Is Vallejo’s second wave of Xpress Colors the game-changer in the world of one-coat paints, or should you stick with your trusted Contrast and Speedpaints? To find out, I put all 36 new colours from Wave 2 to the test, including the 8 brand-new higher-pigmented Intense paints. In this video review, we’ll find out if Vallejo is ready to beat the competition or not.

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The Spanish paint manufacturer Vallejo took a relatively long time to introduce their competing product to Citadel Contrast and The Army Painter’s Speedpaints. Wave 1 is still somewhat hard to come by, especially in the US. But now, we are treated with Xpress Color wave 2, which brings 36 new colours developed in collaboration with painting legend Angel Giraldez and Contrast expert Juan Hidalgo. Among these are 8 colours specifically designed for military uniforms, as well as 8 highly pigmented Intense colours, more about both in a moment.

Now, on Tale of Painters, you can already find a detailed review of the first wave, covering all the basic features of Xpress Colors, so I recommend giving it a read. Here’s a brief summary of my experiences. I found that Xpress Colors require to be shaken vigorously, but then they apply very smoothly and evenly, dry very matte, and do not re-activate once dry. However, compared to their Contrast and Speedpaint counterparts, many colours tend to be slightly less pigmented. This often means you need to apply two coats to achieve a similarly intense result as with a single coat of Contrast or Speedpaint. Let me know in the comments about your experiences with Xpress Color and tell me if you’ve observed the same.

For the classic Contrast painting method over a white or light primer, I have to admit I’ve mostly stuck with Contrast and Speedpaint. However, for slapchop or zenithal priming techniques, the weaker pigmentation of Xpress Colors can actually turn into a strength, as it allows more of the preshading to show through. I used Xpress Colors on my Blood Bowl Shambling Undead team, which you can see here:

Blood Bowl Shambling Undead painted by Stahly, group shot
Shamblind Undead Blitz Bowl team, more pictures here

I started with a dark brown base coat, then created a gradient by airbrushing highlights in light bone colours, then gently drybrushed the edges with white. Now, for the black belts and crimson armour, I had to apply two coats of Black Lotus and Velvet Red Xpress Color as I wanted a really strong tint. I also refined the belt and armour with additional edge highlights in case you‘re wondering. But for the red clothes, I applied only one layer of Plasma Red over the zenithal basecoat, and the result was super smooth. I added a few edge highlights with Wild Rider Red sparingly, but the clothes looked great even without the additional highlight. By the way, you can find a detailed tutorial for the Undead on my Patreon if you’re interested in recreating this scheme.

The 36 new Xpress Colors reviewed

Now, with wave 2, Vallejo has responded to the feedback and introduced 8 new, extra-pigmented Intense Colors. I’ll provide my assessment of those below, but before we dive into the details, let’s explore all 36 new colours. For this comparison, I painted all colours over a white primer and photographed them professionally under neutral 5500K light:

Vallejo Xpress Color wave 1 & 2 hand-painted swatch

Expanding the primary colours, there’s a new orange that is a bit warmer and more yellowish than Martian Orange from wave 1; Fluid Pink; Twilight Rose, which is a muted warm burgundy purple; a new vibrant lilac; and Wicked Purple, which is actually more blackish than purple.

There’s also a new denim blue (Wagram Blue); a warm medium green (Forest Green); as well as an ochre green (Rotten Flesh), perfect for Nurgle tainted flesh. Mummy White is a light brown wash that can produce a nice off-white when painted over white primer, it’s actually one of my favourites from the new wave; and then Bag of Bones finally adds a bone colour to the range. 

In terms of skin tones, there’s now more variety too. We have a rosy skin tone with Fairy Skin; a pale brownish-greyish tone with Zombie Flesh, which is another of my favourites; a wicked reddish tone with Demonic Skin, which is also perfect for shading red; a new Tanned Skin tone; and a dark warm tone with Mahogan​​y.

In wave 1, darker browns were missing, and now we’ve got some new ones to the range: the warm Muddy Ground, and the more neutral Willow Bark. Additionally, there’s Greasy Black, an anthracite colour, which works great for weathering and metals when thinned down a bit. As for more grey tones, we have Starship Steel, a petrol grey similar to Gryph-charger Grey from Citadel; and Iceberg Grey, a muted bluish-grey.

The 8 military colours

Let’s now take a look at the 8 military colours. These have been specifically developed to meet the needs of historical painters but are also perfect for Imperial Guard armies. We have Khaki Drills, a warm khaki for desert warfare and also matching the undergarments of Cadian Shock Troops; Military Yellow, which is a yellowish-brown; a warm ochre tone (Desert Ochre); and a muted yellowish brown with Battledress Brown. For the green tones, we have two ochre greens for the US forces (Camouflage Green and Commando Green); a dark muted green (Armor Green), which Juan Hidalgo has tailored to resemble the green armour of the box art Cadians, and Landser Grey, a dark grey-green matching the uniforms of the German army in WWII. 

