On Paint Brands

I’ve been a miniature painter for six years and a commission painter for the last two. While I don’t have as much experience as others, I thought I would share my opinions on various paint brands that I’ve worked with.

Some caveats to start: I’m an American who lives in the Upper South. This limits my brand availability somewhat (even with the internet) and there are certain brands I’ve not had the pleasure of working with. This includes some more notable ones like Warcolours from the UK, Andrea from Spain, and even some American brands like Reaper. I started collecting paints from what was available at my local Hobby Lobby (stocking mainly Vallejo Model Color) and my FLGS (stocking Citadel from GW and some Army Painter – mainly peripherals for the latter).

My initial painting foray was with my first tabletop wargame, By Fire and Sword, a 15mm Pike-and-Shot era wargame set in Eastern Europe. I soon expanded to Flames of War (to appease my wife, who enjoys replaying the eastern front fighting between Soviets and Germans), and then made the jump to God’s Own Scale (28mm) to pursue my passion for American Revolutionary War gaming. As a commission painter, I’ve painted miniatures for Bolt Action, Warhammer 40,000, Warhammer Fantasy, Age of Sigmar, Conflikt 47, D.U.S.T., Flames of War, and Black Powder.

I primarily use acrylic paints. While I appreciate the beauty of well painted miniatures painted with oil paints, I have not mustered the gumption to attempt using oils in miniature painting yet.

So with that out of the way –

Craft Acrylic Paints:

These are typically going to be found at your local hobby store or big box store. Some of the more notable brands include Apple Barrel or Americana. You can paint miniatures with these paints, however, the pigments in the paint are generally going to be larger than paints that are specifically for miniature painting or modelling. Conversely they also may not be as richly pigmented as artist acrylics and certain miniature brands. They are however usually cheaper and a budget way to get started painting. These paints tend to have a satin finish and can range to glossy.

Pros:

+ Cheap

+ Usually a wide variety of colors available

Cons:

– Need to be heavily thinned for miniature use

– Don’t really thin that well and break down too much for uses such as glazes or washes.

– Usually comes in pots, which are not optimal in my opinion.

– Quality control issues

If you can afford better paint, then I can’t really recommend these.

Artists Acrylics: Also available from local hobby and arts stores, these are typically going to be brands like Liquitex and Winsor & Newton. These are going to be of a higher quality than Craft Store paints with finer pigments and thicker mediums. Typically cheaper than miniature paints, these are going to require thinning for applications on miniatures. Once you are familiar with how much you need to thin them, they typically work fine. These typically come in tubes that will provide an adequate supply for hobby use. Tend to be more satin in finish than purpose made miniature paints. Your mileage may vary based on brand, however.

Citadel:

Games Workshop’s brand. These are fairly well known and available easily online, and locally in GW and FLG stores. GW is a controversial company, but the paint is usually of a good quality in and of itself. They have a diverse range of paints that support the games that they field (mainly Warhammer 40,000 and Age of Sigmar). Most Citadel paints have a slight satin finish. They also have divided their range into several types based on application and method intended for the paint – layer, drybrush, shades, glazes, textures, and the fairly recent Contrast line. Their shades are in particular a superb tool and one I find indispensable. This is especially true if you don’t make your own washes. I believe Nuln Oil and Agrax Earthshade to be useful for every miniature painter’s toolset. Contrasts paints (basically staining paints) are also useful as a time saving step. They work well as a base and shade combined to be built up with further highlights, rather than just “glop it on once then you are done” as advertised. Non-Contrast Citadel paints are fairly thin out of the pot, but require additional thinning with a little water or a wet palette for optimal use with miniatures. With mediums or even water, they can easily be turned into glazes and washes for more advanced painting techniques.

However, there are drawbacks to Citadel. The first is the use of a paint pot that has issues sealing when opened, leading to dried out paints, gummed up pot lids, and catastrophic spills. You can transfer these paints to dropper bottles, however, that is an additional hassle and expense. That brings me to my second issue. Citadel paints are fairly expensive. Excepting Contrasts, most Citadel paints come in 12ml pots (Contrast paints are in 18ml pots). At the time of writing this a 12ml pot will set you back $4.55 MSRP (ca. 38 cents per ml) and a 18ml pot of Contrast will cost you $7.80 (ca. 43 cents per ml). Additionally, Citadel has a habit of revamping color lines or changing color names once a generation or so. This can make keeping a consistent favorite color stocked a problem.

