Making scale models and miniature is a gratifying hobby and for some people, it is a full-time job! From beginning to end, their meticulous crafting grips you and ensures you spend your time at your creative high.
But no matter how great a model has turned out, you can’t make it part of your product collection without good paint. Owners of gaming models can attest that an excellent paint job on your battle figurines will give you an edge in competition and increase the dollar amount of your collection. Some collectors pay a premium price to hire the best painters!
Picking the best model paints among the multitudes of acrylic and other options available in the market is also an art. If you are new to model painting or shopping paints online for the first time and can’t pick the right ones due to excess of choice, read on, I have researched, shortlisted and reviewed 11 of the best miniature paints and best model paints across different types and classes.
If you are in a hurry and don’t have the time to skim through the entire article, here is my list of 11 of the best model paint sets for miniatures and other hobbies:
- Apple Barrel PROMOABI Matte Finish Acrylic Craft Paint Set <<Awesome Value! Highly Recommend
- Testors 9146XT Promotional Enamel Paint Set <<Best Enamel Paint
- Jacquard Products Acid-Free Pinata Color
- Angelus Leather Paint Set of 12 <<Best for Leatherwork
- The Army Painter Acrylic Model Paint Set <<Best RPG Set
- Castle Art Acrylic Set
- Vallejo Basic USA Colors Paint Set
- Games Workshop Citadel Shade Paint Set
- Reaper Miniature Masters Starter Set
- Mont Marte Signature Acrylic Color Paint Set
- Craft Smart Acrylic Paint Set Value Pack
My recommendations for the best paints for miniatures and figurines:
Anyone can learn to paint models like a pro! Most large cities have clubs and model stores where members meetup to paint and help each other with tips and advice.
At a couple of our local gaming stores I was amazed to see extremely intricate miniature models less than one inch tall!
Gaming models aren’t the only miniatures for hobbyists! Many people enjoy painting scale models of favorite Sci-Fi and fantasy movie props, historical reenactment mechanical vehicles and figurines, planes, classic automobiles, trains and superhero figurines.
In addition, painting furniture and accessories for dollhouses has been a treasured skill for hundreds of years.
1. Apple Barrel PROMOABI Matte Finish Acrylic Craft Paint Set <<Best Value, Highly Recommend!
Apple Barrel is offering a set of acrylic paints in 18 different colors. The quality and range of colors make it equally good for beginners as well as artists. From white to parrot blue and Jack-o-lantern, the innovate color palette of this model paint set offers first-rate matte finish on Styrofoam, wood, tin, terra cotta, and plaster.
This water-based acrylic emulsion is non-toxic and can be used with all sorts of applicators. You can brush, sponge, stencil, and stamp them on your models and miniatures. The bottles will last a very long time on your shelf and I’ve used them for all kinds of other craft painting, besides our collection of miniatures.
- Comes in easy-to-use 2-ounce bottles
- Quick-close snap shut lids
- Dries matte finish
- Can be cleaned with the simple mixture of soap and water
- Available in individual colors as well as in sets
- Offers same soft matte finish on tin and plaster
Our rating: 90%
2. Testors 9146XT Promotional Enamel Paint Set <<Best Enamel Paint
People who want the vibrancy of enamel paint on their projects should consider this set of eight colors by Testors. These enamel colors offer good results on every clean surface. However, their finish on wood and plastic is top-notch. I also like this paint set because it also includes useful accessories. Enamel paint is a messy cleanup though, you’ll need paint thinner to get your brushes super clean and unless you use an airbrush with thinned down enamel, it will be difficult to remove paintbrush texture from large surface areas of your model. Dries glossy and semi-glossy.
Apart from eight paint bottles, you get a thinner as well as a brush. If you do a lot of airbrushing, you will find this complementary thinner quite useful.
- Extremely durable solvent-based enamel
- Fade-resistant finish to figurines
- Comes with a thinner and paintbrush
- A combination of gloss and metallic shades
Our rating: 90%
3. Jacquard Products Acid-Free Pinata Color <<Best Alcohol Inks
Many people prefer to use alcohol inks on their models and miniatures as a glaze due to their transparent and exceedingly vibrant profile. They are very thin and staining and are the secret finishing touch of many model makers. The inky consistency of the paint flows into crevices and crannies in tiny models and create life-like shading and depth. For all those artists, this set of nine alcohol inks by Jacquard Products is worth considering. These alcohol-based colors can be used on leather, wood, plastic, vinyl as well as metal. They can be mixed together to create different colors as well.
