My Favorite Miniature Painting Gear
Through my miniature painting journey, I’ve tried all kinds of paints, brushes, washes, set…you get the idea. I’ve also vowed to never buy some again. I’m here to spare you the pain.
From one mini painter to another…here are the supplies and tools I recommend and what you’ll find on my painting desk.
You can jump to the section you’re most interested in by clicking the links I’ve included below.
- Paint Brushes
- Paint Sets
- Game Changer Paints
- Wet Palettes
- Paint Mixers
- Airbrush & Compressor
- Lights & Magnification
- Miniatures & Models
- Other Gear
My favorite brush is the Rosemary and Co Series 33
Size 2 Brush. A fantastic tool for painting. Long, thin bristles, sharp point, great feel, great snap, and stiffness of the bristles. I love these.
Great company! I have multiples of these in various sizes and I use them every day. I’ve placed several orders with them now and never had a problem with international shipping to me in the US.
I also highly recommend:
You should definitely have some low cost, good quality synthetic brushes. They are just so useful I can’t imagine not having these around. This set of synthetics comes in packs of 10 for under 10 bucks. These packs have all different sizes and shapes of brushes in them. A great variety and very inexpensive.
They definitely get the job done. You get a range of brushes and you’re in good shape for painting, spreading out the glue on a base, priming, mixing, stippling, dry brushing, and anything rough you do with a brush.
Size 1 and 2. My Raphael 8404 size 2 gets a LOT of work! Nice thick belly, sharp point, and holds its shape incredibly well. It’s a fantastic brush and I can’t recommend it enough. A lot of people recommend Winsor Newton Series 7 sable brushes, and in my experience, these 8404’s are much, much better.
I don’t know if it’s quality control by Winsor Newton or what, but Raphael’s are great and my Winsor’s have not held up well. I have multiple brushes from each brand and I’m very confidently recommending the Raphael 8404 here.
Raphael’s are a bit more expensive than my top pick, which is really the only reason I made them my second favorite. Although factoring in shipping from the UK, and how fast they’re delivered, you can easily make these your pick.
I’m not a big fan of many paint sets beyond these two below. I would definitely say get one small set, and then fill out your collection from there (more on that in the Game Changer Paints section below).
Once you get a feel for the paints you can make a more informed decision on what you like. It’s a highly personal preference. So if you go ahead and buy the huge 100+ paint set, you better hope you like that brand of paint! Conversely, if you buy a few Vallejo or Reaper and love them, go ahead and pick up one of their bigger offerings.
My Favorite Paint Set is the Vallejo Basic Paint Set.
This set gets my 100% recommended seal of approval. Vallejo is a fantastic company that has been making great paint for decades. They are an excellent choice and my personal pick for a paint set.
This is the set I started with and gives you the basic colors, plus. It’s not so many paints that you’re overwhelmed though. Remember you can always mix paints for that perfect tone you’re looking for!
Rich and dense, the paints produced by Vallejo do a fantastic job of covering difficult surfaces. These paints are very easy to mix and to work with. They produce bright, vibrant colors that fully cover the surface of the miniature.
Also great is the Reaper Learn to Paint Set.
This set is great fun and definitely my top rec for a beginner looking for a place to start. The paints included are also a wonderful starter set. You’ll get the colors you need for most miniatures. A metallic, some browns, skin tones, basic colors like black and white, red, yellow, blue, green, etc.
The dropper bottle Reaper MSP paints included are very high quality. The paints are rich and bright, and they have a remarkable tolerance to light.
What is more, they have the perfect consistency for miniature-painting beginners as it makes them very easy to mix and use. The brushes are just beginner brushes, but they get the job done.
To make this list, it has to be a paint that I said “Wow.” when I used it. Maybe it’s the consistency of the paint, or how well it flows, or its excellent coverage. Maybe it’s a white that isn’t chalky when most whites are notoriously chalky. Could be a matte or glossy finish to it that makes it stand out, or simply a color I just LOVE and find myself going to often.
Vallejo Metal Colors
The first metallic I used was from Reaper. After that, I tried Citadel and thought they were great…. Especially Balthazar Gold and Leadbelcher. But once I tried Vallejo Metal Color (METAL Color, not Model color and not Game Color, they are very different!) it was a total game-changer for me.
The Metal Color paints are very thin, with tiny metal pigments in them so they look like actual metal as opposed to glittery. The go on extremely smoothly, but with good control. You might have to do multiple layers but the opacity is fantastic. I can not recommend these enough. If you paint anything with true metallics, you have to try these paints.