Pros:

+Diverse range catering to a variety of techniques and painting styles

+Quality paint, usually well mixed

+Some of the best pre-made shades and washes of any miniature paint manufacturer currently.

+Well supported and widely available

Cons:

-Terrible pots that are prone to spilling, gumming, and paint drying

– Fairly expensive compared to some other brands

Although I no longer use Citadel paints (washes and some contrast paints excepted) and would generally recommend other brands first, I would say they are okay if you don’t mind the GW premium and the poor pots.  

Vallejo


Vallejo has numerous sub-ranges of paints (Model Color, Air Color, Game Color, Panzer Aces) with different target audiences in mind. 

For the purposes of my review I will divide these ranges into parts – Model/Metal/Air/Panzer Aces and Game Color 

Model/Metal/Air/Panzer Aces:

As the main brand carried by my local hobby store, this was the primary brand of paint I used for the first several years of miniature painting. For the most part this was Model Color, but I supplemented my collection with a few Air and Panzer Aces paint sets as well. These paints were intended for model painters. They tend to be based on realistically researched colors with mostly matte finishes. That said, being one of the most widely available hobby ranges as well as being of a good quality, these quickly became a favorite of many miniature painters.

The paints are of a good quality, tend to be more muted (especially Panzer Aces paints), and can be fairly thinned to support a variety of blending and glazing techniques. Vallejo Model Colors’s realistic tones are not as vibrant as Citadel’s or P3’s range, but are perfect for depicting miniatures in historical conflicts such as World War 2. 

However, these paints were originally formulated for modelers and diorama makers with displays and not for miniatures that were meant to be handled and pushed around tabletop battlefields. This becomes especially evident when using these paints on metal miniatures. Without varnishing, Vallejo Model Color paints tend to chip very easily when touched or handled compared to other brands. When using Vallejo Model Color (or Air/Panzer Aces, etc.), varnishing is an absolute must if you intend to use your miniatures for gameplay.*

Most of the Model Color and Game Color paints are designed for layering. They are fairly thin out of the bottle, but need to be thinned a little bit with water, a thinner, or a wet palette for optimal use. They can be thinned to glaze and wash consistency without issue. Vallejo also makes texture paints for terrain that are much better in terms of price than their Citadel counterparts. 

However, Model Color generally does not have an acrylic wash set. And while Game Color does have a wash set, the washes tend to be much more color altering than Citadel’s and tend to dry glossy with more coffee stains and discolorations than Citadel. Vallejo also has a fairly comprehensive ink set. 

Vallejo Game Color:

In response to the popularity of Vallejo Model Color in the miniature paint market, Vallejo came up with the more fantasy inspired color range to present a paint that was better formulated for miniatures (including resin in the formula). The colors are more vibrant than Model Color but are better resistant to chipping. Additionally, Game Color paints tend to be more satin in finish than their Model Color counterparts. 

Both Model Color/Air Color/Panzer Aces and Game Color come in 17ml dropper bottles. My current supplier charges $3.30 for a Model or Game Color bottle (ca. 19 cents per ml) or $3.69 for Panzer Aces (ca. 22 cents per ml). 

Pros: 

+Widely available

+Exhaustive range of colors with a realistic emphasis (Model Color in particular)

+Middling price

+Paints thin easily and support a variety of techniques, including layering and glazing. 

Cons:

-More prone to chipping (Model Color)

-Washes are inferior to Citadel (Game Color)

Though I’ve shifted away to other brands in my own painting, Vallejo paints still make up the majority of my paint toolbox. They work well with a variety of painting methods and styles. You can’t really go wrong with using Vallejo. 

