A question as old as the hobby itself, which model paint brand is best? Let’s take a deeper look at some of the contenders.
Which Model Paint Brand is Best
Let’s get down to brass tacks here: This is an impossible question. There are way too many factors to have a clear answer, and ‘best’ lacks a clear definition.
In fact, I think the question should be: Which model paint brand is best… for me.
This is where most videos and articles fall short: trying to give a cut and dry answer. What’s the best paint brand for you is what you should focus on.
From the pot itself to the color range, each brand has a long list of pros and cons.
Focusing on which pros you like best, and which cons are deal breakers will then answer the question for us.
Here are some of the most important factors to consider.
What color does a specific brand offers? Technically, all ranges have a red, a yellow and a blue. But how many tones of each do they offer?
If you are into military models, or schemes in general, look at the various greens and kakhis they offer. US Green, US Grey, German Green and German Field Grey are very specific colors.
Generally speaking, each range will have areas where they fall short and some where they shine.
When it comes to color range, Vallejo is king by far. If you invent a color, Vallejo probably already makes it.
On the other hand, P3 and a smattering of other ‘specialty’ ranges fall short.
This is quite the tricky criteria, because it is hard to judge, and widely inconsistent, even within a single brand.
As a general rule, know that model paint is 80% the same, regardless of the name on the label. This 80% is the reason to buy hobby-centric brands instead of cheap dollar store acrylic paint.
The other 20% is the quality. As a rule of thumb, again, most are the same. P3 widely differs because they use something called liquid pigmentation. It makes their paint blend and handle thinning much better than other brands.
Metallic paints use metal flakes, and these flakes are not equal among brands and another area where the quality comes into play.
Opacity and Texture
This is the real kicker, because those criteria are all over the place. That’s why you’ll find complete brand break down below.
Opacity is how well a paint covers. Very opaque is great for base coats, mostly translucent is great for blending. Which one is best? You guessed it, it depends on the task at hand and your preference.
As quick reference for opaque paints, Citadel offer very opaque reds, greens, blues, browns, and dark metallics. The Army Painters’ Shining Silver, White, and Beige are great. Vallejo’s yellows and Arctic White are also pretty amazing for smooth coverage.
Texture is how the paint behaves. Is it watery? Is it like toothpaste? Does it feel grainy? Does it split?
Splitting is when you the pigments (the color) and the medium (the liquid) separate in the pot. It will happen to all paints at some point, but some are more prone to this, like The Army Painters and the ‘Base’ range from Citadel.
Watery and Toothpaste are the texture themselves. If you put some on a palette, does it hold together almost defying gravity or does it run all over the place. The ideal option is somewhere in the middle, usually, but you’ll find both.
Snowflakes Paint Pots
The main thing to understand is that each color is different. There are general rules, but really, each color is its own thing.
For example, The Army Painter metallics are not great overall: not opaque and very runny. However, Shinning Silver is the best light silver color ever.
This is an often overlooked aspect of model paint, but is it commonly available where you are.
In North America for example, getting Vallejo is a nightmare roughly 8 months a year. Distribution of Vallejo paint in America has been a problem for over 20 years. This is not your game store being bad, it’s an overall issue.
There seldom is anything more frustrating than having to stop work on your models because you are out of paint and you can’t get fast enough. I like knowing that I can just walk to a store and pick up what I need on a whim.
If nobody has Monument Hobbies paint nearby, painting the main color of your army in it is daring and frustration prone.
Model Paint Brands Comparison
This is pretty unbiased, but it might be worth nothing my two favorite brands are Citadel (Games Workshop’s) and The Army Painter.
You can click the brands to read a more thorough break down of its strength & weaknesses.
- Great Specialty products like Shade, Dry, and Technical
- Chaos Black is the king of all black primers
- Very opaque overall
- Lack a lot of flashy colors in purples and oranges
- Whites are un-usable
- Very hit or miss on metallics
It’s worth noting that they are not in dropper bottles. I am not a fan of droppers myself, so I don’t mind it at all.
The Army Painter
- Color Primers & 100% Matching paints. This is the best thing.
- Lots of bright and vibrant colors
- Everything they design is user friendly – perfect for beginners.
- Mostly on the thick side, and the medium splits. You need to shake it like you mean it.
- Lack variety in the earthy tones
- Airbrush ready paint quality is widely inconsistent
- Widest color choice
- Authentic military colors
- Best Whites and Yellows for opaque coverage
- Heavy distribution problems in North America
- Colors dont match with Spray, Regular range and Air range.
- Airbrush Primer does not offer much grip