Transferring Citadel Paints to Dropper Bottles

I really, really do not like paint pots.

There are a few reasons for this. First, I think pots are intrinsically wasteful. Air is the mortal enemy of paint, and pots expose more paint to the air than alternatives even if a hobbyist is excruciatingly careful and keeps the pot open just long enough to dispense the paint onto a palette. Second, I think pots are inimical to precise measurement. There’s really no convenient way to dispense paint a uniform drop at a time out of a paint pot: the “toothpick method” (dip a toothpick into the pot to accumulate paint on it, and then let a drop of the accumulated paint fall from the toothpick onto the palette) doesn’t give uniform drops, and so short of using disposable pipettes one is left to measure largely by eye and by feel. Third, in my experience paint pots and gravity-feed airbrushes (in my view, the only kind of airbrush that a hobbyist should consider buying) don’t play well together. Decanting paint from a pot into the cup of a gravity-feed airbrush, or vice versa, is messy and wasteful even if one uses pipettes or funnels.

Pure Evil

Pure Evil

Newer entrants to the hobby paint market (Reaper and Vallejo; Privateer Press is a notable exception) seem to share my distaste of paint pots, and package their paints in more modern and user-friendly dropper bottles. It’s thus disappointing that Games Workshop’s 2012 reboot of their Citadel Paints line hasn’t included a transition away from pots. But if I like the new line – and, by and large, I do – is it worth putting up with the pots? Fortunately that’s not a choice that I have to make, because it’s possible to inexpensively migrate the paints into dropper bottles.

A quick note about this technique: it doesn’t work for every single paint in the new line. For instance, the Citadel Dry paints aren’t liquid enough to migrate; they have the consistency of a thick paste and don’t flow at all, so decanting them into anything is pretty much impossible (not to mention pointless). Similarly, the Citadel Texture paints contain grit that would clog a dropper, and the Liquid Green Stuff from the Citadel Technical range is too viscous and tacky to transfer. But the technique works for just about everything else in the Base, Shade, Layer, Glaze, and Technical ranges.

My list of materials is as follows:

Citadel Glaze - Bloodletter plus Empty Dropper Bottle

Good Encounters Evil

I drop two of the hex nuts into the labeled bottle and fit a small funnel into its neck. I then very carefully pour the contents of the pot into the mouth of the funnel, gently tapping the bottom of the pot to shake loose any of the contents that try to cling to the pot walls. I leave the funnel in place for a few seconds to a few minutes for it to fully drain, again gently tapping it a few times to shake all the paint into the bottle. (This will take less time with thinner paints like the Shades and Glazes, but more with thicker paints like the Bases.)

Decanting the glaze into the bottle.

Good and Evil do battle!

Finally, I plug (with one of the controlled dropper plugs, and not the streaming dropper plugs) and cap the bottle. I rinse out and dry off the funnel, and repeat the process with my next paint pot.

Completed decanting; bottle plugged and capped.

Good triumphs, with only modest injury!

Note that Citadel pots contain 12 ml of paint, whereas a 1/2 ounce bottle can hold almost 15 ml of volume. Also, not all of the pot’s contents will transfer cleanly – a little is going to stick to the walls of the pot and to the funnel, and be lost. So instead of a full pot, you’ll have a two-thirds to three-quarters full dropper bottle. This is to be expected.

This can be done assembly-line fashion: including the time it took to rinse out the funnel after each bottle, I decanted four Citadel Glazes and six Citadel Shades in a little over half an hour. As I mentioned above, decanting the Citadel Bases and Citadel Layers will take longer, owing to the greater viscosity of those paints – but no so much longer that the exercise ceases to be worthwhile.

Finished decanting the entire Citadel Glaze range.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

All the materials were purchased in quantity, so figuring out the per-bottle price involves a little division. The dropper bottles cost 36 cents apiece, while the controlled dropper plugs cost another 8 cents (though note that one package of plugs is good for three packages of bottles). The hex nuts are 2 cents apiece, or 4 cents per bottle, while the labels are another 3 cents apiece. Total cost per bottle: 51 cents. Note, though, that this is a one-time cost: bottles can be used over and over again simply by removing the dropper plug and decanting the contents of a fresh paint pot of the given color. Compare with disposable pipettes, which cost as little as 3 cents apiece in quantity, but which take up additional space on the workbench and have to be replaced after almost every use.

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  1. Karl says:

    I find if you remove the labels from the new citadel pots they stick great to the dropper bottles. This also works great with the the previous range pots. A bit of time and effort saved doing this.

  2. Chris says:

    Thanks for this I am currently in the process of transfering my entire range of citadel paints into dropper bottles, this blog really helped me out. I agree with previous comment Karl. The old labels can easily be peeled off and restuck onto the dropper bottles. The only paint I’ve had issue with so far was the imperial primer, it was mega thick and gloopy!

