🎨 Paints

Updated at 2021-02-13 12:26

TL;DR: All models should be primed. I prefer black or dark grey.

Primer is a paint used to form a uniform layer on top of a surface to paint on top of.

Which color primer to use?

  • Dark primers are easy to use as they act as a natural shadow in the crevices for miniature models. But painting bright colors on top of that will require a lot of layers.
  • Light primer are good as they make bright colors more vibrant. But missing a spot will shine like the sun. Light bony-tan is also nice as it brings more warmth.
  • Colored primers are excellent for speed painting. Prime with the primary color, basecoat different colored areas, wash, highlight, done. Just make sure you have that primer color paint available for cleanup though.

To get the best of both worlds, you can first prime the model black or dark grey and then spray some light grey or white from the top to form the undercoat.

Primer is a different concept than undercoat. When you apply a primer, you automatically get an undercoat of a solid color, but you can further enhance the undercoat with other paints. Read more from the painting technique notes.

Avoid pure white primers. White pigments are notoriously chalky, so you will find it harder to create a thin coat. Prefer grey, cream and tan primers instead and apply a zenithal highlight using white ink. White primer can also desaturate upcoming layers.

Watch out for over-priming. It doesn't matter if there are tiny parts missing full coverage. Even a thin semi-transparent layer is enough for a primer in most cases. Over-priming will cover model details.

Undercoat color choice is very important in becoming efficient with Contrast paints. If your color scheme mostly uses warm colors like red, orange or brown; use tan like Citadel Wraithbone or Vallejo Desert Tan Primer. If you mainly use cool colors like blue, green and purple; use a grey primer like Citadel Grey Seer or Vallejo USN Light Ghost Grey Primer. If you use dark primers with Contrast paints or other heavy glazes, note that the dark undercoat will drastically change how the paint will look e.g. red glaze on a black primer is more like a brown than red.

Vallejo "Wraithbone" = 
* Vallejo Desert Tan Primer is a close match but more saturated yellow,
  for a better match: 1 part Vallejo Desert Tan, 2 parts Vallejo Grey.
* Vallejo Skeleton Bone Primer could be closer out of the bottle but don't have that.

Vallejo "Grey Seer"  =
* Vallejo USN Light Ghost Grey Primer is a pretty exact match, I don't bother tuning it.
  * The Vallejo Ghost Grey is slightly more blue; but that is a good thing as adds cool.
* Vallejo Grey Primer is a close match but it's more like Citadel Corax White,
  for a better match: Vallejo Grey Primer with a teeny tiny sub-20th part Vallejo Black.
  * Or 20 parts Vallejo White, 1 parts Vallejo Black.

Hardware stores have a lot of cheap, excellent primers. You should primarily look for matte primers, not satin or glossy. Matte surface makes the paint stick to where it's applied, which is usually what you want when basecoating (the step after priming). But, if you plan on doing some basecoating with Citadel Contrast paints, slight satin might help to make the paint flow more naturally. But full on gloss primers are not that useful.

Vallejo Surface Primer is a thin but sturdy airbrush primer I like. It can also be brushed on, but it's quite runny straight out of the bottle.

Make sure your miniatures are clean, and you've removed any imperfections before priming. Mold lines are more tedious to fix later and a dirty surface can create annoying anomalies on the surface. I usually clean assembled models with an old toothbrush and very slightly soapy water. Just remember to let them dry.

To apply primer with a spray can:

  1. Keep the miniatures at least 5 cm apart. If the models are too close to each other, you will pool paint because your spray is partially hitting on multiple targets. Another approach is to use a rubber glove and hold the models individually
  2. Warm the spray can in warm tap water.
  3. Shake the can for 2 minutes or so.
  4. Maintain around 25 cm distance to your model to avoid pooling paint.
  5. Point the spray away from the model, press the button, swipe across the model and release the button when off the model. This is to avoid high velocity splatter.
  6. To avoid clogging while in storage, hold the spray can upside down and spray until only gas comes out. Just a second or two.

To apply airbrush-ready primers with an airbrush:

  1. Tune your air compressor to about 20PSI pressure.
  2. Given the primer bottle a good shake.
  3. Add a dash of primer to your airbrush cup.
  4. No need to thin it, but can if it looks too thick.
  5. Try on paper.
  6. Apply on models around 25 cm far away (!!!) in small bursts.
  7. Always start airflow off the model, and end airflow off the model.
  8. Two thin coats should be enough.