I originally exclusively bought Ral Partha / Poly S Paints. I am pretty certain these were the same product, but there was a branding and/or packaging change at some point. I still have a few of these bottles around. The primary reason I switched from Poly S to GW was I had about a 2 year hiatus from the hobby, and when I picked it up again, all my paints had dried up. I needed to replace an entire set of paints!! At the time, I had a 25% discount at a comic/game shop, and that store only carried GW paints (vs the hobby store that carried a variety of brands, but with no discount). So I chose the less expensive rout, although I did buy a few key Poly S colors that the GW range didn't cover.
Even though I "converted" to GW paints, I haven’t been exclusive to a particular brand since my original set of paints - I have picked up various colors from different brands mainly to complete tri-color groupings that the GW range does not cover. That said, my set of paints is still about 80-90% GW.
I like the Reaper Pro Paints and Privateer P3 Paints, and will continue to buy colors from those lines. The Vallejo Paint's dropper top is a big turn off for me, but the paint performs well. There are still a few colors that I have been unable to find, so I have custom mixed "large" quantities (enough to fill an empty paint pot) for repeated use.
I used to brush white primmer on all my miniatures. At the time I was living with my parents and painting in my bedroom, so it was the most practical option. Later, when I started using spray primer, I used grey (and I have no recollection why). I'm not sure if that's what was available, or it I deliberately chose grey over black or white primer.
For the longest time now, I have been using black primer. I find black is more "forgiving" when painting fully assembled figures - all those little places you can’t see or reach with a brush are left in dark shadow. If you have a really opaque base color to start with, I find it unnecessary to layer white under lighter colors.
I just recently started priming with colored spray primer. So far I like the results, but it looks like it is not an all-purpose solution.
I prefer to paint straight out of the pot - Its how I started and its what I’ve always done. As such, I prefer the lids that screw off, rather than flip up. However, I'll admit that this “habit” slowly dries out the paint, and I occasionally have to "revitalize" a color by thinning it back out with a little water. It is also important to occasionally clean out the lid if you are a "pot painter". If you don't, the dried paint flakes off and pollutes the bottle with small dried paint chunks.
I have some of the newer (and really old) bottle styles that have an "eye-dropper" top. I do not like this style of bottle at all. Not only because of my preference to paint directly from the pot (or lid), but because I am terrible at guessing how much paint I need - I always squirt too much out and waste paint!
Sometimes, because of a particular need, I can't simply paint out of the bottle (ie custom color, wet blending, etc.). In these cases I turn to my table surface before I grab a palette... for me its all about what is the quickest way to get the job done. Heck, I have even used my finger as a mini palette!
Some colors (especially my latest purchases of GW paints) are way too thin for my taste. To correct this, I let them sit out for a bit with the lid off to help the paint "cure". My original Poly S paints never had this problem, and were my overall favorite paints for opacity and thickness. However, they were also the worst for longevity - sometimes the caps would rust or the paint would completely dry up.
The new GW Foundation paints are very similar to those Poly S paints in both thickness and opacity and I'm glad I picked a set up.
Before GW released their first foray into inks (aka washes), I used airbrush inks. I scored 4 8-color sets at 75% off from an art store that was going out of business. I really liked these, and had a lot of success with them. However, there was one draw back... they were still soluble after drying. They had to be applied as the last step before varnishing, or else you faced a big mess trying to paint over it.
I really liked the 1st generation GW inks (even *with* a dropper tip). They were a perfect combination of brightness and translucence. The 2nd generation inks were not as good - they more easily dried with "water spots". The 3rd & 4th generation inks/washes were more opaque than the previous predecessor, and when thinned with water they tended to spot.
About a year ago I picked up a set of Wonder Washes. I liked them, and tended to use them over GW inks of similar colors. After reading so many blogs and forum posts about the latest 5th generation inks/washes, and how great Badab Black was, I picked up a bottle. I liked it so much I ran out and bought a complete set. So far the colors that I tried work great.
VARIOUS PAINT ADDITIVES
The only additive that I have extensively used is a retarder. For wet blending, this is hands down better than simply adding water. The retarder does not change the viscosity of the paint (allowing for potential spotting) and it effects the opaqueness of the color much less. Most importantly, paint with retarder takes much longer to dry than paint diluted with water - making of the wet blending easier!!
Other additives that I have picked up, but not really put to the test is pearl, metallic, and crackle mediums. These have limited use, but I will give them a go sometime.
Recently, powders have become very popular. But they aren't new. In the mid 80's Ral Partha released a 6-color set of Dragonscale Metallic Powder. These came in a 6-piece stackable compact, and have a consistency of eye shadow. (They also came individually packaged with a dragon miniature). These were a fun product and worked perfectly for armor and... dragon scale!!
I have not yet tried the rust and weathering powders out there.
I use a 50/50 mixture of black craft paint and Elmer's glue for gluing sand to my bases and terrain. I do this for 3 reasons. First, adding paint thins out the glue a little bit, making it easier to brush on, but doesn't dilute its adhesive quality. Secondly, it becomes a sort of undercoat making subsequent layers of paint easier to apply.
For terrain, I only use craft paint. This is not an economic descision (although craft paints do cost a fraction of hobby paints). Craft Paints are more durable, and have a laytex consistancy when dried. This creates a much more durable surface.
I prefer a matte look to my figures, so I use a spray matte varnish to finish off my models. No particular brand or type - I use what is inexpensive or easy to acquire. The most common matte varnish I have used is a companion that came with spray stone texture.
I have had an issue with GW matte varnish fogging (and heard tales of the same). This typically occurs when trying to put down too thick a layer in one pass. The clear cote's that come packaged with the spray textures have given me the best results in look and durability.
After a model has been spray varnished, I go back and brush on gloss varnish to all the metal and shiny bitz. I use this technique mostly on fantasy model's armor and weapons, but I have used it on some of my sci-fi range as well.
I add an agitator to every bottle of paint. Back in the day, before I new better (and because they were "on hand") I used BBs. Over time the BBs corroded, discolored the paint, and caused particulates to form.
I now use 4mm Non Magnetic Hematite Round Beads in my hobby-grade paints. These are larger and a little heavier than BBs (I use 1-2 8mm beads in the larger bottles of craft-grade paint). The inability to add an agitator is another reason why I dislike the dropper tips.