Want to get into D&D or Warhammer 40,000? Or maybe you’ve caught your child gazing longingly at intricately painted scale models.
Painting detailed models is a rewarding hobby, but I know how difficult getting started is. After all, how do you know which paints are good for beginners?
I will tell you which — that’s how! In this guide, I will compare several starter sets from the most famous model painting brands to help you find the best miniature paint set for beginners.
Table of Contents
- Best Miniature Paint Sets for Beginners At A Glance
- 1. Reaper Learn to Paint Kit: Core Skills (Best Choice)
- 2. Vallejo Basic Colors Set (Best Value)
- 3. The Army Painter Mega Paint Set (Premium Choice)
- 4. Citadel/Games Workshop Warhammer 40,000 Paints + Tools Sets (Best Set with Tools)
- 5. The Army Painter Wargames Hobby Starter Paint Set (Most Versatile)
- 6. Reaper Master Series Paints Starter Paint Set (Best Budget Option)
- 7. The Army Painter Quickshade Washes Set (Best Wash Set)
- What Makes a Good Miniature Paint Starter Set?
- How to Choose the Best Miniature Paint Set for Beginners?
- The Five Things You Need to Paint Miniatures
- What is the Best Brush for Painting Miniatures?
- Pots Vs. Dropper Paint Containers
- How to Paint Miniatures: 6 Steps for Beginners
- Do You Need to Prime Miniatures Before Painting?
- Who Do You Need to Thin Acrylic Paints?
- How to Wash Miniatures?
- Should You Paint a Miniature Before Assembly?
- Bottom Line
Best Miniature Paint Sets for Beginners At A Glance
1. Reaper Learn to Paint Kit: Core Skills (Best Choice)
2. Vallejo Basic Colors Set (Best Value)
3. The Army Painter Mega Paint Set (Premium Choice)
4. Citadel/Games Workshop Warhammer 40,000 Paints + Tools Set (Best Set with Tools)
5. The Army Painter Wargames Hobby Starter Paint Set (Most Versatile)
6. Reaper Master Series Paints Starter Paint Set (Best Budget Option)
7. The Army Painter Quickshade Washes Set (Best Wash Set)
When I first saw the Reaper Learn to Paint Kit, I got a bit mad. Not because it’s bad, but because I wish I’d had an excellent set like this when I started painting models.
This high-value kit comes with almost everything a fledgling miniature painter could hope for.
Let’s start with the most important bit — the paints. Reaper colors are quite good for their price, especially for beginners.
They have a naturally thin consistency, which makes them very forgiving even if you don’t thin them quite right. The coverage is fine as well. You need two or three layers for perfect coverage, but hey — you should be doing that anyway, so it’s a valuable lesson!
The range of colors is decent and covers most bases. I wish there was a red color, though, so you could mix any color out of the set.
The three models that come with the kit (an orc, a skeleton, and a knight) are made of Reaper’s “Bones” material. This stuff absorbs pigment well, so you can paint the models without priming. The miniatures have a nice variety of textures and details for practicing different techniques.
You get a round brush for detail painting and a flat one for base coats and drybrushing. I like the detailed instructional booklet, which walks you through painting each of the supplied models. It’s a fantastic aid for those who have never painted a model before.
Now, you will probably outgrow this kit and color options fairly quickly. But that only means this complete beginner’s paint set has served its duty with honor.
You don’t need premium colors when you start miniature painting — but having the best colors certainly doesn’t do any harm. Vallejo’s Basic Colors Set brings you top-shelf miniature paints at a ridiculously good value.
Vallejo is one of the most respected miniature paint companies for a reason.
These are first-class paints in every possible way. Vallejo colors have excellent coverage and surface adhesion.
You need only a small amount of paint to produce vivid, smooth colors, so the bottles last for a long time. The colors work perfectly with every painting technique, from base layering to edge highlighting and drybrushing.
They are quite thick, so you have to thin them. But that’s a fact with every brand, and you might as well practice with the best.
The range of colors in this set is just about perfect.
Since it has a basic flat red, green, and blue — together with white and black — you can mix essentially any color you could ever want. It’s a perfect platform for learning color theory and mixing.
If I have to complain about something, you don’t get any brushes, tools, or instructions with this set. That’s sort of a given, though, considering Vallejo is first and foremost a high-grade paint manufacturer.
The set is a bit pricey, but it’s well worth it. I can’t think of a better value set if you want to start painting with pro-level paints.
Do you want it all? Do you want it now? Then you need The Army Painter Mega Set — a full miniature paint range in one box.
The number of colors in this set is pretty much mind-blowing.
