Citadel Air Paint Tabletop Review – Heresy in a pot

Citadel Air paint is a good investment only if you’re already using Games Workshop's paint and want to keep the colors consistent.

Published: October 23, 2015 9:00 AM /

Reviewed By:

Citadel Air Paint Product Image Showing Array of Citadel Paint Colors In Pots

Hello, TechRaptor readers. By now, you’ve probably decided to dip your toes into some tabletop gaming after getting a chance to take a look at some of the offerings available. Or you’re a seasoned veteran looking for some discussion and insight that doesn’t revolve around how many souls of orphaned Asian children Matt Ward consumes in a month to maintain his unholy powers. (The answer is eight, by the way). Either way, it’s time to take a look at some tools of the trade. Specifically, Games Workshop’s new range of paints is specifically designed for airbrushing.

A Brief History of Air Paint

I’ve been using an airbrush for almost my entire hobby career, and it’s been an absolute lifesaver in terms of reducing painting times. The ability to not only prime models any day of the year without having to worry about the effects of weather on spray paint cans but to basecoat, huge swaths of models with nowhere near the effort of doing so by hand can’t be overstated.  Using an airbrush can be tricky when you’re first getting the hang of things, but stick with it.

One of the biggest problems new airbrush painters have is getting the paint consistency right. Different paint lines tend to work differently in airbrushes, and their behavior can change even more depending on what you use to thin said paints down with. When I was first starting out, for example, I had quite a bit of trouble getting my Vallejo Game Color paints to work properly in my new airbrush. The pigment would separate very quickly and easily until I switched from straight water to a mix of water, drying retarder, and matte medium. You can find a quick video on the exact recipe and process here, courtesy of Lester Bursey. Issues like this can easily dissuade people from continuing to work with their airbrush and go back to slowly base coating their vehicles by hand. Very slowly, I might add.

Citadel Air Paint - Triumph or Travesty? 

Fortunately, companies have finally taken note of our wailing and gnashing of teeth and provided a line of paints specifically formulated for airbrushing, saving us a great deal of time. The Citadel Air range launched early last month with a trimmed-down number of paints from their main line. Not every color made the cut, however, so it’d be a good idea to take a look at the list of colors currently available. If some of your favorite colors aren’t available right now, I’d recommend taking a look at this conversion chart to find its corresponding color in the Vallejo Game range instead. Game Color and Game Air use the same numbers for their colors, so it’ll be quick and easy. I was forced to do this when I noticed that the trio of Warlock Bronze, Brass Scorpion, and Runelord Brass I use extensively with my Dark Eldar didn’t make the cut. Not that I’m bitter about it or anything.

The Citadel Air paints themselves are priced the same as the standard paints, so there won’t be any surprises in that regard. Except for the airbrush cleaner. That stuff is ludicrously expensive for what you’re getting and should be avoided at all costs. Go to your local craft store and get the same-sized bottle for much less than the $16.50 USD Games Workshop is charging.

The base paints have a higher pigment count, which allows them to remain more opaque than the more transparent layer paints. The Citadel Air base paints do an excellent job of providing a strong color layer to build up from. Averland Sunset, in particular, does a great job of providing a good foundation for stronger yellows. While Games Workshop has said the paints shouldn’t be used with a traditional brush, I didn’t have any issues with it.

Availability of Shades and Color Performance

Flash Gitz Yellow, the yellow layer paint, gives you a strong yellow that’s almost fluorescent. You will have to be more precise with it, however, as you can end up with some rather odd results if you paint it directly over a darker color. The shoulder pads on this Killa Kan, for example, look almost green. The oddly-colored spots didn’t get a full coat of Averland Sunset, meaning the brown undercoat is showing through. This isn’t something limited to just the airbrush paints; you’ll see the same effect happening with normal paints as well.

There are also several metallic paints available, which work just as well as the normal colors. Metallic paints tend to be somewhat finicky when airbrushing, as the metallic flakes clog the tip faster than regular paints. Leadbelcher, the silver base paint, works quite well without any pigment separation. The paints do an excellent job, but there’s one major flaw that is almost a deal-breaker for me.

Who in the Emperor’s name thought it would be a good idea to put airbrush paints in a pot? It may make sense from a manufacturing standpoint since it would be easier to increase production of pots already used with the standard paints, but they’re a complete pain to use. Decanting the paint into the airbrush is impossible to do without spilling half of it. Spending extra money for either pipette to transfer the paint from the pot or going through the long and tedious process of transferring the paint into dropper bottles is required. It’s a huge oversight on Games Workshop’s part. On the bright side, at least they didn’t use it as a reason to sell us overpriced Citadel brand dropper bottles and pipettes.

Should I buy Citadel Air Paint?

Citadel Air paint is a good investment if you’re already using their paint and want to keep the colors consistent. They’re also good for base paints, as Vallejo doesn’t have any of their heavy paints available. Otherwise, I’d recommend Vallejo Game Air as an alternative.

The paints reviewed for this article were purchased by the reviewer.

Review Summary

Good if you need base paints or are already using Citadel paints. Otherwise, go with Vallejo. (Review Policy)

Have a tip, or want to point out something we missed? Leave a Comment or e-mail us at

| Former Staff Writer

Former Staff Writer