The Waving Flag: Cheap Paint - Nearly One Year On

Friday 24 September 2021

Cheap Paint - Nearly One Year On

In January this year I began using more and more craft paints.  They have some clear advantages and a few disadvantages but, used with these in mind, they offer lots of useful results.  Here's what I've found so far.

Matt finish

  • All the craft paints I have dry flat, varnish flat and mix well with other paints unlike certain Vallejo paints I have.  The flat finish is primarily because they have a high "filler" content to bulk out the pigment.  The filler produces a microscopically rough surface which looks matt and, because I suspect the filler is talc or similar, the filler seals the paint layer leading to a matt varnish finish every time.
  • With certain colours the low pigment levels mean they don't cover well with one coat, or one brush stroke.  However a mixture of craft paint and any Vallejo paint works just as well as the Vallejo paint does on it's own.  Plus you get the added benefit of the craft paint matting the Vallejo colour and ensuring a matt finish with the mixture when varnished.


  • With the black, burnt umber and dark blue craft paints these cover in one coat; especially the black.  With the burnt umber & dark blue a second thin coat provides a solid base colour.  Likewise with some of the reds.
  • The inability to provide a solid colour in one coat can be used to create special effects. A slightly thinned coat of dark blue provides an excellent alternative to highlighted black when paining stripes on shields.  Plus you can easily create subtle textures before the final highlight; simply don't completely cover everything with the second coat.
  • Highlighting with craft paints is much more forgiving.  The lower pigment levels mean the edges are less sharp.  You can easily build up multi-layered layered highlights.  This helps overall control and ensures you get to the right highlight colour with sufficient contrast.
  • For a final highlight, I've started adding some Pale Flesh (Miniature Paints) or a bright Vallejo colour to a craft paint. This has the effect of providing a more dense central colour with a sharper edge that contrasts well with the subtle highlight provided by the craft paint layer(s).  This is especially useful for heraldry and patterns that you want to "pop".
  • When painting reds (Vallejo mainly) I nearly always end up with a slight orange tinge from the highlights.  For a variety of shades I now apply a thinned coat of a red craft paint red to shift the colour away from the orange.  This turns the craft paint's inability to cover into an advantage.  Plus, if the paint is too dilute adding a second coat is easy enough.
  • Recently, I've started using very, very dilute craft paint as filters.  The Decoart paints dilute really well with water.  They do not work as washes; the pigment loading isn't high enough.  What they do is adjust the underlying colour ever so slightly.  For example I have used diluted deep yellow to add colour back after highlighting with too much white.  The red browns and burnt umber will soften pale creams, buffs etc.


  • The requirement to apply a second coat for some colours is a bit tiresome but I've got used to it.  I now know which craft paints I can safely use as base coats and when to switch to a Vallejo colour.
  • In use the craft paints look far brighter when wet and they tend to "fade" a little once dry.  This makes mixing highlights tricky at first.  To counter this I now make the highlight mix brighter or add a different type of paint to add extra body to the final highlight (see above).


Drew Jarman said...

been using them for years. They are perfect for cheap undercoating too.

Chris Helm said...

Hi Martin,

Thanks for an interesting pair of posts (this one and it's predecessor). I've been wondering about these paints for a while and I'm now minded to try them out.

This post was also interesting to me as you're the only UK based miniatures painter who I've ever seen mention Miniature Paints. I've been using them almost exclusively for years because I really like them but I've never come across anyone else who admits to using them.

I've never bothered with any other brand, really, so I've no idea how they might compare with the more popular paint brands but they work for me and at £1.75 for a 30ml bottle they're very good value.

I'd be interested to read your opinion of them but for now, thanks for an interesting blog.

Best regards, Chris

Vexillia said...

Thanks for the kind words.

I've used Miniature Paints for decades too! I'm a really big fan of their tanned and pale flesh. I've also used their Earth & Chocolate Browns as well as their Bronze Green (or equivalent).

They mix readily with any acrylic paint I've tried and I've never had any problems with their adhesion.

Their big drawback, other than the limited range, is they tend to dry with a satin sheen which I matt with talc. Sometimes they are a bit too thin for me but as the paint ages and drys slightly they always improve.

I don't rate their bright colours but if I can get a colour I want from Miniature Paints I will buy 2 or 3 bottles of each as stock. They keep well. Otherwise I rely on Vallejo and now craft paints.

I've not bought any since they stopped using glass bottles (which I reuse) but I will have to restock in 2022.

Chris Helm said...

"I've not bought any since they stopped using glass bottles".

That's interesting, I didn't like the glass bottles or rather, I didn't like the tops. I always found that the domed plastic inserts caused paint to collect in the rim of the top, even when the top was only upended for a few seconds to get some paint out and there was always just too big a drop of paint at the peak of the dome to allow me to put down the top on its open end.

The best bottles I've had from them were those I got originally, which are 17ml plastic bottles with ordinary, screw on tops. The tops are easy to take paint from and to keep free from dried paint. The seal was good too. I've had some for at least 15 years and they're still perfectly good.

The current 30ml bottles also seem to be working well but the tops have a much smaller diameter so aren't so handy to use.

(Er, sorry, I've just realised that this reply is a serious example of uber-geekness :-D.)

Btw, I've been trying to persuade my local model shop in Chester to stock MPs but without success. Do you know of any stockists in the Warrington area?

Vexillia said...

You can geek as much as you want.

I don't know any stockists in Warrington but then I haven't really been looking. I've bought mine at shows.

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