too, as they will need to be thinned to be workable at miniature scale. There are other additives that may also make them more usable (some people like to mix in a little Pledge with Future Shine because it has an acrylic component that improves the paint flow).

If money left over, I suggest picking up a bottle of Citadel's Agrax Earthshade -- this is a "wash" or "shade" that is translucent, and is a useful quick shader for various purposes.

Sovereign Court

Thank you, DeathQuaker. Your advice is also invaluable. I think I will see about getting one of those starter kids from Reaper, as well as perhaps some more of their paints to fill out your recommended starting color choices.

Just be aware that if you do decide to prime the Bones minis and you use the wrong kind of primer, you'll end up with tacky minis that won't dry completely.

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 16

GentleGiant wrote:
Just be aware that if you do decide to prime the Bones minis and you use the wrong kind of primer, you'll end up with tacky minis that won't dry completely.

True, although if he follows your excellent advice about washing the mini first, that minimizes that danger.

Since it sounds like Lorathorn is aiming at getting a Reaper kit to start with, he should be okay.

But you remind me... another good product to keep on hand....

A bottle of Simple Green cleaning liquid. If you have a botched paint job, soak your mini in an undiluted cup of Simple Green for about a day, then brush/scrape off paint under running warm water. That will safely strip most minis, even plastic ones, and Simple Green is okay to pour down your sink unlike many other agents others suggest for paint stripping. (Plus Simple Green is a pretty good cleaning fluid to keep around).

Sovereign Court

It's a shame that the reaper kits are so expensive on Amazon. They are far more reasonable on the Paizo site, but sadly, I have no gift card to the paizo site. I might just have to concede and get it here, though.

Scarab Sages

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure, Maps, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps Subscriber

I would definitely recommend to read this thread on the Reaper forums when considering buying a primer.

Advice thread

I personally use Reaper brown liner, fantastic stuff.

As for the Kits, they are great value if you price what is in them individually. I would definitely recommend the Bones LTPK for a beginner getting all those lovely Bones (I grabbed one for each of my kids....well worth the money).

Another thing to be aware of with Bones is that they can also react badly to the overcoat you use, I have had bones figure react to it and be tacky for ages. I personally have had no issues with Testors Dullcoat, but it is a bit pricy. Reaper's forums are a wonderful resource, and very friendly, so ask any questions there.

I will echo DeathQuaker's advice about Simple Green, and add this, Simple Green can last through a lot of miniatures, you don't have to throw it out after one figure. Fill a jar with it, drop in the miniature, and leave it for a couple of days. Bones does tend to absorb a bit of the paint colour, so don't worry if you don't get a nice shiny white figure out. That is normal. You can then keep the jar for next time.

Sovereign Court

Is the Testors Dullcoat the only way to avoid them being tacky? And when you say for ages, how long before it actually goes away? Or are those minis tacky to this day?

Seriously, go over to Reaper's forums and get information there. Lots of people have tested various primers, paints, brushes . . . everything you can think of in regards to Bones and quite a few you can't is answered there.

Sovereign Court

I'll head there right away. Up until the last post, I didn't realize they even had forums, so thank you.

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 16

Regarding tackiness---first of all, I have yet to deal with tackiness on my Bones so I'm only guessing based on others' reports, but it looks like there's two possible times the mini can get tacky:

- If you use a primer/basecoat that is not compatible with the PVC the Bones are made of.

- If you use a sealant/varnish after painting that is not compatible with the PVC the Bones are made of.

It's important to note the sealant or varnish is not necessary... and because Bones are pretty durable and/or you just want table ready minis for gaming, you may be fine without it.

If you do want to varnish your minis--it can look nice and protects your minis--all I can say is I've had best results with Testor's Dullcote anyway (looks nicest and applies well and with adequate shaking even works in the humid area I live) and find it worth the money--which, mind, is between around $5 and $8 depending on where you buy it and it lasts awhile, so I don't consider it a bank breaker either.

Scarab Sages

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure, Maps, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps Subscriber

Just for info, I had used the Humbrol brush-on varnish, and the mini was still tacky after about 3 months....however, hit it with some Testor's Dullcote and the tackiness was eliminated....magic stuff.

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 16

sanwah68 wrote:
Just for info, I had used the Humbrol brush-on varnish, and the mini was still tacky after about 3 months....however, hit it with some Testor's Dullcote and the tackiness was eliminated....magic stuff.

Humbrol varnishes are solvent-based, intended for use with their enamel line of paints (used for things like model cars); they are normally not compatible with acrylics--what most people use for game minis--which are water-soluble. They can definitely make any acrylic-painted model tacky, regardless of whether it's Bones or not. (And if not tacky, they can actually remove or otherwise wreck the paint job. This doesn't always happen, but it can.)

The Dullcote's own drying agents probably effectively removed the solvent.

Presuming you are working with miniature-line paints (Reaper, Citadel, Vallejo, etc.) or otherwise with craft acrylics, you have to make sure any additives and sealants you use are acrylic compatible. As a rule of thumb never mix anything solvent-based with water-based unless you're really sure of what you're doing.

Sovereign Court

Does a varnish just preserve the paints? I know you mentioned something about not needing it if I just wanted table ready minis, but I wondered if you could elaborate on that.

I do want table ready minis, and all this I see about the varnish has me wondering whether or not I should use it.

For ages, the theory was that when handling miniatures, you wanted something between your fingers and the paint, because your fingers will take paint off.

However, modern paints created for gaming miniatures don't really NEED that extra protective coating. Dropping a miniature will have the same effect whether or not there is a layer of varnish on it or not.

Furthermore, if you're using Reaper's Bones miniatures, you don't want the varnish, because varnish isn't flexible. The Bones plastic is, and when you flex the material the varnish will crack. It will take the paint with it. Acrylic paint is surprisingly flexible (there's a thread somewhere over on the Reaper forums about a painter flexing a piece around back on itself and the paint doesn't crack).

As for any other "preservation" of the paints, no, varnish really doesn't do that. You're not putting a thick enough coat onto the miniature. It's really only there to prevent gentle dings and scratches that come with handling miniatures. But Reaper, Privateer Press, and I'd imagine GW paint don't damage that easily.

Edited to add: Imagine putting a layer of clear-coat on your car. It adds a "layer" to the paint, but someone can key your car just as easily as they could before, and it won't do anything if you crash into a telephone pole. There will be some color preservation properties, but you don't leave your miniatures outside for hours at a time.

Sovereign Court

Thank you, that was highly informative. I imagine that metal minis are a better candidate for varnish?

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 8

Couple other notes --

First, yes, metal minis can be better off varnished.

I varnish sometimes less for the protection and more for appearance -- a matte varnish makes sure everything is appropriately uniformly flat/matte in appearance, especially an issue if I've used some inks, washes, or additives that have left an odd shine on some of my paint work. I think it just looks nice, too.

A gloss varnish, while it should be used judiciously because glossy minis can look off and ruin the contrast in a paint job, can also be appropriate for appearance if you want to make something look slick and wet, for example (I use it on bits of my WarMachine Cryx figures to make them look appropriately oooky). Gloss varnish IS also very protective (with the caveat about bendy plastic figures that Doug's Workshop notes), and does help protect things from getting scratched.

All this said, it is not necessary, and minis can look just fine unvarnished and not scratch or chip much either.

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