Are you looking for a better way to mix your miniature and model paints? Do you hate Vallejo or Scale 75 paint separation in your bottles? A lot of miniature paints tend to separate from their liquid binders if allowed to settle, and require a bit of shaking to get them to mix properly again.
I’ve tried each of these small paint mixer systems. My final recommendation for the overall best paint mixer and shaker is at the end of the article. If you’re on a budget, a hobby paint shaker doesn’t need to cost an arm and a leg. Take a look at the recommended value model paint mixers below!
Is a motorized hobby paint mixer worth it?
There are a lot of Do-It-Yourself (DIY) ways of mixing model paint, including clamping acrylic bottles to power tools, e.g., a jig-saw. The fact DIY options exist just shows how regularly (and badly) hobby acrylic model paint separates in their bottles. A paint shaker hobby machine sitting on your desk will go a long way to speeding up your miniature painting workflow!
I have a lot of paint colors (i.e., Vallejo, Games Workshop Citadel, Army Painter, Reaper Series, Scale 75, Badger, Kimera, pro acryl, and Privateer Press P3 paint), and almost every bottle needs to be shaken or mixed before use. For best results with any good quality model paint, you need to homogenize the acrylic polymer with the colored pigment.
Usually, when a bottle or pot of paint sits around for too long, the pigments settle and separate out of the suspension. This is why all you get when you dispense unmixed pain is a clear polymer goo. It’s annoying. Even partially mixed acrylic paint is poor at doing its job. You won’t get good coverage or coats of paint that dry properly. Mixing acrylic model paint is a must-do aspect of our hobby.
There is a need for miniature and model paint mixing products!
Shaking multiple paints on a daily basis has actually caused a few wrist and joint issues for me. Repetitive movement injuries are the bane of any hobbyist working with scale models and miniatures. It’s why you may also want to consider getting a good painting handle for miniature work. For professional or frequent miniature painters, using a mini paint mixer or shaker can go a long way toward preventing repetitive strain injuries (RSI).
Automated model paint shaker and mixer systems have always been a product I keep an eye out for making my life painting minis more comfortable and convenient. They aren’t expensive and don’t take up much space on your desk.
Are you a commissioned painter or serious about the hobby?
As a commissioned mini painter, I can’t afford any slow down in my workflow. Anything that saves me time and energy that I can invest in the actual painting of a model is worth it. In fact, if you’re into the business of painting models and miniatures for money, a model paint mixer or shaker is a worthwhile investment. Those precious minutes you waste trying to figure out if you have the right paint consistency are a dead weight.
For more professional workflows (or speed painter), consider one of the best vortex paint mixers reviewed below, or check out my review of more powerful vortex mixers. Overall, small paint mixing machines work well for those of us who have large paint collections (many of us do!).
Use a paint mixer to restore dry acrylic paint?
The process of restoring old and dry acrylic paint is one of this best use cases for a vortex mixer or motorized paint shaker. For partly dry acrylic paints, but not completely dry, there are some tricks you can try to restore them. For partially dried acrylics, you can simply add clean water to the original tube or bottle to dissolve the remaining pigment and binder to a workable state. Do not add too much water.
If you find the acrylic paint doesn’t have the “loose, but sticky” feeling that you need to control the paint on your brush or miniature, then try adding a clear acrylic polymer. Some have suggested to try using a flow aid, but I find these unnecessary for restoring old paint.
After adding water and clear acrylic medium to your dry paint, I use a vortex paint mixer to quickly and powerfully stir the ingredients together. Usually, 10-30 seconds on the maximum setting of my vortex mixer will do the trick.
Do you want to speedpaint a lot of models?
Well, first you can check out these speed painting tips.
Or, consider the fact that it is entirely possible that you’re wasting minutes (which add up to hours and days) making sure your paint is mixed well. Consistent paint viscosity is a key aspect of getting good paint coverage of a model. Mix up your paints faster and more reliably with a motorized model paint mixer or shaker.
Proper paint viscosity is so important for enjoyable painting!
