Over the years, I bought (and got sent) over a thousand paints from (almost) all miniature paint manufacturers out there. So the ultimate question is: Which acrylic paint range is the best for painting Warhammer miniatures in 2023? To answer this question, I compiled a list sorted by categories: best acrylics, best metallic paints, best washes, and best airbrush paints.
What makes a good acrylic paint for painting miniatures
In my opinion, a good acrylic paint for painting miniatures should have a smooth consistency and good self-leveling properties, to make it easy to apply without streaky results. It shouldn’t separate much and be ready to use after just a quick shaking, and should blend and mix well. Perhaps most importantly, a good acrylic paint should have high coverage and pigmentation, meaning that it should not require more than a couple of thin coats to achieve the desired level of opacity. The level of gloss is also important, most people including me prefer a more matt finish. Furthermore, the paint should be durable and resistant to chipping, fading, and discolouration.
Acrylic paints vs enamel and oil paints
Acrylic paints are the industry standard for painting Warhammer and other tabletop miniatures. They are available in wide colour ranges, quick-drying, non-toxic because of their water-based nature, and brushes can be cleaned easily. Unlike oil and enamel paints, they don’t require strong solvents, making them safer and more convenient for daily use. While enamel and oil paints have their uses for weathering and advanced techniques like oil washes and panel lining (which I explain in this tutorial in more detail), for this list I decided to cover acrylic-based paints only.
The best acrylic paints for painting Warhammer miniatures in 2023
On our hobby journey, we usually start with Games Workshop’s Citadel Colours. There is nothing wrong with that, their quality is certainly not bad. The selection is large, and they are available virtually everywhere.
But my recommendation has always been to mix and match the best colours from all available miniature paint brands. Each range has its pros and cons, stronger and weaker colours. If you have a problem with a specific colour, there is a good chance another manufacturer does it better. Different brands have different properties, and with some experimentation, you might find a brand that complements your painting style better than good old Citadel paints.
In recent years, miniature paints have made a great leap forward in terms of quality, especially in terms of opacity and pigmentation. Even if you’ve been using the same paints for years and are used to them, I advise you to leave the beaten path and switch to one of the paint ranges listed in this post.
In recent times, I have tested and reviewed pretty much all miniature paint brands out there. For this list, I have summarised my favourites by category:
- Best (non-metallic) paints
- Best metallic colours
- Best acrylic washes
- Best airbrush paints
And in the end, I’ll name the paint range that convinced me the most overall. Note that this post doesn’t cover Contrast-style paints – I already wrote a ranking of all “one coat” paint brands in this post.
Best acrylic (non-metallic) paints 2023
(New) Vallejo Game Color
The new formula Game Color acrylics are absolutely fantastic, and that for a competitive price. Amazing coverage and pigmentation, very smooth consistency, and a matte finish once dry. I also love the clear transparent dropper bottles, the soft plastic makes it very easy to dispense the paint accurately. The palette offers a good selection of vibrant colours, and for almost every colour there are matching paints for shading and highlighting (they call it the BSL system). Only the selection of muted tones is limited, the skin tones are all very peach and pink for example. The rest of the range is more average, but it’s the acrylics that shine. Check out my in-depth review of the new Vallejo Game Colors here.
Where to buy: In Europe and the UK, Vallejo paints are widely available in all major hobby online stores. I’ve heard they can be a little harder to find in the US, so try Amazon and ebay, too:
Two Thin Coats by Duncan Rhodes
Two Thin Coat’s acrylics share the amazing qualities of the new Vallejo Game Color range, which are smooth application, creamy consistency, and matt finish. The coverage is fantastic, Duncan chose the name for a good reason. With the release of wave 2, there are now 120 colours to choose from, and the shadow – mid – highlight triad system makes this range intuitive for both beginners and more advanced painters. As a lot of colours are close matches to the Citadel range, transitioning is easy. They are a bit more expensive than other brands, but well worth the price in my opinion. Check out my review of the recent wave 2 here.
