Tuesday, August 30, 2011


I just had a comment along the lines that a statement I made about painting some figures in Humbrol enamel must be a joke.  Well, it's not!  I first started painting figures in Humbrol enamel in 1970 and see no reason to change now. The picture above is of my workbench and, as you can see, most of my paints are Humbrol enamels.  The few acrylics I have are largely metallics from Games Workshop and Vallejo.

Apart from the fact that I have hundreds of tins of enamel (often half a dozen reserve tins of my favourite colours so I don't run out at a critical point) I just never switched to acrylics as I don't like them.  I was talking to an acrylics fan only this week and he was saying "but how do you find your paint shades?"  I wasn't sure what he was talking about but, it seems, some people who use acrylics don't mix their own shades but use another pure colour out of the jar for shading a particular colour.  I was always a painter (I had a place at art school but went to University instead) so am very happy mixing colours as I studied it at school.  I like enamels because they are slow drying and, once you have a colour just right it is easy to make it go further with a bit more white spirit.  Now I am sure that you can do the same with acrylics but I find they dry on the palette very quickly (I know you can mix stufff in to delay this). 

However, the main reason I don't use acrylics is that they are far too bright.  I paint mainly historical figures from ancients to the nineteenth century, with the weighting very much on the earlier part of the period.  This was a time before chemical dyes when fabric was coloured by a number of natural means.  I remember seeing some examples of wool coloured with natural dyes at an exhibition at Fishbourne Roman Palace and they were very muted indeed. I find the muddy sort of, for example, aircraft colours that Humbrol produce ideal for my purposes.  Whilst the Games Workshop paints may be fine for Warhammer the only fantasy figures I paint are for The Lord of the Rings where I follow the muted colours of the films rather than the brighter GW interpretation.

So I have no intention to move over to acrylics and will stick to my enamels!


  1. Hehe, started laughing when I returned to your blog to see if there'd been some answer to the question about the enamels.

    Greatly appreciate this blog-post since I am almost only gaming and modeling GW LotR figures (and, of course a few of the Perry brothers miniatures)...

    I must confess to agree with you on a point you made: The GW colours are indeed made for WHFB:s high fantasy and 40K's hard-sci fi looks. Though I go about different ways to counter this (lots of browns etc etc) - the biggest problem being the wear on figures since I can't bear varnishing them and thus making the models shine (even when using dullcoats or similar). Acrylics get worn down EASILY when gaming or just handling the models with salt and fatty hands like mine.

    Many thanks for your blog!


  2. I use Humbrol matt varnish (from a tin not a spray)and it is truly matt although it does need a lot of stirring...

  3. Power to your elbow and all that - we are a broad church..... when I started out I was a Humbrol man as well, but I switched to acrylics more than 20 years ago, primarily because of three things, no smell (I was starting to get headaches), the ability to be able to blend and mix colours (I do it!), and best of all they're water based so all cleaning is much simpler...

  4. Cleaning is a good point. I do get through an awful lot of brushes!

  5. I'm with Steve - and also I appreciate the quick drying time as I think it assists productivity. But for me, however, the one undeniable problem with acrylics is that no one has been able to make a decent version of French Napoleonic blue!