What paints to use for your X-Wing miniatures

What paints to choose for your X-Wing Miniatures and where to start?

When you first come across one of the giant paint racks in your hobby store you might feel a bit overwhelmed by the sheer amount of different paints they offer. Depending on the size of your store you might come across several hundred different paints from a variety of oddly named brands. If you came with the intend to pick up a simple blue paint you will soon find yourself holding different paint pots into the light trying to figure out what the hell the difference is before you notice a slightly lighter/darker touch to one or the other. To make it even more confusing they sometimes have names like “Calledor Sky” or “Lothern Blue” and to top it all off they say things like “Technical”, “Base” or “Dry” on them… Don’t worry, this will all soon make sense to you.

What you need for your first repaint

I would recommend to start with no more than 3 different colours for your first repaint. Choose one base colour which will be the foundation of your ship, one layer that goes well with your base (either complement or contrast) and one highlight colour for some areas you really want to stand out. On top of that you should also purchase a wash to give your model the desired depth. For some more info on your first repaint check out this article for a detailed walk through. The Citadel range from Games Workshop is a good starting point for beginners as they clearly label their paints according to the purpose they serve. You can also pick up a base set of colours like this one if you want to have some choices right from the start. It even comes with a brush and some metallic colours to make your guns stand out πŸ˜€

Different types of paint

Typically you will find your paints organized by different categories like these:

  • Base
  • Layer
  • Wash or Shade
  • Dry
  • Glaze
  • Technical

The two big and important ones with all the different colours are “Base” and “Layer” and as a beginner you only need these two and a “Wash”. Washes are sometimes reffered to as shades as the Citadel range calls all their washes shades, probably to make it sound more dramatic. Whatever floats your spaceship I guess. Let me quickly go over some important differences:

Base paint:
Typically a bit thicker than a layer paint so you don’t have to go over the model too many times. You will still need to thin this paint (I recommend to glance over my Golden Rules) but maybe not as much as a normal paint. Intended for your primary colour.

Layer paint:
This one is a bit thinner than your base paint so you don’t have to thin it as much as your typical base colour. Intended for you secondary colours and highlights. Usually comes in lighter tones than your base paint of the same colour.

Wash or Shade:
Very thin, almost watery. You usually don’t need to thin it down any more. Comes in different colours but most commonly used in black. Intended to add depth to your model by flowing into the recesses. Can be used on the whole model.

Dry paint:
As you would expect a very thick and dry paint that is intended solely for drybrushing. I don’t think this is a paint that is really needed for X-Wing as you can use normal paints just as well. However I tend to use the “Ryza Rust” dry paint from Citadel to add some rusty spots to some of my Scum ships πŸ˜‰

Very thin and watery, almost like a wash but with a slight sheen about it. I use it for my engines to give them a bit of a glowy feel. Intended to blend same colour highlights with base coats and create a smoother transition. It will make the original colour a bit darker just like a wash.

Technical paint:
These are the paints I rarely use as they are very specific and not made with X-Wing miniatures in mind. As an example you have a technical paint from Citadel called “Nurgle’s Rot” and I’m pretty sure I do not need that for my spaceships… However I frequently use a technical paint called “Nihilakh Oxide” to paint over my rusty parts and further enhance the old and used look of my scummy spaceships. I like to play around with these and try different things with them but you certainly don’t need these for satisfying X-Wing repaints πŸ˜€


Keep in mind that most miniature paint brands out there (e.g. Citadel, The Army Painter) are made for their respective tapletop game. The Citadel paint range is made for the Warhammer franchise which explains names like “Fenrisian Grey” which is just a light kind of grey. I love this colour but I have no idea what a “Fenrisian” is…


Different brands

Now there is many painters out there that would probably disagree with me when I recommend to use brands that are specifically made for miniature painting. From my, to be fair very limited, experience I do notice big differences in these paints…. BUT…. With the right amount of thinning you can use pretty much any water based acrylic paint to huge success on your miniatures. It all comes down to the right ratio of water and paint. Generally you will need to add a lot more water to your cheaper hobby store paints to make them work.

HOWEVER I still recommend miniature painting brands like Vallejo, Citadel and P3 for the following reasons:

  • They come in tiny bottles (you rarely need more than that anyway)
  • They are often easier to dispatch from said bottle (drip bottles, special lids)
  • Matching colour tones are much easier to find
  • Less thinning required (thus saving time and effort)
  • Easier to find in hobby stores and/or online
  • Pre-mixed washes/technical paints for less experienced painters
  • And as a cool side effect you get to hang out at your FLGS (Friendly Local Game Store) πŸ˜‰

As a last note on that let me say that there is absolutely nothing wrong with buying cheap acrylics and experiment with them. I do the same thing sometimes but always tend to come back to Citadel paints, probably out of sheer laziness πŸ˜€

I have had good results with Vallejo, Warpaints (The Army Painter), Formula P3 and most of all Citadel (Games Workshop) paints. But as I said before I think it comes down to a personal preference and experience on how to handle different paints. You should try a few brands and let me know in the comments what you prefer and why.

Quick tip:
Some of the most difficult colours to paint are yellow and red, black and white, metallic colours and neon colours. Don’t start your experience with them as your base colour, use them for highlights and small details instead πŸ™‚


I hope you liked this post and would love to hear from you in the comments below. Until then…

May the paint be with you


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