Friday, January 8, 2016

Review: Coat d'Arms and Formula P3 paints (in brief)

I've bought these bottles of Citadel Colour sometime in the late 90's. When I opened them after years and years without any use around 2011-2012, I was stunned to realize they were still ready for use after almost 15 years, while the generation of Citadel Colours since early 2000 would usually dry up in the bottle after a few months, even without ever having been opened. So when I realized paints identical to these were still available, I thought I had to give them a try as candidates for switching to a new range of paints.

A couple of years ago, I've been really annoyed by GW changing completely its paint range. The perspective of being forced to move towards a totally new range was mostly bad news to me:
  • new colors & names means all well-established habits/knowledge/intuition in terms of color schemes and mixes are lost, 
  • the total change in the composition means a need for adapting my technique, which is something very problematic for me
  • I had very little confidence in GW working on the improvement of the previous problems (premature drying, high cost, ...).
That and the almost certain perspective of having to switch again in the future every time GW would do a similar move. Among the small time I have for painting, I don't want to spend much of it readapting my technique to commercial changes of paint ranges. So I started looking more seriously for alternatives. And I found what I was looking for in my early painting days...

The evolution of Citadel Colours ranges before the last massive change (the more on the left, the older) - only Foundation is not shown. 
Picture found on .

As you may already know, GW does not produce paint; they subcontract to other companies. The old Citadel ranges (both circular and hexagonal bottles with white/red flip caps) were in fact produced by Black Hat Miniatures. After GW switched for another range (the "bullet" bottles with black screw caps), Black Hat kept the production running under the brand Coat d'Arms that today consists of 3 ranges: fantasy, military and WWII. Furthermore, Black Hat also produces the brand Formula P3 for Privateer Press (Warmachine, Hordes,...). Compared to the old paint bottles I still have at home, CA and P3 paints are for the least, very similar to the old Citadel range (with white/red flip caps), including the same odor, indicating that the chemical composition should be very close to what it was at the time, if not simply the same.

Today, I'm mainly using Coat d'Arms and P3, as sometimes indicated in my posts. After a couple of years of use, I am now better able to give a feedback about it.

1) Is it perfect? Is it a miracle product? Of course, not. Like clays for sculpting, the paint may suit some painters' technique better than others'. Only you can tell what fits your hand (e.g. some people were actually able to do nice things with the short-lived Rackham Color... I mean: really!)

2) Drawbacks:
  • some colors are more shiny than others; I'm thinking in particular about black and a reference of dark brown that I like a lot. For me who prefers a matt finish, it's sometimes bothering. It also makes the readability less good while working on the shading of a large area. That being said, a simple coat of matt varnish gets rid of the shining at the end of the work. Furthermore, I also met this problem with other paint ranges, so it is certainly not a latent defect.
  • the covering power of some colors is not great, in particular some shades of yellow, red or light gold. But again, with a bit of habit, you are able to deal with it easily (maintaining a clean white base coat where needed or working the shading in an appropriate manner). So it is not a latent defect neither in my opinion
  • depending on your location, it is not so easy to get your hands on bottles of Coat d'Arms or P3. In my case, it's only through web shops as no "physical" shop around is selling them (but miniatures and related products are not so easy to find in Belgium in general, apart from what you can find mostly everywhere).
  • the color chart as published by Black Hat for Coat d'Arms and used by most web shops is simply plain false. This is quite of a disturbance when you can only buy online, because unless you already know the references you need, then you have to buy and hope that what you receive fits your need. I'm currently thinking about things that I could post to provide some online help on that topic. Note that the color chart for P3 is, on the contrary, very close to the reality.
  • some guys have also reported noticeable differences in the actual shade of a color from one bottle to another. I haven't up to now.

3) Advantages:
  • by combining the 3 Coat d'Arms ranges (fantasy, military and WWII) with the P3 range, you can choose between more than 200 references (150+ for CA, 77 for P3 as of today).
  • in terms of quality, quantity and cost, it is among the best in the ranges dedicated to minis.
  • the lifetime of the paint in the bottle is very long (10-20 years, and maybe even more, but I can't tell... yet :) ).
  • the paint is thin, fluid and behaves very well for all usual mini painting techniques (uniform flat layers, glazes, washes, drybrush,...). It is compatible with all usual acrylic paints (Vallejo, former GW, Army Painter, Andrea, ...) and mediums. In my experience, the paint coat is strong enough once dry; I've never had damages resulting from manipulation and transport, nor by rubbing it with soft objects to remove unwanted fresh paint.
  • every time I open one of these bottles and smell their characteristic odor, it brings me back to my early days with miniatures. It's stupid, but that puts me in a good mood.

Coat d'Arms/P3 is currently my paint of choice. The drawbacks above are not that much of a pain, except for the question of the color chart that still can be circumvented with some googling.

I have tried other paint ranges as well, such as Vallejo Model and Game Colors (Prince August in France), Army Painter acrylics, Andrea "new acrylic colors" (with red caps and a serial number starting with "NAC"), a bit of Rackham color, etc... All in all, each range has its advantages and drawbacks, as well as must-have colors. In this matter, it is like with tools for sculpting: only the result matters.

I'm thinking about what I could do to publish a representative and practical color chart that would be available for those who consider buying some Coat d'Arms online. Whatever solution I may choose, it will probably have to wait for next spring, after I am done with all the current hot projects and the next edition of the Painting Crusade. - a nice comparison of different alternative paint ranges.

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