Where to buy: By now, Two Thin Coats are widely available in all major hobby stores in the UK, Europe, and the US (via Noble Knight Games). Popular colours can sell out quickly, but you can also check ebay:
Also great choices:
- AK Interactive 3rd Gen: With over 350 colours, this range offers the widest choice, but can also be a little confusing to navigate as there are so many similar tones. The coverage is high (the lighter colours perhaps slightly weaker than Game Color and Two Thin Coats), the consistency is creamy, the application smooth, and the finish matt. And the price is competitive, too. Available at our partner stores here.
- ProAcryl: The screw cap nozzles of the bottles are a love or hate affair, but the quality of the paint is excellent. The viscosity is a little lower than most of the other paints on this list, so they don’t require much if any thinning, but the pigmentation and opacity are still very high. Light colours like yellow and green are a bit weak, but the Titanium White is one of the strongest pigmented whites ever made. Unfortunately, the selection is somewhat limited with just over 100 colours, so you will definitely have to mix colours or bring in colours from other paint ranges. Available at our partner stores here.
- TTCombat paints: I recently reviewed this paint range, which was realised on Kickstarter, and I was particularly impressed by their acrylics. In terms of opacity, smoothness and creaminess, they can keep up with all the paints on this list, and the finish is matt as well. At the moment, the range is a bit limited with only 60 colours, and only available directly on ttcombat.com. But definitely, a range to keep an eye on!
Best metallic paints 2023
All in all, Two Thin Coats is probably the range you can go least wrong with when it comes to metallic paints. Nevertheless, I would recommend you mix and match from various ranges. Here comes a list of my most trusted metallic paints, all linked to our partner stores so you don’t have to search long.
- Iron Warriors from the Citadel range is not bad as an almost black silver, but Dwarven Iron from the Two Thin Coats range is an identical substitute and comes in a dropper bottle. ProAcryl Dark Silver is also a very good dark metal, though it is a touch cooler / more neutral than Iron Warriors.
- As a replacement for Leadbelcher and Iron Hands Steel / Ironbreaker, I recommend Vallejo Mecha Color Dark Steel and Mecha Color Steel. Even though they are airbrush paints, they can be applied perfectly with a brush and amaze with a better flow, a higher opacity, and finer metallic particles than their Citadel counterparts.
- For a bright light silver like Stormhost Silver or Runefang Steel, there is no way around Vallejo Model Air Steel. Again, an airbrush paint, but even with a brush the coverage is perfect, and the particles are super fine. Simply one of the best metallic paints available.
- For a warm orange gold, Retributor Armour from Games Workshop is still worth its weight in gold (haha) as the opacity is second to none. Two Thin Coats Dragon Gold or ProAcryl Rich Gold are very good alternatives, though.
- Citadel Liberator Gold unfortunately separates strongly. Glistening Gold from the Two Thin Coats range is very similar in colour, but does not separate quite as much. For a lighter warm gold tone, I recommend ProAcryl Bright Gold. ProAcryl White Gold is also nice to have, it almost borders on pure silver, but is actually a light champagne shade.
Best coppers, bronze, and brass
- I really like Vallejo Game Color Hammered Copper for a nice, reddish dark copper. Two Thin Coats Overlord Brass makes a good mid-tone (it’s more a copper than a brass despite the name), and for highlighting I recommend Citadel Hashut Copper or ProAcryl Copper.
- For dark orange bronze, I like Warplock Bronze, Balthasar Gold, and Brass Scorpion, which are definitely some of Games Workshop’s better metallics.
- For more realistic and brownish bronze, I often use Castellax Bronze and ProAcryl Bronze.
- For lighter bronze, Two Thin Coats Battle Axe Brass is an excellent alternative to Runelord Brass, identical in colour but smoother in consistency.
- As an alternative to the poorly covering Canoptek Alloy, I recommend Two Thin Coats Platinum Crown or ProAcryl Light Bronze for a light Platinum colour.
Best acrylic washes 2023
Citadel Shade paints
I prefer washes with a low viscosity that easily flow into recesses, while leaving as little tint or staining as possible once dry. The new Citadel Shade paints in the 18ml pots do exactly that, and because of that, I think they’re excellent. Yes, they got more expensive, but I vastly prefer the new formula. The new colours like Targor Rageshade, Kroak Green, Berserker Bloodshade, and Soulblight Grey add even more choice, making Citadel Shades the most comprehensive range of washes yet.
