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The Best Paints for Miniatures, Model Cars, and Planes

The big picture with paints to use for your miniatures and models is that you have a variety of high-quality options. A lot of these paints are fantastic and widely used.  Which one is best for you is subjective, but I’ll give you a good sense of the bigger brands.

I’ll cover oil paints briefly here but by and large, it’s Acrylics that are by far the most used paints in this hobby.  Here is a quick summary of  the brands I’ll be discussing:

Vallejo: Fantastic quality and the best all-around paint sets.  Dropper bottles, the best metallic paints, wide variety of colors and ranges.

Reaper:  Great color choices, very good quality.  A bit thinner than other paints so you don’t need to thin them down much.  Dropper bottles, fantastic sets called “triads” that give you ready-made shades and highlight colors.

Citadel:  My personal favorite.  I love their colors, the quality, and consistency of the paints.  It’s just smooth and silky.  They come in pots rather than dropper bottles… which is not ideal, but not a deal-breaker either.  Citadel also makes the best washes and shades in my view.

Army Painter:  Another great quality paint range.  A huge array of colors.  They have a lot of options, they come in dropper bottles, and they have all kinds of tools, gear, and paintbrushes.

Tamiya:  Tamiya is old school!  Established in 1946 they are a mainstay of the hobby and model space.  They have well-established paint sets and hobby gear.

Their Thin Cement Glue is my favorite cement.  As for paints, to be honest, I don’t see people using them for miniatures, but I do see them in the model car/plane/tank space.

In the review section, we will cover more options for you including Liquitex but if you’re looking for a good paint set, I’d highly recommend a Vallejo to start with.  Browse their various sets and pick the best for your specific project.

Here’s an overview of what I’ve learned so far:

The Basics: What Types of Paints Can You Use?

First of all, you’ve got to know which paints are suitable for painting miniatures. This information can come in handy when you’re creating textures and mixing colors. Plus, we all know how the quality and properties of the pain can enhance the overall appearance of your models.

Am I right?

Here’s a hint on what kind of paints you should use:

1. Type of Paints

Enamel Paint/Oil Base

The traditional oil-based paints are the best option if you’re looking for a durable hard finish. Hobbyists use this paint because it binds to metal and plastic models with ease.

You can also modify its consistency and viscosity with the help of thinners. This is really useful if you want to experiment with your painting technique.

Another plus point for this paint is its glossy appearance. Your models are bound to look shiny and brand new when you paint them with enamel varieties.

The downside of oil-based paints is that it takes a long time to dry. So you’ve got to take things slow and steady when you’re layering your models with enamel paints.

Acrylic Paints

If you find working with oil paints too messy then pick acrylic paints. Their glossy finish, ease of use and non-toxic composition make them popular for beginners. You’ll also appreciate the fact that they don’t take that long to dry. So your paint job can be completed quickly without any hassle.

Like the oil paints, you can change the viscosity and flow of these paints. The only setback is that acrylic paints don’t give the hard finish like the traditional paints. So you should aim to get acrylic paint sets that are known for its durability and resistance to damage.

2. Type of Applications

Initially, I suggest that you stick with liquid paints when you’re learning the art of painting scales, models, and miniatures. Then move on to other application methods to add a professional touch to your work.

These are the three types of paints in my arsenal:

  • Liquid Paint: The widely-available paint is useful for precision, splattering and airbrushing. You can find it in acrylic and oil-based forms at your local craft store.
  • Spray Paint: These paints are a convenient method to apply base coats and also to paint your car and airplanes in a single color. You can also use it to mask any flaws after when your paint job starts chipping away.   
  • Paint Markers: You should stock up on these for quick touch-ups and repetitive coloring.

Having a mix of these paints will help you experiment with your painting techniques. They also ensure that your painted pieces look diverse and completely original. What more can you ask?

The Options: Best Paints for Miniatures and Models  

1. Reaper Miniatures 08906 Learn To Paint Bones Kit―Best for Beginners

Reaper Miniatures 08906 Learn to Paint Kit Core Skills, Master Series Paint Box Set
  • Easy to follow guide for basic Miniature Painting skills with paints, brushes, and minis included.

Starting your painting kit from scratch?

In my opinion, Reaper Miniatures 08906 Learn to Paint Bones Kit is the best option. The paint kit has everything you need for your first projects. The set includes eleven paints, two beginner brushes, and three miniatures.

The high-quality paints, their viscosity, consistency, and delivery. With the help of its standard brushes and sample models, you can learn the core skills required for this hobby.

The best part is that this starter pack comes with an easy-to-follow guide by Rhonda Bender. So you can do no wrong if you follow her award-winning techniques. Then once you get the hang of painting models, you can move on to the manufacturer’s advanced set.


