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I use GW paints exclusively, and I keep reading on here to thin them. Why, and how?
Why? Because most paints are simply too thick straight from the pot. They go on too heavily, show brush marks more, and possibly obscure details. Thinned paints lay down in nice, smooth coats, brush marks disappear because the paint isn't sufficiently thick to retain them, and they won't obscure details. Thinned paints may well need a few coats to accomplish the same colour coverage, but this is a bonus, as it lets you take your time getting it right instead of hoping it goes well in one shot.
As for how, the simplest approach is to add water and stir. There are all manner of acrylic mediums and additives you can mix in to achieve different results, but the basic idea is really simple.
Not much to add but to agree with Wraith. Thinning paints allows for smoothing looking coats and will not obscure details on the miniatures. Water is the best method - as its free and readily available. It just takes a bit of practice getting the right consistency of the paint.
Any recommended ratios of water to paint? The paints I usually use are often thin enough straight out of the bottle, but if I picked up some citadel paints (I need to buy a brand new paint kit, brushes/paints/washes/inks/etc) what would you recommend? I've also heard Vallejo paints are pretty good out of the bottle? Would they be better?
Everyone likes their paints a bit different, and ratios change from paint to paint - different brands, different colours and even different batches of the same paint all need different amounts of water. Some are even ready to go, straight from the bottle.
The best approach I've seen recently is to try to have your paint at the consistency of fairly heavy cream.