The Army Painter

I will preface this by saying that while I like what The Army Painter is attempting to do, I think that their quality control is their own worst enemy. The first time I ever used Army Painter, I was a fairly new painter and I picked up a bottle of Skeleton Bone at a convention because I needed a buff color and couldn’t find a Vallejo equivalent at the time. I went to use this paint for the first time and the color came out runny and partially watery on the palette as pigment and medium came out of the bottle. While I had encountered separated paint from Vallejo and Citadel before, a brief vigorous shake usually remixed the paint. Not this bottle. I shook. And I shook. And I shook. After about ten minutes, I gave up. This pigment and medium would not remix. I was so disappointed in Army Painter that I swore them off for a while. 

It wasn’t a few years later when I purchased agitators for ScaleColor’s Scale75 paint set did I try this color again, this time with agitators. Although it took me much longer to mix than with other brands and agitators, I was able to get the color to mix properly. The paint was mostly matte (slight satin) and of a fair quality. If the paint wasn’t so badly separated, I may have been more inclined to purchase more Army Painter paints instead of Vallejo. While you might say that this was a one off, I’ve encountered bad cases of separation in other Army Painter paints, including newly purchased sets directly from Army Painter. If you use Army Painter, you will need agitators and it probably wouldn’t hurt to purchase a miniature paint mixer while you are at it. 

They have a fairly comprehensive painting range, including matching spray primers. These colors compare favorably at price-to-performance with Citadel. When well mixed, the Army Painter has painted that compare well to other hobby brand paints.

The Army Painter emphasizes the so-called “dip” system where miniatures are base coated and then dipped into a pigmented wood polish-like varnish that is followed with a matt varnish for depth and shadows in a speed painting method. I don’t recommend this method as it is messy and I don’t like the results. However, their products can be used for other methods, such as traditional layering. 

These paints are relatively thin out of the bottle, and don’t require that much thinning for optimal use. That said, I’ve not had much luck with thinning to glaze consistency as the paint tends to break up. The paint is matte in finish (slightly satin).

That said, the Army Painter washes “Quickshades” are pretty well done. They are a close second to Citadel’s washes and outperform Vallejo. Army Painter paint comes in 18ml bottles. My current supplier charges $3.25 per bottle (ca. 18 cents per ml), so they are way more cost effective than Citadel and just edge out Vallejo in pricing. 

Pros:
+Wide range with matching color primer sprays

+Fairly cost effective, especially compared with Citadel

+Good Washes in their Quickshade lineup

Cons: 

– Plagued by separation, requiring agitators and nearly requiring a mixing or vortex machine for optimal experience

– Paint is suited mainly for layering but doesn’t thin evenly for techniques such as glazes or washes

If you are aware of Army Painter’s limitations and mitigate them, then they are an excellent alternative to more expensive paint brands like Citadel. I’ve avoided them largely because of the issues I had initially with them. 

Scale75


Scale75 is currently my primary brand that I use and one of my favorites. In particular, I use their ScaleColor range, finding them to be some of the best miniature paints that I have ever used. But before I give a full throated endorsement, I do have some important caveats to note here. Scale75 paints are targeted at bust and commission painters and have the assumption that you are an experienced painter when you start using them. I would not recommend them for beginners. 

So starting with why I think they are some of the best miniature paints I’ve ever used: They dry perfectly matte. Most of the paints I’ve listed here have the slightest satin tone. These have a perfect matte finish. These paints are formulated with a gel medium so that they take longer to dry than other acrylic paints. This allows you to more easily develop techniques like wet blending and feathering. Additionally, they dry slightly transparently, blending into the layer of paint below them. This allows for beautiful transitions between colors and highlights. They also thin down beautifully into washes and glazes. Of all of the metallic colors from miniature brands that I’ve worked with, I say that Scale75’s are my favorite. 

Conversely, the thin drying layers mean that they take several coats to properly form a base coat, and depending on how thin your paint is, may take up to five or more layers. This is time consuming and potentially disheartening for a beginner to do properly, and if not done properly (if the beginner just slapped one coat on) would look patchy with the undercoat showing through. This often means that to save time that it is best to use another brand for base coating and then build up highlights and shadows.

Secondly, the gel medium can be fussy if not mixed properly and tends to separate fairly quickly after opening. Just like with The Army Painter, this is a brand where you will need to include agitators to help ensure proper mixing (unless you want to spend a significant portion of your paint time shaking bottles).   

