Tools and Equipment

Must Have Tools and Equipment

When starting out, there are only a handful of “must have” tools that you need, paintbrushes, a hobby knife and paints.  There are a great variety of options for each at different price points and quality, in most cases a higher price doesn’t necessarily equate to better quality, unless were talking about brushes and paint.

I, like many, started with Games Workshop and citadel miniatures, models, paints and tools.  In most cases, the Games Workshop equipment is more expensive without providing much in the way of addition value, but it’s easy to get hold of, and at least you know what you’re getting.


I started with the citadel brushes, and used them almost exclusively when I first started the hobby as a teenager.  After my return to the hobby as an adult, the options for tools and equipment have grown.  One of the first things I did was to buy some good quality brushes.  After doing a great deal of research from recommendations online, I ended up stumping out for a variety of Winsor & Newton Series 7 brushes.  I didn’t go for the “miniature” range, as I preferred the feel of regulars.

The difference in quality is remarkable.  They retain their point far better than any other brushes I’ve ever owned, I’d greatly recommend them.

Hobby Knife

There are all many choices for hobby knives out there.  As long as the handle is comfortable, and you can source replacement blades, there really no reason to buy a premium “hobby knife” from somewhere like Games Workshop.

Hypocritically, I do own and use a citadel hobby knife from Games Workshop, but it’s truly no better than the hobby knife set my brother picked up for me at a market for a fraction of the price a few years ago that I misplaced.  The only reason I own one is that I bought it when placing a large internet order a few years ago and I couldn’t find my old knives.


There are many suppliers of paints for miniature and model painting out there.  Some are better than others for certain.  Some ranges are particularly strong for certain types (e.g. washes or metallics), and some are better packaged.

I’d recommend only purchasing the paints you need over buying in bulk paint sets.  Sometimes a “starter set” is useful, but as paints dry out, it’s better to only buy those you need.

Several years ago, I bought the entire citadel range of paints in a bulk deal when the citadel range moved to the new system.  It was very expensive, and ultimately for a long time a waste as they sat in a big case not being used for the best part of 5 years.  Some are worse for wear.

Another consideration with paint choice is their containers. Citadel paints come I’m small pots that at notorious for drying out, and wasteful when transferring to a palette (which I find can also mess with your brush tip).  Vallejo paints come in awesome dropper bottles that makes transferring to a palette much easier, and have the benefit that mixing paints is easier as you have better control over the quantities.

I ended up ordering a bucket load of empty dropper bottles from China for a few quid, and transferred the paint from the citadel pots.  This was a royal pain, and I only do transfer a paint when I need to.  It’s both messy and wasteful, but it really has helped me move my skills forward.

Advanced Tools

Once you have the basic tools, you can start adding more advanced tools to your hobby desk over time.  Sometimes these just make your life a little easier, or speed up certain stages of the process, but they aren’t strictly speaking necessary, at least initially.


I’m almost of the opinion that clippers are a required basic tool I use the so much when it comes to removing models from sprues.  However,  in truth as you can use a knife to remove a part from a sprue, but it’s so much easier to do so with clippers.

Those from citadel are fine, but hugely overpriced.  I’ve got a cheap pair from a DIY store, and they do the job perfectly for a fraction of the price.

Wet Palette

This one completely changes the hobby for me.  I’d never heard of a wet palette when I returned to the hobby, but I quickly discovered what it was.

At a very, very basic level, all a wet palette has to be, is a container with a layer of sponge that you can add water to, and a sheet of paper for the paint to sit on.  The water in the sponge keeps the paint damp, meaning it stays workable for longer.  With a lid, you can keep using the same paint for several days.

There are several on the market, but really you can make your own for next to nothing.  I purchased a cheap plastic sandwich container, a pack of cleaning cloths (kind of a spongy cloth, but thin so I don’t have to fill it with water to much).  I then just put a small piece of baking paper on the surface of the spongy cloth.  I can close the container lid after a painting session, allowing me to stop painting, and pick up again with the same colours and paint.

To read about my thoughts on wet palettes and the wet palette I use, I’ve put together a little article:

Pin Vice Drill

Used to drill small holes in models for pinning parts and models to bases.  It can also be used to drill holes in gun barrels.

I’ve seen people use pin vices to hold models whilst working on them, rather than having to touch the model itself, however I prefer to mount pinned models to corks or stick them down to the top of a paint pot instead as there’s more to grab on to.


Now we’re getting to the more expensive items.  An airbrush is a bit of a luxury, but when painting units, or undercoating or just laying down a perfectly smooth basecoat, an airbrush is brilliant.  With an airbrush, I can prime a model indoors, quickly and easily without the ongoing expense of spray can primers.

I use mine for applying a zenithal primer (first completely black, then 45 degree from the top grey, then directly from the top white), as it helps with highlighting and shading from the get go.

I’ve not really tried to do too much with laying down full basecoats, but when I start working on Space Marine models, I will definitely be making more use of the airbrush.