The 8 Xpress Color Intense colours review

Now it‘s time to talk about the 8 new Intense Colours. These are highly pigmented and create a much stronger tint, though they also seem to contain more opaque pigments than regular Xpress Colors. This means that when you’re using Slapchop or Zenithal basecoating, they can cover up the preshading to a certain extent. With Contrast and Speedpaint, some colours also contain opaque white pigment, but they are usually found in lighter and pastel shades.

The Intense sub-range has a total of 8 colours, and as you can see, these are clearly inspired by some of the most popular Space Marine chapters. There’s the new Dreadnought Yellow, although I think it’s quite similar to Nuclear Yellow from Wave 1; a more intense orange (Phoenix Orange), which is quite similar to Magmadroth Flame from the Contrast range; a deep warm red (Seraph Red); and a dark black that strongly resembles Citadel’s Black Legion. Unlike Black Lotus from Wave 1 which was more of a dark blue-grey, Hospitallier Black is a completely neutral black.

In the blue and green tones, we have Viking Grey; a deep ultramarine blue (Legacy Blue); a muted turquoise (Heretic Turquoise), which is a great starting point for Contrast-style Sons of Horus; and Monastery Green, which I also really like.

Vallejo Xpress Color wave 1 & 2 hand-painted swatch

And here are all 60 colours from Wave 1 and Wave 2 in a single chart. The expanded Xpress Color range is still smaller than the Contrast and Speedpaint ranges, but now it feels much more complete than before covering both vibrant and earthy tones.

I also have a comparison chart with all major “one coat” paint brands such as Citadel Contrast and The Army Painter Speedpaint.

4-in-1 One Coat paint Patreon banner

This hand-painted swatch is available in my Patreon shop for a small donation (or by becoming an Autarch tier member). I also have swatches for Citadel Colour, Vallejo Game Color, Warpaints Fanatic, and Two Thin Coats – all cross-compatible with each other so you can compare colours across different brands. Check out my shop for details.

Value

Returning to the question from the beginning of the video review, can Vallejo outperform Contrast and Speedpaint with their second wave of Xpress Colors? The good news is that if you liked wave 1, you will also like wave 2, and the stronger pigmented Intense Colours will provide you with new options. 

But will it make me stash away all my Contrast and Speedpaints? Ahh, probably not. You see, while I’d describe Contrast and Speedpaint as quite similar in their properties and intensity, Xpress Colors do feel a bit different due to their slightly lower pigmentation. And personally, I would rather dilute my Contrast and Speedpaints when I want more subtle results, than having to apply two coats of Xpress Color when I want a stronger shading. For this reason, I think the Intense Colors are a welcome addition, but to be honest I wished the other colours would be more like them. Just my opinion, your mileage may vary!

Vallejo Xpress Colors Intense review (wave 2)
All 36 new colours

In terms of price, Xpress Colors, with a recommended retail price of €3.95, are slightly below Speedpaints 2.0 from The Army Painter (my review of them here), which are priced at €4.25 in Europe, and well below Citadel Contrast (read my review here). Like Contrast and Speedpaint, you get 18ml of paint per dropper bottle. For the quality this is a good deal. By the way: You can find a comparison of all Contrast-style “one coat” colours with their respective strengths and weaknesses here.

You can find Vallejo Xpress Colors at our 🇬🇧/🇪🇺 partner stores Wayland GamesElement Games, and Firestorm Games, at 🇩🇪 Taschengelddieb and PK-Pro, and at 🇺🇸 Noble Knight Games with a welcome discount of up to 10/15% over RRP. Using our links helps to support Tale of Painters at no additional cost to you, so thank you very much for using them!

I hope you found this review helpful, feel free to leave a reaction or comment below, or post your questions here or discuss on our Discord channel.

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8.5
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Pros

  • Good flow properties, matt finish & smooth results
  • Expanded palette with new more richly pigmented "Intense" colours
  • Lots of muted and earthy tones

Cons

  • A lot of colours are less pigmented Contrast & Speedpaint
  • Availability outside Europe is poor

Final Verdict

I gave Xpress Colors an 8.5 in my review of wave 1, and I stick with this score. Precisely because Xpress Colors have a somewhat different feel, there are definitely some good reasons to pick them over their competitors. Thanks to their even distribution, you can achieve some very nice results with zenithal highlights and slapchop, and the slightly weaker pigmentation can actually help to bring out the pre-shading better. The extra matte finish is quite nice, and if you're an advanced painter and like to use one coat paints for glazing or as filters for airbrushing, Xpress Colors do this excellently as they are very stable, do not reactivate, and thin down nicely, even with water. Moreover, the Xpress Color range offers the widest selection of muted and earthy colours, perfect for a more realistic colour palette and historical uniforms, which is a unique selling point. And aside from the muted tones, there are some unique colours that I definitely want to keep in my one coat paint collection. For example Martian Orange, Mummy White, Zombie Flesh, Demonic Skin, and Black Lotus, just to name a few.