Monday, August 20, 2012

Paint By Numbers Series - Paints And The Companies That Make Them

by Gabriel Diaz

Well, here we are. This is the area that most people would like to know about in detail, paint or more importantly the good and bad of different paints. Just like everything else that I’ve covered in this column I can show you the tools but ultimately you are the one that has to be in control of what you use. Again, this is not a copout but an understanding that everyone is different, from your needs to your likes and every manufacturer puts out paint but each one is different.

How you ask?

Well the best way to illustrate it is by looking at soda pop or even bread. You go down the aisles at the market where these things are kept and you are met with several different brands for each of them. The recipes for cola and white bread are pretty much the same, yet we have dozens of companies producing the same formula and just sticking a different name on the label right? Well, not really. The best example would be by looking back at the 80s with the Coca –Cola challenge advertising campaign.

Coca-Cola almost outsmarted itself when it brought out a NEW formula for its world famous drink, New Coke (I know extremely original). So when the masses came out against the new formula, Coke brought back the Original Formula as a standalone product. When they did this they decided to show the world that there was a difference in taste by blind folding random people in the street and giving them two cans. One was Pepsi and the other was the Original Formula Coke.

This is the same with paints. It’s not as much that one is better than the other; it’s just that they are a different flavor. So that being said, let’s start the breakdown.

Coat D’Arms

This is a little known company now but those of you who have been war gaming since the eighties and have been using GW products will probably spit out your coffee when I tell you that this company used to be the maker of GW’s paint line back in the 80s and early 90s. When GW decided to go with a different paint company, these guys decided to continue selling their paints under their own name. So that Red Gore ink that you REALLY liked in the 90s that GW just can’t seem to get correctly anymore? This is where you can find it. Black Hat Miniatures is the US distributor for these guys, I’ve dealt with them in the past and while they may be a little slow sometimes in filling an order, they have great customer service and you get good cost for your buck.

The one Caveat with Coat D’Arms is that while the inks and washes are great, for some reason the paint isn’t standard. So while one pot of that beautiful Rotting Flesh color will work wonderfully, the next may be splotchy or even a different shade. So be careful of that. Overall though I love the texture of this paint and I think that the pigment used is fairly high quality.


I tried to really like this brand. I mean I REALLY tried. To the point that for a little bit while I flirted with Warmachine I went out and bought three sets of paints from them (That’s 12 pots of paint) in the hopes that the quality would be as good as the miniatures that they produce, because regardless of what you may think about the game or the company, Privateer Press is a high quality company when it comes to the models they produce.

Earlier in the series I mentioned Flow Aide and Retarder if you remember correctly I specified NOT using Flow Aide with this company. The reason is that the pigment that they use for their paints is RICH.. I mean like Symphony Chocolate Bar rich, but to compensate for how thick the pigment is they went heavy handed on the flow aide already in the pot.

Quick lesson: the pots that you and I buy at the store are really just color pigment with Flow Aide and some additives to get the hue that you want. Does this mean that I’m saying go out and buy dry pigment and make your own paint? No. That alone is a whole different ball of wax but keep in mind that artists do that very thing when they’re working with canvas. That’s why when you go to an Art store you see blocks of colored pigment available for sale. The more Flow Aide you introduce to the pigment, the runnier the wet paint gets. So you could use color pigment for: Weathering, Painting, Washes, and Inks… do you see what I mean?

So the richness is a good thing because it tells you that they are using high quality pigment. But if they don’t add enough Flow Aide the paint will go on clumpy, so you won’t get that smooth look that they advertise on the boxes of the miniatures.

Honestly? This is a great paint…for small stuff. You want to really high light something? Use this. You want to do OSL on some weapons or eyes? Use this. You want to paint a regiment of soldiers or a tank…this is not what you use. Trust me on this.

Games Workshop

I can’t talk about the newest line of paint from GW since about four months ago they changed the line again. Most people think that all that GW did was change the name of the paint but honestly they changed manufactures again. I know because comparing the older paints with the new equivalents and the shade is off. Not only that but if you follow a formula that you might have for painting your figures, you’ll find that they don’t look alike anymore. It just seems…off.

