What paints to use for miniatures


Acrylic, enamel, and lacquer paints can be used on any surface, including metal, plastic, and resin miniatures. 

Acrylic paints will work better on miniatures’ surfaces than enamel and lacquer paints. 

Enamels and lacquers will work great on metals for weathering and aging effects. But not so much on plastic and resins.   

If you build plastic Warhammer 40K minis and want to paint them, in this guide, we will explore the different types of paint and which paint is best for miniatures. 

What types of paint can be used for miniatures?

There are three types of paints miniature painters use for their WH40K minis, and each handles differently. 

  1. Acrylics

Acrylic-based paints are the more common paints used by miniature painters on their plastic Warhammer models. They are water-based, but some, like the Tamiya acrylics, are alcohol-based. These paints are non-toxic, easy to clean, dry quickly and cover well. 

  1. Enamel

Unlike acrylics, enamel paints are oil-based and are a less popular option for painting miniatures, especially Warhammer 40K models. However, it has some advantages over acrylic paints, from the fact it dries very hard, making it impossible for the paint to chip easily. So, it’s ideal for painting models handled frequently.

Yet, they dry lower than acrylics and are more toxic. Since they are oil-based, they tend to be thick and leave brush marks on the miniature’s surface. 

  1. Lacquer

Lacquer paints, like Tamiya acrylics, are alcohol-based paints and are far superior to acrylics in terms of durability, dry time, and ease of use. 

But, can you really use lacquer on your plastic Warhammer 40K minis like enamels and acrylics? While lacquer paints have their advantage, on plastic WH40K kits, they may not be a good paint choice. Most people believe that lacquer paints melt plastic, but they actually don’t. 

What will happen when you use lacquer paints on your plastic Warhammer 40K minis, the plastic will become slightly more pliable and brittle. You can also scratch the plastic with just your fingernail. 

Read More: Acrylic Vs. Lacquer

What paint to use for miniatures

Acrylic paints are considered the best option for miniatures, especially for plastic or resin-based models like those used in Warhammer 40K or board games.

Acrylic paints are water-based, non-toxic, easy to clean, dry quickly, and cover well while maintaining details. Acrylics are also easy to use and offer excellent viscosity.

Additionally, they do not cause the materials to become brittle or pliable as enamel or lacquer paints can.

Overall, acrylics are a convenient and effective choice for miniature painting projects.

What is the difference between acrylic and other paints?

The difference between acrylic paints and enamels or lacquer is that acrylics use water as thinners, which other paints don’t.

This water-based solution of acrylic paints makes them non-toxic, user-friendly, and easy to access. On the other hand, they don’t share similar dry time with other paints. 

Dry time5 to 20 minutes1 to 2 hours5 to 10 minutes
MaterialPlastic, metal, and resinmetalmetal
Cleaning and useEasyDifficultDifficult
FinishGlossy, matte, or satinGlossyMatte and satin
Table Showing Differences Between Acrylic, Enamel, and Lacquer Paints

For board game miniatures, use acrylic paints

Miniatures take a while to paint due to their intricate details and the need to keep them visible. If you are painting board games, the tasks increase as miniatures are often small, and you have to paint them so that you easily recognize them on the board. 

So, if you will be painting something as time-tasking as this, you need a paint that won’t add to your stress, influence your health negatively, and still save details so that the model looks real. 

The best paints for board game miniatures are mostly acrylics. They are easy to use and clean, dry fast, cover the surface amazingly, are not toxic, and offer great viscosity. 

The best part of using acrylics on board game minis is that you won’t have to worry about the materials being brittle or pliable since most board game minis, such as DnD and Warhammer, are plastic or resin. 

Why is acrylic paint best for board game miniatures?

There are many reasons to choose hobby acrylic paints to paint your board game miniatures. From their excellent viscosity to their accessibility. That’s not all. Other reasons to use acrylic paints for your plastic Warhammer 40K minis include:

  • Ease of use

Acrylics are easy to use thanks to their water-based thinners. Just mix them with water, and you can easily use them on your miniatures. 

  • Easy to clean

If you’ve ever had grease or oil poured on a plastic cup, spoon, or plate you use, you know how difficult they may be to wash off, except if you use soap. Most times, even with soap, the oil persists. Acrylics won’t make cleaning a hassle for you. Just pour water on the paint for some minutes, and they will come off with ease. 

