If painting models and figurines is a hobby you love, or are interested in getting into, it can be overwhelming trying to find the best paint. There are so many different brands and so many different applications that it can see almost impossible to know exactly what it is that you need.
Airbrushing is a great way to add a solid base coat to your model in half the time. Two of the most popular airbrush paints for miniature painting are Vallejo and Tamiya. When it comes to quality, these paints are incredibly similar, and many model painters use both.
Pricewise, Vallejo paint and Tamiya are similar. Vallejo is typically easier to find than Tamiya and many model painters prefer Vallejo. The main differences in these paints are their formulas and how they are used. While they are both acrylic, they are different types.
Vallejo Paint for Miniatures
Vallejo first started making paint for miniatures, models, and figurines in 1991. Before this, they made acrylic paints used for cartoons and animated films. The first model paint of the company was Model Color. Since 1991, the company has expanded their formulas to include airbrush paints and paints for gameplay pieces.
The Game paints are specifically designed for miniatures and figurines that are frequently touched during gameplay. They will be extra durable and resistant to things like fingerprints, scratches, and chipping.
To check the current price and availability of Vallejo Basic Paints, click here to view it on Amazon.
Vallejo has two formulated lines that are designed specifically to be used with an airbrush. These lines are called Model Air and Game Air. Model Air is unique because some of the colors in the line were developed by current and ex-military personnel to be as accurate as possible to colors that have been used in the military. They include colors used in both WWI and WWII, as well as more recent colors.
Game Air is a line that features colors developed by model specialists with extensive knowledge on fantasy figures and dioramas. Game Air has a high-performance level on most surfaces, including plastic, resin, steel, and white metal. This paint is formulated to be frequently touched, so you can play with them and not worry about them getting ruined.
Both Model Air and Game Air can be used straight in the airbrush or diluted with an Airbrush Thinner or Flow Improver. Model Air has 235 colors available, and Game Air has just 51 colors available.
Vallejo also has brush-on formulas that correspond with both Game Air and Model Air called Game Color and Model Color. This makes it easy to use both an airbrush technique and a hand brush technique to add as much detail as possible. Model Color has 218 colors available, and Game Color has 123.
Model Color also has paints that were developed by current and ex-military, while Game Color is also formulated to be durable for frequent use. Both lines offer basic colors as well as the specialized colors.
Vallejo also has a small line of metallic paints called Liquid Gold. These are alcohol based and create realism for things like trophies and crowns. These paints can be mixed with each other or diluted with alcohol to achieve different tones of the metallics. Like other Vallejo paints, these dry very quickly.
- Matching airbrush and brush-on paint lines
- Wide color range
- Great quality
- Acrylic, water-based, and non-toxic
- On the cheaper side
- Prone to chipping (Model Color)
- Hard to find in stores
Tamiya Paint for Miniatures
Tamiya started in Japan and made its way into model and miniature paints in 1948. They then made their way to Los Angeles in 1989 to introduce their products to America. The company prides themselves on prioritizing the quality of their more than 3,000 products offered.
In addition to selling model paints, Tamiya also sells models. Their focus is more on plastic vehicle models such as trucks, planes, cars, tanks, and more. Their products can be used with figurines and miniatures, but they are better suited for models that are only to be looked at, not frequently touched.
To check the current price and availability of Tamiya Paint, click here to view their selection on Amazon.
Paints made by Tamiya are acrylic resins and can be used in an airbrush or brush-on painting. The best surfaces for their paints include plastic models, wood, Styrofoam, and styrol resins. These paints are known to be high-quality with solid coverage. They flow out of an airbrush and on a paintbrush smoothly with the ability to be blended together with ease.
Tamiya has just under 300 different colors of paints available for purchase. This means they definitely have a wide variety of options and potentially offer the most colors out of any model paint brand. If there happens to be a color that you want and they don’t have it, you can mix it yourself. The company offers empty containers that you can put your new mixtures in.
Tamiya also has a line of spray paints. They are made of a synthetic lacquer and have the ability to dry in a very short period of time. It is most useful for painting large surfaces on a model or as a base coat on smaller models. There are about 200 different spray paint colors available.
- Largest variety of color
- Can be used with airbrush or paintbrush
- Smooth application
- Easy to mix
- Popular, so sold out often
- Not great for miniatures
Which is Better for Miniatures?
When it comes to painting miniatures, Vallejo is going to be better. Tamiya paint is geared more towards larger models such as cars and other vehicles. The paint is not likely going to stick to the surface material of miniatures in the same way Vallejo will.
Vallejo paints are specifically formulated to be used on small figurines and miniatures. They even have a line that is dedicated to gameplay pieces that has extra durability. If you are painting miniatures, you will want a paint that is going to hold up overtime.
Vallejo also has metallic paints that are perfect for adding a sense of realism to your miniatures. You can easily paint crowns, trophies, thrones, or other shiny objects with paint that looks just like the real thing. They can be diluted or mixed with other paints to create the perfect color and perfectly match the object that you are trying to replicate.
Comparing Vallejo and Tamiya, you will notice there are quite a few differences. The main difference between the two is the type of model they are designed for. Vallejo is designed to be used on miniatures and figurines, while Tamiya is designed more for larger models and vehicles.
Both paints are very high quality, but the one you choose will depend on the project you are working on. If you are going to be painting miniatures for gameplay, Vallejo is the way to go. If you are painting something larger like a tank, boat, or airplane, you will want to use Tamiya.
It would be great to have both paint brands in your supply so you can always have the best paint for your project. Since both paints are affordable and great quality, it will be beneficial for you to have access to them both for whenever you have a specific project in mind where one might be better than the other.