Every second you spend in each step of your painting workflow is valuable. Automate some of your work, just like the Masters did in the past with apprentices. It was the apprentice’s task to assist the artist in the preparation of materials, and often they did the less important and quite tedious aspects of a painting. Check out the robotic “apprentices” below.
Here are the top 5 best paint mixers and shakers for model paints:
These are high value paint shakers that will do the job of mixing and shaking your separated hobby paints. Over time, acrylic model paints tend to separate in the bottle, if left lying around for a while. When pigment (solid particles of color) and polymer binder (a colorless liquid) separate, you can’t use either at all for painting anything. These hobby paint mixers will shake and mix those elements back together so you can get going quick!
1. Robart Hobby Paint Shaker
The Robart Hobby Paint Shaker is an affordable, effective desktop model paint mixer. At first glance, this seems to be expensive, but it is my absolute first choice if I had to just choose one. As a commissioned painter I have a lot of model paints in my collection. Some of the paint colors sit around for a long time and the pigments end up settling at the bottom of the bottle.
Note that I’ve only tried the AC-powered version of this shaker. There is a battery-powered version of this shaker. But I can assume that because of its regular use the extra resources of replacing/charging batteries would be an unnecessary drain for something that isn’t mean to be portable anyway.
The Robart Hobby Paint Shaker is simple. It has a motor that drives a reciprocating platform where you place the paint bottle. The rubber band straps the bottle in places securely. When you press the button the motor turns on and shakes the platform with the paint bottle. After 30-60 seconds, all of my paints, even the thicker brands, are homogenous liquids again.
My only concern is the durability of the motor, which is not heavy duty. So, don’t leave the motor running on this shaker for longer than 5 minutes at a time. It’ll burn it out (which I thankfully have not done yet). Also, the rubber band that holds the paint bottle will need to be replaced eventually. These are sold on Amazon. Note that even after a full year of using this shaker, I have not had any trouble with this model paint shaker.
2. Nail Polish Shaker Mixer
The Siusio Nail Polish Shaker Mixer is about $26. I purchased this off Amazon a few years ago, thinking this would also work for miniature paints. In many respects, it functions similarly to the Robart Hobby Paint Shaker. The cool part about nail polish shakers is how common they are, with a huge variety for sale. Of course, the Siusio is just one of many you can use as a hobby paint shaker.
The Nail Polish Shaker and Mixer has a much smaller footprint than the Robart Hobby Paint Shaker. For miniature painters like myself who have limited desk space to work, saving space is great.
The Nail Polish Shaker Mixer works through either an AC power cord or AA batteries. In either mode, the motor drives the same kind of platform as the Robart Hobby Shaker, although I found the rubber bands to be less versatile around some of the bigger bottles of paint I had.
It broke. The motor stopped working after a few weeks. If it wasn’t almost half the cost of the Robart Hobby Paint Shaker, I might have tried to have gotten a refund.
But, then again, I was tasking it for mixing much heavier and larger bottles of acrylic miniature paint. Either way, the nail polish shaking mixer systems all seem to have less powerful motors and therefore required longer “on” duty times. This might have contributed to this product’s quick demise.
When this shaker did work, it tended to bounce around on the table. It doesn’t have the weight to counter-balance the vibration of shaking acrylic miniature paint bottles. If you do consider purchasing these nail polish shakers, just realize they aren’t designed for mixing the heavier pigments and mediums we used in miniature painting.
3. LabGenius Mini Vortex Mixer
The LabGenius Mini Vortex Mixer is the most expensive of the hobby paint mixer products I’ve tested. This mixer system is used in laboratories to mix reagents in small plastic tubes quickly and without the need for using a switch. Just press a bottle or tube down on the top of the device and the motor will engage and “vortex” or spin the liquid contents at high-speed. The heavy duty operation of the mini vortexer also lets you mix many bottles of paint one after the other. The vortex won’t quit on you.
This LabGenius Mini Vortex Mixer is the ideal model hobby paint mixer for any serious hobbyist. If it weren’t for its price, I would totally get this over the Robart Hobby Paint Mixer, and consider this the best mixer you can buy for mixing miniature paint.
