Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Citadel Paints: A more measured review

Hello and huzzah shipmates. Well, it has almost been a year since the new line of Citadel paints came out. I did a first impressions review way back in August of last year, but having used them extensively now I think I have honed in on what works and what doesn't about the new range along with a few suggestions to fix what doesn't work. I usually think The Good, The Bad and The Ugly when I am doing reviews, in this case I am also adding The Indispensable as there are some of the new paints that I just wouldn't be without. So without further ado...

The Good: By and large almost all of the new paints fit into this catagory, if you don't see one mentioned then it probably belongs here. Weirdly, one of the things I grumbled about in the last review - the demise of desaturated foundation paints - has actually helped me become a better painter. It kicked away the drab crutches and forced me to use brighter, more vibrant schemes. This was a win. The browns certainly belong in here, there are now lots of nice, versatile brown shades to choose from and there isn't one that I haven't found a use for yet. Including two different vibrant turquoises and a solid pink is also a sterling effort as these colours are evil to mix (Pink? Really? Yep, just try mixing a "hot" pink). I'm also liking the two bone tones (heh heh) which make highlighting bone a fast task rather than another mixing stage. I'm also a fan of the new washes. Yes, I know Nuln Oil is not a pure black wash but it is rare that we really want one. I just use black ink if I need really black washes. So all in all, the vast majority of the range ends up here. Unfortunately...

The Bad: These aren't dreadful paints, there's just something a little wrong with them and that is why I have placed them in the Bad rather than the Ugly. One of my most immediate gripes is with some of the metallics. Three of them - Runelord Brass, Sycorax Bronze and Hashut Copper - are excellent and come with my recommendation. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for the steel and gold shades. Ah, it's not like we use them often though right? The problems with both are coverage. The gold needs all five stages to be painted in sequence in order to look right. FIVE stage gold on EVERYTHING? Every finger ring, every bracelet? Forget it. I needed a one coat gold that would just do the job. I found it in Vallejo Liquid Metal paints. Yes they are a bit of a pain to use and clean (you need Isopropyl Alcohol - useful stuff) but with one coat they create a solid, lustrous gold that can't be beaten. They take shading washes nicely too. The steel - I am reliably informed by Andy of Lair of the Brevicks - would be better served by Army Painter Plate Mail Metal and Gunmetal. I'll give it a go. Getting very fed up of having to do two basecoats for steel.

Another mild gripe is the greens, this may seem wierd but stick with me. The new range has some lovely blue greens and some pleasant yellow greens but no solid mid-tone green like the old Snot Green. I suspect this is because you are supposed to use Waywatcher Green glaze to rebalance a scheme but I prefer to start with the right colour. Not finangle it at the end. But then I used to live and die with just Knarloc and Snot Green so the extra variety isn't all bad.

Oddly a staple colour is in this list too: Abbaddon Black, I do not know what they have done to it but they have killed it's coverage. Citadel Black does not cover in one coat. I am bemused. I've switched over to Vallejo Black. The last entry for this part is the texture paints. These used to be in the Ugly but I have found a solid use for them. They really are excellent at texturing movement trays and similar. They still remain Bad as they are - in my opinion - useless for texturing bases, but I haven't found a faster way of getting texture onto trays.

The Ugly: Urg. These are paints - mercifully few - that I can find neither use nor unintended purpose for. Seriously, these are the ones I roll my eyes at. Lets start with a horrible metallic: Screaming Bell. What the hell is this for? It does not mix well with itself, refuses to smooth out into anything other than a curdled mess and even after minutes of shaking resolves itself only into a vague metallic red-orange. It's layer partner Brass Scorpion is not much better. I can think of no situation in which I would want to use this colour and I'm an imaginative guy.

Next, the Dry Pigments. Initially I quite liked the idea of these but in practice they are just annoying. Once you get past the top layer they are tough to actually get onto the brush in quantity and can only be used for drybrushing. This means that the lightest colours in the range cannot be used normally without carefully reconsituting them with water and thinner. I no longer see the point. You can drybrush with normal paints! All making them "Dry Pigments" does is restrict their usefullness. I got excited when the edge paint kit came out as this seemed to be the answer to this problem but they hadn't made all of them! Why? In god's name why? Please, if anyone from Citadel is reading this: Keep the Dry Pigments, I'm sure someone gives a damn about them, but release those colours as normal paints as well. Do it through the website, don't worry about space in shop racks. Just do it.