Moving on, Games Workshop older (so the previous incarnation) paints were very good. Sometimes they got clumpy on you if they sat on the shelf too long but that could easily be remedied by just a drop of Flow Aide being tossed into the pot and shaken up. Now don’t freak out. One drop of Flow Aide to one pot of paint really isn’t a lot; it’s enough to get the color mixing together again. I’m not saying to do this every time that you are going to use the paint, only if it’s been sitting for longer than six months and ONLY if it’s the older GW line. I can’t say that this will work for any other company or the newer brand of paints from GW.

Millions (No this is not an exaggeration) of war gaming players use the GW line because it’s easily found in hobby shops everywhere. Personally the majority of my paints are GW paints but it’s also a preference for me. I KNOW what the quality is, I KNOW that I don’t have to worry about them messing up the recipe and I know what I can get away with when I start mixing my paints and working on my figures. It’s like the old friend that you see every so often, no matter how long you were apart, you fall into the same patterns of your friendship.


Sigh. You know this company alone could take up an entire article. What GW is to Sci-Fi and Fantasy gaming, Vallejo is to painting of figures. Vallejo isn’t a niche company. This is a juggernaut when it comes to the paints that are applied to any model. They have pushed the limits of paint with their creativity and ability to find new things that people that like to paint MUST HAVE!

Think I’m kidding? I recently decided to try and paint Grey Knights, which is a Games Workshop army from the 40k universe, most people like to paint them in shiny silver colors. I, however, want to go for a muted, realistic feel. MiniVault, one of the most well respected miniature painters in the world, had a great recipe for doing this very thing. So I decided to follow his recipe by finding what Vallejo colors he used and using the GW equivalent. The first color he had on his list? VMC Dark Grey, this is where Vallejo makes money. They have two branches for their paints. VMC is Vallejo Model Color and VGC is Vallejo Game Color. From what I can tell in difference it’s the labels and the names of the paints themselves. Of course you have those steps like the Dark Grey where they’ve helped a painter along by giving a base that has some of the color you’re going to be using as well as the darker base to allow for shadowing and better color coverage. So you have Dark Grey, Dark Red, Dark Blue and the like. The hue is a tinge but enough to make a difference in the long run. My take? They have colors for war gamers and then colors for model aficionados that build cars, tanks, planes and the like.

Does it seem cheap for the company to do that? Sure. They’re squeezing every dime they can from us and if you look long enough on Google you’ll find a recipe for that particular shade that you want by combining two colors. However, those who use these tier stepped colors will tell you that it is the best thing ever since it helps those coat colors pop.

You can’t go wrong with Vallejo. Just keep in mind that you may not always find a color similar to what Vallejo makes in any other paint line produced by others.

Overall, like with brushes, there is no right or wrong, it’s preference. For me Vallejo and GW are the two gold standard companies for my paints. Use something different? Let me know in the comments below! Until next time!


  1. I use Vallejo and GW paints, GW washes and shades, and army painter for dipping/glazing/shading. Vallejo is the best, hands down, but GW has some colors that are just perfect, and my paint station has pre-molded slots for GW stuff lol.

    1. I started with GW, of course. Then picked up some Vallejo by accident (my wife got it for me 'cause it was pretty) and I love it. Haven't really had a chance to use anything else... seems like I really don't have to now.

      I need a paint station something fierce. My bench is a wreck but I do my best to hide that in the blog pics. ;)

  2. I came up with a formula i tested for the new GW paint's. IF its a new pot 20 drops of flow aid/retarder mix and 20 drops of distilled water got the paint to tbe consistancy you'd look for, like milk, and it covers well

    1. Nicely done E! Trail and error is the best way to learn, I'm going to write down that formula!

  3. I ran into an issue with my process, I took like a week or so break from painting after the swap to dropper bottles. The paint sat for a week or so, well when I sat down to paint again the paints didn't feel right, either to thick or a wash.. after contacting ron at FTW he got me thinking with his comment about shakinv them well, so i tried shaking them for a minute or so still didn't feel right, so much head banging and thinking it came to me!!!!! Add a stainless steel nut to the dropper bottle to act as an agitator, well I'm happy to report it seems to have worked!!! Apparently the flow aid retarder mix and distilled water seperate A LOT and you need to add something to mix them back together after they separate. Just an FYI if any of your readers were thinking of doing this to their paints


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...