Finally, though not as expensive as Citadel, Scale75 tends to be more expensive than say Vallejo or the Army Painter. The paint comes in 17ml bottles and currently costs $4.49 a bottle (or ca. 26 cents a ml).

I am looking forward to trying their newly released stain painting line, called Instant Colors. 

Pros:

+Beautiful paints with smooth matte finish

+Support diverse range of painting techniques, including blending, glazing, and layering

+Gel medium formulation to increase drying times, allowing for blending techniques without the use of a retarder medium

+Excellent metallics 

+/- The way the paint dries almost transparently supports smoother transitions and blending, but makes base coating take longer and require more layers.  

Cons:

-Not a beginner friendly range.

-Requires agitators for optimal experience

-On the more expensive side of miniature paint brands (not as expensive as Citadel)

I love Scale75’s Scalecolor paint range, but I wouldn’t recommend it for beginners. If you are experienced and comfortable painting however, I say that they are worth checking out. Using this brand led me to improve my blending technique and I love the final finish. 

P3

Privateer Press’s house paint range for Warmachines and Hordes, this paint range is noted for its rich pigments and vibrant colors. I only have a few pots of these paints (yes they come in pots, but the pots are superior to Citadel’s). The paint itself is of a high quality, thins beautifully, and supports a wide variety of painting styles and techniques. 


The main issue with Privateer Press is (cost aside) availability. Attempting to purchase individual pots on Privateer Press’s website leads to 404 errors (not found). No links exist on their site to purchase box sets. I’ve seen individual pots marketed by Privateer Press on Amazon, but unfortunately not every color is available this way. This also leads me to a second point of cost. A Privateer Press pot is MSRP of $3.50 for a 18ml pot (a remarkable ca. 19 cents a ml). However, some pots on Amazon are currently listed for $11.23 (a not so remarkable ca. 62 cents a ml, more expensive than Citadel).

Pros:
+High quality paint

+Vibrant colors

Cons:
-Availability issues and pricing.

-Pots

These are good paints, if you can find them. 

Pro Acryl

A fairly recent range by Monument Hobbies (formerly marketed by Creature Caster), Pro Acryl paints started as an attempt to make a white color that provided better coverage than other brands. After releasing a well received Titanium White, they soon expanded to make the rest of their present range.

 The paints are of a high quality, come in unique dropper bottles (with an Elmer’s glue-like twistable cap), and furthermore the bottles come with agitators already included. The paints cover fairly well and also thin beautifully. I would say they are the most versatile of any paints that I’ve worked with currently. They have a matte finish, but are not as matte as Scale75’s Scalecolor range.

That said, I’m hard pressed to find any negatives about this range. This includes cost. East Pro Acryl dropper bottles are 22ml and cost $4.00 a bottle (or ca. 18 cents per ml, on par with Army Painter). 

Pros:

+High Quality paint that supports a variety of painting techniques

+One of the most affordable miniature brand paints on the market

+Agitators for mixing are already included in the bottle.

If you are looking to try a paint range, replace an older set of paints, or if you are just starting out in the hobby, then I recommend taking a look at Pro Acryl. 

Other Brands:

AK Interactive: A line aimed at modelers and diorama creators, I’ve only used their Ultra Matte Varnish.

Foundry: Based on a triad painting system (they are paints that are focused on three color painting – shadow, main color, and highlight).

Reaper: Also uses a triad system.

Warcolours: On my “to try list,” including their new stain color line called “Antithesis.” 

Coat D’Arms: Pot based paints, but I’ve had no experience with them. 

*Chipping is not unique to Vallejo Model Color, just more prevalent. Other factors play a role in chipping, such as the quality and application of a primer. Generally I recommend varnishing. Some painters however do not prefer to varnish as the varnish can change the final appearance and vibrancy of the paint. 