EDIT: OH MY GOD THEY DID IT! The edge pigments are available as individual pots. Screw it, I'm claiming credit ;)

The Indispensable: Luckily though there is another side to the Ugly coin, some paints that I would not be without these days. Let me introduce you to them:

The Flesh Tones: With the exception of Ratskin Flesh I have loved each and every one of these. The new flesh tones are godlike and create some lovely looking skin. Especial mention must go to Rakarth Flesh and it's attendent Pallid Wyche Flesh. Every pale flesh GW have ever brought out has been nasty, either pink or chalky. This stuff is the absolute Daddy. By changing which wash you use you can either make it vital but pale or dead and drawn. It is also a brilliant highlight for woodwork over Steel Legion Drab (the new more vibrant Khemri Brown which I also love) and an Agrax Earthshade wash.

Ceramite White: A one coat white. That is all. If you have ever tried to paint white you need no more explanation than that.

The Yellows: Again, superb, nice coverage at the darker end of the spectrum and with the yellow glaze and wash there is no risk of chalky highlights or insipid shadows. Love 'em.

Thunderhawk Blue: A lovely delicate colour that perfectly highlights black.

So there you have it. Hopefully you got from that the impression that the Citadel range is 80% good, with about 15% not very good. The remainder are either excellent or horrible. I suspect that the ratio would be similar across other paint ranges too. Increasingly these days I use whatever paint works to get my effect. We've never had it so good. The various ranges out there should cater for whatever paint colour or effect you need. It's just nice to know that the old reliable citadel paints that I started with are still mostly a solid range. Just for gods sake avoid the Bad and the Ugly.



  1. Good to see objective opinion on citadel paints. Good review.

    I also must say that new range made me better painter than before.

  2. I don't find Screaming Bell that bad, I must admit. Certainly no more annoying to mix than any of the other base paints.

    I also like the dry paints, but then I use them only for drybrushing...

    I suspect that the range has been designed more for the keen amateurs such as myself, rather than the Scared Paintmeisters like Mr. Viking here.

    1. scared? Possibly scarred or sacred? Dunno. I might have gotten a bad batch of Screaming Bell but it just will NOT be shaken smooth. Grr. And yeah, the dry pigments work great... for drybrushing. Sadly that's all they do, sigh.

    2. Actually, what do you use Screaming Bell for? I just cannot think of a single use!

    3. I use it as a basecoat for bronze. These considerably less good than yours show it up sort of: http://ataleofonegamer.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/liquid-green-stuff-and-new-citadel.html

      Mine shakes up okayish, but I admit that I keep a blunted cocktail stick handy.

      Currently it's adorning the armour trim of my Alpha Legion squad (from Dark Vengeance)... as they're the 'veterans' in a mostly post-Heresy army I wanted to give the impression that these dudes are properly ancient, so figured corroded bronze instead of steel would help with that.

  3. This was a very good review. I'm not a very accomplished painter, so I appreciate tips from people that know which end of a brush to use.

    I just ran out of Chaos Black, so I opened up my first pot of Abaddon Black last week. I agree with the fact that it doesn't cover as well as Chaos Black. I was perplexed at first, I didn't understand how a black could be so thin, but it is. I also agree with your thoughts on the steel colors, it takes me quite a few coats to get a solid finish. I happened to pick up a bottle of Army Painter Plate Mail when I bought the Abaddon black. I only use GW paints at the moment, so this will be my first step in Army Painter colors. It is good to know that they are at least come recommend.

    Additionally, I've chosen one of the dry paints as an accent color on my Tau. I've tried to water it down and make it manageable, but that has not been very successful. I’m glad I am only using it for accents and not as a primary color. I would love it if GW released these as regular paints in some form or fashion. I thought I just didn’t understand the concept of a 'dry' paint well enough to use it, but I couldn't even get paint on the brush!

    1. add a little bit of Lahmian Medium or Vallejo Thinner to the mix, what the dry pigments are missing is acrylic medium to make them more fluid. Just adding water sadly just dilutes the pigment, it doesn't make it paint!

  4. Very enlightening and useful as my old GW Citadel paints are well past their sell by date and need a refresh.

  5. Just a quick question. You say that you use Thunderhawk Blue to highlight black. I was just wondering whether you use this just as it is and apply it straight over the black? It just seems a little too light to me to use as it is.

    1. I add Thunderhawk to the Black in increasing amounts. You can use it neat for very, very fine edge highlights but I generally overhighlight and then glaze black back down anyway.