  3. Dave Matney says:

    Thanks! I’ve always loved dropper bottles, but I was given a starter set of GW paints last Christmas and I’ve honestly avoided using them because I can’t measure out how much I need (I hate wasting paint). I don’t know why I didn’t think of this before.

  4. Lawrence says:

    Have you had any trouble with the hex bolts rusting in the paint mix, due to the exposure to moisture?

    I wonder if plastic bead/item might be a better alternative?

    • Brett says:

      I use stainless steel hex nuts rather than the cheaper and easier-to-find galvanized steel, so I haven’t had any problems with the metal corroding and fouling the paint. I’ve tried plastic and ceramic agitators in the past, and you’re right that they make rust a non-issue, but my experiences with them have been mixed: when acrylic pigment falls out of suspension and settles, it will settle over the agitator, and plastic or ceramic agitators sometimes lack the mass to break out of, and break up, the sediment without first squeezing and massaging the dropper bottle.

      • Kevin Louis says:

        Yo Hep-Kat, I think you’ll find that Lava Stone Beads in the 8mm size do just the trick to agitate any paint in it’s dropper bottle or pot. Because it’s naturally a stone, it will have NO effect on your paints and keep them nice & agitated. Good luck

  5. Joe says:

    Brett,

    I’m having trouble with the controlled dropper plugs as they barely let out water. With the shades and glazes if I squeeze them extremely hard they’ll barely produce a drop. So forget about the bases/layers.

    Has anyone else had this trouble? I actually drilled out the controlled part of one of the droppers and that seemed to work, but I’m disappointed that I can’t use the dropper part.

    Thanks,

    Joe

    • Brett says:

      Yikes, Joe, I haven’t had that problem at all. If the controlled dropper tips start to become a problem, I guess you can switch back to the flow tips instead.

      Are you agitating the paint before trying to dispense it? It may be that the tips are getting clogged with chunks of sediment…

      • Joe says:

        Brett,

        Yeah, these are actually brand new bottles and stoppers. In my case, I purchased the bottles and stoppers here http://www.sks-bottle.com/340c/fin22n.html (Stock #: 0077-103 ). Theses should have been the same controlled tips (15mm, same droplet according to the info) as those you linked above, but with bottles (maybe slightly larger by volume?) and caps included (clear caps instead of white opaque caps).

        So, I’m not sure if I somehow ended up with different stoppers or if they were made incorrectly etc. However, I was able to “convert” them into streaming bottles with a dremel stylus and a 1/32″ bit.

        Thanks,

        Joe

  6. Ed says:

    Hi Brett,
    Sorry for the late revival…..
    Great minds think alike…except I am a little nervous to try this with my extensive Tamiya collection. The glass bottles they come in and the color coded lids add value, but are not exactly practical for all the same reasons you have found.
    The Tamiya paints are acrylic, but the suspension is not water based. It is more alcohol based (trade secret, exactly what it is I guess).
    Do you think this would be a safe method also in my case?
    Thanks!

    • Brett says:

      I’m not sure if I’ve ever actually used Tamiya paints for anything, so I really couldn’t say whether they’d cope well with being decanted into droppers. But experimentation with this kind of thing is easy: find yourself a little-used Reaper or Vallejo dropper bottle, clean it out, and try decanting a Tamiya color into it. If it works out, then scale up by buying dropper bottles in quantity. If not, you can just pour the Tamiya paint back into its original container.

  7. Chris says:

    Great article, and nice of you to put this together and sharing. I may do the same thing, I am a new painter and I am using all Citadel paints. I really like the paints thus far, but I do agree that the pots are horrible. It’s almost as if GW made the pots so they waste paint by collecting on the rear of the lip and drying out and making the pot hard to seal. You have to be diligent to keep the pots useful. This is an excellent solution.

    • Brett says:

      Thanks, Chris. I wrote this article going on three years ago, right after GW rebooted the Citadel paints line, and it’s nice to see that it’s still a useful resource to people.

  8. greg says:

    Also embarking on this project to rescue what’s left of my Citadel Colours (including some in the old angular walled pots with black lids!). Thanks for posting this – SKS was just the resource I was looking for. I am having a rather humorous problem at the moment though… I can’t get the Caslon Antique font to be seen in Word for Mac, and Windows won’t install it at all. I’ve found the same font file hosted a number of different sites, but its identical, so no change in behavior. You wouldn’t happen to have used some software other than MS Word, would you have?

  9. Chris Kilbourn says:

    Just learned this! Use a liquid syringe instead of funnels. It’s 10x faster and lessens the impact of air exposure while waiting for it to go down the funnel.

  10. richard nielsen says:

    thanks so much for the links and how to do this, I never have liked the those pots of paint, They never stay open, ordered the bottles and tips can’t wait might not do all my paints just the common ones I use…..

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