Painting Swedish Veteran Reiters: The cavalry of Charles X Gustav

“Gustav Adolf’s best cavalry were his Swedish nationals… Most feared of all were Stålhandske’s light-armed Finns, the “Hakcapells”(named after their war-cry Hakkaa päälle – Hack ‘em down!) who took no prisoners. The German cavalry were a very mixed bunch, ranging from regiments like Courvill’s and Ohm’s which had fought in the Polish campaign, to hastily recruited units that had yet to be issued standards. On the whole they were distinctly inferior … it was for this reason that Gustav Adolf strengthened them by ‘interlining’ bodies of musketeers between the squadrons.” (1)

Although King Charles X Gustav’s invasion of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was more than two decades after Gustav Adolf’s bloody battle at Lützen, the nature of Sweden’s mounted arm had not drastically changed in the intervening years. From the hard-hitting Finnish veterans to German mercenaries who were recent recruits to the Swedish flag, Charles X Gustav depended on his cavalry for offensive action and charges. In the insurgent war that followed the Swedish occupation of much of the country, in which infantry had a hard time covering the times and spaces needed to confront the cavalry-heavy Poles, Charles X became increasingly reliant on his cavalry arm. It is noteworthy that at the war’s largest battle, Warsaw in 1656, more than two-thirds of the Swedish-Brandenburger army under Charles X’s command were cavalry. Despite their inferiority to their Polish and Imperial counterparts, Swedish cavalry by the time of the Deluge included veteran troops and disciplined commanders who usually acquitted themselves well on the battlefield.

It is only natural that my next painting project will focus on these grizzled units of the Swedish cavalry arm, 15mm veteran reiters for my By Fire and Sword collection (links here for the main store and here for the US store). I’ve done things slightly differently with my painting method, and as a result I am very pleased with the results. I used Vallejo Glaze Medium with my paints and altered my method accordingly. This is for three purposes. I’m not actually using a glazing technique, per se, but I am using the properties of the glaze medium to achieve a kind of wet blend. The glaze medium acts a both a thinner and a retardant, and delays the drying time for the paint. This allows me to mix in highlight colors on raised areas and provides a smoother and less harsh contrast. The glaze medium also provides an excellent texture when dried. I got this idea from watching Miniac’s video on wet blending here. This was my first time using this technique or attempting to ape wet-blending in general. While my results might not be the best example of wet-blending, I like the final finish and I’ve decided to adopt this method going forward.

So in essence: 1. Lay a base color mixed with glaze medium. You want to make sure the pigment is thin but not too thin. If the paint is too runny like a wash or ink, add more of the color to the mix. Clean the brush immediately with clean water (have a cup at your paint station, even if you use a wet palette) and wipe your brush on a paper towel. Then immediately use a mix of a highlight color, base color, and glaze medium blend. Paint this on the raised areas or areas exposed to light, leaving recessed unpainted. Clean the brush. Line (a method opposite of highlighting where you paint darker colors into the recesses) the recessed area with the base color/glaze mix. Clean the brush. Finally, hit the highlight color (or highlight mixed) combined with the medium. on the highest raised areas or the areas that would be most exposed to light. Clean the brush. Further line and apply highlights as necessary.

Using faces as an example (following the adage of “Good Faces, Bases, and Flags”).

Painting the face part 1
Base the face

1. Base coat of Mourfang Brown and glaze mix.

Wet palette. Miniature painting.
Wet palettes help keep paints wet for longer periods and are a nice tool to have. Note water cups to the left.

2. Clean brush applied a 40/60 Brown/Flat Flesh and glaze mix on the cheeks, forehead and nose.

3. Clean brush. Lined the eyes and the bottom creases of the cheeks with Mourfang Brown/glaze mix.

4. Clean brush. Apply a Flat Flesh and glaze mix on the top of the cheeks, nose, and the center of the forehead.

Swedish Reiters
Final Face result
Painting By Fire and Sword
… and from a slightly different angle.

From start to finish, painting this face took about six minutes. This is not as fast as a straight base coat and contrasted highlighted (about three minutes in my case) or using something like a dip or stain (barring the drying times for those methods), but the result is much more nuanced and textured in a manner that it is worth the extra steps and the slight increase in time spent in my opinion.

Painting By Fire and Sword
The paints used for faces:

Refer to paint comparison charts if you need to use a substitute.

