Although Citadel has an incredibly wide variety of acrylic paints to choose from, there is one universal constant that is despised by all of their customers: the paint pots. The GW paint pot is a small plastic hexagonal container roughly 2" tall and 1" in diameter. All pots contain a round screw-on cap that is either black (for paints and metallics) or white (for inks), and possess a very large mouth for easy brush access.
A bit of history. According to their May 1998 newsletter (found via Google), GW first started selling paints in 1985, in response to a percieved lack of quality miniature paints. Over the years they expanded and developed their line, and with the exception of a couple problems (older paints were troubled with an inability to coat well, particularly their reds and yellows) things were looking peachy. During this time, GW used a narrower and taller paint pot with a flip-top lid. Although prone to spilling when not handled properly and somewhat difficult to open because of the lid, these paint pots were very airtight. Sitting next to me is a bottle of Armour Wash (which is no longer made as far as I know, if anyone knows different please tell me) which has lasted for 8 years without drying out.
In May of 1998, GW announced that they intended to upgrade their line. Their reason?
"Well, as always, the answer is because we can, and we can make them even better."
Those familiar with Games Workshop are used to this kind of logic.
The new paint line contained many of the familiar names of the old line, but with a greater emphasis on gradual shading and a more cohesive line as a whole. The new paints were indeed of superior quality but there was one problem: the new paint pots were absolutely the most horrible design ever encountered in the history of model paint containers.
Modeled after the fabled 'Bolter shell' of Warhammer 40K, these squat pots attempted to counter the main problems of the old pots: tippage and the difficulty of opening them. Instead the new pots contained a far more serious problem: they dried up incredibly fast. Complaints about paints drying up before the customer had first opened them were not uncommon, and inks had a dramatic tendency to leak out and stain whatever they were set upon.
The screw-on cap was the culprit. Paint would dry up inside the threads and prevent a solid seal, and as a result water would dry out of the paints and ruin the batch. To this day GW has been locked in a contract with the manufacturer of these paint pots (according to the label they are made in France), although it is rumoured that this contract is expected to end soon and a new line of paints will be unleashed.
Until then, customers have several options available to them. Those who miss the old style of paint pots should look into the Coat d'arms series. Brookhurst hobbies sells them, and supposedly they are identical to the old line (a direct colour-to-colour conversion table is even provided). Vallejo Paints is another option; these pots have recieved widespread acclaim throughout the hobbyist community for their superior formula and extremely well-designed paint pot configuration. Vallejo recently released a game colour line which looks remarkably similar to the Citadel Colour line. Both Brookhurst and TheWarStore sell Vallejo paints.
Your final option is to take precautionary steps with your Citadel Colour pots; if (like me) you have already made a significant investment in Citadel paints this is probably your best bet. The following tips were gleaned from 40K Konversions at http://www.konversions.com/citadelPaintTips.html, and are presented here for your convenience...
- First, never shake the paint pots. You are not James Bond; you want things stirred, not shaken. This prevent paint from being forced into the threads.
- Never allow paint near the rim of the paint pot. This includes paint located inside the cap; this paint will quickly find its way into the threads and ruin your seal.
- Clean off the threads regularly. Start with your trusty exacto knife to get rid of the big chunks, then use a cloth to get them squeaky clean.
- Always store your paints upright!
- Use a palette, such as a piece of kitchen tile. Not only will this allow you to mix your paints and water them down effectively, but you will also no longer be inclined to wipe your brush on the side of the paint pot. If you do paint straight from the pot (I'm guilty of this as well), force yourself to wipe excess paint on a paper towel instead of the side of the paint pot.
- Put a drop or two of water in the pot when you're done. This keeps things nice and moist, as well as puts a layer of wetness between your paint and the air. This also prevents the development of a skin on top of your paint.
- Transfer your paints to a better pot. This is for those of us who aren't as lazy as I, but it's guaranteed to work.
- Change to Vallejo. Use up what paints you have, then move on to a better line of paints. You'll get more for your money, and with better quality at that. Plus Vallejo paints have a little eyedropper in their bottles, which is perfect when using a palette.
Rumors seem to indicate that GW is sick of these paint pots as well, and cannot wait to change to a better line. As of writing it is not known when the change will occur, so one must make do until then.