I use these paints ALL the time.
Here are my top 4:
- Steel (check Amazon price)
- Copper (check Amazon price)
- Silver (check Amazon price)
- Gunmetal (check Walmart price)
This one had to be here. It’s a legendary tool in the miniature painting world. Nuln Oil is such a staple that you eventually just forget how pivotal it was when you first tried it.
As a beginner you find all your colors to be flat and lacking depth. Nuln oil fixes that. It gives instant shadow…instant contrast. It’s “talent in a bottle”.
The difference it can make in something like a face, armor, or almost anything else with texture is really something that will make you say “Wow!”.
Gobi brown is here because of its mix of excellent color and matte finish. It looks so good in so many applications – highlights on leather being one of them. It has a really “dry” look for lack of a better term, and that contrast is often enough to make it a paint I reach for.
I just absolutely love this shade of red. It’s really as simple as that. When I think red, this is the shade I think of first. There are many different reds out there of course, but this is the top of my list.
White is often chalky with poor coverage. This goes on SO SMOOTHLY. Great coverage, extremely easy to work with. I use this with a brush. For white through an airbrush, I prefer Tamiya Flat White (more on this below). You have to try this ink if you’ve painted anything white and thought “Why is this so hard to do? Why does it look like that?”
Another beautiful ink. I mostly love this because it’s a blueish-black and works so well for shadows. I typically only use it through an airbrush but it’s 100% fine to use with a brush. Vince Venturella recently did an entire video on this ink and I agree with him 100%. It’s perfect for shadows, mix it with most colors and you’ll get a great shade color.
Just giving Tamiya a shot overall was big-time, but this is exclusively for an airbrush. I have yet to use it with a brush so no comment there. Properly thinned, through an airbrush… this is SMOOOOOOTH. The only white I use now in the airbrush other than primers.
I love the color in general but it just gets a lot of use from me. I paint a lot of Warhammer and on those models, there are a lot of scrolls and purity seals. This color, along with Karak Stone as a highlight, looks fantastic on them.
This one is one of those paints where you’re like “Ahhhh ok!” It’s just a great flat black that looks good, comes in a dropper bottle, and is inexpensive. It’s my go-to black so it makes the list!
Decayed Metal is one of those unique colors that have no real equivalent that I’m aware of. I use it for a very specific purpose: Undercoat for gold. It has a dull copper/gold color that is perfect for a shadow on gold armor.
This is the first of the Contrast Paints that I highly recommend trying. It’s a great time saver if you’re looking to do a quick leather pouch but still have it look good. Be mindful of what color you’re putting it on top of (white is what I prefer) and watch for pooling in places you don’t want it.
The second of the contrast paints, this is for quick skin tones.
Another Contrast, I use this all the time for glowy red eyes on Space Marines over a white base coat.
I think this was the first contrast paint I tried that made me say “Wow”. I was painting a base that had a bunch of leaves on it. A quick coat of this and the instant contrast it gave made me immediately realize how valuable this sort of product can be.
Redgrass Games has the best wet palette in my humble opinion. It’s pretty expensive but it’s well made, great quality and a lot of small things done right.
The height of it, the color of the sponge (it just stresses me out that the Mastersons Wet Palette has a yellow sponge, is there a reason for that…?), how it seals up, and the magnetic dry palette. Great purchase and I use it every time I paint.
I started with the smaller orange one but recently moved up to the XL Blue palette. Both are great depending on your needs.
If you’re on a budget, the Army Painter Wet Palette will do the job and can be easily found on Amazon.
While it’s definitely a luxury, the Vortex Mixer is AMAZZZZING! Look. I know. It’s 75 bucks for a mixer to paint your little army toys. Yes you can just shake them manually. Yes you could duct tape paint bottles to your reciprocal saw or some other crazy contraption. Having said all that… DEFINITELY GET ONE! 🙂
This is great and I use it every day. That said if you’re on a budget, steal one (ha, joking).
I have seen people rig up a sawzall to do this and while that seems fun, it also seems like a pain to do and uh… hazardous.
Stynylrez primers are easily the best primers I’ve tried. Period. They’re smooth, have great coverage, are inexpensive, and high quality.
It goes on cleanly and “shrinks” down on the model tightly. The paint will adhere to it really well and it won’t chip off. They really are fantastic. I 100% recommended and use em’ every time I paint.