These 50 bottles (including metallics, effects, and washes) get you ready to paint anything. Want a drab camo scheme for WW2 scale models or Imperial Guard? You got it. Want bright, vivid hues for a D&D Bard’s outfit? You got it.
Can’t find the perfect color? Just mix it — you have so many colors to use as a base that you’ll never be wanting.
In addition to colors, you also get one brush and a nice introductory guide that takes you from basic skills to more advanced techniques.
Some sets also include a box of mixing balls you can drop into the bottles to help stir the pigments and medium. It’s a bit of a luck of a draw if you get them, though, since there are multiple editions of this set out there.
Now, some of the paints in this set are better than others. The Army Painter is known for inconsistent quality. Their pure white and black are among the best in the industry, but some of the more specialized colors have mediocre coverage and adhesion at best.
But don’t let that discourage you from getting this set. I bought it years ago and I still use it.
The Army Painter Mega Set is the best way to fill your paint rack with a single purchase.
Citadel (Games Workshop’s paint division) is a staple name in miniature war games. This starter set from the makers of Warhammer 40,000 has something many others don’t — basic modeling tools.
In addition to the colors, you also get one round starter brush, side cutters for clipping model parts of the sprue, and a scraper to remove mold lines. Basically, this set has every tool you need to start modeling from zero (except glue).
What about the paints, though? Are they any good?
Of course — Citadel colors wouldn’t be household products if they weren’t good. Citadel colors have consistent quality across the board. Their coverage is almost as good as Vallejo’s, the consistency is ideal for thinning, and they flow smoothly from the brush onto the model.
This set features some basic paints, in addition to one wash, a couple of metallics, and some technical paints for special effects. You can learn to use every type of paint Citadel offers with this one set.
But the options are also my biggest gripe about this set. Games Workshop has picked the colors specifically for painting the Ultramarines and Necrons found in the Warhammer 40K 9th Edition starter sets.
If you’re starting one of these factions for Warhammer 40K, this is a fantastic little box. But if you want to paint pretty much anything else, the color range is very restrictive. Citadel’s pots are also notorious for drying and spilling paint.
That said, the set isn’t badly priced and you get the basic tools with it. It’s still a worthy purchase for a beginning miniature painter, particularly if you’re into Warhammer 40K.
Do you like the price point of The Army Painter colors but don’t want to blow so much money on the Mega Set? Then, let me introduce you to The Army Painter Wargames Hobby Starter Set — one of the most versatile paint kits out there.
This paint set comes with every basic color you need, including The Army Painter’s excellent black and white, on top of a red, blue, yellow, green, brown, and Caucasian flesh tone. You also get a metallic color and one dark wash.
But what exactly makes this set so versatile?
It’s the same story I mentioned with the Vallejo set. You can mix any color out by combining those you find in this set.
Although you get fewer color options (and therefore slightly less value) than with Vallejo, it doesn’t really matter. This set is a great starting point for painting any model, and it can also teach how to mix your own colors instead of relying on one brand to supply your options.
Since this kit is also from The Army Painter, it does suffer from the same consistency issues as the Mega kit. In general, though, the paints have decent coverage and surface adhesion. You may need to do an extra layer (especially with the yellow), but that’s really no big deal.
You also get a free brush and The Army Painter’s nice painting guide to sweeten the deal! Overall, this set is a great starting point to painting all kinds of miniatures.
If you’d like to give painting miniatures without blowing a fortune, boy do I have a deal for you. The Reaper Master Series Paints starter kit is a fantastically budget- and beginner-friendly stepping stone into the hobby.
You get a great variety of colors in this set, from basic white and black to steel and gold metallics. It’s more or less comparable to the Vallejo set, minus a couple of more exotic colors.
But what I really like about these colors is how easy they are to use.
As I mentioned with the Learn to Paint box, Reaper colors are very thin in consistency. Although I would advise learning to thin your paints from the get-go, you can use these colors straight out of the bottle without clogging up your models’ details.
On top of being practically pre-thinned, Reaper colors go on smoothly, making for good-looking matte surfaces. And, just like with the Vallejo and The Army Painter sets, you can mix your own colors.
These colors even work in airbrushes! No matter what tools you have at home, you can start practicing your painting skills immediately.
But you’d better have some tools already because Reaper’s handy carrying case contains only paint. You have to buy your brushes and painting guides separately. I’ve also noticed that the bottles can build pressure and start leaking for some reason.
I do think Reaper could’ve dropped a freebie brush into this kit. But even as it is, I would highly recommend these colors for new budget-friendly miniature painters.
So, you’ve learned to work with your basic paints and would like to take your skills to the next level. The Army Painter Quickshade Washes Set lets you turn up your paint jobs’ wow factor.