The other great thing about this Pinata color set is that it is free of acid ingredients and offers strong waterproof results. For best and consistent results, pick the alcohol solution mixer that is at least 91% concentrated.
- Comes in 0.5-ounce dropper bottles for easy mixing
- Use it on any oil-free surface for best results
- Great bang for the buck
Our rating: 90%
4. Angelus Leather Paint Set of 12– Best for Leather-Covered Artwork
If leather is a part of your miniature collection, then this Angelus paint set of 12 might be the assortment you are looking for. Whether it is a leather jacket or a figurine with leather covering or a pair of leather shoes, you can use Angelus paints for good results.
Unlike other paint options for the leather, these don’t give off toxic fumes after application. They are extremely safe to use even if you are working in an art shop with not-so-good ventilation.
- Comes in 1-ounce handy jars— also available in 4 and 8-ounce bottles
- Doesn’t peel, crack, rub off or fade
- Requires a finisher coating for scuff protection and extra gloss
Our rating: 90%
5. The Army Painter Acrylic Model Paint Set– Best for RPG Set Painting
This Army Painter product is an assorted set of 50 paint bottles designed for finishing all sorts of miniature sets with the best color profiles. The set contains four different types of paints. You get 39 acrylic paints along with 5 metallic ones as well as 4 washes (similar to the alcohol paint set above). Army Painter brand has a loyal following all over the world and is highly recommended by model enthusiasts.
Then there are four Quickshade washes to add a shading effect to your miniature models. Lastly, there are 2 effect paints to add blood, gore, and rusty layers to figures. This paint set can prove to be a good pick for painting RPG models and war game miniature sets.
- Uses heavy pigment for superior coverage
- Available in small and large sets, and individual colors
- Dropper bottles ensure precise application and conserves paint
- Doesn’t dry out as quick as other brands
- Comes with a detailed paintbrush and painting guide
Our rating: 90%
48 tubes of acrylic paint from a favorite art materials manufacturer. These will be thicker paints, which you can thin with water to a desired viscosity.
- Easy to blend, highly pigmented colors
- Vivid colors
- Will need to mix your own blends of army and battle figurine colors
- Perfect for both model finishing and canvas painting
- Smooth consistent paint
Our rating: 85%
This Vallejo paint set is a suitable acrylic option for models and miniatures of all sorts. The 16 colors present in the set are formulated with permanent pigments that ensure the finish remains opaque and lightfast for the longest time. They are a favorite brand of many RPG model hobbyists around the world.
The consistency of these model colors is good. With a single application you can get a uniform and smooth paint film without any traces of brushstrokes. The paint’s adherence is also worth mentioning. You can get the same results on materials as contrasting as plastic and metal.
- Available in many different set combinations as well as individual colors: Skin Tones, Metallic engines, RPG games colors, and many others!
- 17 basic and innovative colors— from simple white to yellow ochre
- Can be used for airbrushing as well
- Comparable price point
- Screw-on dropper caps
Our rating: 85%
If you want to make stock miniatures and war game figures stand out with shading, you might love this citadel shade paint set by Games Workshop. It is a set of eight different shades that use dyes with finishing considered best for scale figurines.
The impressive bit about this Games Workshop product is its thin-consistency that allows the paints to run into the recesses and details of action figures to give them fine shading and texture.
- Comes with a wash brush
- Packaged in small pots -good for small storage needs BUT the snap-on lids drive me crazy! Too many options for spilling.
- A bit expensive for the quantity that you get – half the size of other brands
Our rating: 80%
A good small set of basic colors to get a beginner started painting their miniatures. Geared for RPG battle figurines, the colors are aimed at that market.
- 13 small bottles
- Drip top lids so a small amount of paint comes out at a time
- Strong foam-lined storage case with room for additional colors
- Includes metallic silver and gold
Our Rating: 85%
10. Mont Marte Signature Acrylic Color Paint Set– Best Model Paint for Commercial Use and Large Quantities
If you are looking for an option that can come in handy for commercial model painting, then this Monte Marte paint set is an option worth considering. For starters, it features 12 different colors that are sufficient for creating many different shades on miniatures and models.
Secondly, they come in a large 500 ml bottles so that you don’t have to buy new paint supply every other day. Also, these paints can be used on all types of miniatures and models. Whether it is air-dried clay, plaster, or plastic, Monte Marte acrylic colors dry to top-quality semi-dry finish.