Vallejo Model Primer is also very good. I have nothing bad to say about it other than I like Stynylrez more. Vallejo is slightly thicker so I found I needed to thin it when putting it through an airbrush (3 drops flow improver, 12-15 drops primer).
Using this made a huge difference in my painting. Shout-out to Vince Venturella for turning me on to this stuff. It makes your models look radically different, in a good way.
It mattes the colors down, removes the shine, and makes it look more “real” for lack of a better word. You can also use this as a “save point” on your model. Anything you apply over it can be wiped away or removed if you’re careful, and you’ll be back at the varnish layer.
I highly suggest getting some, but definitely TRY THIS ON A TEST MODEL first so you can see what it does.
If ultra-matte is too matte for the particular model, I mix in some satin.
Again, the terms wash and shade are interchangeable. They are a sort of watery paint that you apply all over a miniature, or certain sections of it, to bring out some detail and add shadow.
A great tool that gets used a lot, especially when starting out. Both the Reaper and Citadel starter sets walk you through how and where to use them.
If you have none, I’d get the “big 3” in my picture above.
Nuln is a black shade, Agrax is brown, and Reikland is a sort of Sepia/Skin shade. Finally, if you’re like me and realize how awesome shade/washes are, you’ll just go ahead and get the full Citadel Shade Paint Set, which also comes with a shading brush that I still use all the time.
Mediums are the liquid that holds the pigments found in paint. In this case, we can find mediums to do various things to the chemical structure of the paint and give it different properties.
Some will thin paint down, some will slow the drying time, and some do both. Here are the three I use most often: thinner, glaze, and flow aid (flow improver).
This thinner does exactly what it’s designed to do; it dilutes the viscosity of the paint, resulting in a thinner, weaker color that is more transparent without disrupting the pigment too much. It can thin both primer and model paints and act as a flow improver. Excellent product!
I love how this adds just enough sheen without the high shine of a gloss. It provides just the right amount of transparency, and I’m always pleased with the results.
I use this one all the time. I typically water this down to about a 5 to 1 ratio of water to flow improver for my paints.
I just get a dropper bottle, mix in 5 parts water, mix in 1 part flow improver and use that. You can certainly use it right out of the bottle, and see what works best for you.
Lahmian Medium has been created by Citadel to thin paints without reducing their viscosity. This allows you to create glazes and blend shades with ease.
It has no pigment and can be used on its own to create a slight matting effect. It’s fantastic for use in paints, washes, and glazes.
Contrast Medium was created by Citadel to be paired with their range of 34 Contrast paint colors.
It is a colorless medium that is used to thin down the Contrast paints, which lay over the two specially formulated primers (Wraithbone and Greyseer).
To keep it simple, there are three types of glue that I use.
- Superglue: For this, I like the Gorilla Glue Gel. Something about the gel form makes it easier for me. I typically squeeze a bit on a paper plate and apply it with a toothpick. I feel like I can get more precise with that method but whatever you need to do. 🙂
- Plastic Cement: I love Tamiya thin cement, it’s really fantastic stuff. Super strong. Be aware that it will very slightly melt the plastic and sort of fuse it together. So, once you get that stuff on there it’s not coming off easily. Tamiya is wonderful for plastic models like Warhammer miniatures.
- PVA glue: This is just the same old Elmers white glue you’re used to from arts and crafts at school. PVA is great for a lot of things, like doing a base and sticking on gravel for example.
This one was easy. It was my choice after a ton of research and I still stand by this combo today.
With this setup, you get a high-quality, workhorse airbrush that is perfect for priming and painting with a compressor that is bulletproof and works extremely well.
It’s a fantastic set up for beginner to intermediate levels.
Be sure to get this adapter so the airbrush fits the hose that comes with the compressor.
The Phive is the big boy on my desk. Sleek lookin’ and provides a broad, clean, bright light that gives me great coverage and visibility on my painting desk.
This is the LED light/magnifying glass combination. If you have decent lighting in the room already, you can get away with just the Brightech I think.
This site has a ton of stuff in the US. It’s almost always my first stop for anything miniature related. Paints, minis, games, etc.
Again, a huge site of course, and I’m seeing a lot more brick and mortar game stores who put listings up on Amazon so you can order from them. Amazon can be a bit pricey, but it’s a great place to look, here’s a list of items that might help you:
At around 62 cents per mini, this is a great, cheap option for token minis to play on your table. Around $25 for 40 miniatures is a steal of a deal. This is good to have as a way to fill out your ranks.
