Saturday, May 28, 2011

[Lo's Lowdown] Paint Comparison- GW vs Vallejo vs Reaper (Metallics)

After the great response to my paint comparison post, I decided to do another. This time, I am comparing metallic paints, which present a tougher challenge to painters all over.

I used many of the same methods as last time- I used bummy “test models” and as much readily available paint as possible. It turned out that I own very little gold OR silver paint, and had to order at least two colors. I ordered gold and silver Reaper colors, but Gold was out of stock. I wound up borrowing the Gold from a generous friend.

I TRIED to get my hands on P3 colors to include in the comparison, but I had no luck. None were in stock at the FLGS, and despite several distributors and loads of warehouses, none could be procured from our supply chain either. As I said in my previous article, P3 is having a lot of restock issues and it proved to be a difficulty for me this time around.

I wound up with GW, Vallejo and Reaper this time out. The prices and sizes are the same as in my previous articles. The pros and cons are quite different- I was very surprised by the differences from paint to paint.

First up, I compared the silver paints to each other.

GW silver with the lid open.

Here’s the GW flip-top lid opened up. I shook the pot quite rigorously, giving it a lot of rotation and “reverse gravity” to get the pigments off the bottom of the pot. After I opened it, there was a visible “slick” of pigment on top. I dipped the brush along the tongue as I usually do, and the brush got a good coating of silver, without any “wicking”. The paint was rich but moved nicely on the brush. It brushed with a smooth, even coat, covering the miniature nicely.

Here you can see it on the figure, and how it covered.

Next on the agenda is the Valego Game Color Silver. I shook the bejeezus out of the bottle, knowing from previous experience that the color tends to separate easily. Even after a LOT of shaking, the paint was obviously and definitely thin when it came out of the bottle.

The paint went on the brush pretty easily, but it was not very even and sort of “floated” on the brush. Painting the figure was pretty nice, with good flow and easy dispersion, but it looked thin and watery on the miniature.

Next, I checked out the Reaper paint. I had to shake this one, but not nearly as much. I dropped a bit right on my “palatte” (hey, a girl uses what’s available!) and went to work. Again, the paint went on the brush easily-without overcoating or gloppiness.

On the miniature, the silver looks runny and watered down.

So the silver comparison is done, and in my opinion, it’s no contest. Even with the higher price, I really found the GW paint to be superior in all aspects- how it performed in the bottle, on the brush and on the fig. The color was nice and bright without being too much like tinfoil, and offered great coverage. The real challenge was up ahead- gold.

I'm comparing GW, Vallejo and Reaper again.

Gold is a tough color to get right- there’s always a chance that it will look too yellow, not bright or crisp enough, or “sparkly” instead of metallic. I might be a girl, but I don’t want glittery anything on my models.

I don’t do Twilight, thanks!

Here’s the GW Shining Gold, open. It has that “oil slick” look and when the brush is dipped into the paint, I am very happy. The paint is even and covers the bristles well, without gumming up the brush or drying out quickly. It goes onto my space marine dood pretty well, too.

Here he is, in all his glory. Notice that the gold is really “pretty” and covers the bad prime job very nicely.

Next, I checked out the Vallejo Game color gold paint. The bottle was definitely older, so I shook it pretty well. The bottle was still clogged, so I gave it a couple whacks again. The bottle opened up, and I dropped some paint on my “palette”. The paint was “buttery” looking in the bottle, and came out looking a little “flat”. Here’s a good look at how it comes out of the bottle. I’ll be honest; I was worried I did not mix the paint enough because it just didn’t look “right”.

However, I am trying to demonstrate what the average hobbyist will experience, so I let my results stand so that you can see them. No “fixed games” here, folks.

The paint was definitely thin and a bit watery on the brush. I was paying attention and avoided drips, which tend to happen to me a lot. I’m something of a sloppy painter- but I am trying to improve.

Additionally, it was gooshy on the miniature, spreading over the surface very quickly, and it was definitely uneven. I was seriously unhappy with the looks of the paint. If I had been painting this figure for myself, I would have wiped it off and started over.

I hoped for better with the Reaper paint. It also looked “buttery” – just slightly more yellow than I prefer for gold. I shook the daylights out of the bottle; passing it to several friends to be sure I got a good mixture. I heard the little agitator going pretty well as I shook the bottle, so I tried to get some paint out and onto the palette.

I was thwarted by the bottle. It was good and clogged, and refused to open. So I shook it some more, while applying gentle squeezing pressure at the same time. I gave the bottle a good downward jerk (kind of like a ketchup bottle) and tried again. Still no joy.

I finally got the bottle open and some paint on my makeshift palette. Here’s how.

Once I got it out of the bottle, here’s what I got. I was more than a little frustrated.

Honestly, I have seen mustard that looked better. I could only hope that it paints better than it looks.

The paint behaved in a similar fashion as the Vallejo- thin and a little watery, with a definite tendency to drip. I brushed it onto my figure, and while the flow was great, the coverage was not.

Or, maybe not.

Again, I had a definite preference for the GW paint in this comparison. The coverage was much more even, the color better and brighter, and there were far less “performance issues” with the GW color in comparison to Vallejo or Reaper. In this particular case, you definitely get what you pay for.

I was really surprised by the way this comparison turned out- last time, while there were pluses and minuses for each, I personally strongly preferred Reaper. This time, there was absolutely no contest- Games Workshop’s colors were far superior in every aspect.

The coverage, the color, the consistency and the ease of use I saw with GW were so much better than the other companies' offerings that I can't recommend any other paint for metallics. Even with my personal preference for the eye dropper bottle, in this case the bottle was not enough to make up for the sub-par paint inside it.

Another comparison is in the works, with other colors (such as red or tan) lined up for review. I hope that this has been helpful and that you've found it as informational as I have.


  1. Nice review! I was definitely curious about how other paints stacked up against GW's, particularly b/c I have a metallic-heavy project on the horizon. All good to know.

  2. Great review, thanks for taking the time. I find with gold, the base color makes a huge difference. Putting it over a tan base and put it over a black base and you can get two very different colors.

  3. I don't know about the other two brands but I have used Vallejo Game Color metallics and my experience was very different. When I used them they were not watery at all and provided excellent coverage.

    Not trying to say your review is wrong or anything, but I think there may be a difference in the age of the paint and/or how thin the paint is that is causing a discrepancy between your experience and mine. My Vallejo metallics are almost too thick to use coming straight from the bottle and need to be thinned. I don't know how old the paints you used are but mine were ordered less than a year ago and have a different label.

    Again, not trying to bash your review, just wanted to compare notes and share my personal experience.

  4. Are those test minis primed? Because they look like bare plastic-and that really reduces the effectiveness of most paints.

  5. @Chaosheade- No offense taken. As I stated in my review, I used what I had on had- and yes, the paint is older for sure. That's one of the better things about Vallejo and the tight sealing lid- is that it lasts forever. The downside, is that sometimes the paint separates- I don't think I had any "pigment", just colored mixer.

    @Mistress: yes, they are primed grey (and as I mentioned, BADLY), my personal preference. I can see how they look like bare plastic.