To be clear — this set does not contain paints. Instead, it has a great variety of washes.
What an earth is a wash, though?
Washes are special types of paints that have less pigment and a very thin and flowy consistency. When you apply them over your basecoat, the wash flows into the model’s deeper details, providing quick and easy shading effects.
The Army Painter washes are very good for their price. I use them regularly with my miniatures and actually prefer them to some more expensive options, like Citadel.
In this kit, you get The Army Painter’s basic Dark, Strong, and Soft Tone washes, in addition to many colored ones. There will definitely be a wash here that complements your models’ color scheme, whatever it may be.
The Army Painter washes are also top-notch in consistency. They flow well and add wonderful depth to your models.
In fact, this will probably be the only wash set you will ever need. I certainly haven’t felt the need to go back to other brands.
I would not necessarily recommend starting to mess around with washes until you learn the basics of using normal colors. But once you have a few models under you, this wash set is excellent for stepping up your model painting game.
What Makes a Good Miniature Paint Starter Set?
A lot of different manufacturers produce paint for miniatures — and practically all of them offer some kind of an introductory set. But how do you figure out which of them are worth buying?
I’ve ranked here the key things that make for a great miniature painting starter set, going from the most to least significant.
The paint is naturally the most vital component of all painting starter sets. Having a great variety of colors is, of course, always nice, but I recommend instead looking for sets with solid basic options.
Try to find a mini painting kit that includes at least basic red, blue, and yellow, in addition to black and white. You want these colors specifically because they form the basis of every other hue. You can mix any color as long as you have these basic options!
If you’ve never painted a single model, you may not have paintbrushes. In such a case, try to look for sets that include them.
Most starter sets come with one medium-sized round brush that can work well for both base coating and details. That said, I would ideally look for kits with three brushes — a medium-sized round one for layering, a small round brush for details, and a flat brush for drybrushing.
Okay, you have your paints and brushes — but how do you use them? You may not know as a beginner, and that’s why the best paint sets include instructions.
How detailed the guidebooks are depends largely on the paint brand. However, you can expect most of them to cover at least the basic concepts of thinning paints, layering, and highlighting.
4. Sample Miniatures
If you’ve bought a model paint set, you probably already have at least one miniature. But having more never hurts. The sample miniatures in paint starter sets aren’t usually very detailed but let’s face it — we all mess up our first models so it’s better you don’t practice on your favorites!
Washes are an easy way to add shading and depth to models. Starter sets didn’t use to include them (mostly because they didn’t exist and we old geezers had to mix our own).
These days, though, having a bottle or two of sample washes is becoming common. I recommend looking to paint sets that feature washes because they are invaluable painting tools.
Now we’re getting into things that most starter sets simply don’t offer. Primers are special paints designed to help other layers of color stick better to the model.
It’s very rare to find a starter set that includes primer. But if you find one, I say buy it — it shows whoever made it is serious about the art of model painting.
7. Mixing Mediums
Medium is the base liquid of your paint to which the manufacturer mixes pigments to produce colors. They are useful for thinning because they don’t alter the paint’s characteristics, unlike water. You will be hard-pressed to find beginners’ paint sets that include medium, but it may be worth it to buy some separately.
Varnish is a protective coating you apply to your painted miniature. It hardens into a hard layer that prevents colors from chipping. I’ve never seen starter sets include varnishes and — to be honest — most beginners don’t really need them.
How to Choose the Best Miniature Paint Set for Beginners?
The paint is the heart and soul of every miniature paint set. Choosing the right paints can be difficult for a beginner, so I’ve listed here the key things to consider when choosing a miniatures painting starter kit.
Opacity describes the intensity of the paint’s color, which is determined by its pigments. Rich pigments produce strong colors while paints with dull or little pigment are more translucent.
You will always want the richest color possible to get good coverage. With poor opacity, you will have to apply many coats before you get a solid color surface, which is time-consuming and frustrating.
A paint’s viscosity describes how thick it is. This is a bit of a double-edged sword for beginners.
On one hand, higher viscosity often means better coverage. On the other, you must thin the paint properly or you’ll clog your miniature’s details with it.
In general, I would recommend buying paint with high viscosity. You’ll have to eventually learn to thin your colors, so might as well start practicing immediately!
As a beginner, you should try to find starter sets with fast-drying colors. This way you won’t have to wait an hour between each color layer and can focus on practicing your painting skills.
As your skills develop, though, you may want to switch to colors that dry slower. A longer drying time unlocks advanced techniques like wet blending — although that’s not something you need to worry about when you’re just getting started!
