Instar has reached out and sent me a selection of their paints to review. In this review I want to answer these questions. 1. What is Instar? 2. What is the paint like to use? 3. How much? 4. Are the colour matching claims accurate? And finally, 5. Will I be switching paint ranges. Find out these answers after the jump.
Full disclosure. INSTAR sent me these paints to review for free. I did not pay for them. I’m not being paid or sponsored to promote their product. The views expressed in this review are my own.
To answer the 5 questions above I’m going to be painting a Primaris Intercessor in my Dark Angel scheme. I’m going to use my own tutorial but switch out the Citadel paints for INSTAR ones. By the end of this review I’ll be able to benchmark the paints by showing direct comparisons against a Dark Angel I painted in December with Citadel paint.
1. What is INSTAR.
The next paragraph is taken straight from their website.
INSTAR Paint is a small family business based in the UK providing high quality model paint for various hobbies, our unique paint formulation and bottle make it easy to paint your models leaving a high quality finish that stands out on the table. Our paints are compatible with other major brands and our shades are 99% comparative to Citadel shades, Our Vintage line brings back out of production colours using the same INSTAR Paint formula and we are currently expanding our range of unique, pre thinned metallics.
Let’s look at their statement for a second. High quality model paint, on first impressions the bottle labels don’t look high quality but the paint does feel high quality so that’s what matters. Unique paint formulation and bottle, I can’t comment on this because I don’t know their formula but I can talk about the bottles. The bottles are one of their major unique selling points. The bottles come in different sizes and and you can order what ever size you require. I can see terrain painters enjoying the 100ml bottles and airbrushers digging the 50ml bottles (or the 100ml even) The bigger the bottle the more economical the cost. The 2ml bottles are cheap and perfect for sampling the paints before you buy. Brilliant.
Bottle sizes Left to Right, 100ml, 50ml, 20ml, 10ml and 5ml. Their 2ml sample bottle is not shown.
The bottles also feature child-proof safety caps. A really smart idea that I’m surprised no one has done before (that I know of). I also like the thin needle nose applicator. I have concerns of this smaller diameter nozzle aperture clogging but so far it’s showed no signs of blockage.
Reverse of the business card includes a handy area to make notes about your paint recipes.
2. What is the paint like to use?
The paint is easy to apply to a palette using the dropper style bottles. Like all water based paint brands, you will need to thin your paints before you can apply it to the model. I used water and instantly noticed how opaque the paint is. It’s like Citadel Base turned up to eleven. Even with thinning the base coat went on in just two coats. It also went on smooth. After the basecoat I like to glaze on the lighter green colours. I usually thin with Lahmian medium but I only wanted to use INSTAR paints for this review so I thinned with water and was I shocked at how much water I had to use to make a thin translucent glaze. Probably three or four times the amount I would use for the equivalent Citadel colour. Despite only having the 10ml bottles I felt like these would last ages because of the amount they can be diluted.
Chest Eagle colour went on in two coats over black. The coverage of all the paints was great but I was particularly impressed with how well light colours like white painted over dark colours. Painting the Dark Angel symbol was always frustrating with Citadel’s Ceramite White. INSTAR’s Artic White covered great in two thinned coats and a third coat just made it perfect.
The paint has a great consistency out of the pot for edge highlighting but a touch of water really helps the flow off the brush.
I can’t explain how impressed I am with the silver paints. The metallic fleck is so shiny and yet it paints on incredibly smoothly.
There was something I didn’t like. In my package from INSTAR there was no black wash equivalent for my Dark Angel tutorial. I thought I’d take the black paint they sent and just water it down to a wash consistency. Weirdly the black turned to a dark grey instead of a black (see picture above). The black is perfect if you don’t water it down like crazy like I did.
The paints were super nice to drybrush with. They left pleasing results with no chalkiness or lumpiness.
Mixing the paints was no bother either. The drop bottles made this easy with not having to clean the brush and dipping it into the paint pot. Just drip them onto your palette and mix with an old brush. The paints mixed perfectly with no separation.
It’s also worth noting every colour comes in two options. Matte or Sheen. So you can choose to have a shiny finish to your models. I’m kinda tempted to have slimy wet looking tyranids with sheen option.
3. How much?
Well I didn’t pay for these so they’re excellent value for money. No seriously though, INSTAR sent me all the paints needed to paint my Dark Angel paint scheme and the price would have cost £30.40 for 21 10ml bottles. Citadel range would cost £54.39 for 12ml bottles (at RRP). INSTAR’s prices vary depending on the size of the bottle and the kind of paint. 2ml samples are £0.59 and the 100ml are £8.99. Citadel layer paints are £2.55 for 12ml. INSTAR is £2.19 for 20ml. INSTAR’s 10ml bottles are over a £1 cheaper at £1.49. INSTAR metallic paints do cost a little more, but are still cheaper than Games Workshop. You can see the full pricing on their website here.
4. Are the colour matching claims accurate?
The pictures above and below show the Intercessor on the left painted with the INSTAR range and the Tactical Marine on the right is painted with Citadel. They’re indistinguishable! The reds look a little different but that’s just how I’ve painted them. In person the INSTAR paint metallics look brighter and shinier but the colour hues are still accurate.
You can visit INSTAR Paint’s website for their colour conversion chart.
In my tutorial I use the Citadel shade Beil-tan Green to wash over the armour. I didn’t have this paint for the INSTAR review so I didn’t wash the Intercessor and the armour still looks the same colour as the tactical marine. The citadel wash has actually made the tactical marine a little shiny where as the Intercessor painted with INSTAR paints is a more pleasing matt look.
5. Will I be switching paint ranges
Quite simply, yes. Yes I will switch over to INSTAR. The pricing is superb. The bottles and sizes are fantastic. The matt and sheen variants of every colour is a really good option.
The colour matching is so good you can switch paint ranges halfway through an army and not worry.
My only concern and it’s a speculative one is INSTAR say they are a small family run business, with paint this good I hope they can cope with demand. But honestly, it’s not a risk for me to switch to their range because the colour match is so good I can switch back to Citadel at any point.
Since producing this review I’ve been back to INSTAR and placed my first order. I’ve ordered all the colours needed for my Stormcast colour scheme. I’m really looking forward to trying out more colours in their range.
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woah. I really need the old old Blood Red (the '90s one). Fingers crossed.
coat d'arms blood red is literally the exact same paint as citadel blood red was.
They now have this converted, It's IV-27 on the Vintage Line
Great review Garf, I'll be putting an order in as soon as they have the colours I want back in stock!
Has anyone ever had problems with having paints freeze in the winter? This is a very real concern of mine, mostly during transit as the post sits in the nice warm post office. This is why I use GW and Reaper, as I can buy them in person and stick them in my jacket pocket in the winter.
Per the website their Alpha range can be frozen with no adverse side effects!
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Thanks for doing this review, Garfy. Could you comment on the paints such as the iyanden yellow replacement https://shop.instarpaint.com/product/iv-16/ and the other foundation replacements? The foundation paints were fantastically dense pigment wise and I wondered how the instar paints compare on that front and if you think that colour matching is up to snuff too. I have read some people say the paint isn't as thick as the foundation paints were but I haven't seen any comments on how solid a layer they do vs the foundation ones.