What I used: Uses:
Vallejo Glaze Medium As a thinner and retardant to assist with blending, highlighting, lining, and to result in an excellent texture when dry
Vallejo Gloss Varnish First layer of varnish on the miniature. For maximum protection.
Vallejo Matt Varnish Second and final layer of varnish applied to the miniatures twelve hours after the first.
Citadel Chaos Black Spray Primer
Citadel Mourfang Brown Face & fleshtone base color. Also used to base the bay color horses.
Vallejo Model Color Flat Flesh Face & fleshtone highlight color, used to mix highlight with browns for some bay colored horses, though to a lesser extent than the faces.
Vallejo Model Color White Highlight color for cravats and small clothes, and to highlight the base colors for the wool coats, boots, scabbards, and hats.
Citadel Wazdakka Red Base color for red
Vallejo Model Color Hull Red Used to base coat wood on pistols
Vallejo Model Color Mahogany Brown Highlight color on the pistols. Mixed with yellow in 50/50 to highlight leather. Mixed with black to highlight the chestnut colored horse.
Citadel Rhinox Hide Used to base coat leather
Vallejo Model Color Dark Prussian Blue Base color for the blue wool coat
Vallejo Model Color Military Green Base color for the green wool coat
Privateer Press P3 Greatcoat Grey Base color for the gray wool coat
Vallejo Model Color Chocolate Brown Base color for two hats
Privater Press P3 Ironhull Grey Base color for the gray hat and for the cravats and white colors
Vallejo Model Color Oily Steel Used to paint the pistol barrels and gunmetal
Vallejo Model Color Black Base color for boots and scabbards. Also base for the chestnut colored horse.
Vallejo Model Color Brass Base color for sword hilts
Vallejo Model Color White Primer Priming the base for the unit
Vallejo Model Color Flat Earth Base color for the base. Mixed with matt varnish to ensure protection for the base while handling. Drybrush highlight on the base.
Citadel Stirland Mud Texture paint for the base

So from start to finish:

preparing miniatures
Pre-painting preparation

Cleaned the miniatures in a water/dish washing liquid mix and a toothbrush to clear away casting dust and to leave a clean surface for the primer. Cut away mold lines with an X-Acto knife. Super-glued the riders to their horses.

Primed miniatures
Post priming

Used PVA glue to temporarily attach the old rulers and primed.

Swedish reiters
One reiter finished. The second rider has been painted, but still needs his mount painted.

Base color and highlights for the riders. Moved them to an old bottle to use as a paint handle. Painted the riders first, then the horses.

Swedish reiters
The varnishing process has not been shown.
Basing Swedish Reiters
Attached to the base.

Returned to the rulers with PVA glue to varnish. I used paint-on varnish because my area is too hot and humid this time of year to reliably use a spray varnish. Double varnished, with an initial layer of gloss varnish and followed twelve hours later with a matt varnish to kill the glossy effect of the first varnish. Shook the varnish well and slightly thinned with water.

Textured base on Swedish reiters
After an application of Stirland Mud

Super-glued the figures on to the pre-primed base. Applied the base coat/matt varnish mix. After waiting for that to dry, I applied the texture paint carefully to the base, carefully avoiding the attached miniatures with the texture paint. I cleaned up the edge of the base where texture paint wound up on it.

Painted Swedish Reiters, By Fire and Sword.
The finished base

After waiting for the texture base to dry, I applied a drybrush highlight and then static grass and bushes. Voila!

  1. Richard Brzezinski, Lutzen 1632: Climax of the Thirty Years War (Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 2001), 21.

Painting Buff Coats in By Fire and Sword: A Guide.


Author’s note: While this guide was written for the miniatures made by Wargamer for their proprietary game By Fire and Sword, this guide can ostensibly used for any 15mm miniature or ruleset that takes place in the seventeenth century that features buff coats. For larger scale miniatures, additional intermediate highlight colors between the base coat and the final highlight may be required.

