Befreiungskriege 1813-14

Painting and modelling 28mm Napoleonic wargaming miniatures

Should I get agitated?

Posted by Martin on August 13, 2011

I’m just gearing up to resume my seat at the painting table after my Summer holiday and one small irritating detail is lurking at the back of my mind. I just know that quite a few of my Vallejo paints will need a very vigorous shake (to say the least) to get them back in to shape ready for use, even though I store them all upside down. I know that if I don’t shake the paints thoroughly, the pigment and the carrier won’t mix properly and then bad things will happen – poor coverage, failure to dry with a flat matt finish and so on.

The trouble is that I hate shaking paints. I especially hate shaking them when I’m already in the middle of a painting session because it disrupts the creative flow (ooh, get him duckie!). The question is, what can I do to avoid spraining a wrist from a monster afternoon-long paint shaking session? And even if I do shake them all thoroughly, I know that the pigment and carrier will start to separate again the minute my back is turned.

Well, a possible solution has presented itself after a smidgeon of idle Googling. And the magic search was: paint agitators. Originally, when I typed this, I was thinking of those little machines that vibrate and shake things because I had this nebulous recollection of cheap ones sometimes being sold by DIY stores and those German supermarket chains like Aldi and Lidl. As it happened, and as so often happens with Google, I didn’t find what I was looking for but found something else equally interesting instead. My interest was piqued by these two links: one from the Warhammer Forum and the other from the Dakka Dakka painting website.

If you read these, you’ll see there are several commonalities but they’re basically about the idea of inserting something heavy inside the paint bottle that moves around and efficiently mixes the paint when the bottle is shaken, making the chore much less arduous. In truth, this isn’t a new idea and it isn’t even a new idea in the world of miniature paints – both sources assert that Reaper Miniatures used to include little white metal skulls (yes, skulls) in their bottles of paint. Of course, it doesn’t surprise me to learn that the skulls are no longer used because of concerns about the lead content and, apparently, Reaper has switched to beads.

Both sources also mention the use of steel ball bearings but caution against them because of the risk of rust contamination of the paint. The final commonality is the mention of beads (either glass or stone) as the best option. Received wisdom appears to be that beads offer the best combination of inertness, weight and value for money. So that seems to settle it except for the small matter of where to acquire suitable beads. And I think I have a potential answer to that question too (at least here in the UK): Hobbycraft. On checking out the Hobbycraft online shop, I’ve discovered that the jewellery making section includes a category for glass beads in which there are packs of said beads of 4mm, 6mm and 8mm diameters for under a fiver (though it isn’t clear how many beads you get for your money). All I need to do is decide which size to go for.

However, I’m a cautious soul, so before I try out this innovation, I’d like to know if any of you have experience of doing this and have any tips for me.

10 Responses to “Should I get agitated?”

  1. Herr P. said

    Just take the cap off inside a piece of tissue and put a .5 – 1cm bit of sprue inside as a agitator.

    Works wonders 🙂

  2. Burkhard said

    I have been putting little lead balls (taken from curtain weight bands) into my paints for over 1 1/2 decades now. Works like a charm and is the cheapest solution.
    Someone once warned me, that ligt colours could take on a yellowish hue. I have a bottle of off-white, that I have had for 12 years and it is still 100% the same colour.
    Anyway back to the topic… It takes less then 10 seconds to properly “stir” a paint. And it gives far better results then simply shaking the bottle or using a stick, especially on those tricky colours like red and yellow.

  3. Ralph said

    I entirely sympathise Martin, and many’s the time when I have passed over my serried ranks of Vallejos, seated regimented and unloved in their drilled out plank of wood front and centre of my paint desk, and reached over for lesser brands such as craft paints simply because I couldn’t face the shaking process…

    Still, 2 very useful suggestions right there above me which I shall try forthwith..

    My 2 cents, also spend some time vigorously rolling the the upended Vallejo bottle back and forth between the flat of your hands as if you were making a plasticene snake…..

  4. Mike Siggins said

    I do understand the problem. On balance, I usually shake.

    I store them upside down, but then find that there is a pressure build up so that more paint comes out than one needs.

    I have put stainless steel ballbearings in some oft used bottles, with no problems.

    I recently bought myself a Trumpeter paint stirrer. I thought, this is going to spray paint all over the room. It did.

    Finally, I have acquired a Yorkshire Tea tin that holds about 50 VMC bottles from all sides. I fill it and shake it…


  5. Ralph said

    Not the old Yorkshire tea tin trick….

    Thats the one that would have done for the German Panzer Divisions had they been so foolish as to invade in 1940…..

  6. Peter Royle said


  7. Martin said

    Another idea to throw in the mix (and possibly where Aldi entered my subconscious) comes from here on from Martin Stephenson’s “The Waving Flag” blog. Anybody else tried this approach?

  8. Andreas said

    Seems overly complicated, with a bit of sprue or something similar as an agitator, all you need to do is shake the bottle for 10 seconds.

    I have had vallejo bottles stored unused on my shelf for 5+ years and after 10 – 20 seconds of shaking with an agitator inside the bottle they are fine again. The only problem I have encountered with bottles that old is that the acrylic flow agent has dried out but I suspect those bottles were 10+ years old.

  9. Phil said

    I quit using Vallejo about a decade ago other than the odd bottle of something that I just can’t find the right color for. Saved a lot of time. Everything else has a big enough opening I can just open it up and stir.

  10. arteis said

    Why not use a few pieces of clean gravel? Very cheap – ie free!

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