Wargaming is a very expensive hobby especially if you are using all of the products from Warhammer. Especially paint can be quite costly but there are quite a lot of alternatives to citadel paints from Warhammer that will save you a lot of money.
The best alternatives for citadel paints are either Vallejo or Army Painter paints. Citadel paint is basically just acrylic paint with a good amount of pigment to ensure good coverage. Acrylic paints from Vallejo and Army Painter are both working just as well as citadel paints while costing much less.
I personally prefer Vallejo paints but Army Painter is just as good.
Both brands have regular acrylic paints in a wide variety of colors and they also both have special paints like glow-in-the-dark paints or metal paints.
Army Painter even has so-called speed paints that are basically the same thing as contrast paints from Warhammer.
Best Alternatives for Regular Citadel Paints
As I already mentioned before, Citadel paints are simply acrylic paints with a decent amount of pigments in them to ensure good coverage. You can pretty much use any acrylic paint but for best results, I would suggest buying acrylic paints that are meant for painting miniatures.
The best alternatives for regular citadel paints are paints from Vallejo. But acrylic paints from The Army Painter are also very good and viable.
You can also use the spray primers from either of these companies to prepare your miniatures for painting. They are also cheaper and are equally as good as spray primers from Warhammer.
I personally prefer the mat black primer from The Army Painter. You can get it right here on Amazon.
I use this primer for almost all of my miniatures.
If you don´t know, by the way, you need to apply a primer to your miniatures before painting them to ensure that the paint adheres properly. You can read more about that in my article about why miniatures should be primed before painting them right here.
Best Alternatives for Citadel Contrast Paints
Warhammer recently came out with a new kind of paint that they call contrast paints.
These paints are basically a way to quickly paint a miniature by applying them broadly to the miniature and the paint will automatically create a nice contrast where details will be darker and highlights will be lighter on the miniature. But, as you might have guessed already, these paints are quite expensive.
The best alternative for contrast paints is Speedpaints from The Army Painter. These paints work pretty much the same way as the contrast paints from Warhammer. You can also make your own contrast paints by mixing acrylic paint with some flow improver and mat medium.
I personally prefer making my own contrast paints by simply mixing some Vallejo acrylic paints (paints from The Army Painter work too) with some airbrush flow improver and mat medium.
I found that the ratio varies depending on the type and color of the paint. I usually start by mixing one part paint, one part flow improver, and one part mat medium.
If the paint is too thin simply mix in some more flow improver.
If the paint won´t cover properly simply mix in some more mat medium.
If the paint is getting too thin or losing its color too much simply add more of the paint.
Important to note is that if you are using contrast paints then your miniature needs to be primed with a white primer. Otherwise, the effect won´t work.
What Kind of Paint is Citadel Paint?
There is a lot of confusion out there about what kind of paint citadel paint actually is. And the answer is a lot easier and simpler than you might think.
As a whole, citadel paint is acrylic paint with a moderate amount of pigments that will ensure that the paint has enough coverage for painting miniatures.
And while citadel paints have been specially mixed for painting miniatures they are just acrylic paint.
So it is possible to simply use some decent acrylic paint to paint miniatures but you might have to thin the paint before applying it to the miniature to ensure that none of the details are getting obscured.
Are Citadel Contrast Paints Worth it?
I already mentioned that citadel contrast paints are quite interesting paints that can speed up the painting process of a miniature by a lot. But are contrast paints worth it?
As a whole, contrast paints can be worth it if a lot of miniatures need to be painted quickly in the same color scheme. Contrast paints can also be used to add some nice effects to a miniature or to create a smooth gradient. But there are cheaper alternatives that will work just as well as citadel contrast paints.
I personally only very rarely use Citadel contrast paints from Warhammer. I usually mix my own contrast paints with an airbrush flow improver, acrylic paint, and mat medium.
Its cheaper works almost as well as the official contrast paints from Warhammer, and it saves quite a lot of space as I don´t need to have as many paints around.
Another good alternative for contrast paints is Speedpaints from The Army Painter. They work just as well while being slightly cheaper than citadel contrast paints.