  • Easy to use
  • Comes with a comprehensive guide for beginners
  • Contains painting essentials for miniature models
  • High-quality paints with great viscosity and transparency


  • Too basic for seasoned collectors

2. Vallejo Basic Colors Paint Set―Best Overall

Vallejo Basic USA Acrylic Colors Paint Set, 17ml, Assorted Colors, 0.57 Fl Oz (Pack of 16)
  • Model color has been formulated with permanent pigments for fine arts; all colors are... 
  • The consistency of Model color allows for an extremely smooth and uniform paint film, with no... 

Want what the cool kids have?

Vallejo Basic Colors Paint Set is hands down the best paint for miniatures and models. You can find the whole community raving about it. The paints are specifically made keeping miniature painter’s needs in mind.

So you get a flawless finish and changeable viscosity without any trouble. Plus, the assortment of colors gives you more scope to customize your models.

The best part is that the paint provides perfect consistency. You don’t have to worry about them being too thick or thin to use. They’ve also got a marvelous metallic range that takes your model details to the next level.

All of these characteristics make it a solid investment for every artist.


  • Versatile variety of pigments
  • Suitable for all surfaces
  • Gives a smooth finish with no signs of brush strokes
  • High-quality results
  • Meets your opaque and viscosity requirements


  • Gets too glossy if you overuse the thinners

3. Liquitex Professional Soft Body Acrylic Paint Set―Best for Miscellaneous Projects

Liquitex Professional Soft Body Acrylic Paint Set, Classic 8
  • Smooth, creamy; highly pigmented, even leveling; satin finish
  • Concentrated pigment load produces intense, pure color

Looking for something more old-school?

I recently got the Liquitex Professional Soft Body Acrylic Paint Set to expand my paint supplies. This is a classic kit for traditionalists. The basic paint pots offer a solid range of colors that fulfill your basic needs.

I usually use these for base coats and to fill up vast areas of battle scenes. The softer appearance is also convenient for model airplanes and cars. That’s because these collectibles don’t require detailed artwork.

Plus, the paints are inter-mixable, so you can use an artist’s palette to blend shades if you want more color options.  They are also user-friendly and last longer than most painting kits.

Thus, I recommend that you try them out if you want something that;


  • Smooth, creamy paints for multiple uses
  • Easy to blend with other paints
  • Applicable on different surfaces
  • Long-lasting finish


  • Limited range of colors

What Else?

If you’re into fantasy games and army collectibles then you need to double up your supplies. I currently own a wonderful Army Miniature Paint Set for my Wargame miniatures. It’s got everything from primers, brushes to a handy guide. The other option is Citadel by Games Workshop that is apt for customizing your space marines and warriors.

Buying Guide: What Should You Consider Before Purchase?    

My number one advice is to do your research before you open your wallets. So read reviews, survey the market, and consider your current requirements.

In terms of performance, you should look for these characteristics:

  • Opacity: Check the paint’s transparency to make sure that they’ll be easily visible on darker surfaces.
  • Thickness: Look at the consistency and smoothness of your paints. You should get soft body paints if you want water-like consistency. In contrast, heavy body paints are suitable for painting textured looks.
  • Lightfastness: Opt for paints that have UV-resistance so that your paint job doesn’t fade away with time.
  • Applications: If your collectibles range from space marines, warriors, to model planes then you shouldn’t stick to a single paint set. You should probably get at least two kits that align with your needs.

That’s it! You are now ready to get your new miniature paint set.

Handy Tips and Tricks

Here are a few painting tips that I’ve learned along the way:

  • Make sure your pots and tubes are secured tightly. Otherwise, your paint will dry out!
  • Vallejo thinners prevent your paint from losing its consistency if you’re diluting it.
  • Proper brush care is necessary if you want the bristles to stay soft.
  • Spend ample time on creating a base before you start the painting process.
  • Use a sticky tack to stop the miniatures from falling off when you’re airbrushing/spray painting.
  • Don’t stick to a single brush as it will slow you down.

Other than that, don’t fixate on tiny details and try to have fun.

The Bottom Line    

In a nutshell, finding the best paint for miniatures and models isn’t that hard. You just need to understand how the paint works and what type of paint you need. After that, the whole buying process is quite exciting.

So best of luck!

Want to know more? Painting miniatures is a comprehensive topic. I try to keep up with the research whenever I can. To help fellow enthusiasts out I have done a bunch of reviews on miniature painting sets and how-to-guides for beginners. Give it a quick read if before you take the plunge!

I look forward to hearing your feedback.

Now back to the painting station!

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