Where to get: Everywhere you can find Games Workshop products, for example from our partner shops with a discount of up to 15%:
Also good choices
- Two Thin Coat washes: For those who preferred the stronger tint of the old formula Citadel Shade paints, I recommend the washes from Duncan Rhodes’ new paint range. There are 9 washes to choose from, and the colours are close matches to their Citadel counterparts. I like the matt finish, and the Two Thin Coats range also has Glaze paints, which are pretty much identical to the OOP Citadel Glaze paints. Available at our partner stores here.
- ProAcryl washes: The ProAcryl range has only three washes so far (Black Wash, Brown Wash, and Flesh Wash), but they all are excellent. They are more concentrated than the new formula Citadel Shade paints and provide a slightly darker shading. Yet, the flow properties are just as good, so pooling and staining are at a minimum. Their matt finish is also quite pleasing. Available at our partner stores here.
Best airbrush paints 2023
All paints on this list will airbrush well when diluted with the correct amount of airbrush thinner. However, special pre-diluted airbrush paints are more convenient, as you don’t need to find out the correct amount of thinner for each colour. Especially as an airbrush beginner, you can significantly reduce the risk of clogging the airbrush and thus eliminate a major source of error.
The Army Painter Warpaints Air
The regular Warpaints by The Army Painter are rather average and didn’t make it onto my list. I really enjoy working with the pre-diluted Air paints on the other hand. They have to be shaken very well (a vortex mixer is almost mandatory), but can then be poured directly into the airbrush cup (a drop of flow improver still can’t hurt). The coverage is great and they atomise very well. The colours are arranged in a triad system with shadow, midtone, and highlight colours, and the midtones all have a counterpart in the regular Warpaints range. Most of all I like the choice, with 126 colours, there is plenty. Check out my in-depth review of this range here.
Where to buy: The Army Painter products are available virtually everywhere, so you shouldn’t have a problem picking these up:
Vallejo Game Air
The Game Air range from Vallejo has just been redesigned to match the new Game Colors. I haven’t had a chance to test them yet, but what I’ve heard from other painters is promising, so I decided to put them on the list. With 51 colours (plus additives), the range is smaller than the Warpaints Air range, but each colour is identical to its Game Color version, which comes in extremely handy for switching between brush painting and airbrushing. The range has no metallics, but the metallics from the Game Color range are suitable for airbrushing, or you can use the metallics from the Vallejo Mecha Color range, which I like even better (see above).
Where to buy: In Europe and the UK, Vallejo paints are widely available in all major hobby stores. I’ve heard they can be a little harder to find in the US, so try Amazon and ebay, too:
*These are affiliate links from our partner stores. Using these links supports Tale of Painters at no extra cost to you at all and is a little thank you if you enjoyed this article 🙂
I have compiled this list of my personal best paints for painting Warhammer miniatures to share my experience from over 20 years of painting and hobbying. On Tale of Painters, I have reviewed a plethora of hobby products from minor to major brands. Only those products that I actually use myself regularly have made it to this list and receive my Seal of Hobby Excellence.
On my Patreon you can also find my two-part miniature paints guide with over 15 pages, in which I break down ALL miniatures paints ranges on market, and list my favorite colours from each range (and which ones you should better avoid).
Conclusion (and an overall winner?)
I hope my recommendations help you to improve your hobby and take your painting skills to the next level. A lot comes down to personal preference, but the paints above have served me excellently over the last few years.
As I said at the beginning of this guide, I prefer to pick the best colours from each range. But if I had to limit myself to only one paint range, it would be Two Thin Coats. The acrylics, metallics, washes, and glazes all have a consistently high quality with no duds at all. I feel you simply can’t go wrong with Two Thin Coats, whether you’re a beginner or an expert painter. And while the price is higher than other ranges (about £3.95 / 4.50 € for 15ml of paint) I believe it’s justified, as in my opinion, hobby time is too valuable to waste with subpar paints.
What are your experiences with the various paint ranges out there? Which products should I try next? Feel free to drop your recommendations in the comments section below so that other readers can benefit from them too.
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