Metal or Plastic Miniatures (Best to Paint and Why)

metal or plastic miniatures

If you have been playing Warhammer or Dungeons & Dragons for a while, you know that using miniatures to represent the characters is an awesome way to immerse everyone in the game. Painting these minis is not a difficult hobby to develop, but should you start with metal or plastic minis?

Metal and plastic miniatures both have unique pros and cons, and many painters prefer one over the other based on their own skill set. Generally, it is easiest for beginners to start practicing with plastic minis because they are more durable, cheaper, and paint clings to them with less effort. 

Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about painting plastic and metal miniatures. 

Metal vs Plastic Miniatures: Pros and Cons of Each

Again, both metal and plastic miniatures have specific drawbacks and advantages. Here is all of the useful information about these minis that a beginning painter will need to know:

What Are the Pros of Metal Miniatures?

Metal minis tend to come in more varieties than plastic minis do, so it is easier to find the specific type of model you are looking for. Metal minis also have more defined details, and they are less likely to lose definition after they have been painted.

What Are the Cons of Metal Miniatures?

Metal miniatures are less durable than plastic ones. It is easier for them to lose paint, and metal minis often need to be put together with superglue. If the glue does not set correctly or if the mini gets handled roughly, it could lose parts. Metal minis are also more expensive. 

What Kind of Paint Do You Use on Metal Miniatures?

While acrylic paints will look fine on metal minis if they have been primed beforehand, oil or enamel paints tend to work best on these miniatures. Oil and enamel paints stick to metal better, and they make metal minis less likely to chip and lose paint later on.

Using a high quality oil paint will ensure that your paint will adhere well to your miniatures without chipping and cracking in the future. A great high quality brand of oil paint that we recommend is by Castle Art Supplies.

We recommend this awesome oil paint set by Caste Art Supplies on Amazon. It’s great for beginners and comes with a wide array of colors to make your miniatures pop.

Do You Need to Prime Metal Miniatures?

Even if you are using oil or enamel paints, priming metal minis is always a good idea, especially if you are going to be playing D&D or Warhammer with them, as they will get touched and moved around a lot. Primer adds another layer of protection from chipping or paint rubbing off.

What Are the Pros of Plastic Miniatures?

Plastic miniatures are cheaper, more durable, and easier to paint. Most beginners start with plastic minis because it is not stressful to potentially mess up the paint job on a mini that only costs two or three dollars. Plastic minis are great for practicing all kinds of painting techniques.

What Are the Cons of Plastic Miniatures?

The details on plastic miniatures are often less defined, and they sometimes become even muddier after they have been painted, which can make certain plastic minis look like a blobby mess. The lack of detail can make it difficult to develop finer skills like painting eyes. 

What Kind of Paint Do You Use on Plastic Miniatures?

Acrylic paint tends to yield the best results on plastic minis. Since acrylic paints are a popular choice for painting plastic miniatures, they also come in the greatest variety of colors. Keep in mind that acrylic paints look best on plastic minis when they are applied in many coats.

There are many types of acrylic paints that you can use on miniatures, but it’s always best to go with a brand that is trusted in the space of the hobby that you are venturing into, in this case it’s miniatures and models.

We recommend going with The Army Painter for your plastic miniatures. This acrylic paint set for plastic miniatures is high quality, has great consistency, and is a great paint to use even as a beginner.

Do You Need to Prime Plastic Miniatures?

As with metal miniatures, it is recommended that you prime plastic miniatures. Primer is always a good protective layer to have, but it also makes the paint show up better on plastic minis. Some plastic minis can be bought already primed.

Final Thoughts

The best way to start painting miniatures and develop your skills is by practicing on plastic minis first. Once you have mastered basic elements, you can work your way up to practicing finer details on metal minis. 

In general, plastic minis can resist a lot of handling and play use, whereas metal minis make for excellent display pieces.

Some painters who get very invested in painting miniatures switch between metal and plastic depending on what result they want, which is absolutely fine. Only you will be able to determine which you prefer once you start painting. 

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