Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Thinning down your paints

Something that a lot of hobbyists are taught is that you should thin down your paints.  The reasons for this practice a varied.  For some it makes the paint easier to layer.  Others use thin downed paints to glaze or wash models.  One of the most basic reasons is simply to get a smoother finish.  For each reason there is a preferred product to use, and this article will cover some of them.

First of the products that people use to thin down their paints is something we all have in abundance.  If you look in your kitchen there is a tap for water.  People are usually taught to use water for thinning their paints when they first start painting, and never move past it.  If you want to paint at a higher quality, stop.  Water will thin the paint, but it has nothing to spread the pigment.  What this means is that the paint is not consistent throughout.  This makes getting a consistent finish impossible.

Vallejo and Army Painter sell their paints in a "pre-thinned down" state.  Most painters will use these paints straight from the bottle without adding anything to them.  This is a perfectly acceptable way to paint, but I personally find that I sometimes want a thicker consistency, especially for my base coats.  For this reason I tend to not use these paints.

The two major lines that will require thinning are Citadel and P3.  The first is made by Games-Workshop and the second by Privateer Press.  They both sell a product "designed specifically" for their paints.  Citadel has Lahmian Medium, which as far as any can tell is essentially the same as the suspension material in their paints.  What this really means to you though is that the pigment in the paint will spread consistently when using this medium.  In my opinion is it the best quality product for mediums, but at roughly $4 it's fairly expensive.  P3's mixing medium is even more expensive at $5 a bottle, and I don't think it's as good a solution to the mixing problem.

The best solution I have found for the money is Liquitex.  They offer both a matte medium for non glossy finishes and a gloss or varnish for glossy finishes.  They provide the consitent spread of pigments, and at $6 for 4oz. its over 20 times the amount for only a few dollars more.  You can find Liquitex in almost any hobby store, like Michael's, A.C. Moore, or Hobby Lobby.  Or if you prefer to order online or can't find it, you can get it at dickblick.com.

So the next time you break out you paints, be they Citadel, P3, or some other manufacturer of thicker paints, make sure you bring a medium.  And please leave the water in the paint cleaning cup where it belongs.  Until next time....



  1. Paint thinning is important!
    You could use Elcometer 500 to measure paint thickness

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