The Army Painter products are probably the first miniature paints I remember seeing in hobby stores. Before I was fully aware that people bothered painted miniatures, way in the back of my mind I knew that there were paints available for...something. Now that I paint miniatures myself, I still haven't tried their paints but I have been using their brushes and I'm pretty sure they're my go-to miniature brushes now. Here's why.
Early on in my miniature painting hobby, I looked into buying some Army Painter paints because, aside from Citadel, it was the only brand I knew. But then I started seeing bad reviews about "the reactivation problem". Apparently, some Army Painter paints that had dried on your miniature had a habit of re-liquifying when you painted over them. This seemed bad, to me, because I'm not the neatest of painters and tend to have to paint over stray bits of paint regularly. The last thing I wanted was to make a messy paint job messier with old dried paint coming back to life.
I've since learned that some people actually appreciate this quality, because you can do some interesting blending when paints soften up and mix together. That's probably beyond me yet, but maybe in the future I'll try it out.
Regardlessly, I sort of wrote off The Army Painter when I discovered Vallejo Xpress Color. Between Citadel and Vallejo, I feel like my little paint box is well stocked, so who needs Army Painter?
I didn't know brushes went bad until I started painting miniatures. When I bought my first brush, I'd expected to buy exactly one brush for the rest of my life. Turns out brushes don't last forever. My first brush, which I got in a Citadel Starter Kit, got destroyed by a friend who, although a very talented painter, had no idea how to treat the tools. Entire pots of paint dried up, the paint brush got encrusted with paint, the brush handle had a layer of paint over the entire thing. The whole kit was ruined.
Lesson learned: Be careful who you invite over to use your hobby tools.
My second and third brushes were Citadel brushes. One came in a second Starter Kit to replacet the first, and the other was a "Layer S" brush meant for fine detail work. The Layer S brush was $22 NZD, and within a month, the bristles had split apart, rendering it useless for detail work (and it's too small as a general-purpose brush). As for the brush from the kit, the bristles curled, causing paint to move in unexpected directions when I painted with it. Pretty disappointing.
I tried a fourth brush from a general art store, but I'm not used to brush sizes so I ended up buying a brush that's WAY too big for miniature painting. (It looked small in the store.)
Finally, I happened to be in game store looking at board games when I stumbled across the obligatory The Army Painter display, and it had brushes. The brushes were just $9 NZD, which was twice as much as the brush from the art store but half as much as a Citadel brush.
I invested in four brushes: a "Precise Detail" brush, one "Basecoating" brush, and two "Highlighting" brushes. These classifications represent the different size of each brush.
I've learned that the quality of a brush, at least for a rank and file miniature painter like myself, is two-fold. You have to consider the precision of the brush, and how many miniatures you can paint before the brush has finally become too strained to be useful.
I've painted a small Roman army (30-ish models), a small Egyptian army (30-ish models), a Genestealer Cult Combat Patrol box (32 models), and a bunch of Adeptus Mechanicus models, and my Army Painter brushes are going strong. That's at least 90 miniatures with basically one brush (not actually just one brush, because I use a larger brush for vehicles and horses).
The Basecoating brush has been the real workhorse (except I don't actually use it on horses). It's such a good brush that I use it for most detail work (which is convenient, because the Precise Detail brush met an untimely end, but more on that later). Were I going to a desert island and was allowed just one brush for my miniatures, the Basecoating brush (Product Code BR7003) from Army Painter would be the brush I'd choose.
I've learned a lot about poper brush care and maintenance, mostly from this surprisingly scientific brush care video. The guy in the video breaks out his microscope and slides to analyze the condition of brush bristles, and tests a variety of brush care methods.
As a result, I've been washing (with soap) my brushes every time I finish with one colour. I've been changing out my rising water just as often. I've been using the palm of my hand as a surface for cleaning the brush, with the crease of my palm as a canal to help the bristles maintain their proper form. I don't think I abused my previous brushes, but the frequency of washing these brushes has definitely increased.
One of the Army Painter brushes I bought turned out to be dead on arrival when I got home. When I took it from its little plastic protector tube, the Predice Detail brush turned out to be split. That was discouraging, but based on the amazing quality of the other three brushes I purchased, I'm blaming the condiition of the brush on abuse in the store. The brushes are just sitting out in a container, so I'm going to assume that general environmental conditions (or a bored customer) wore it down.
Lesson learned: Verify the brush tip before purchasing.
With limited experience and zero expertise to support my findings, I recommend The Army Painter brushes. There are probably better brushes out there. I'm probably caring for my brushes wrong. I have no idea what I'm talking about. But I've been painting armies lately, and I've been doing it with Army Painter brushes, and Citadel and Vallejo paints. It's been working well for me, and if somebody asked, Army Painter are the brushes I'm recommending.
Header photo by Seth Kenlon and used according to the Creative Commons cc0 license.