HOBBY- Saving Big Common Hobby Products


As a commission miniature painter, there are several products that I regularly use. Paint aids, varnishes, and basing glue in particularly large quantities.

While I could purchase these on a project by project basis, why not find a solution that comes in large quantities that can perform the necessary functions at a lessened cost? So, I started doing some research into the options.

The interest was in what others are using, how well it worked and the costs associated with each “substitute” in comparison to the original product used. (All retail costs based on pricing from 2014, September – October, are not including tax and all prices are in US dollars.)


Common basing glue (Commonly revered to as PVA or Elmer’s glue)

I suggest to anyone who does any amount of basing miniatures with sand, gravel or similar product to simply buy Elmer’s Glue (or the non-brand name equivalent).  It’s inexpensive, available in large quantities at a discount. 128 oz averages around $6.00 for Elmer’s, versus PVA glue from GW comes in at a $8.25 for 120 ml bottle.

For reference, 1 oz = 29.57ml

So, for the math on this one dollar for dollar, what sounds better to you, the hobbyist:
(1) 128oz bottle Elmer’s Glue, $6.00 (3784.96 ml)
Number of bottles of GW PVA glue equal to this? 32. ($8.25/ea. = $264.)

Total savings: $258.00

Testing result
Elmer’s glue, at the watered down mixture I use (80% glue 20% water) performs the exact way it should. There is no difference in product, merely the packaging and location of purchase. Gallons are available at most hardware stores, and online at amazon and a wealth of other locations. If you water down, your glue will go even further. I don’t recommend more than a 70% glue 30% water ratio.

Protectant (commonly known as ‘ardcoat, even in reference to non GW product when describing to others)

Personally, I use a lot of ‘ardcoat. So I tired fairly fast of spending $4.00/pot plus tax at full price for a measly 12ml. The Liquitex line of products found at Michaels and Hobby Lobby (as well as any art supply store online) offer the same protection, at a lower cost.

(1) 8oz Bottle Liquitex Medium High Gloss (same consistency and results as ‘ardcoat), $14.99 full price (cheaper with coupons readily available, as much as 40% off regular price) plus tax, $9.01 with a 40% off coupon.
(1) pot GW ‘ardcoat, $4.00, plus tax.

19.75 pots of ‘ardcoat equal the amount of Liquitex in one bottle (I rounded to 20 for the math) a cost of $80.00, plus tax.

Total savings: $65.00- $70.99. (Savings do not factor the multiple trips and frustration of driving to the game store because you ran out)

Jerry’s Artarama is my go to website for getting art supplies. I usually order enough to get free shipping without an issue. If you are a first time customer and sign up for the email, you get 25% off first order.

The 32oz bottle of Liquitex High Gloss Varnish is $22.07 before this discount. ($16.55 after discount of 25%)
Number of GW ‘ardcoat pots equal to this? 79. ($4.00/ea = $316.00)

Total savings: $293.93-$299.45. ( not factoring in potential shipping costs)

Testing result
Beautiful gloss in a shorter period of time than bottle indicated (dry to the touch in approximately 10mins instead of the hour suggested). No yellowing issues, and is performing admirably. I utilized three different models as test subjects (metal, plastic resin) and found no issues over a period of several months.


Flow Aid, or Mixing Medium

It seems as though I never have enough of this when necessary. My go to for the longest time was P3 mixing medium (Windex and water mix when I was out) The more I started working with my airbrush and making my own washes/glazes it used more than ever. Determined to find an economical solution, the research began. The best product that gave the results expected Flow Aid by Liquitex. While the colour and consistency differ between the two products, I have found that I like the Liquitex better. It gives more versatility than I thought possible without any colour fade (I noticed this when mixing up washes or glazes)

Michaels, Hobby Lobby and Jerry’s Artarama were my top options for purchasing this, with Jerry’s Artarama by far offering the best pricing without coupon. A reminder again that both Michaels and Hobby Lobby have easily accessible web and print coupons.

Liquitex only offers one size bottle of Flow Aid, 4oz. At Michaels it retails for $10.99, but Artarama offers it for $5.93 plus shipping. One bottle P3 mixing medium 1oz., $4.99.

Number of bottles of P3 mixing medium to equal this? 4 ($4.99/ea= $19.96)
Total savings: Artarama $14.03 (not counting shipping) or Michaels (w/out coupon) $8.97

Testing result
While it may be misleading when you see the bottle, as it is crystal clear and has the consistency of water (p3 mixing medium is milky coloured) have no worries. It was put through several tests, and exceeded expectations. Not only did it thin well without separation, but glazes and washes made from regular paint colours are amazing! Remember you can make a really great paint extender by combining Flow Aid, Slow Dry and water.



Primer Touch Up

When you prime, it is fairly common to have small spots that are still bare. Most common occurrence is from a habit of “top down priming”. Rather than go through large quantities of proper paint for detail work, I choose to use heavy body acrylic (Master’s Touch) that is slightly thinned,  around 70% paint 30% flow aid and/or water. Doing this nets you almost 11oz of black paint that can be used as a brush on primer or touch up. It isn’t pigmented well enough to use as a standard paint, but gives a good base for future layers.

Most major craft and hobby stores carry an equivalent to “permanent black” and “titanium white”. At Hobby Lobby, an 8.3 oz bottle retails for $6.99 plus tax, or $4.19 plus tax with the 40% coupon. When it is thinned as recommended, the cost per oz is $0.38.

Many manufacturers carry a basic black or white paint that can be used for model painting. Vallejo and army painter have 18ml dropper bottles, GW is a 12ml pot.

Number of Vallejo bottles equal to this? 20 ($3.99/ea= $79.80)
Number of Army painter bottles equal to this? 20 ($2.99/ea= $59.80)
Number of GW pots equal to this? 30 ( $3.99/ea = $119.70)

Total savings: $49.26-$103.17 utilizing coupon, $52.18-$112.08 regular retail price, based on current costs from Hobby Lobby.

Testing result
While a primer is matted, using a mix like this will be shiny when dry. This doesn’t affect application of additional layers, washes or inks that I have found to date. Extensive testing across a wide array of products has resulted in no major issues such as pulling away, refusing to take paint and so forth.

Hopefully this helps save some money for everyone, especially when game companies seem to be doing large pushes for new models that seem to have a rather hefty price attached!

podcast inset code View All of Our Shows

Cheaters at The Big Event Episode 157

You might also like: