Just over a year ago, I purchased the Four E’s mini vortex paint mixer and have been using it since then to test it. Here’s how I got on.
I’d read about the Four E’s paint mixer elsewhere and it seemed a handy little device that could make mixing paints far less tiring.
But it’s expensive compared to others and I wondered if it really was worth it. Was it really better than the budget alternatives? I’ve put it through its paces against three other electronic mixers for over 150 hours and mixed more than 200 dropper bottles and tinlets from Vallejo, Citadel, Army Painter, Humbrol, and Ammo amongst others.
What are vortex mixers?
Vortex mixers are a common tool in bioscience labs, where they are used to mix samples within test tubes. They’re also popular amongst model painters for mixing paints.
They typically comprise a soft cup, usually made of silicon, into which test tubes and paint bottles are pressed. Doing so activates a motor that spins at high revolutions, the spinning and vibrating action of this is transferred to the bottle contents causing the fluid to spin. Spinning the liquid in the confines of the bottle creates a vortex, mixing the fluid.
In the case of paint, this mixes the pigments, binders, and solvents of the paint to get a blend that covers well with consistent colour.
Other mixing methods?
You can of course shake dropper bottles by hand which is what I’ve done previously. The problem with this is threefold.
First, is consistency. When shaking my hand you can never be sure the pigments have been sufficiently mixed with the binder and solvent. When dipping the brush into the paint, you can’t be sure one brush load will have the same blend as the next or give the same coverage.
Additionally, if the paint has been left unused for some time the pigment and binder may separate and more shaking will be required but it’s not always easy to get the paint back to a consistent mix. Putting small ball bearings into bottles can help but you still can’t be sure.
Lastly is time and effort. For unused paints, it can take vigorous shaking and if you’ve got a lot of paints as I have you can end up spending more time shaking bottles at the start of a session than actually painting.
There are also powered whisk-style mixers, the most well-known of which are Badger and Micromark. I’ve been using one of these alongside the vortex-style mixers. These are okay but I find they don’t mix as thoroughly and can be messy (the paint drips from the mixing head as I remove it from the pot and I don’t have three hands to hold the paint pot, mixer and paper towel at once).
Vortex mixers promise to address all these problems. Spinning at several thousand RPM, they’re much quicker than hand shaking while the vortex action they produce ensures a thorough consistent mix every time.
They’re particularly effective on thicker, heavier, viscosity paints too.
That’s the theory at least. How well they work in reality depends on the quality of the manufacturer and the materials used. We’re all familiar with cheaply produced electrical goods passed off as quality but which quickly break.
One budget vortex mixer I purchased lasted just 3 months before the motor packed up. On examination, the electrical connections had worked loose under the stress of the vibration.
After a year of use of the Four Es mini mixer, regular readers will have seen it in the background of my photos of my workbench in articles over the year, it’s not just survived but surpassed my expectations.
Efficient, Effective, Mixing for Model Paints
The Four E’s Mini Vortex Paint Mixer is a compact and powerful device that makes mixing small amounts of paint a breeze. With a 5000rpm motor and a 10mm diameter receptacle suitable for bottles up to 50ml, it can quickly and thoroughly blend paints, pigments, washes and other fluids.
The 10mm mixing cup in silicon cap is well suited for common model and miniatures paints, It’s particularly useful for model paints. I’ve used acrylics from Citadel, Vallejo, and Army Painter. but also enamels from Humbrol and metallics from Humbrol and Revel. It’s particularly effective which can be difficult to mix by hand due to its high pigment density.
Overall, it mixed paint well making it easier to achieve the desired colour and consistency for my models.
Easy to use, convenient, and compact
Admittedly, there’s not a lot to using these mixes. Simply hold the paint bottle in the cup and press it down to activate the mixer. The vortex action kicks in and mixes the paint in 5 to 10 seconds.
What I liked about the Four E’s model however is that it didn’t move around the worktop when in operation. It has a weighted base and feet that hold it in place, there’s no drifting around as happens with the cheaper non-branded mixers. This doesn’t sound like a major issue but you only need the power cable catching and knocking over a paint or glue bottle once as it moves around to appreciate the value of this stability.
Worktop real estate is always an issue for me. I’m lucky enough to have a dedicated space for my modelling but space is still an issue. My shed/studio has a worktop for power tools (desktop sander, drill press, air fryer for polymer clay, hot wire cutter, airbrush compressor, etc.), a bench where my layouts are built/operator and an L-shaped worktop where I make and paint. I spend the majority of my time at this last bench, which is invariably covered in bits of models, paint pots, electrical equipment, and tools, making it my primary working space.
At just under 4 inches (100mm) in diameter and 3 inches (78mm) high, the Four E’s can fit in a corner here, close to hand when I need it, but without taking up unnecessary space.
Over the year plus that I’ve been using it, there haven’t been any major issues. There are a few niggles, however.
For starters, the power cable is a bit short and has an adapter a few inches from the plug. I’m not sure why this is needed but when the lead is pulled, which tends to happen given the cable is short, this adapter pulls apart. A minor frustration but it’s happened enough to warrant mentioning.
Secondly, as mentioned, the unit has a really solid feel to it and feet that keep it in place while being used but this also results in the vibration being transferred to your hand/arm. There are risks associated with prolonged hand and arm vibration when using heavy machinery and while the Four E’s mixer doesn’t fall into this camp, it’s probably wise not to use it for prolonged periods. It’s unlikely to be the case given it only takes 5 seconds to mix a bottle but it’s worth noting and another health risk to consider when model making.
Overall, the Four E’s Mini Vortex Paint Mixer performed well over the year and during tests. It’s an effective and efficient tool that makes paint mixing for model making and other hobbies a breeze and has outlasted another cheaper vortex mixer, justifying the increased cost. Recommended.
Have you tried the Mini Vortex Paint Mixer? What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments below!
Full disclosure: The reviews I share here come from hands-on experience establised over many decades of making and building models and model railways. I personally test each product, often for weeks or months, before writing about it. For this review, I purchased the product myself at the regular price, and the seller had no idea it would end up featured here. No special treatment or behind-the-scenes deals – just honest feedback on my experiences of using this product.
Andy is a lifelong modeler, writer, and founder of modelrailwayengineer.com. He has been building model railways, dioramas, and miniatures for over 20 years. His passion for model making and railways began when he was a child, building his first layout at the age of seven.
Andy’s particular passion is making scenery and structures in 4mm scale, which he sells commercially. He is particularly interested in modelling the railways of South West England during the late Victorian/early Edwardian era, although he also enjoys making sci-fi and fantasy figures and dioramas. His website has won several awards, and he is a member of MERG (Model Railway Electronics Group) and the 009 Society.
When not making models, Andy lives in Surrey with his wife and teenage son. Other interests include history, science fiction, photography, and programming. Read more about Andy.