Paint Agitator Balls? Stainless Steel, Hematite, Glass?

Best Agitator Material for Acrylic Paints?

  • Recently I've happened upon a good deal for some Vallejo paint sets - the US "regular" set, and the WWII allies set. The WWII allies set has some surprisingly vibrant greens that I plan to use for a model in the very near future, but I can tell that they need to be shaken up pretty well, and I'd like to get some agitators in each of the bottles.

    I've been doing research on the recommended materials, and the most recommended is the stainless steel balls. I see that Army Painter sells sets of these, but I understand there's a chance (especially for cheaper sets of them) that the "stainless" is a lie and that you have to test them with magnets before you use them as agitators. This is an option for me, since I'm probably going to have to obtain magnets for my mini bases anyway.

    Another popular option that I'm seeing a lot is hematite beads. They work well and are guaranteed not to rust, but apparently they are magnetic in and of themselves, and can pull the metallic components out of paints. I have some metallics and am planning to get more in the future, so I'd rather just buy one big set of these that I can use for all of my paints, rather than having to pick and choose.

    The option I'm most interested in is glass, which is pretty affordable, won't interact with any of my acrylics, and (of course) won't rust. My only concern is that tons of shaking might break down the glass balls and disperse glass bits throughout the paint. Is this an unreasonable concern? They'd just be bouncing against the plastic, after all. If anyone has experience using glass agitators let me know your results.

    I even saw a Youtube video recommending small rocks from outside as agitators - but I'm even more afraid of these breaking down than the glass balls.

    If anyone has any input on this subject, it is greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance for your help.

  • I have used Army Painter stainless steel balls as paint agitators for years. They are great and I have never had any trouble.

  • I use stainless steel agitators but only have been using them a little over a year. So far, no trouble but I have heard the same things you have so this is an interesting thread.

  • Never thought to look up agitators specifically; I just used lead fishing weights (maybe don't lick your minis after painting them if you go this route, tempting though it may be...).

  • Not sure how magnets are supposed to test steel for being stainless. All iron alloys are succeptible to rust, just to varying degrees, and all (at least all normal widespread) iron alloys attract a magnet. Considering how many people use steel balls, I'd assume the medium in acrylic paints does not cause oxidization in iron, so there's gotta be something else going on... maybe some users pre-thin or stretch paints with water?

  • @Blutze "Not sure how magnets are supposed to test steel for being stainless" - stainless steel is not always magnetic.

    From that page (which is a bit high-forehead for general use, I suspect . . . :) ) "If the alloy has an austenitic crystal structure, then it’s not magnetic."

    I literally just dropped the last of my stainless steel agitators into a paint pot, so I can't check mine :)

  • Using stainless steel agitators from Army Painters.. no trouble about so far. 

    But since I am lazy, I do steal marbles or other small glass balls from wife's jewellery crafting stocks (as along as she's unaware about...)

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