- Offers good coverage with thick color-rich texture
- Fast-drying ensures muddying –proof color layering
- Offers great quantity to price ratio
Our rating: 80%
This is another set of acrylic paints that you can use for a range of art projects, including model painting. This is the set we use our house for inexpensive craft projects as they are budget-friendly. On a cherished miniature, we recommend going for the more highly recommended paints.
The 16 colors included in the set can be used individually and in mixtures to create a matte finish. The paints come in 2-ounce capped bottles. Some of the paints are less vibrant and have a chalky over-tone.
These Craft Smart colors are free of toxins and dry quickly to rule out any chance of smudging.
- Good for kids and beginners
- Comes in 16 assorted color shades with matte finishing
- Good for porous surfaces like wood and heavy paper.
- Not suitable for leather
Our rating: 70%
Advantages of Using Acrylic Model Paints
There are various reasons why you should consider acrylic paints for your models and miniatures. The truth is, hobby acrylic paints are pretty much all alike.
There are minute differences that an expert can might point out, but what it comes down to for the most part is personal preference between brands, sizes of bottles and ease of using the cap.
Some brands specifically labeled for miniature model painting may have denser pigments for easier coverage, or they may be just repackaged paints in smaller containers and labeled as such.
They are low-maintenance
You don’t need thinners, solvents, and a range of brushes to use acrylics. A brush with a cup of water is enough to paint your models with acrylic paints.
Acrylics can be thinned to use with an airbrush
Please see our article about miniatures and using an airbrush to paint them.
You remain in control of texture and consistency
With acrylic paints, you have more control of texture and consistency of the finishing.
They are non-hazardous
Almost all top-of-the-line acrylic paints are water-based and completely free of toxins. You don’t necessarily need a highly ventilated space to paint your models with acrylic paints.
Very easy clean up
Acrylic paints dry fast that allows you to add more layers in lesser time without smudging and muddying.
The opaque and non-lustrous coat of acrylic paints give models and miniatures a more life-like finish.
Advantages of Using Enamel/Oil Paints
Enamel/oil paints are especially favored by model car, plane, army and plane hobbyists. They are a good option for painting models for these reasons:
Easy to apply
It is easier to handle oil paints. You can set their thickness and color profile through thinners. Also, they dry slowly, so you have more time to work on your paint.
Figurines and models painted with enamels don’t fade and peel off easily in both indoor and outdoor settings.
Some action figures, especially those in metal gear, require a lustrous finish of oil paints.
When used with an airbrush, you can get store-bought pristine finishes that are professional looking.
Features to Look for in Model and Miniature Paints
Take these four characteristics into account while buying a model paint.
- Opacity/Transparency: In painting models, you have to factor in the opacity/transparency of the paint. A good rule of thumb is: get opaque paints for dark-colored surfaces and transparent options for figures lighter in colors.
- Fade-resistance: Lightfastness or fade-resistance rating of the paint will help you in determining the life of its finish on a model. Oil paints usually exhibit better lightfastness, but you can also get some acrylic paints that are good against fading.
- Viscosity: If you want to do airbrushing of your figurines, opt for thin paints with low viscosity. In contrast, if you want to add a volume to models with a color profile, viscous paints will do the job.
- Color shift: Paints undergo a shade shift as they dry. For instance, acrylic paints usually dry to darker tones than enamels. So, factor in this attribute when you are buying paints for your model painting to get precise final results.
In this review article, I have covered the best model paints from all different groups.
I’ve discussed regular acrylic and oil paints, as well as alcohol inks and citadel shades. But if I have to pick standout model paints from the above list, it would be Army Painter brand in acrylics and Testors set in enamels.
Both these model paints offer the best results in their respective categories with a variety of colors and also at reasonable price points.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Can we thin down acrylic model paints?
A-Yes, acrylic paints are water-based, so you can use water to thin them down for your required painting task. However, make sure not to exceed the 30/70 water-to-acrylic ratio if you are painting models made of non-absorbent material.
Why use airbrushing on models and miniatures?
A-Airbrushing allows you to have a more realistic finish on the figurines. With the right airbrushing technique, you can create impressive color gradients on action figures and scale models.
What are shades, inks, and washes?
A-Shades, inks, and washes are thin paint variants that are used to seep and settle into the recesses and crevices of miniatures to give them a more realistic detail. You can purchase inks and washes individually and in sets.