Gear: Starting Miniature Painting – 2020 Edition

For the last couple of years I have put together a list of the Citadel Paints I would recommend buying if you wanted to start painting miniatures. Now in August 2020, GW have a new starter set out and, therefore, I have updated this guide for you.

The caveats…

1. Warhammer TV still has a massive collection of tutorials using Citadel paints, so that’s the first video resource I would point you towards.

2. You shouldn’t struggle to buy these, there should be hundreds of stockists around the world.

3. Citadel paints have a decent resale value on eBay so if you try painting and don’t like it, just sell them for £££.

4. The premise involves buying the Warhammer 40,000 paints and tools set (which is good value) then filling in the gaps with other paint. If this ever goes out of stock or changes, comment below and I will redo the guide.

5. These are not necessary all paints I would use. Runefang Steel and Leadbelcher have been cycled out of my painting rotation but you will still be able to get good results out of them.

…Still Reading?

Have a cute gif…

Now Let’s Get Started

I am going to base this guide around the “Warhammer 40,000: Paints + Tools Set”. It has 13 full-size paints, clippers, a mould line remover and a brush for £27.50. Not bad as I estimate there is around £56.70 worth of paint in there.

This contains 12ml pots of the following:

  • Retributor Armour – £3.70
  • Runelord Brass – £3.70
  • Runefang Steel – £2.75
  • Leadbelcher – £2.75
  • Abaddon Black – £2.75
  • Corax White – £2.75
  • Macragge Blue – £2.75
  • Averland Sunset – £2.75
  • Mephiston Red – £2.75
  • Bugman’s Glow – £2.75
  • Agrax Earthshade – Estimated value £3.16
  • Astrogranite – Estimated value £3.16
  • Tesseract Glow – Estimated value £3.16

Here’s my take on the contents and the extras I would recommend to fill out your collection, if you were starting out.


Citadel’s washes are fantastic at instantly applying a darker colour to the shadows of a model without causing tide marks or other unsightly blotches. They can be applied straight out of the bottle or diluted with medium for some more subtle effects.

When you are starting you’ll want the matt versions, however the gloss versions are also useful.

Nuln Oil*: A great way to shade any dark colour as well as all silver-grey metals. When starting out you can just cover the entire metallic part with this.

Reikland Fleshshade*: The wash used for skin. It now works in places that aren’t Riekland. That bit is a joke and an invitation to experiment. Useful for Rust, Gold and Bronze effects.

Agrax Earthshade: Also known as “Liquid Talent”. This goes with nearly everything. It is a darker brown wash that can be used on oranges, yellows, cream, bone, parchment and many more. Army Painter uses giant pots of gloss brown shade called Quickshade to quickly shade entire models in one go. Its arguably more useful than Nuln Oil.


Abaddon Black: Your standard black paint. I have been using Army Painter Matt Black and Vallejo Model Air Black. However, Vallejo Model Color, P3 and others make good blacks but (especially during the time of Covid 19) they are difficult to get hold of.


No greys this year, if you want a neutral one just mix up Abaddon Black and Corax White.


Corax White: An excellent, if thick, white paint. Great coverage in two coats. GW even have a matching spraypaint if you want to do armies. This one is part of my standard painting rotation.


Before I get crucified, I know Games Workshop metallics aren’t rated that high but for a starter article I’m sticking to all Citadel products. Protip: Stick metal ball bearings in the pots and shake them before use to mix up the paint quickly. FYI metallics chew up paint brushes so do not hammer your expensive ones with it.

Leadbelcher: The basecoat for dark metal, just hit it with (almost) any colour of wash to get a nice metal effect. Alternatively, add in a touch of Rhinox Hide when it’s on your palette to improve its quality.

Retributor Armour: A great starter for all gold or brass colours. (Certain) Games Workshop metallics are some of the most expensive paints on the market so it’s great that 2 come in this starter set so you can pick them up for a reduced price. Follow Retributor with a quick shade of Agrax Earthshade and then a selected wash of Agrax missed with diluted Rhinox Hide for an easy standout dark gold effect.

Runelord Brass: A new paint I haven’t had much experience with, if it’s like Screaming Bell it should be a great spot colour for details on the model, I’d use the shading recipe above to make the colour pop.

