Hobby Paints!

Painting scale models or miniatures can be incredibly fun! You can do quite a bit with paint.

It does take a bit of thought to it. Depending on the paint used and how it’s applied, the time process can be different. There’s also some discourse over paints.

What is better? Acrylics? Enamels? Lacquers? What about other paint types?

Acrylics (water-based)

Acrylics are honestly the most common for painting both scale models and minis. It can also be the most affordable (which does depend on the brand). I also consider it the best paint for beginners, just to get comfortable with the painting process. It’s predominantly what I use.

Acrylic is water-soluble, which means it can be thinned with either water or the appropriate acrylic thinner.

Acrylics need a primer base. Primer base colors can affect the shade of color that you get when you apply the main acrylic coats, so experiment with it. Black primers can give dark tones while white primers give lighter tones. It may take a few layers of acrylic to get the color shade you want. I found that certain blues and yellows need multiple layers.

Hobby paint tip: Pink is a wonderful underlayer for a yellow top layer!

Acrylic is also easy to clean with either warm water or rubbing alcohol.

It can often dry to the touch in an hour or so and cures in 24. Acrylic can often be less durable and colorfast than other paint options. It’s important to topcoat anything painted with them. Be careful of drytip when airbrushing.

Make sure to apply thin coats because it will dry with streaks and it does not self-level.

Some brands include:

  • Citadel
  • Vallejo
  • AMMO by Mig
  • Army Painter Warpaint


Enamel paints are another common option for scale models, not so much for minis.

Enamels are thicker than acrylics. It does a nifty little reaction with the air to cure. It may take fewer layers to get a nice color. It holds color better than acrylics but has fewer color options. This type of paint requires more consideration so I do recommend getting used to painting acrylics before moving on to enamels.

Enamels are toxic. Please be considerate of that. Wear protection and work in a well-ventilated environment.

Enamels take longer to dry than acrylics. It can take up to a few hours to dry but anywhere from 24-48 hours to fully cure. Beware of dust and hair during this stage. It’s been recommended to use a clear storage box to hold the curing parts to prevent particles from getting into the paint.

Enamels are far more durable than acrylics and less prone to scratching. You can buff and polish painted parts as well, for extra benefit. It also has some self-leveling to it, so it should even out a tad bit, making for brush strokes to be less permanent.

Some brands include:

  • Tamiya
  • Mr.Hobby
  • Testors


Lacquer paints are more of a heavy hitter when it comes to painting. It’s not a paint that I have personally used myself, due to spacing issues and invertebrate pets.

Lacquers are extremely potent, use good ventilation, respirator, spray booth, and gloves. Due to the thinners and make-up of the paint, they can eat through plastic and be non-forgiving of mistakes.

They have just about the same color options as enamel, though metallics tend to be the best when it comes to lacquers.

They dry extremely fast, which makes brush painting difficult. However, they are extremely durable when fully cured

Some brands include:

  • SMS
  • Alclad II

Oil paints

Yes, traditional paint-on-canvas oil paints. Yes, you can paint your model kits using them.

The best thing to do with oils from the start is to let some of the linseed oil absorb out. This can be done by squeezing some onto a piece of cardboard. If not, it might take quite a bit of time for your model to dry and cure. Weeks and even months.

Linseed oil is the binder used in oil paints. It’s slow to evaporate and allows artists to constantly work on a canvas for long periods of time without the worry of drying out, like acrylics.

Oils are mainly used for weathering scale models. They can be used for artistic reasons if you like to get funky with your builds.

Some brands include:

  • Winsor & Newton
  • Craft store brand
such a pretty shade


Yes, the highly debated rattle-can spray paints.

They are tricky to use, in all honesty. It is harder to control than hand-painting or airbrushing. You run the risk of pooling.

I, after some time and practice, use spray paints often in my less-traditional builds. I like the colors they come in and the effects I can get with them.

Depending on the brand, they can dry to the touch in half an hour and cure in a few. Personally, I let them cure overnight or run the risk of messing up the paint job.

These will need to be used outside with a respirator and ventilation. Don’t forget the gloves.

Some brands like Tamiya, do put out their paints in rattle cans. Citadel puts their primers out in can form as well. 

Some brands include:

  • Krylon
  • Rustoleum
  • Montana

Paint Vocab

let’s cover some words you might see when looking at paint

Pigments– What gives the paint its color. These have to be finely ground in order to prevent lumps and bumps on our paint job. Some pigments are more vibrant than others. Some are more costly. Good pigments will be UV resistant and hold onto their color for as long as possible

Solvents- This is what helps with paint consistency. Less solvent will produce a thick gunky paste. Acrylics use water. Oils use turpentine.

Binder- The base of the paint. The most important part of the paint. The binder plays an important part in things like durability.

Shades- a hue or mixture of color. Check out these two blogs on color theory for a helpful guide. (Part one) (Part two)


Experimenting with what works is the fun part of this hobby. Some builders like to stick with one type of paint. Some like to get around with other brands. Don’t let the idea of making a painting mistake hold you down either. They’re bound to happen.

Thanks for checking out the blog today! Have any thoughts or questions? Drop a comment. Want email updates? Sign up below!

Have a happy Monday everyone!


One thought on “Hobby Paints!

  1. I’m glad you are trying to put out information and philosophy in support of this hobby, but you’ve just reinforced here outright wrong and frankly unhelpul branding and terminology issues in the hobby. Tamiya Acrylics are acrylics, as are lacquers, but both perform better (or only) with lacquer thinner. I don’t really understand why you only listed pre-thinned paints under lacquers either, especially when the 3 big brands are pretty widely available.


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