Where to Start with Paints if you Have Nothing

Where to Start with Paints When you Have Nothing

Trying to buy your first paints can feel overwhelming.

It can be totally discouraging to acquire your first $100 of miniatures only to realize that the fancy painting guide you found online implies you need to immediately spend another $150 to get even one squad ready for the table.

Never fear; you don’t.

Most models can be made to look good  with no more that 6 paints. In fact, the majority of your craftworld models can be made table-ready with the same 6 to 8 paints. You will probably eventually want to collect a large range of colors, but when you get started as a craftworld player you don’t need a lot. What you do need to decide is whether you want to use ‘traditional’ paints: (a combination of base paints, layer paints, shades, and maybe some technical paints,) or a special category of paints called “contrast” paints, which are supposed to be easier and faster to use, but also come with some drawbacks.

Traditional paints offer a vastly wider range of colors, and in my opinion, an overall better effect when done well. (You are unlikely to find any Golden Daemon winners painted exclusively with contrast paints;) However, using traditional paints requires you to make 2-3 passes on most sections of the model, first putting down a base/layer color, then a shade color, and then picking out some details with a highlight color; contrast paints in theory require only a single pass.

Contrast paints are allegedly a base, shade, and highlight effect all in one thick coat. This makes it possible to bang out infantry models much faster, and they generally look pretty good when done carefully. (There is a guy who plays at my local store with a Craftworld Alaitoc army painted entirely with maybe 4 contrast paints, and I have to admit it looks nice.) Don’t think that contrast paints are more affordable though just because you need fewer of them; they won’t save you money in the long run as they cost more than double a normal pot of paint. Another drawback is that because contrast paints are much more watery than normal paints, mistakes are harder to paint over.

I am not going to go into detail about the all merits and flaws of traditional vs contrast paints as there are oodles of well-written articles about it already on the internet. Instead, I am just going to tell you how to get started with each once you have made a choice.

If you choose traditional paints:

You need…

-A GW spray to undercoat. Undercoating with a spray will save you a huge amount of time, but be sure to shake the can REALLY well for several minutes and hold it several inches from the model. (You can really muck things up by putting the undercoat on too thick, or by spraying models when it’s really humidor when the temperature is close to freezing.)

I like wraithbone best unless I am painting a model that is going to be mostly black.

-Your primary craftworld color. (This is whatever color the armor will be on your guardians, tanks, jet bikes, wraith units, etc. Mine is Sotek Green; look at any photo on this site for an example.)

-A Highlight for your primary craftworld color. This should be a layer paint several shades lighter than your guardians’ armor. (Mine is Lothern Blue.)

-A “shade” paint that compliments primairy color. (I use Drakenhof Nightshade)

-Your Secondary craftworld color. This is the color of your guardians’ helmets and the heads of wraith units. (Mine is white)

-A tertiary craftworld color if you have one. (Some craftworlds have a third color for guardians’ faceplates, mine is black.)

-A detail paint for eyes and soulstones. (I use khorne red.) Someday, when you are ready to spend more money, go over the soulstones with a metallic and then with a technical paint  paint for a better gem effect, or you can look up the official GW painting video in which Duncan shows you how to make your soulstones look amazing. This can easily be done later as a touch up.

-A metallic or. If you only have one, I recommend Leadbelcher.


In addition, I always recommend: Abaddon Black or whatever primary color you are using for your weapons, and Nuln Oil. When you don’t know what to shade something with, use Nuln Oil.

That’s everything: 1 spray, 7 paints, and two shades. With those you can get all of your guardians, wraith units, wave serpents, flyers, walkers, tanks, windriders, warlocks and probably your farseer ready for the table.  

Every time you add a new more exotic unit, like a squad of aspect warriors, you may need up to 5 more paints, but this way you can build your paint collection gradually and spread the cost out over time,

If you choose Contrast Paints

You need…


-A GW undercoat spray that specifically says that it is for contrast paints

-Your craftworld primairy color (armor color)

-Your craftworld secondary color (guardian helmet color)

-Your craftworld’s tertiary color if it has one (guardian faceplate color)

-Either the black contrast paint for weapons or a traditional paint in a metallic because contrast paints don’t come in metallics

-A detail color for eyes, etc. usually a red or blue. This could be a contrast paint, or not. I would suggest not.

That’s it: a spray, 3-5 contrast paints and maybe a metallic and a detail paint. Not too daunting at all. Every time you add something more exotic like a new aspect warrior shrine, you will probably need two additional contrast paints.

Buying your first brushes, etc.

You can save money on brushes by buying an off brand on amazon. I use these: https://www.amazon.com/MyArtscape-Detail-Paint-Brush-Set/dp/B010QLOJ3G/ref=sr_1_2?crid=1FTDYS8SA4437&dchild=1&keywords=warhammer+brushes&qid=1586809018&sprefix=brushes+for+war%2Caps%2C185&sr=8-2


A brush cleaner will hugely increase their longevity. I use this one: https://www.amazon.com/General-Pencil-105-BP-Masters-Preserver/dp/B0027AEANE/ref=sr_1_9?crid=106F5J4IOKRIY&dchild=1&keywords=brush+cleaner&qid=1586809091&sprefix=brush+clea%2Caps%2C170&sr=8-9


You need micro sheers to cut models off sprues, and ideally an exacto pen knife for clean up work. These sheers are good value for money:
Tools: Precision Side Cutter (2019) – Atomic Empire


THAT’S IT- feel free to email me with question or to send pictures of your first painted models.