A History of Citadel Colour—Part I

This is the first part of a miniseries on the history of Citadel Colour paints. I'm posting these as a series of posts because what I initially wrote was quite long, and wouldn't make for a good, single, blog post. For all the ubiquity of these paints, there are not a lot of people who know its full history. Obviously, I wasn't at Games Workshop during any of these events I'm describing, but as a fan of this range since my inception into the hobby (and the fact that I just love model paint ranges in general), I've done a lot of research into it. Feel free to let me know what you think, and if I'm off base or missing anything. Hopefully this series will clear up any misconceptions people have, and be interesting. You can read part II here, part III here, and part IV here.


Citadel Colour—Games Workshop’s line of water-based acrylic model paints—are a mainstay of the miniature painting world. They’ve often been the starting point for many miniature painters, and there aren’t many painting tables out there that don’t have at least a pot or two mixed amongst the Vallejos or Scale75s. Citadel Colour is easy to get, and it’s frankly a good line of paints, but it’s also not popular by chance. It was a range of paints that was created at a good time for acrylics to take off, and it has been managed by some talented painters throughout the years.


If you pick up any issue of White Dwarf from the early or mid ‘80s, you’ll see a regular column by Joe Dever called Tabletop Heroes. This was really a precursor to the ‘Eavy Metal sections seen in later decades, once Games Workshop began focusing more on miniatures and less on role-playing games. Tabletop Heroes would review and discuss the latest miniatures from Citadel Miniatures (and sometimes Asgard) and would even have some useful painting tips, which would actually involve oil-, enamel-, or lacquer-based paints. This was because the acrylic paints that dominate the miniature painting world today, weren’t as common or even desirable back them. Enamels and oils were the standard for model railroad and art stores respectively, and when miniature painting for fantasy and historical gaming and collecting was in its infancy, model railroad or car hobbyists had been there for years, and they had a whole collection of Humbrol they could sell you to get you started.


These paints had their downsides, though. They took longer to dry, they required special (and toxic) thinners to clean brushes, and they weren’t the greatest for mixing and blending. This is when Citadel Miniatures (a joint venture between Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson of Games Workshop in London, and Bryan Ansell of Asgard Miniatures in Nottingham) decided would be a good time to introduce their own line of acrylic paints. In 1984 miniatures were doing pretty well in Games Workshop stores. They had the rights to distribute Ral Partha’s licensed D&D miniatures, and many Games Workshop locations were moving the miniatures from drawers behind the counters to spindles on the shop floor There discerning role-players could find figures that fit their characters or the horrors they would face in the dungeon.


At this point it’s important to mention how big role-playing was in 1984. Video games were fairly primitive, miniatures war-games were still the province of people playing Waterloo, or Kursk simulations, and Spiel Des Jahres-winning boardgames were limited to the German-speaking world. In North America and the UK people played RPGs, and RPGs (by and large) used miniatures.


Next time: I'll talk about Games Workshop's first range of Citadel Colour paints.


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Carmin Carotenuto is a man about games about town. 

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