Product Review: The Army Painter Special Edition Complete Paint Set
Written by Sarah-Anne
Last week we decided to make a serious investment in our miniature painting arsenal and purchased the complete set of paints from The Army Painter (set purchased from Jack's on Queen). This is the largest set that The Army Painter produces, and contains every one of their 96 acrylic paints in production, plus 11 washes, 8 metallics, and 9 effects (which include brush on primer, gloss and matte varnish, and mediums to mix and create your own washes, among others).
Why did we choose The Army Painter?
As we were looking to purchase such a large set, we wanted to make the most of our investment. We needed paints that had been proven to have better-than-average coverage and ease of use, but needed to not cost us a small fortune. The Army Painter is a perfect, mid-tier paint line for miniatures, and so far has provided us the best value for our money. Most of the paints have a satin finish and with the exception of a few select colours, water down well enough to use for more advanced techniques such as layering or glazing. While other brands such as Citadel (Games Workshop) provide similar results, I CANNOT abide by those paint pots, so that line was out of the question (and yes I know, many people have had much success transferring Citadel paints over to dropper bottles, but for me, the effort and paint loss involved is not worth it).
Other lines such as Reaper are very economical but to be honest, the painting techniques that Chris and I primarily use are not well supported by these more entry-level paint lines. I have found the pigment concentration to not be very high, and once the paints are watered down considerably the pigment suspension breaks apart in a way that makes it more difficult to get a smooth end result. Do not take this as me knocking on Reaper paints by any stretch - they are great paints for their price point and fantastic for those new to the hobby. (Or anyone who does not water they paints down, like, a lot. Sometimes our approach might be overkill...)
A paint line I have been really wanting to experiment with is Vallejo, which at least at this point and time, has set the standard for higher-end miniature and model paints. However, the monetary investment is that much more with a premium line such as Vallejo, and I was not ready to commit to that just quite yet without having more experience with it tested against our painting styles. So at this point we will likely purchase a few select bottles of colours here and there to get a feel for the paint and if we like it as much as we think we will, purchase a larger set down the road.
Once opened, we found there seemed to be no rhyme or reason to the way the paints were organized and for someone with painter's OCD that bothered me more than it should have. Most of the paints had fallen out of the plastic holders during shipping (and of course were put back into place for the photos!) but I do not believe this accounted for the placement, as even the two sealed packages had a chaotic mix of colours, washes, and effects. In addition to the paints themselves, this set included a great painting introduction guide and 5 free brushes. The brushes are synthetic and will likely end up as the children's, but it was a nice, unexpected, touch. (When we placed an order with our LGS we did so for the Complete Set, not realizing it would be the limited edition one.)
Given the aforementioned painter's OCD, the first thing to do of course, was to sort the colours.
Though the box and bottle art give an approximation of the colour inside (light blue, for example) even the colour of the paint itself within the clear bottle does not give a true sense of what it will look like once fully dried. And with so many similar shades, it was very helpful to go through the extra step of placing a small dab of paint on the cap to dry before putting away in storage. A mug of tea is a must-have for this very important endeavor.
Now that we have so many paints, the old paint rack I made using this tutorial will no longer be sufficient and I had to make a second one. I had also realized when putting away paints in the first one I made that the washes and effects were hard to discern when stored horizontally, so I made additional 'step-style' shelves to house those bottles with the same black foam board.
What did we learn from this set, and what do we like?
First and foremost, we are excited to play around with the sheer quantity of hues and shades at our disposal. While both Chris and I are adept at mixing our own colours (Chris perhaps more so), there is a freedom and joy to painting without having to go through the extra preparation. With so many colours to choose from you could choose a different highlight and shadow colour for the same base colour, and end up with a myriad of different end results.
One thing I did notice though, is there seems to be a disproportionate amount of blue and green options than any other colours, with the exception perhaps of browns. This makes sense, given that it is targeted for miniature painters and those are very common colours to use.
What are the challenges with using these paints?
As mentioned previously, some of the paints do have a tendency to give a 'chalky' appearance when watered down too much, which only seems to affect the lightest coloured pigments. It does not seem to affect the more saturated colours; for a recent model the main colours were white and turquoise (both watered down considerably), but only the white gave that chalky finish, while the turquoise kept its smooth and satin finish even when almost transparent.
It may not be fair to critique The Army Painter for this flaw specifically, as I have heard this as a common complaint with other brands, too. It may have more to do with the compounds used to create those lighter pigments, and less a reflection of any one paint line. If any of our readers have experience to the contrary, or more to add to this I would be very happy to hear it in the comments!
We are both very happy with this set, and believe the value-for-money to be quite good. While owning every single colour from the entire paint line is more selection that the average painter will ever require, I personally am going to use this as a challenge to myself by using colours and hues I might normally not gravitate towards. I would also like to start using different colours as my shadows (perhaps in contrasting colours to the base colour itself) for even more variance. If there was anything esle specific that you would like to know about this paint set, please let us know, and happy painting!