Enter keywords or a search phrase below:

Best paints for figures?

11 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    November, 2013
Best paints for figures?
Posted by bstarr3 on Thursday, July 27, 2017 11:57 AM

I'm interested in reaching out into diorama building, and I need to up my figure painting game.  I know there are a lot more options in 1/35 or 1/32, but I prefer to work in 1/48 for size reasons.  So I'm not trying to be incredibly detailed, but just would like a paint set preferably with one or two good flesh colors and some uniform colors.  Are there any particularly good ones?  WW2 pilots and air crew are the subjects. 

  • Member since
    March, 2003
  • From: Western North Carolina
Posted by Tojo72 on Thursday, July 27, 2017 12:33 PM
I really like the Vallejo Model Color line for hand painting figures.They also make various sets that put together colors needed for different projects.

  • Member since
    December, 2002
  • From: Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, England
Posted by Bish on Thursday, July 27, 2017 12:46 PM

For flesh i have a set of paints from Scale 75, comes with 8 colours. For everything else i use vallejo model colour as well.

''I am a Norfolk man, and i glory in being so''


On the bench: Airfix 1/72nd Phantom FG.1

  • Member since
    February, 2006
  • From: Boston
Posted by Wilbur Wright on Thursday, July 27, 2017 7:02 PM

My opinion is that Humbrol enamels are the best brush painting paints ever.  They have fine pigment, and the flat is dead flat and opaque.

People that specialize in figure painting use artist oil paints for flesh.   I use Humbrol flesh to prime the face and then use Grumbacher artist oil flesh mixed  in many tones over that.

I just did a 1/18th resin Enzo Ferrari figure and it was not easy.  It came out OK.  I'll post when I have time.

I recieved a lot of help from the people at Planet Figure forum doing the Enzo figure as they are experts at figure painting.  They do nothing but figures over there.


  • Member since
    July, 2004
  • From: Sunny So. Cal... The OC
Posted by stikpusher on Thursday, July 27, 2017 11:37 PM

Wilbur Wright

My opinion is that Humbrol enamels are the best brush painting paints ever.  They have fine pigment, and the flat is dead flat and opaque.

People that specialize in figure painting use artist oil paints for flesh.   I use Humbrol flesh to prime the face 




Humbrols are my go to choice as well for the base colors. Oils to do washes on the flesh areas and elsewhere. Then dry brushing enamels for highlights. 


F is for FIRE, That burns down the whole town!

U is for URANIUM... BOMBS!

N is for NO SURVIVORS...

       - Plankton



  • Member since
    November, 2009
  • From: SW Virginia
Posted by Gamera on Friday, July 28, 2017 8:23 AM

Well, as the guys said above there's two ways to paint figures. 

One is the 'blending' technique where you use the slow drying time of oils to blend the shadows and highlights together. 

The other is 'layering' where you use translucent layers of a fast-drying paint like acrylics (Vallejo for example) to get the same results. 

Each has it's advantages and disadvantages. Personally I'd go to YouTube and type in 'painting miniature figures' or something simular and watch till you get an idea of what you'd like to try. 1/48th is about the same size as 28-32mm gaming figures- 'painting gaming figures' should give you good results for this. 

Personally I like layering with acrylics better for smaller stuff like you want to paint and blending with oils better for larger stuff- 90mm to 1/12th- 1/6th scale. But it's all a matter of taste- I'd suggest you just get some paint and start painting. The best thing you can do is practice, practice, and practice. And if you really don't like the results dunk 'em in a container of Simple Green or the equal, then scrub the paint off with a toothbrush, and start over! 

And I wouldn't suggest buying a whole boat-load of paint to start. If you pick up the primary colours in oils you can pretty much mix what you want. Only issue is if you want to match the colour later. With acrylics I'd buy three-four for skin tones and what you need for the uniforms plus a some black and white to mix for the clothing shadows and highlights. 

"I dream in fire but work in clay." -Arthur Machen


  • Member since
    September, 2006
  • From: Bethlehem PA
Posted by the Baron on Friday, July 28, 2017 9:59 AM

"What are the best paints for figures?" is a tough question to ask, because there are going to be almost as many answers as there are painters.

I use acrylics, primarily, because they go on and cure thin.  You don't want to build up thick layers of paint.  Andrea and Vallejo are popular brands among figure painters who use acrylics.  I have some of both, as well as Tamiya acrylics.  Tamiya acrylics work well, too, but they must be thinned, and I found I get the best results with Tamiya's proprietary acrylic thinner.  I thin the others, too, but using water; I'm working more and more with a wet palette, an air-tight container that includes a sponge to hold water and keep the paints hydrated, and a membrane--brown packing paper, in my case--on which I put the paints and blend the colors.  I use this to build up layers of a color, thinned so much as to be a glaze, till I have the colors and the shadows and highlights that I want.

