Ah, the last paint line I have any experience with. Tamiya makes a number of different types of paint, so for clarity’s sake: I am only going to address the acrylic line. They seem mostly aimed at the military modeler crowed and as such; most of the colors are direct matches for WWII camouflage colors. I haven’t really dipped too heavily into Tamiya’s offerings, but I have noticed a few important things from what I have used.
1) The paints have great consistency but poor coverage. I’ve never even seen the colors separate in the pot even after long periods of non-use. BUT, Tamiya is really thin and you will need multiple, multiple coats for good coverage if you’re using a brush (more on this later). Even with black paint.
2) Tamiya paints taste funny. Yet are less filling and non-toxic. They also smell much more strongly than most acrylic paint.
Personal Anecdote: I often put brushes in my mouth for various reasons. I.e.: to shape points, for two brush blending, just because, etc. As a weird side effect, I know what most paint tastes like. Tamiya has the weirdest flavor. The old GW inks have the worst.
3) If I recall, Tamiya paints take a while to dry. Kind of a pain if speed is a factor or you have to do multiple coats.
4) Tamiya paints are almost as ubiquitous as GW paints. I’ve yet to see a hobby shop that doesn’t have them.
Not too much setting these paints apart from any others for regular ol’ bristle brush uses. They seem like pretty good quality paints, just almost totally unsuited to my uses thus far.
If I was gonna guess (hint: I am), I’d say there meant for airbrush purposes. The consistency and coverage qualities of the paint combined with the fact that Tamiya makes a really good thinner for airbrushing ( which I use) leads me to believe this. Also supporting my vague notion is the fact that airbrushes are much more common with serious military modelers.
I’d also like to give a quick heads up on the one thing that is extremely neat from this line – the various ‘clear’ colors that Tamiya makes. They are essentially washes with a twist. The twist being that they are quite thick and sticky. I haven’t found anything like them anywhere else. The ‘smoke’ color is very often used as a quick shortcut for shading metal. Despite my previous praise, it’s largely fallen out of my use. Though your preferences will vary.
Well, I’ve covered everything I have intimate knowledge about pretty well, so I’d like to mention some of the other stuff (all acrylic) I know is out there (but know next to nothing about):
Humbrol Acrylic – another line aimed at military modelers. Based in England
Andrea Color – same as above, minus the England part (maybe). Comes in a dropper bottle
Gunze Sangyo – Pretty comparable to Tamiya, but better by most accounts. They make two kinds of acrylic paint - one water based (Mr. Hobby) and one lacquer based (Mr. Color). The water based paints are next to impossible to find in the states. Gunze was recently bought by a new company. I've heard that they've stopped exporting anything to the US and/or they discontinued the water based line. The lacquer based can still be found, but I had to seach long and hard to find ANY water based stuff.
Lifecolor – apparently, an Italian clone of Tamiya. I’ve read that they are virtually identical in quality.
Pretty thin there, I know. But I list them as points of interest in case any enterprising people go out and get some are already have some and want to tell me about them.
Regular Ol’ Paint
These aren’t lines of paint but, rather, types of paint. I’ll mention them because thy also have their uses. Not generally formulated for gaming, they tend to be a bit more fragile for handling than most of the stuff I’ve mentioned so far.
Craft Paint – commonly available, and crappy. Its cheap for a reason, people. Do not use on you models unless you really just don’t care. However, they are super great for painting terrain due to the cheapness. I've also seen people use them when dipping their miniatures, but this isn't really my style.
Artist’s colors – these are the things that you see when you go to an art supply store. They usually come in tubes and are displayed near a dizzying array of other things with funny names like gesso, gel medium and masking fluid.
Artists colors are the kinds of acrylic paint that the artists who paint on canvas typically use. A such, they have a large number of differences from model paint that you must be aware of if you want to use them.
1) They are much thicker. If you’re going to use them (and many people do), you will have to thin them. There’s no sneaking by it like with every other paint.
2) They are a little bit more fragile for handling. Many model paints are formulated with handling in mind. Sealing your models becomes a really important issue.
3) Usually, a much smaller variety of colors. In the art world, the colors of paint are actually pretty standardized. If you need colors, the idea is that you will mix them. The various manufacturers compete on paint quality & consistency and supplemental items (various mediums, for example) almost exclusively. Burnt Umber will be pretty much the same shade across all of the brands.
I covered a lot of stuff, but this list was by no means exhaustive. There’s even more out there you can use. Various drawing inks, airbrush paints and even other acrylic paints. Hell, even local things that aren’t very well know outside of their home country are out there and waiting. I didn’t even mention the enamels that are pretty common with military modelers and you can even use artists’ oil paints as well.
A man wiser than I said:
So to sum up don't be afraid to mix and match from different paint lines. If you find something you like, go with it. Being a slave to one brand is just silly. The cool thing about painting is there are soooo many ways to approach it and get similar results, as well as just by adding a minor tweak you can produce far different results (whether intentional or not.) Experiment and innovate.
I have to agree with him. There’s just too much good stuff out there to ignore it all for one mediocre brand of paint.
Appendix 1: Links
One final thing, I’d like to include a link to the thread that started this deeper research.
Discussion Of Paint Lines/companies – on the Brush thralls forum
Most of my ideas came from here, but it was just a little to vague for my liking. So I went out and did some research. In some cases I bought some paint to experiment with.
Color Match 1.0
This thing is a fantastic color matching and comparison tool. Extremely helpful for finding color equivalencies and shopping for a new shade. I've been using it heavily ever since I found it and has been very reliable.