Type of Container
Miniature paints generally come in two different kinds of containers — dropper bottles and pots. I always recommend paint bottles because they maintain your colors better and waste less paint. I will say more on this topic later, so keep reading!
Acrylic paints resist UV radiation and don’t fade much over time, so they’re often the best for beginners. Enamel and oil colors turn yellow under sunlight (and are much more difficult to work with) so I would avoid them when starting out.
The Five Things You Need to Paint Miniatures
Model painting isn’t as difficult as it seems, but you need the right tools to get started. Here are the five basic things you require.
I recommend buying paints from established miniature color brands. No-name or hobby store brand colors often don’t have the quality and consistency model painting needs.
As a beginner, you won’t have to worry too much about the quality of your brushes. Any cheap ones will do — I wasted a lot of money by buying expensive brushes before knowing how to use them correctly.
Buy some models, any models. It doesn’t matter if they’re not your favorite — paint anything you can find to learn how different surfaces and textures react to colors.
You shouldn’t use most colors straight out of the paint bottles. Always have a small container of clean water handy so you can thin your paints.
Any cheap plastic palette will do for mixing and thinning your colors. Here’s a cool pro tip, though — buy a single white ceramic tile to get a perfectly smooth work surface.
What is the Best Brush for Painting Miniatures?
What the best brushes for miniatures are depends on your skill level. As a beginner, just buy a $10 synthetic brush set that comes with a good variety of tip shapes and sizes. What matters is getting used to how paints handle, not the brush quality.
As your skills advance, you can move on to higher-quality brushes with natural bristles. Yet, you don’t necessarily need to do that.
I’ve been painting models for two decades and still use cheap brushes (because I’m just too lazy to maintain the expensive ones)!
Pots Vs. Dropper Paint Containers
Miniature colors come in either dropper bottles or pot containers. In general, bottles are always better than pots.
The bottles make it easy to add the exact amount of paint you need on your palette. You’ll avoid wasting paint and make your colors last longer.
Scooping out paint from pots is more difficult. Additionally, you might leave the pot open, which will dry out the color.
How to Paint Miniatures: 6 Steps for Beginners
No matter what brand your colors are, the basic painting steps for miniatures are always the same. Here’s my rough breakdown of how to add color to your models:
- Add a small amount of paint onto your palette.
- Dip your brush in water and mix it with the color until it has a thin, milk-like consistency.
- Load your brush with color and tap it lightly on a paper towel to remove excess.
- Apply a thin coat of color onto your miniature using steady, downward strokes.
- Let the first color layer dry and apply additional coats until you have a smooth, solid color surface.
- Rinse and repeat until your model looks amazing!
Do You Need to Prime Miniatures Before Painting?
You don’t necessarily have to prime miniatures, but I strongly recommend doing so. Priming creates a unified, solid canvas on the miniature’s surface for painting. It also helps paint adhere better and prevents it from chipping. Using a primer is a quick and easy way to protect your hard work
Who Do You Need to Thin Acrylic Paints?
You have to thin acrylic paint because its natural consistency can clog your miniature’s details. Unthinned paint can fill the tiny gaps and crevices that create texture and details, turning your model into a shapeless blob. Remember — two thin coats are always better than a single thick one!
How to Wash Miniatures?
Washing miniatures doesn’t mean cleaning them, but applying a special thin paint called a “wash” or shade”. These colors flow into the deeper parts of your model and create quick and good-looking shading and shadows.
Here’s how to apply a wash to your models:
- Add some wash onto a palette and thin it if necessary.
- Load your brush with the wash.
- Apply the wash to the model’s surface, giving extra attention to recesses.
- Clean your brush and soak up any wash that has settled on the miniature’s raised areas to prevent excessive discoloration and blotchiness.
- Wait for the wash to dry.
Should You Paint a Miniature Before Assembly?
It can be worthwhile to paint some parts separately before you assemble a miniature. This technique is called “painting in sub-assemblies” and it can make reaching some deep details easier.
For example, you might want to paint a miniature’s arms or big pillowing cloak separately so you can reach into the areas that these components will cover on the completed model. Whether you need sub-assemblies depends on the miniature, so check out the assembly instructions before you start painting.
A good beginner’s paint set makes for a fantastic stepping stone into painting miniature models. Any of the kits I’ve mentioned (except the wash set) will help you or your kid get started on this fun and exciting hobby.
Yet, each of my choices excels in a certain area. Here are my personal recommendations:
- Reaper Learn to Paint is the most complete model painting starter kit I’ve seen.
- The Army Painter Mega Set brings you a full range of colors in one box.
- Vallejo Basic Color Set features top-quality paints at a ridiculous value.
- The Army Painter Wargames Set is a versatile and affordable foundation to start from.