Andrea and Vallejo have specific color sets, but I also received as a gift a set by Lifecolor, a WWII US Army colors in the ETO for 1944-45.  They work as well, thinning with water.

I also use oils, but I have found acrylics easier to work with.  Oils are applied, thinned with mineral spirits or turpentine.  Oils have the advantage that they dry slowly, so you can take your time blending highlights and shadows.  You can also speed the drying time using a 60w lamp; some guys use a crock pot, especially those little potpourri pots that were popular back in the 80s and 90s.  The low warmth helps dry the paint without causing it to crack.  I have Schminke-Mussini oils.  But as I said, I've found acrylics easier to work with.

I have some enamels, too, mostly Model Master.  I apply these by thinning with mineral spirits, on a ceramic palette.

For 1/48 figures, like the aircrew from the planes I build, I lay in the basic colors--khaki or tan, or OD, for example, and flesh for the faces.  For eyes, I usually just paint a thin line and add the eyebrows.  Then I paint the details--straps, packs, etc.  Next I add some highlights and some shadows, using the base colors to mix the highlight or shadow colors.  Then I just use washes to flow into the relief and tie everything together.

I agree with Gamera, that it's not necessary to buy a lot of paints.  A set can help if you're not sure about which color to use, but I do what he says as far as flesh colors go.  Both Andrea and Vallejo have colors for Caucasian skin, for example.  They have the basic skin color, then they have a darker and a lighter version.  I just bought myself those three colors, and if necessary, I'll use other colors already in my paint box to modify them as necessary.  A burnt siena or a burnt umber, for example, can be used for a lot of shading or modifying base colors, or for a wash.  And for colors like OD, I pretty much use a jar of OD, and then shade or highlight as necessary.  I don't see the need to have several different shades of OD, from various makers, when I can get the result I like with the one jar I currently use.

Hope that helps!


The bigger the government, the smaller the citizen.

  • Member since
    November, 2013
Posted by bstarr3 on Friday, July 28, 2017 3:23 PM

I guess I'm going to stick with acrylics and pick up some model color flesh, khaki, od, and blue (for navy dungarees and RAF unis).  Since these are acrylics, would there be any problem using a product like Tamiya panel line accent for my washes? Maybe somewhere down the line I can try those humbrol enamels. 

  • Member since
    September, 2006
  • From: Bethlehem PA
Posted by the Baron on Tuesday, November 21, 2017 1:06 PM


Since these are acrylics, would there be any problem using a product like Tamiya panel line accent for my washes?

Does the panel line accent use the same kind of solvent as your acrylics?  If it does, then it can attack the acrylics you've already laid down.  However, if both your acrylics and the Tamiya product use a similar solvent, you can apply a seal coat before laying down the panel line wash.  For example, by the time I apply washes for weathering, I've already applied my main color coats, a gloss acrylic coat for decaling, then Testor's DullCote to make everything matte.  If I use an acrylic for washes, the DullCote will protect the colors below.

The bigger the government, the smaller the citizen.

  • Member since
    November, 2008
  • From: Hatboro, PA
Posted by Justinryan215 on Sunday, December 24, 2017 2:05 PM

Just to add, I've had success with those apple barrel acrylics that you can get at wally world....

"...failure to do anything because someone else can do better makes us rather dull and lazy..."

Mortal as I am,I know that I am born for a day.  But when I follow at my pleasure the serried multitude of the stars in their circular course, my feet no longer touch the Earth...


  • Member since
    May, 2009
  • From: Poland
Posted by Pawel on Sunday, December 24, 2017 5:22 PM


Recently I got some training in using those Games Workshop/Citadel paints. I've always been using Humbrols for painting, and I hold them in high esteem, but those Citadels allow you to paint figures really intensively - the thing is you practically don't have to wait for the paint to dry, that was a shock for me - I was able to paint once complete figure during that training session, under three hours! With washes and shading. The Citadels cover really nicely, even difficult colours like red. The downside to them would be their colours have funny/fantastic names so it would probably take some work to match the colours to the subject you have, plus the colour range is somewhat limited, but that can be remedied by mixing. I plan to experimentally paint a Vietnam-era figure with those paints and I'll report the results. Hope it helps, have a nice day


All comments and critique welcomed. Thanks for your honest opinions!

  • Member since
    June, 2004
  • From: East Stroudsburg, PA
Posted by TigerII on Thursday, February 15, 2018 2:23 PM

I use Tamiya and Model Master acrylics. They work very well for me and as long as they are thinned correctly they give me the natural look that I'm looking for. Now I've tried different techniques to painting figures but I ALWAYS come back to the original one which I learned from a Grandmaster of the arts, that I can use of 3D figures. I'll never be in his class but I've come very close, and with practice comes perfection.

Achtung Panzer! Colonel General Heinz Guderian


Our community is FREE to join. To participate you must either login or register for an account.


By signing up you may also receive reader surveys and occasional special offers. We do not sell, rent or trade our email lists. View our Privacy Policy.