This article is from the Miniatures Painting FAQ, by Brenda Klein email@example.com with numerous contributions by others.
This question has sparked some vigorous discussion from two major
camps: acrylics and enamels. First, a description of what these
Oil- or solvent-based. These tend to be a bit thicker
than acrylics and require that you have thinner on hand for
washing, thinning, and brush cleaning. These paints are often
referred to as enamels, but some acrylics can be enamels as well,
so when in doubt, read the label.
Acrylic paint is water-base and tends to be smoother, though if
it gets dry it can become grainy. All you need to thin or clean
up with this stuff is tap water. Discussion on the newsgroup
rec.games.miniatures has uncovered that more posters prefer the
acrylics to oils. (This author uses acrylics.) Again, a
matter of taste.
The basic colours from which just about anything can be mixed are
white, black, brown (you can mix this yourself, but it's a pain),
red, yellow, blue, and gray (same as above). Metallics, various
shades and hues, practically anything you can think of is available
through one company or another. Start with the basics and expand
as you feel you need it. Soon enough you'll have more paint than
you ever imagined you'd need, and likely use every one.
Most like-type (acrylic or oil) can be mixed regardless of
brand, but be cautious at first as some brands are incompatible.
Companies which manufacture miniature-formulated paints:
Ral Partha (acrylics and dragonscale metallic creams)
Floquil/Polly S (acrylics and oil-base)
Pactra (acrylic enamels)
Model Master (oil-base and acryylic)
Dragon Colour (acrylic)
Citadel (acrylics and specially-formulated inks)
Howard Hues (acrylic)
Tamiya (fine acrylics, almost transparent)
Gunze Sangyo's Aqueous Hobby Colour (fine acrylics)
Horizon (acrylics for vinyl models - good on primed surfaces)
Accuflex (acrylics - formulated for airbrushing, also makes a
There are other companies, of course, these are just the ones the
author could think of right now. Most paints are available at
your local hobby or gaming shop, and places that specialize in
miniature railroad equipment often have the best selection.
Railroad paints are often oil-based, but primers and sealers
of that type are usually quite good at preserving detail.
Paints may be bought by the individual bottle (usually under $2
US per) or in sets. If you buy a set, be sure that you can "see"
all the paints before purchase. This way, you'll assure that you
get what you're looking for and that the consistencies are good.
SHAKE all paint before purchase, to make sure they mix up well.