Under $50 for 42 unpainted DnD minis = roughly a dollar per miniature. Now we’ve nearly doubled the cost but easily tripled the quality. They’re unpainted but it’s DnD-based miniatures, and you get a whopping 42 of them, including a dragon.
Around $12 per box of four painted miniatures = $3 per miniature. Bulk DnD miniatures… painted! Ok, now we’re moving up in price. For around $3 per miniature you can get these guys, and yup, they are already painted! So you get a huge time saver if you’re just interested in getting things on the game table. They are ready to rock. Awesome.
Around $70 for 25 awesome, unpainted, miniatures = under $3 per unpainted miniature, roughly. You can also watch Sorastro’s channel on YouTube for exact guides on how to paint these bad boys.
Yes, it’s Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli, but it can be any human elf and dwarf you want. If you are into LOTR and you want to learn to paint miniatures, this might be the set to get.
I say this a lot but, there is just something about Games Workshop/Citadel miniatures. The plastic they use, the way the paint flows on them, it’s impressive to me, and I’m sure you’ll agree.
If you’re into DnD type miniatures you’re looking at Age of Sigmar stuff. If you dig the Space/Sci-Fi look then check out Warhammer 40k.
Just click that and look for yourself. It’s pretty amazing what people can accomplish with the miniatures and some paint. I like this site to browse around when I’m not sure what I’m looking for. I’ll usually find something to inspire me.
This site is my go-to for higher quality DnD miniatures. They have cool sculpts, a wide variety of classes and races, and the detail is fantastic.
This site is fantabulous. It’s got crazy stuff in it and miniatures loosely based on classic TV or cartoons or movies. For fun, nostalgic minis, this is where you’d go.
These guys have a lot of historical minis. I ordered some Roman centurions from them, and I’m happy with the quality! Another one to just browse and see what you like. A good place to go to when in search of something different.
Finding Specific Miniatures
The Reaper Figure Finder allows you to search through their large catalog of minis by a lot of different variables. This in my mind is the first stop in any mini search, at least for DnD miniatures. Reaper just has tons to choose from, and odds are you can find something workable. Genre, gender, race, weapon, armor… it’s fantastic.
Very much along the lines of Reapers Finder, the Miniscollector Figure Finder will give you a list of painted minis to look at! Along with helping you to find something you like, it will also give you ideas on how to paint it. Cool color schemes, styles, and looks you can draw inspiration from.
Another great finder is GnomishBazaar Figure Finder. Gnomish has a lot of stuff, the prices are good, and they have made searching easy.
MiniatureMarket is probably the biggest resource I use for buying miniatures. It’s a fantastic site for tons and tons of miniatures from almost every large manufacturer. Here you can find Reaper, WizKids, GamesWorkshop, Star Wars, and anything else you need.
If you can’t find a specific character or someone in the exact gear you want, create your own at Hero Forge! If you want something very exact, maybe it’s your new DnD character and it needs to be PERFECT, Hero Forge is a fantastic option.
If you have your own 3D Printer or are interested in what you could do with one, check out Thingiverse. Be warned you’re going to want to print everything in the Thingiverse. The printers now are capable of some amazing quality. It’s a great time to be into miniatures!
Ok, this is the section for all the odds and ends. Not that they aren’t important, just that there are so many different things to cover!
I got the Master Airbrush one. It’s generic but does the job. I got the LED one.
For now, I use Nail Polish racks. Other racks I tried frankly suck. I found something that might be promising but for now it’s not available. Nail polish racks do the job though. There is also this one for a wall-mounted option, I have both.
Personal preference, but I went with this one on Amazon. Black, simple, good size, and I like the look. These are really great to have, highly recommend getting one.
I got an inexpensive set (like this one) and I’m happy with it. I also got nice clippers to supplement this.
I like Citadels clippers of the ones I’ve tried.
They’re all similar, but mine is this one. Came with tools too which I still use!
I really like the 3M one. I use it while airbrushing but now with the spray booth ventilating things, I can get away with a cloth mask.
If my brushes are being really stubborn, which has only happened once, this is the nuclear option: Vallejo Alcohol Brush Cleaner. That one will definitely get it off. I’m afraid it will hurt the bristles though so I use it only as a last resort.
Kind of silly, but I do like the Citadel one. It has ridges on the bottom that are really helpful to clean a brush off thoroughly.
Again Citadel here, although I just bought the one from Redgrass. Stay tuned.
I got a cheap one and never got good results. So I decline to recommend one! Maybe you’ll have better luck than I did though.
Last update on 2021-07-30 at 18:59 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API