Buff coats are one of the most common armor types seen in western unit types in By Fire and Sword. Reiters, cuirassiers, some infantry (mainly pikemen), and certain officers would have worn buff coats. These are modeled and represented on the miniatures of the game as men with long, thigh-length coats. These can be painted as either buff coats or as regular wool coats, depending on the look you are attempting to achieve for your soldiers. As armies of the period trended away from the heavier full plate armor cuirasses, buff coats became a popular and cheaper alternative, especially with cavalry units. The buff coat was a compromise between the heavy, expensive immobility of a full plated cuirass and the more affordable but significantly more vulnerable wool coat. Buff coats could be seen from units ranging from the Eighty Years War to the English Civil War to the War of Spanish Succession.

If you play By Fire and Sword and have a faction that uses reiters or similar armor types, you will probably find yourself painting buff coats at some point. Buff coats, being made from a tanned animal hide (ranging from ox to elk hide), are usually a brownish-yellowish color.

What you will need:

A unit with a buff coat. Featured in this guide are pikemen from Wargamer’s Imperial infantry set. I’m using a set I initially painted when I new to the hobby, but want to repaint to bring them into line with my recent standard of painting. These are meant to represent infantry from the late Thirty Years’ War period of the 1640s. At this time, plate armor had fallen out of favor with the Imperial pikemen. Even buff coats themselves were becoming less popular in favor of ordinary woolen coats (1).

A black/dark/cold colored spray primer. I used Citadel’s Chaos Black spray, but you may use any black or dark gray spray primer. You may use a painted-on primer if you wish, but a spray primer will save you time.

Paints (duh!). You may choose the paints of whatever paint maker or provider you like, as long as your colors roughly match (To avoid confusion, use https://www.dakkadakka.com/wiki/en/Paint_Range_Compatibility_Chart or a similar paint chart). The paints I typically used were Citadel Steel Legion Drab, Citadel Tallarn Sand, and Vallejo Model Color White.

To paint a buff coat, you have three steps: 1. Priming 2. Base Coat. 3. Highlight

For these figures, the left and right figures will have sleeveless buff coats, while the center figure will wear a plain red wool coat. To paint a full coat, you simply have to include the sleeves in your painting process. To paint a sleeveless buff coat, you only paint the torso, blouse, skirt, and tails of the coat, leaving the arms to be whichever color you desire. Additionally, the figure on the right in the top photograph has a small metal breastplate, which has been burnished in black. While plate armor was falling out of favor with Imperial pikemen, it perhaps would not have been uncommon to see a breastplate or two, especially if a soldier was to be in the front rank.

After having cleaned and primed your miniature, you will need to provide a base coat. For the base coat, I will use Steel Legion Drab. Be sure to thin your paint appropriately (or use a wet palette as I do) to avoid clogging details with excess paint. Once your base coat is down, your next step is the highlight. For 15mm scale, you only have room and detail for one bright highlight typically, as the smaller size of the miniature will mean that the nuance of a two-step highlight is lost. To ensure maximum contrast and attention to detail, you need to make sure your highlight is well chosen and painted. The highlight is best painted on raised areas, such as the ridges of folds in the clothes and the tops of creases. To ensure maximum detail, the highlight should cover the raised areas, but the base coat should still be visible in recessed areas.

To provide a maximum variation between the base coat and the highlight, I use a mix of two parts Tallarn Sand and one part Vallejo Model Color White. While Tallarn Sand by itself can be considered a highlight color for Steel Legion Drab, I find the white provides the extra brightness necessary to stand out from the base coat. If you don’t want to mix colors, you can still use a different yellow color for a highlight, such as Vallejo Model Color Iraqi Sand or Vallejo Model Color Desert Yellow. You could also alternate between using Tallarn Sand/White mix and one of the other desert colors on various models to provide a heterogeneous mix of yellow-brown colored hues, and to avoid an overly uniform shade for your buff wearing troopers.

Bonus: Iron Armor Plate

For the pikemen on the left above, I achieved an iron plate even though the sculpt does not originally feature one by simply painting over the torso where a plate would be with plan Vallejo Model Color Black. This plate covers the front and black. Once I achieved the basic outline of what the plate was, I highlighted it with a mix of 1/3rd White to black. This represents that most armor was simply burnished black to avoid rusting in the field.

1. Vladimir Brnardic, Imperial Armies of the Thirty Years’ War (1): Infantry and Artillery (Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 2009), 33.