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5 best Citadel paints for Warhammer - and what to use them for

From basecoasting to metallics, load your painting arsenal with the best pots Games Workshop has to offer.

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Games Workshop’s Citadel Colour range of paints has changed a lot in the mumblemumble years since I first set foot in one of their stores to ogle the enticing array of shiny Warhammer models. Literally shiny, as they were mostly metal back then! At times, they haven’t been great, but we’re fortunate to live in a time when they’re the best Citadel paints have ever been.

While I use paints from a bunch of different ranges, Citadel Colour still makes up the majority of my collection. Whether you’re painting Warhammer armies, your Dungeons & Dragons character or the miniatures from your favourite board game, you can’t go too far wrong with them.

Best Citadel paints for Warhammer

If there’s one issue with Citadel paints, it’s that there’s so many of them to pick from. Starting out isn’t too bad, you can grab a starter set and have the basics covered, but building up your collection can be tricky.

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To make your life easier, I’m going to pick out five of the best Citadel paints for Warhammer and give you some top tips on how to use them. I’m also going to put my money where my mouth is and use examples from my personal collection. I’m a middling painter and worse photographer, so go easy on me!

Brushes away!

1. Citadel Base: Rhinox Hide

The best Citadel paint for basecoating brown areas

From skin to base rims, there’s a lot of Rhinox Hide on these Middle-earth Uruk-Hai. | Image credit: Caelyn Ellis

Brown may not be the most exciting colour around, but you’ll find you use it on just about every miniature you paint, even if it’s just for their boots. I have a lot of brown paints, but the one I use the most is Rhinox Hide. It’s a rich, chocolatey colour with great coverage that is my number one choice for dark brown basecoats.

Leather? Hair? Skin? Yes, yes and yes! Dark brown chipping and weathering? Absolutely! Warm, rich soil for bases? Darn right! It’s also a really nice colour for painting the rims of your bases if you don’t want to go for black, applying smoothly and giving a lovely finish.

Buy Citadel Base: Rhinox Hide from Walmart (US) and Zatu (UK), or pick up the Warhammer: Age of Sigmar Paint & Tool Set (including Rhinox Hide) on Amazon US and Amazon UK.

2. Citadel Contrast: Ratling Grime

The best Citadel paint for dirty washes

The silver I used on this Battletech Vindicator’s weapons was way too bright, but some thinned Ratling Grime has left them suitably worn and well-used. | Image credit: Caelyn Ellis

Contrast paints have been around for a few years now, long enough for Citadel competitors like Army Painter and Vallejo to come up with their own equivalents - with varying degrees of success. If you’re not familiar with them, they’re translucent paints with a consistency thicker than a wash, but thinner than regular acrylic paints. They’re designed to be painted over a white or off-white base coat and stain the higher surfaces while pooling in the recesses, giving instant shades and highlights.

Even if you’re not interested in using them as intended, they can be really useful paints to have to hand and Ratling Grime is one of my favourites. It’s a dirty black-brown colour that, thinned with a little water, makes a really good wash for anything you want to look a little, well, grimy. Perfect for adding definition and a little dirt to metal areas on your model.

Buy Citadel Contrast: Ratling Grime from Walmart (US) and Zatu (UK).

3. Citadel Air: Troll Slayer Orange

The best Citadel paint for bright rust spots

This Underworlds warband was inspired by ‘80s animation like Masters of the Universe and The Black Cauldron. Troll Slayer Orange makes the rust spots really pop. | Image credit: Caelyn Ellis

In a lot of cases, airbrush paints are the same as their regular equivalents, just thinner. It means that you can use them with a regular brush, but you’d rarely want to because they’ll be much too thin and the coverage will be poor. However, in some situations these are exactly the properties you’re looking for and it can be useful to have an airbrush paint on hand, even if you have no plans to touch an airbrush.

Citadel Air: Troll Slayer Orange is one of those paints, as it’s ideal for painting bright rust spots. Rust, like any kind of weathering or damage, can be tricky to get right. Too much and it overwhelms and can look wildly out of scale. Too little and it doesn’t have enough punch. It also comes in a variety of shades, from dark red-brown to quite lurid oranges and it’s the latter that this paint helps with.

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The colour is bright enough to have plenty of pop and the consistency helps it flow into places where water would naturally accumulate and cause rust. Having to gradually build up layers of thin, translucent paint helps avoid going too far, making it very beginner-friendly if you're learning how to paint miniatures.

Buy Citadel Air: Troll Slayer Orange from Walmart (US) and Zatu (UK).

4. Citadel Contrast: Black Templar

The best Citadel paint for blackened metal

A coat of Black Templar gives interest to these Orlock ganger’s weapons and armour plates. | Image credit: Caelyn Ellis

I’ll be honest, I could quite easily populate this entire list with Contrast paints, they’re just that versatile. Black Templar is one that I find myself reaching for on a lot of different projects. While I think the newer Black Legion is the better Citadel Contrast paint for basecoating, Black Templar looks great applied over a silver basecoat to give the impression of metal that has been coated or stained black.

I most commonly use this for weapon casings, but it’s really good for blackened armour too. If you have large silver areas that you want to break up without introducing another colour, try Black Templar on some carefully chosen sections.

Buy Citadel Contrast: Black Templar from Walmart (US) and Zatu (UK).

5. Citadel Base: Retributor Armour

The best Citadel paint for gold and brass

Gang leaders need a bit of bling - and Retributor Armour makes this gold-plated servoclaw a real eye-catcher. And face-puncher. | Image credit: Caelyn Ellis

I used to hate painting gold. No matter what I tried, it always came down to painstakingly applying thin layer after thin layer to build up the opacity and it still wouldn’t look great anyway. Thankfully, metallic paints have come on a long way and Retributor Armour is one of the best of the bunch. It covers remarkably well and gives a bright, yellowish gold that is really versatile.

Depending on how you shade and highlight it, Retributor Armour can give you a huge range of finishes. Just check out all the recipes on Games Workshop’s website! Whether you’re painting an army of golden-armoured Custodes or Stormcast, or just picking out some weapon hilts and belt buckles, you’ll always find a use for this paint. Try shading it with Contrast Magos Purple for a striking, high-contrast finish! (Shh, don’t tell anyone I snuck a bonus tip in here!)

Buy Citadel Base: Retributor Armour from Walmart (US) and Zatu (UK).

No matter what your skill level, these essential Citadel paints are all great additions to your arsenal. I hope you’ve found something useful here! If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments below and share some of your own favourite Citadel Colour paints.

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