The equipment I use, what you should use, and why
I first started with acrylics, like most people. But I have since discovered the magic of oil paints.
Why oils? Paint more minis, faster, better, and cheaper, with oil paints.
If you want to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on tons of individual paint pots for every possible shade you can imagine, then this isn't for you.
If you want to spend a lot of money on expensive brushes, then this isn't for you.
If you want to spend 20 hours on the shoulder pad of a Space Marine using hundreds of layers, then this isn't for you.
If you want to agonize over specific paint formulas and the creation of every mid-tone on your pallete, then this isn't for you.
If you want to spend very little money on paint that never goes bad and will last an enternity, then this is for you.
If you want to get great results with super cheap brushes, then this if for you.
If you want to paint entire models in just a few hours, with fantastic results, then this is for you.
If you want to spend your time painting miniatures instead of mixing shades on palletes, then this is for you.
If you want to spend your time being in touch with your inner artist instead of fighting the medium, then this is for you.
If you want to pull off techniques and effects in seconds instead of hours, then this is for you.
Let's look at the mediums in question. when it comes to paints, the strong points are also the weak points. Mainly, drying time.Acrylic Paint:
Pros - dries super fast. Your group is coming over in a few hours, and you need a mini stat. Acrylics are pretty much the only game in town. They were made to be fast drying.
Cons - dries super fast. Blending becomes difficult, as the paint dries too fast. What else is terrible about dry paint? It wreaks havoc on brushes. Expensive Windsor Newton brushes can be destroyed with just a little dry paint in the ferrule.
What is also bad about paint that dries fast? You end up wasting a lot of paint. Entire paint pots can go bad over time.
Oil Paints: Pros - Does not dry fast. Oil paints were made for blending. They can do anything. See: all of history. Every painting prior to 1950 was probably oil paints (acrylic paint was invented in 1953, technically). All the classic great masters did all their work in oil.
You can layer, you can blend, you can freehand, you can wash, you can glaze, you can do everything you can do with acrylics, only better, easier, and faster. And honestly, correctly. These terms all have their basis in oil painting.
Additionaly, (but wait, there's more!) a great thing about oil paints is that they look the same when they are dry as when they are wet. Many acrylic paints do not. Which is problematic.
What is the hardest part of miniature painting? Smooth, creamy, buttery blends. Color transitions can turn a "meh" mini into a great mini. Bad color transitions, well, we've all been there. So why not use a medium that is made for blending, instead of fighting against it?
But Prawn, why don't you just add some drying retarder to your acrylics?
If you are fighting your medium that much, why not just use a medium that was literally made to do exactly what you want it to do? Why turn acrylics into something they aren't? You'll still be fighting the high cost, and even with drying retarders are still inferior to oils for blending.
Any cheap artist oil paint will work. Personally, I would recommend the Winton Oil Set
by Winsor & Newton. It is a set of 10 paints which cover the spectrum. And it is cheap. $20-$30 depending where you get it, and even these little tubes of paint will last a long time.
For metallics, I didn't think there were any metallic oils, but I stumbled upon some in the store one day. Both Gamblin and Winsor & Newton manufacture them. They work very well, and would highly suggest picking some up. A combination of pewter and silver is good for any iron/steel effect, and bronze + copper is good for any, well, bronze'ish looking armor. Gold is great for gold (surprising, I know!).
For everything else, keep an eye out at your local art supply store, and snag any interesting colors when they go on sale. I would suggest some extra black and white, and more importantly, a good off-white. Off-white is way better in nearly every situation compared to straight up 100% white. Save the real white for tiny highlight. Blend the off-white into everything else.
Keep in mind that you do not need every shade under the sun. The entire point of oil paints is that they mix and blend together naturally. You do not need to create a hundred mid-tones as you would for acrylics. Blending colors together naturally creates every mid-tone imaginable, all at once, on the mini instead of the pallete.
You want to focus on procuring light colors and dark colors. I would argue the actual color hue doesn't matter nearly as much as the value, as contrast is what you want. Mixing in yellows, purples, blues, and greens where you would never dare to using acrylics creates a very deep and interesting piece for the eye. As long as there is value contrast, the brain buys in to the illusion and almost filters the colors accordingly. Hard to describe, but suffice to say, very effective. And not something easily done with acrylics.
Cheap round brushes
from Hobby Lobby. Yes, they hate the gays, but hot damn if their round craft brushes aren't perfect for mini painting.
These are the complete opposite from the usual advice of buying super small Windor Newton or Raphael sable hair brushes. Not to say those aren't bad, but for 99% of everything, these super cheap brushes do everything. You can get surprising detail, and they are great blending brushes,
which is what you'll be doing a lot of.
For small detail work, any tiny synthetic brush does just fine. You can use expensive brushes if you want, they are great, but not required. The great thing about oil paints, is that the oil conditions the brush hairs, so they last longer.
Coupled with the fact that you won't be getting any dry paint in the ferrules, and your brushes will last a very, very long time. Which makes the expensive brushes even more cost effective, and the cheap brushes an absolute steal of a deal.
Going to need some odorless paint thinner, or white spirits. I use the Speedball brand Mona Lisa Odorless Paint Thinner
. I'm sure other brands are fine, too. I love this stuff. I can paint in a small area with no ill effects.
Do not use normal paint thinner unless you want to fry your brain cells.
Parchment paper on a piece of cardboard makes for a fantastic pallete. I actually use my acrylic wet pallete as my oil pallete. I cut a piece of cardboard to fit inside, and a bunch of parchment paper (NOT wax paper!) rectangles to be taped onto the cardboard.
Hot glue gun
Sand, rocks, flocking, grass tufts
Washers and fishing sinkers
Jeweler's drill/pin vise