I have been painting miniatures for 35 years, so when I hear a company crowing about its new paint range for minis, I tend to turn down the volume a little. There have been a lot of "game changing" paints promoted over the last 20 years or so, and each has had some merits, but the mini painting game has stayed largely the same. Then, Citadel announced Contrast paints.
I've spent the last month or so checking out the promo videos for Citadel's new Contrast line, and dissecting what these new paints are, what they aren't, and if they will, as hyped, make painting miniatures a whole lot easier.
I had the opportunity to sit down for about 4 hours and test out the new Citadel Contrast paint range. I decided to work on a selection of different miniatures from different companies. Here, for your enjoyment, are the results.
Citadel Contrast Test One: Nomad Support Mini, Corvus Belli
Why did I start with a Corvus Belli miniature? Mostly curiosity, and the community I game with loves Infinity. Also, the Infinity range has a lot of small details, which can make or break a painter.
I started with a zenithal highlight primer, first black, then grey to white highlights. That was the biggest question I had about the paint range: will they work over a zenithal highlight, and do you really have to use the incredibly expensive Citadel Primer?
This is my least favorite test model, mostly because I wasn't familiar with the paints yet. They go on like a thick, sticky glaze. The reds are really viscous, and I think I am going to experiment with thinning them for the next red test.
The blacks and grays are amazing, though, and for a 10 minute paint job, this guy isn't half bad.
Test Two: Vanguard Northern Alliance Snow Troll, Mantic
The Snow Troll got the same primer treatment as the Nomad, with a black base and zenithal highlights up to a white. I went with the mid-gray Contrast paint for the skin, an electric blue for the fur, and various browns for the leathers. The shoulder pauldrons were done with the black contrast paint, thinned down with the contrast medium.
Now I am seeing what the big deal is about- this dude took about 20 minutes, start to finish, and looks fantastic. Once he was done, it took just a few minutes to pick out the teeth and claws with bone white paint. Absolutely awesome, but what else can I do with this paint?
Test Three: Troggoth, Games Workshop
I wanted to test out the Citadel primer, but still wanted to work with a zenithal highlight. I primed the troggoth black, then worked up to a light highlight with the warmer, cream colored primer. The Citadel Contrast primer is really nice, leaving a smooth, matte finish that is one of the nicest I have ever seen from a primer. But, it also runs about a million bucks a can, so budget well if you want to use it.
The troggoth came together in about 25 minutes, and I'm gobsmacked. The contrast line will work well with most minis, I think, but figures with exaggerated surface detail like these will sing. Is he the best looking model ever? Naaah, far from it. But having a model that looks this good, ready to go in less than half an hour? Sign me up.
Three minutes of work on the claws and teeth, and he's ready to smash some fools.
Citadel Contrast Test Four: Endurance Round
I decided to follow up the Troggoth with an endurance challenge, just to see how many other figs could be painted up in a four hour session. All said and done, I ended up with 14 finished models- that's six goblins, the troggoth, the snow troll, a Malifaux Gremlin, three Infinity models, one Star Wars: Legion model, and the Bad Moon spell, which blew my damned mind, by the way.
Does the Citadel Contrast range let you put on "one thick coat" and you're done? Not really. Each color has a little bit of a learning curve to it, and the purples are a little on the week side. If you go too thick, you'll get some pooling, which looks pretty sloppy when the figure dries.
BUT– once you get the hang of it, you can really pull off some amazing tricks. The paint takes a bit to dry, so you have to pace yourself, but you can thin it with the Contrast medium, and layer different shades over each other for some fun blended effects.
The flesh tones were a huge washout to me after painting faces on three models, but I decided to try a quick wash over a figure that already had a flesh colored base coat down. The end result was a really lush vibrant skin tone that would have taken a lot longer to pull off with my traditional technique.
Different paint colors mix together nicely, and thicker paints can be thinned into a nice glaze with the Contrast medium.
Will Citadel Contrast paints change the way people paint? Absolutely. This really is the biggest game changer I have seen in my three decades of painting. Veteran painters will find they are able to push more minis out much faster, and people new to the hobby are going to love them.
That's the biggest plus to the Citadel Contrast line that I can see- I will be sitting down with some new painters this weekend, after the paints go on sale. I am confident that the Contrast line will help new painters get over the intimidation so many people face when coming into the hobby. With the contrast paints, even the newest painter should be able to get a nicely painted group of minis on the table without that mountain of stress.
The price tag is a little steep, with MSRP running close to $8 a pot. With 34 paints in the initial range, I think a lot of people might balk at making the investment on Contrast paints. Despite that expense, though, I think Citadel has put out an exceptional range of paints.
You can pre-order the Citadel Contrast paint line from your local game store now, and you might want to do that soon- I think these paints will sell out quickly, and be in demand for some time to come.