  • Easy to thin

Acrylic paints are highly pigmented, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use them on your model. All you need to do is get water, and you can easily thin them to milk consistency perfect for miniature painting. 

  • Not toxic

Since paint pigments are often crafted using toxic chemicals, painting miniatures can be hazardous to health. However, acrylic paints will act differently since it is purely water-based without the usual chemicals found in solvents and oils. 

  • Dry time

Another reason acrylic paint is best for board game miniatures is that they dry fast between 5 to 20 minutes, but not so fast, compared to lacquer paints. 

Different paints have different drying times, which affects how you paint your miniatures at a time and work on them with other colors or mediums. But, the most important you should know concerning dry time is fast is good, but faster can be a problem, especially on your Warhammer 40K minis. 

This decent dry time of acrylic paints means you won’t leave a lumpy mess on your miniatures, particularly when trying to blend colors or create certain effects. 

  • Finish\results

Paints often naturally darken as they dry. For enamel and lacquer paints, the color shift can damage the overall effect you aim for, but acrylics won’t always pose this problem. Test out the paint before using it on the model, and you get exceptional results. Besides this, acrylics make it easy to determine the look you want for your models, from a glossy look to a more matte or satin finish. 

  • Versatile

Since board game miniatures are often made with plastic and resin, finding different paint to suit these materials can be a hassle. Acrylic paints are incredibly versatile and take away the time-tasking challenge. 

  • Easy to paint over

No matter how careful you are, mistakes are bound to happen. With acrylics, you won’t fear mistakes distorting your finish. If you make a mistake, just let the paint dry completely. Then, paint new layers over the mistake in thin coats.

Can you use regular acrylic on miniatures?


The only difference between hobby-grade acrylic paints and regular paints is that regular paints have a higher ratio of pigments since they are not designed for painting miniatures. 

But, with the help of a thinner or medium, you can get them to flow great and cover well on your Warhammer 40K minis. 

Do all miniature paint brands make acrylics?

 Most all miniature paint brand makes acrylic paints. 

From Monument paints to Citadel, Army Painter, Privateer press, Scale 75, Tamiya, Green Stuff World, Vallejo, Reaper, Coat D’Arms, AK interactive, Kimera, and Golden, there are many different brands to get acrylic paints from.  

What are some of the best acrylic paint brands for miniatures?

There are 4 heavy hitters when it comes to getting the best acrylic paints for your plastic board game models – Vallejo, Citadel, Privateer Press, and Army Painter. 

Army Painter acrylic paintstend to be the go-to paints for Dungeons and Dragons miniatures. They offer excellent paints in dropper bottles and spray cans. However, their best feature is that they have a wide range of acrylic colors with a color match between your material and primer. They also offer speed painting colors that make it easy to get your board game miniatures painted in the fastest time possible. 

Vallejo Paints – has the best acrylic paint when it comes to its metallics. Their acrylics are slightly on the thin side but are usually high quality and perfect for base coating. Plus, they have 4 different lines of acrylics to suit airbrushing and paintbrush techniques with over 500+ colors. 

Citadel – also makes some good acrylic paints, from their technical paints to the shade, contrast, glaze, base, and wash colors. In fact, their paints are designed specifically for painting Warhammer models, especially the plastic Warhammer 40K minis. 

One thing I love more about their paint is that their acrylics are more accessible than other acrylic paint brands. But, miniature painters, especially beginners, also favor their products because they are easy to use, especially as they pre-mix most of their paints, like the technical and shades to remove the tasking process of mixing paints. 

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Privateer Press Paint P3 – is popular for its Formula P3 range. They make acrylic paints ideal for Warmachine and Hordes. These paints offer incredible coverage and are great for wet-blending. However, I won’t really recommend them to newbies because their paints have a slightly slower drying time than most, and the range is more limited, with only 100 paint colors, including metallics, washes, and inks.

Your next step: what primer to use when painting with acrylics?

When it comes to painting miniatures, you can’t always do so without a primer since the paint won’t stick well. So, consider applying a water-based primer beforehand before applying paint. 

Read our article “What Primers to Use on Miniatures to know more about the best primers for acrylic paints. 


Painting miniatures is fun and not as difficult as people make it out to be. Just get a nice acrylic paint and start painting your plastic Warhammer 40K minis. If you play more of metal metals, enamels and lacquers will work best.