Monday, April 26, 2010

On Paint: Revisiting GW

A little over a year ago I did a series on the types of paints that are available to us as hobbyists. Overall, I think it holds up in the face of my experience and I stand by much of what I wrote. However, the section on GW's paints bears some rethinking in the face of a year's worth of use.

Here's the old post for reference purposes: The GW standard.

The post in April was written at the beginning of my WD subscription - a subscription I'd still have if the magazine wasn't 9 fucking dollars an issue.  But that's something to impotently shake my fist at another time.  Where was I?  Oh yeah... while the gaming content of White Dwarf has gone from good to the equivalent of shit in a urinal, the painting articles have gotten really good.  They're actually promoting good techniques & habits as well as publishing how-to's for both the beginner and the expert.  The master class series in particular is extremely good.  The days of pretending that you can achieve smooth blends with dry brushing are over.*

The masterclasses ended up being particularly useful for me.  Even better than the stuff in No Quarter, I'd say.  However, the recipes used were always in terms of Citadel paints.  Dur.  Since color matching across ranges is such a crap shoot (and potentially expensive), I caved in and bought GW paints when I wanted to try a recipe out.  The end result being that I gave them a bit more of a fair shake than I had before.

Now, some new info.  I'll readdress each point from the original post and leave it up to you to read what was already said previously.

1) They dry too fast.  True, but so do the Reaper paints (now that I've used them quite a bit as well).  Acrylic paints dry quickly, its a given.  Nothing to do but thin your paints.  A wet pallet goes a long way towards extending the working times of mixed paints.  But that's another article for another rainy day.  In any case, that's one point I've softened on.

2) Consistency between colors is very spotty.  Absolutely.  But I'd like to be fair and say that I'm not just judging this on a handful of the lighter shades of colors. Or, the colors which tend to have poor coverage across all ranges.  Even some of the darker and mid tone colors just will not cover an area.

3) The containers suck.  Yep.  Still true.  Very bad for the paint and very bad for you in terms of expense, paint quality and consistency of coverage.  Now that a year has gone by I've noticed that all of the jars I stick models to are old GW pots.  More than one of them half full.

4) They keep changing the line.  I actually haven't noticed a problem with this over the last year.  But if you extend that time line out to two years, you run smack dab into the replacement of the inks with the new washes.

5) The Foundation paints... 

The real motivator behind this little look back.
When I first wrote part one of the On Paint series, it was before I had any significant experience with the Foundation line.  I had fiddled with a couple colors using my airbrush and that's about it.  Now that I've purchased a few and used them with an actual brush, a much more solid opinion has formed.

I hate the Foundation paints.  I think they are absolute garbage.  They are poorly made and promote extremely bad painting habits. 

The biggest problem is that they dry too fast.  Even faster than the regular Citadel range.  There is absolutely no working time with them.  Hell, the paint actually starts to get noticeably thicker if you leave the pot open over the course of a quick painting session.  Not even a wet pallet will keep it wet enough to stay workable with any regularity.  Forget about blending or even smoothing out streaks.  By itself, this wouldn't be so bad (you could almost work around it) except for the fact that the paints are almost a maple syrup consistency.  Seriously, I'm not using hyperbole on that one.  So the paint will go on in globs and then dry in the blink of an eye.  Bad, bad, bad.  The only thing you can do is throw a lot of thinning medium (not water) with a drying retarder at it and pray.

Then you get to the container.  By itself, its not so bad.  Its one of the slimmer pots that behave much in the same way as the P3 containers and goes a long way towards addressing my complaint about the regular Citadel pot.  The lid has a much beefier hinge as well so its not prone to breakage.

However, all that goopy, quick drying paint tends to run into the hinge and then squish out when you close it. Which can be kind of a nightmare because of how heavily pigmented the paint is.  Also, as little air is in the new pot, the Foundry paint still dries out quicker than old women in Florida.  I bought one a couple of days ago that had begun to turn to paste on the store's shelves before I had even purchased it.

[Pro-tip]:  always open a pot of Foundation paint to check its freshness.

There's also the issue of how pigmented the paints are.  Its great from a coverage standpoint, but it can be kinda irritating when mixing since the Foundation paint tends to overpower all other brands.  I'm not prepared to make this a negative feature of the line, just something to be aware of.

