Hello mini painting friends, how's it going? What are Ironjawz and why should you care how to paint them on a budget? Well, if you are reading this and you don't know what Ironjawz are or the cost of paints then you might not care at all, but then again, you might find this applicable to a different project. Keep reading friend and hopefully you will find something useful here.
Lets get to it then. These are Ironjawz for Age of Sigmar (AoS) and some of my earliest minis as well.
TLDR: if you don't care about the cost or background info / fluff just jump down to "the budget method" recipe in the last section.
Note: AoS is a tabletop miniatures game produced by Games Workshop (GW). Over simplifying it, your army of dudes tries to destroy or win objectives against my army of dudes on a tabletop, using miniature figurines. Unpainted miniatures are normally just grey plastic, cast resin or maybe even metal.
Before we can talk about the budget painting method we need to talk about why you might care.
Ignoring house rules and "counts as" substitutes, you can really only buy the models for use in Games Workshop games produced by two main sources, GW and their sister company, Forge World. Your models are going to be a relatively fixed cost in your games unless you go to a 3rd party for the kits or find them on sale.
Generally speaking, painting miniatures is the act of applying layers of paint to show the form, texture and details of your models. The result of this process is hopefully something you can be proud of putting on the table against a buddy's army. Miniatures paint can get expensive over time and that's what we need to talk about.
GW produce a line of acrylic paints (Citadel, Citadel Colour, Citadel Colour Contrast, etc.) At the time of this writing you are going to end up paying $4-5 USD per 12ml pot of paint or $7-8 USD for a 18ml (Contrast) or 24ml pot (shades, etc). The bigger pots cost more and the Contrast pots cost even more/ml but may go farther so cost/mileage is not really being considered here, only cost/ml.
There are also many other manufactures of fine paints for miniature painting several of which I use are Scale75, Vallejo, Reaper, P3, Monument / ProAcryl and others. All of these are typically variants of acrylic medium with varying degrees pigment and finish.
Note: If you are less concerned about cost and more so about consistency, availability of pre-mixed colors, predictability, etc. for an army then this is absolutely fine. Read on for future reference and ideas to try out but there is no shame it paying more for the convenience if you prefer.
Its also hard to judge how much of any color you will need and that depends on how many models you need to paint, how much paint you waste (usually from drying on the palette or spillage – oh god the shade ... not my shade) and how many layers are required to get your colors where you want them. (Some colors have more magical properties and by extension better coverage/opacity than others. 😂)
For example as a place to start, lets just assume six to eight 12ml Citadel pots and a three 24ml pots of Citadel shades (about 168 ml in total) are going to cost you about $60 USD before taxes / fees at the time of this posting. Your mileage may vary and you could decide to go with less colors or a different brand to reduce your cost. (So let's just guesstimate $0.35 USD/ml as a high to conservative budget for excellent miniature paint for your Ironjawz.)
The "Budget" Method
If you need to save some money and don't mind mixing Ironjawz paint colors yourself then you can get a lot of mileage out of less expensive, but equally well suited tube-based acrylic paints.
What follows is the result of one of my experiments with Arteza Expert acrylic paints. I compared these with Scale75 Artist Acrylics and Arteza Premium but that is the subject of a different post, except to caution that you likely want the Expert range, not the Premium range of Arteza. (Premium have good colors but a semi-gloss finish, sadly.)
Arteza Expert paints come in 75ml tubes of heavy body acrylic paint. You thin them with water or acrylic compatible mediums just like you would any other acrylic miniatures paint. There are 12 colors in the set so you get about 900ml of paint for around $30 USD, at the time of this writing. I only used seven colors to create my Ironjawz scheme so ignoring the other five tubes we have (7 x 75 = 525ml of paint)
The easy math on that comes out to just $0.06 USD/ml and even better at $0.03/ml if we use all 12 colors.
Of course, this is a "best case" assuming all paint is used / mixed, etc. and that would be hard to math out without some more precise measuring techniques after deciding on the ratios required for each section of the mini.
By this I mean, for example, I should have about 50% of the Phthalo Blue left over if I used up all 75ml of Yellow Ochre just for Ork flesh. This is where coming up with ratios becomes important for budgeting to mix colors.
Here is the approximate recipe for Orruk flesh using Arteza Expert colors:
- Mix Yellow Ochre 2:1 with Phthalo Blue (Ork Flesh) If you want a more green to Yellow-Green skin then use more Yellow Ochre and less blue, etc.
- Mix Ork Flesh 2:1 with Burnt Umber (Ork Flesh Shadow)
- Mix Titanium White in varying degrees with Ork Flesh for highlights
Experiment with the ratios until you get to a mixture you like. Once you have the ratio you like figured out write this down somewhere in a paint log or journal along with a spot of the paint so you can come back to it later. Keep in mind how the color changes once the paint dries.
- For the yellow armor I mixed Lemon Yellow 5:1 with Burnt Sienna.
For the rest of the colors it was a little bit of trial and error and here is what I recall although this may not be 100% accurate. It is as close as I remember and using the picture of the palette as a reference.
- For the leather straps I used Burnt Umber and then mixed some Yellow Ochre or Titanium White as needed for highlights and Mars Black for Shadows.
- For the chain mail I thinned Mars Black to a very thin wash consistency and washed it over the grey-primer.
- For rust I used the Burnt Sienna thinned down to a wash consistency.
And there you have it. Just a general observation, given the above ratios, Lemon Yellow, Yellow Ochre and Phthalo Blue will be gone long before the other 9 colors in the set and likely running out of Lemon Yellow before all the rest. (Ironjawz have lots of yellow armor)
I will definitely be going back to the Arteza Expert line for future projects. I am really impressed with them so far and the finish is on par with other miniature paints I have used in the past. (matte to satin finish depending on the color)
Its important to note that you may find "craft" acrylics or lower cost paint lines just don't have the pigment quality, density or finish (matte vs. gloss, etc.) to be effective for miniatures. Experiment and it might pay off for you in the end if you find a good low-cost alternative that you are satisfied with.
The main lesson I learned is to continue to experiment. Adding new paints to your arsenal and getting comfortable with mixing colors can potentially save you a lot of money down the line.
Finally, there are other factors to consider besides cost. The main one for me is the convenience of pre-mixed colors from brands we know and love. That is hard to ignore and I'm not giving up any of my paints anytime soon but I am happy to have another set of tools to use. I hope you find this useful and perhaps even inspirational to get out and try something new.
Cheers and have fun painting!