This thing packs a punch. As a model paint shaker, these desktop this mini vortex paint mixer will take the most stubborn paint you have and mix the crap out of those pigments. In a few seconds, it’ll spin all the fluid inside any shaped bottle into a colorful smoothie that is every painter’s dream. The motor is powerful and torquey and inspires confidence that in a few seconds all of the paint will be mixed properly.
All you have to do to operate the LabGenius Mixer is place the paint bottle on the top of the device, press down firmly on the bottle, and the motor will “vortex” the liquid inside automatically. Although the system uses an AC power system, the whole device takes up very little space. The footprint is barely the diameter of my water mug/pot that I use to rinse brushes.
This mixer is expensive. It also tends to harder to operate with the Citadel bottles, which have friction caps. When the “vortex” motor engages, the torque of the spinning has shaken loose some of the covers of these paint bottles, if I’m not prepared for it.
So I generally have to be careful otherwise all the inside stuff…well, goes outside. I have had no problems shaking other types of bottles with screw caps, but I would just forewarn anyone who have a lot of Citadel paint bottles that need mixing (especially the taller, double-sized ones).
4. Electric Tattoo Ink Mixer Agitator Machine (Hand Held)
The Electric Tattoo Ink Mixer is sold for around $12. I found this mixer (or powered mini paint stirrer) before any of the shakers. It is inexpensive and works well as a model paint stirrer for hobbyists. If you’re on a tight budget, I would recommend using this for your miniature paint stirring needs. Much better than toothpicks or those wooden sticks you get at the coffee shop.
Inexpensive and functional. You merely attach the disposable tips into the mixer, insert into your paint bottle or pot, press a button, and the agitating tips mixes your paint. The neat part is that the tips don’t necessarily need to be cleaned.
You can toss them out or use a single tip for each color you’re mixing. Interestingly, this stirrer worked best for mixing model paint or washes that were already in the wells of a palette (not in the bottle).
The disposable tips are an ongoing cost due to the need to replace them, unless you plan to clean the tips for re-use. Also, I found the mixing/agitating tips a bit short for the taller bottles of paint. After inserting them into the bottle, they only work well if they can reach the settled pigments on the bottom. To reach the bottom of the taller Badger paint bottles, for example, I had to tilt the bottles sideways, which wasn’t a very effective approach anyway.
Additionally, because of the need to insert the tips into paint bottles, there was the 1) the risk of spillage and 2) wasted paint (due to residual paint stuck to the mixing tips).
5. Badger Air-Brush Co. 121 Paint Mixer
The Badger Paint Mixer was my first model “mixer” purchase since I began my miniature painting hobby. It reminded me of an electric hand blender, and I’m sure I’m not too far from that concept. Marketed as an airbrush paint mixer, to help you mix thinned paint media for airbrushing, I found this useful for normal day to day paint stirring in my ceramic well palettes.
It operates by inserting a rotating metal rod with a mixing-tip into the paint-of-choice. A button starts the motor that spins the mixing rod, which effectively “blends” the paint. An alternative option to the Badger Paint Mixer is the Cordless Mixer for Model Paints (Micromark).
I’m sure there are cheaper off-brand products that have a similar function. I went with the Badger paint mixer, because of the company’s reputation of excellent quality control. This mixer never failed to operate in the 3 years I had it.
The Badger paint mixer uses two AA batteries, so it is a very portable device and is about the same size as an electric toothbrush. The mixing rod is thin enough to fit into any bottle of acrylic miniature paint. The tip actually spins at a high speed, but the shape of the “blending blades” (as I call it) keeps the paint mixing without making bubbles or splashing.
The stirring rod needs to be inserted into paint bottles, which can end up wasting a lot of paint as it is removed. Additionally, because of the shape of the stirring tip, shallow pools of paints won’t mix well. It works best in deeper liquid when the tip can be fully submerged.
The rod needs to be cleaned after each use, which can be another time sink (we want products to save us time). Because the mixer doesn’t have a variable speed, the blending tip can only spin fast. If a bottle is shallow, it can cause a bit of splashing if you’re not careful. The Badger paint mixer also tends to torque up quickly. In the rare occasion, I have actually lost control of the entire bottle with the tip stuck in the thicker viscous pigment that had settled into a goo-substance at the bottom.