Which brings us to those bad habits.  Here's the sales lingo from the GW site:

Specially formulated to complement the existing Citadel Colour and Citadel Washes ranges, the Foundation Paints have been designed to provide great coverage, creating a solid block of colour with one application over any undercoat

So not only is the paint garbage, but GW isn't promoting good practice.  Ask any good mini painter** about what you should do with your paints and they'll tell you to thin them.  Use multiple thin coats to get smooth, even coverage.  How exactly does 'one application over any undercoat' of an an unnecessarily thick paint with a split second drying time fit in with that? All the Foundation line is doing is promoting lazy and sub standard painting. Especially since the paint gets significantly worse in quality over time.

Look, I know that multiple thin coats can be a pain in the ass.  But globbing paint on like a girl just learning how to use nail polish is not a solution. 

Ultimately, the idea behind the Foundation line is inherently flawed as it is aimed at poor practice and combines all of the worst paint qualities to get there.

Final Thoughts:
Ultimately, I'm still not a fan of the majority of the paints GW produces.  However, they aren't that bad.  In fact, most of my dislike stems from the fact that the paints dry out like crazy.  I have some original Citadel paints from 10+ years ago that are still good.  Then we get this crappy revamped in-house formula and I can't keep paint usable past 6 months in some cases. 

That being said, when fresh the paint behaves very well.  The Citadel paints are also compatible with the Tamiya acrylic thinner (which is more than I can say for Vallejo) and great for airbrushing.  They also thin well which is another thing in their favor.  Bottom line: don't be afraid to use the most easily obtainable paint in our hobby - especially if you have a recipe that calls for it as there are almost no substitutes.+

Then you have the foundation paints.  Simply awful.  I can only recommend you use these in two situations:

1) if you absolutely need one of the colors and are prepared to dick around with thinners to an extent you are more than likely mentally unprepared for.

2) You plan on using them with an airbrush.  Because in all fairness, once you thin Foundation paints for airbrushing, they're golden.

-----[Foot Notes]--------------------------------------------
*Seriously, back in the day, all of the painting articles only ever suggested dry brushing as a technique.  For the life of me, my 15 year old ass could never figure out how they got dry brushing to look so good.  Thinking back, it was lies.  GW had a tendency to gloss over the skill required to get 'Eavy Metal results.
**That's painters of miniatures, not small painters.
+The Vallejo game color range is not completely equivalent.  There are often subtle differences that make a huge difference for mixing and color selection.


  1. Ah, shit in a urinal...those were the days...

  2. Personally, I dig GW's metallic line... the ultra fine pigments are a lot better than the Vallejos that I always use.

    But I never got to getting any GW paints because of the stupid pot design.

    I work a lot with the airbrush and the Vallejo nipple bottles are perfect for that purpose.

    I could transfer GW's metallic paints into old Vallejo bottles but i'm too lazy (and its a messy affair... given I need to use a dropper.

    You mentioned that Vallejo doesn't thin well with Tamiya Acrylic Paint Thinner... I never had a problem with that... could you expand more about that and which colours?


  3. yeah, the GW metalics are waaaay better than the Vallejo ones. Just hands down better. "Use 'em all the time," he said grudgingly. Luckily, I use them fast enough that the pot drying isn't too, too much of a problem.

    As far as the tamiya thinner goes, they have a lacquer thinner and an acrylic thinner. I use the acrylic thinner (part #: X20A). No matter which vallejo paint I've added it to, it always turns it to goop. I think it has something to do with the drying retarder added to the mass of isopropyl alcohol that makes up that thinner. I've never had it react to any other brand, just the vellejo. From what I can tell its a pretty common problem.

  4. That is very interesting! I never had problems mixing X-20A with vallejo!

    Then again, I never use paint retarder either.

    That aside, have you tried retarder and water instead for vallejo? I always use water to thin vallejo paints but never more than 40% (but certain colours need at least 50%)

  5. I paint like a blind monkey with arthritis, so the easier you can make it the better :P

  6. With my tyranids I've had good luck with the foundation line's Mechrite red. I thin it with coffee and do it in two coats. It works pretty well and there must be something in coffee that retards drying, because I get a pretty decent working time. I can basecoat about ten termagants before it turns to shit.

    idses- the 16th of March. A day of celebration dedicated to Mars' brother Larry