Runefang Steel: Oh dear. The turkey in the set. Stormhost Silver is a much better paint in every respect. You can still use Runefang Steel to highlight the paints above but it has less pigment and separates faster.


Averland Sunset: Sometimes you will need to paint yellow over a dark base colour, and you will need the patience of a saint to do it without starting with Averland Sunset. It’s still great in 2020.

Yriel Yellow*: Used for highlighting fire effects, chevrons and by crazy people for painting entire armies. A deeper yellow and slightly less obnoxious to use than Flash Gitz Yellow. Use this for highlighting Averland Sunset or just mix it together for a nice basecoat. Then add a bit of Wraithbone for highlights.


Mephiston Red: It is now my favourite red. Apparently there are better on the market but access to them is reduced due to the COVID-monster. Your basic recipe is to basecoat with Mephiston, shade with Abaddon Black mixed with Mephiston, then highlight with Evil Sunz Scarlet.

Evil Suns Scarlet*: The red highlight. Interesting point: This is the reddest red Games Workshop do, any lighter and you end up with an orange or pink colour. I add extreme highlights with Fire Dragon Bright but if you are sticking with the colours I recommend here add Wraithbone to this and use that.


Macragge Blue: This is what you would use for basecoating an Ultramarine. Colour wise, it works the same as red, add black to shade then highlight with Calgar below.

Calgar Blue*: The blue highlight, blue is one of those colours that looks fine if you keep adding white to your mix for the highlights so no need to buy Fenrisian Grey or Blue Horror when you are starting out.


When I started this guide in 2018 there were 40 greens in the Citadel range, however, while I was reviewing my second draft a couple of weeks later that number rose to 42. In 2019 there were 51. With the 2020 addition of Tesseract Glow that number has increased to 52. Have we reached “peak green”? Maybe.

Caliban Green*: Personally, I have replaced this with Vallejo Model Color: 70.980 Black Green. However, that is mainly due to the huge amount of green I find myself painting and the addition of a dropper bottle rather than a reflection on the quality of the paint. Starting out, you can shade this colour with thinned black rather than needing to mix it.

Warpstone Glow*: Your basic green highlight in the same style as the red and blue recipes above. Try mixing it with Tesseract Glow if you can get away with it, overwise use Wraithbone.

Tesseract Glow: Its another new colour I don’t have much experience with but it seems the consensus of opinion is that it works best over a white basecoat to make it really pop. I’d still mix it with Warpstone glow for your super edge highlight colour if you can.


Rhinox Hide*: I didn’t add it in last year as there was another good brown colour in the starter set however this year there are no excuses. This is a fantastic colour for leather, weathering, chipping, shading metals and using the dark skin tones.

Bugman’s Glow: A lovely starting colour for all caucasian flesh Use it as a midtone for dark flesh and add Wraithbone for a highlight.

Wraithbone*: Is it a brown or is it a white? I have picked this over Ushabti Bone as it’s a bit thicker and more forgiving if you just want to block out scrolls and parchments with it. Add it to other colours for a highlight or use it to drybrush bases.

Texture Paints

Astrogranite: A useful, if redundant, paint. If you only want to try out painting it saves you from buying sand and PVA. I would apply Astrogranite then shade with Nuln Oil and drybrush with a mix of Wraithbone and a tiny bit of black.

Pricing up – 2020 prices

The Paints + Tools Set contains 13 paints and is £27.50 rrp. I recommend 2 extra washes, totaling £9.50 and 7 others at £2.75. This totals £56.25. You might get them online from shops that offer a 20% discount which would make it £45 plus shipping.

Just add a couple of different sized brushes and a spray can of Chaos Black and you’re good to go.

Final Thoughts

I subscribe to the school of thought that believes that learner painters should quickly and easily be given the tools that allow them to create something impressive with a few hours of practice. While an expert painter could happily restrict their palette to 6 colours and win awards with the result, expecting a novice to do the same and enjoy the experience is pushing it.

Yes, there are compromises here. Runefang Steel should have been replaced in this set by Stormhost Silver and Tesseract Glow has limited uses aside from an extreme green highlight. There are also no purples and oranges but those are fairly rare colours in the systems used by Games Workshop.

However overall this should give you some really solid paints that will come in useful no matter where you’re painting journey should take you well beyond your first few miniatures.

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