Overall, this mixer might be a bit too much power for your typical separated bottle of paint. It is better suited for the most stubborn separated paints you might have left unused for too long.
What to look for in a good model paint mixer or shaker:
- Battery or wired power
Everyone who has a dedicated hobby area has limited space. Your desk, workbench, or tabletop only has so much room for your stuff.
The best model paint mixers should be small enough to stay in the same place on your desk. In fact, I think you’ll find having a dedicated place for your model paint mixer or shaker will be really convenient.
You’re going to be using the mixer a lot!
Make sure the model paint mixer you buy can fit in a dedicated a spot on your desk, where you don’t need to move it.
You will use your mixer a lot! You may think that you won’t need to use it for every pot, but for a hobby that will take you into the future, the machine needs to last.
The most reliable paint mixing machines are those that don’t require frequent maintenance to function. Simple is better. With care, such tools last a really, really long time.
The best model paint mixers won’t break on you with long-term use. Of all the systems here, the nail polish mixer shaker might be something you want to be a tad more careful with. On the bright side, it’s inexpensive and gets the job done!
The mini vortex mixer is probably the best mixer of the bunch (maybe across all the potential tools out there right now for homogenizing craft and hobby paint). But, you do pay more (see below).
Battery or wired power
At first glance, you may be inclined to purchase a wired machine for your hobby paint mixing needs. But, consider the possibility of space and portability.
Are you going to be moving to a different hobby space on a fairly regular basis? Do you travel to conventions where you expect to paint or work with models?
A battery powered mixer or shaker (the Robart Hobby Paint Shaker has a battery powered version, too) has a valuable convenience factor.
You may not think this is an important consideration for purchasing a hobby paint mixer, but if you’re limited in space, travel, or just want to move your tool around without looking for an outlet, consider battery power!
Finally, consider power output. In general, all of these mixers are great for the entire range of miniature hobby paints, including the larger P3 paint pots and some of the smaller Vallejo Surface Primer bottles.
If you are looking to mix larger paints or art mediums (such as matte varnishes, that do require some stirring before use), consider wired mixing systems.
More powerful mixers such as the Etsy or eBay only purchased Typhoon Vortex Mixer (see here for Typhoon Paint Mixer substitutes), will certainly do a great job mixing paint for any hobby project of nearly any size.
Well, of course!
Pay for the quality you need.
This is the advice I have for you. When it comes to most hobby equipment, you usually pay for what you get.
It is not different for model paint mixers and shakers. More money is more better.
For myself, I’ve taken the middle ground with the Robart Hobby Paint Shaker. If you’re looking for something less robust or require less frequent usage and need to save a few dollars, consider the other mixers on the list.
The mini vortex model paint mixer rivals the best, more powerful systems.
Final Recommendation for Hobby Paint Mixers and Shakers
If you didn’t read everything above, the Robart Hobby Paint Shaker is the system that I recommend for those on a budget. It is the hobby paint shaker I used frequently in the early days of my miniature painting hobby. Any hobby shaker like the Robart Hobby Shaker will increase your miniature painting efficiency, saving time and frustration with separated paint.
Painting board game miniatures and dealing with pesky craft paints? The Robart Hobby Paint Shaker can handle most any size bottle, and can mix even the most stubborn paints (looking at you Scale 75!) within a 30 seconds to 1 minute. I have had no issues with a motor failure in the years I used mine, and the whole shaker takes up only a few square inches on my desk (~6×6 inches).
For more powerful hobby paint mixers, check out my review of other vortex model paint mixers.
Here are non-motorized, low cost tools to help you mix and stir paint
- HUBEST Paint Stirrer & Paint Tray – a tool stirring tool and palette to mix paint in is pretty simple and straightforward.
- Army Painter Paint Mixing Balls – drop these tiny balls into a bottle or pot of paint to help you stir up and agitate paint pigment. Add these to model paints and use a motorized mixer to really shake things up.