Sunday, 17 February 2013

Thoughts on Vallejo paint...

Vallejo paint

VGC paints on my paint station, with an Army Painter Strong Tone ink wash. You can see how the medium has separated from the pigment in the Parasite Brown bottle.


There are dozens of companies out there selling paint specially formulated to be used on models and miniatures. If you are entering the world of painting for the first time it can be a little daunting.

Most painters, myself included, will use a mix of paint from several different companies. I use Vallejo paints almost exclusively, with some Games Workshop here and there – but very little.

If you are starting out painting, there may be a local Games Workshop in your area, or an independent game store that stocks Games Workshop paint, so you might be tempted to start there as it is easy to get a hold of. First up, there is absolutely nothing wrong with GW paint. The range is now very extensive and it’s a great paint to start using, You will not encounter any serious issues with consistency or quality.

The problem, like most things GW related, comes from the cost. It simply isn’t worth what you pay. Many moons ago, when I started painting, GW paints came in cylindrical pots that were 20 mls and fairly priced. The first major pot redesign saw them change into a hex shape and drop 3 mls, to 17 mls. Still fine, still pretty good quality. The disaster came in the late 90s when they changed the size substantially to 12 mls and made the lids screw caps, which promptly got glued shut by paint after about three uses. The bottle design stayed, as did the size, even when the paint cap changed to a flip cap. The current design is a good little pot – the operative word being little, that is hard to knock over and has a flip lid. It’s still 12 mls though, and it is still pricier than most competitors whose pots contain more paint.

I made the switch to Vallejo some years ago and haven’t looked back. The Vallejo Game Colour (VGC) range was originally modeled on the GW range, and matched it both in tone and naming ) VGC’s “Bloody Red “to GW’s “Blood Red” for example). With GW’s range having undergone an extensive overhaul, the close conversion between the two ranges is no longer there, but it doesn’t really matter: The Vallejo range is superior quality and quantity. Vallejo pots are 17 mls and the paint itself is a slightly thinner consistency than GW. The pigment is much smaller, meaning the pigment and the medium often separate in Vallejo pots. You will see a milky liquid on top of the solid colour of the pot has been left to sit for any length of time.

As a result, shaking the bejeezus out of a Vallejo pot is entirely necessary. Failure to do so means you get medium on your palette, not colour. The less medium in the pot, the thicker it gets, the sooner it dries out. I purchased some glass beads from a craft store and put one in each of my Vallejo pots, which speeds up the agitation process.

Vallejo is cheaper than GW paint as well as being more voluminous. Online, this is even more apparent. You get much more paint for your buck with Vallejo, and as we all know, in this hobby you need every cent you can muster.

The biggest criticism of Vallejo pots is also its biggest selling point: the dropper bottle. Some people hate them, some love them. I prefer them to the flip lids of GW style pots, but either doesn’t really bother me. Your paint doesn’t sit on your desk open with a dropper bottle, meaning it is not exposed to air and so it will probably last longer. But some people prefer taking paint from the pot with a brush to put on the palette for mixing, some prefer squeezing it out with a dropper bottle. That’s really about it.

Vallejo is often criticized for their metallic range, and GW is usually declared a winner on this one. It’s not true. The Vallejo metallics are practically identical to GWs. Consistency is fine. I think this is an often-repeated internet rumour that people say to make themselves sound knowledgeable on paint without having tried them. Vallejo also make a series called Model Air, which is designed for use in an airbrush. These metallics are even better, being packed with nearly twice as much pigment as normal VGC paint. You can use these with a brush, they don’t have to go into an airbrush.

Vallejo has a range of Extra Opaque paint that was released as an alternative to GW’s Foundation or Base range. These are designed as base colours and can go over any primed colour, even black. GW’s Foundation paint is actually slightly better here in terms of consistency. For example, if you have a look at my Flesh Tearer Marines, it took two coats of VGC Extra Opaque Red to get a solid base colour, whereas the GW Base Red colour did a practice model in one coat. But I didn’t like the colour as much and preferred the Vallejo red. The Extra Opaque range is a great set though and I use them a lot.

There’s no two ways about it, GW washes are vastly superior to Vallejos. Vallejo’s washes dry chalky, whereas GWs give a much better finish. It pained me to have to go back to GW, but they really do have a better product here. That was until I discovered the Army Painter…

The Army Painter is a Danish company that started off selling a dipping method for miniatures – a way to paint up models quickly by taking a model painted in basic base colours and dipping it into a jar of liquid that stains the model and gives immediate shading. It’s an old miniature painter’s trick that goes way back. It’s essentially wood stain varnish dyed to either a brown or black colour. Anyway, the Army painter has gone from strength to strength and now sell their own range of paint and inks that can be used as washes. Three coloured inks are available, Soft (light brown), Strong (dark brown) and Dark (black). You can use these on any colour to add instant shading. Games Workshop did have these same colours covered in their old washes range as Gryphon Sepia, Devlan Mud and Badab Black. With their new range and formulas, these have changed to Agrax Earthshde (doesn’t that roll off the tongue?) and Nuln Oil. These are pretty good, but inferior to the Amry Painter inks. If you are new to painting, these will give you instant results to be proud of. And even if you’ve been painting for years, these will change the way you look at shading models.

I haven’t tried any of the other manufacturer’s paint on the market, such as the P3 range, Reaper, Foundry  etc, so I can’t comment, but those paints have their fans and suit other painter’s needs. If you are a fan of these paints, please leave a comment!

That’s about it really. My advice is simple. If GW paint is all you can get in your area, go with it, it’s a great product. But be aware you are being ripped off. Online shopping means you can have Vallejo delivered at a great price and it will last you a lot longer. I can’t recommend it enough.

EDIT: I have since found out that the new "Layer" system of paint that GW uses is already thinned in the pot. That is, the paint is already thinned down with water. This is just ridiculous. The entire point of having the paint slightly too thick from the pot and thinning it on your pallette is so you have complete and total control of your paint consistency. For this reason, I'd avoid this paint if I was you. Go with Vallejo, P3, Reaper, Foundry, or Cote d'Arms.  


  1. Great suggestion putting a glass bead in a vallejo bottle to act as a agitator. Any problems with the bead clogging the the dropper end?

    I agree completely re: vallejo game color vs GW paint. I recommend anyone who hasn't tried vallejo to buy just one bottle of a basic color (say black or white) and test out the difference.

    I haven't tried army painter washes but will definitely do so on the strength of your recommendation.

    Finally, any thoughts as to how to transport vallejo paint bottles? I use a small tackle box and stack the bottles sideways but have been looking for a better way to transport. Thoughts appreciated.

    1. Hi Morgrim, thanks for the comment.

      I have had no issue with the glass bead clogging up the dropper end, so no need to worry in regards to that.

      You will not regret trying the Army Painter inks, they will change the way you paint, guaranteed!

      I don't have need to transport Vallejo paint, it stays on my table pretty much permanently. However, when you purchase one of the complete ranges, such as all 72 Game Colours, it comes in a sturdy plastic case with foam-cut inserts for the paint, which is perfect for transportation. You can purchase these cases separately as well, so you don't need to shell out for the whole range if you don't want to. Contact your favourite supplier for Vallejo and they will get you sorted.


  2. Hi
    is Vallejo primer good for painting on glass surface?

    1. Hmmm, interesting question, Chris. I would say yes, but you will get a better coverage from an airbrush than with a brush. Also, I would give it a coat of gloss varnish when I had finished, then a coat of matte varnish.