Vallejo/Citadel/Army Painter are good paints, but their price matches the quality. Applebarrel et al. are a lot cheaper, but I've been told that they are thick and low pigment load. Anybody have success stories with these paints?
I will let you know, as I bought a bunch for my Daemons. They're cheap enough that the whole color scheme costs less than a pot of Citadel paints, so if it sucks, I'm not out much. Speaking from a 'have not actually painted anything, ever' perspective, Citadel washes are cheaper by volume than Testors, and there are specific things like some metallics that are hard to get at the craft paint level.
Two Bats Gaming did a couple of videos contrasting cheap paints with mini paints:
It’s cheap, which means it had a lot of fillers and less pigment in it than quality paints do. It doesn’t cover well or mix well. It takes way too much work to make it work. Art materials should not be a struggle to use.
If you want paint that is less expensive than miniatures paint, I recommend any of several professional quality artists’ acrylic paints which come in fluid form with a matte finish. You can usually get a good sized bottle of a heavily pigment-loaded single pigment paint for about half of what miniatures paint works out to, ounce for ounce.