Monday, June 24, 2013

Mini Monday: Primers, which do you use?

What kind of primer do you use and would recommend?

I use spray primers. Though I've heard the paint-on primers work, I just don't have the patience to deal with them, as I already get a little annoyed having to paint in crevices and other spots I missed with a spray-on primer.

I've been using Games Workshop's Chaos Black since I started painting miniatures. It works well, laying on an even coat. It even works in high humidity, though I've avoided using it in warm temperatures. For those who don't know, using primer when the air is warm and humid causes a "fuzzy" or "grainy" effect. Overall, GW's Chaos Black (and white) works. The downside (as usual when dealing with GW) is the price ($16+ per can)

Price hasn't stopped me in the past, but since I no longer wish to support Games Workshop, I'm looking for other alternatives.

My next choice will be The Army Painter's black primer. I've used their other color primers and have had no problems, but those were for what's called the "The Army Painter Method." That's where you spray on the dominant color of your miniature, paint on the details, and then dip the miniature in the Army Painter's varnish. The primer is also cheaper, around $11 per can, opposed to Games Workshop's $16+ per can. I also really enjoy the Army Painter's tutorials--they actually show you how to use their products.

I've never used "non-gamer" primers, such as Krylon and the like. They are usually cheaper--around $8 per can. I've heard they work okay, but never have I experimented with them.

There is one primer, by a company called Armory, that I recommend you avoid using. You can tell them by their Munchkin-like characters on the side. While I'm using up for trying something once, I've read too many bad reviews, (like this one and this one and these), for Armory primer. Apparently, it has lots of quality control issues--likes to go "fuzzy" or "grainy." People have been lured by the cheapness of the product (around $5-6 per can), but end up having all kinds of issues.

Yet when it works, it works well. But why bother risking your miniatures with such low odds?

So what primers have you used? Which ones do you recommend?


  1. Here is what I use:

    White - Rustoleum Painter's Touch Sandable Primer #1981
    Gray - Rustoleum Painter's Touch Sandable Primer #1980
    Black - either Varsity Fast Drying Primer P-1147
    Brite Touch General Purpose Primer BT50

    I don't use them in high-humidity situations, but given sufficient shaking and an even hand, they prime well and take paint well. I'm painting for tabletop, not competition, but I can't see any difference between these primers and the "better" primers I've tried a couple times. Aside from the ones I use now being cheaper.

    1. Thank you for the suggestions.

      I usually prime black. Is there any difference between the Varsity black or the Brite black?

  2. I'll second the recommendation against Armory. I used to use plain old Krylon and, like you say, it worked well enough.

    These days I've switched to brush-on. No need to worry about humidity, temperature, or toxic fumes! I use artist's gesso. You can get it in white or black. The advantage is that you can pretty much just glob it on (no need to dilute--in fact, you shouldn't!) and, as it dries, it shrinks and effectively encases your mini in a heavy-duty seal. It's even got a small bit of tooth to it, so paint goes on really well. (That's what gesso is designed for, after all.)

    I've found that the slight increase in time it takes to brush on gesso as opposed to spraying primer is more than made up for by the significant gains in convenience and predictability. The only downside, really, is that you need to let the gesso cure for 24 hours after you apply it or else it will powder off as you handle the mini. But then, you should really let any primer cure for 24 hours, so it just encourages good practices, I suppose.

    (Oh, and it's waaaaaaay cheaper than GW and cheaper than any spray bottle by volume.)

    1. Thanks for the link.

      I'll have to look into gesso in the future. I wish I knew about gesso back during my college dorm days and later when I lived in an apartment with no good place to use spray-on primer.

  3. I second the gesso recommendation. When I factor in the time doing those touch-ups after spraying, it feels like it comes out close enough to even for my counts.

    When I do use spray, I like Krylon. And, since I do a lot of plastics, I use their Fusion for plastics line. I haven't had luck with other non-hobby brand sprays with plastic, even if they were explicitly labeled for such.


    1. Thank you for the recommendation. Perhaps Krylon Fusion for plastics and another primer for metal might be the answer.

  4. I used to use Games Workshop primer years ago, then I used cheap Walmart stuff. I then went back to using better primer. I currently use Army Painter. I was turned onto them by the Matt Varnish from the Terrain Scapes videos and haven't looked back. The price is better than Games Workshop and I feel the primers and the varnishes work just as good if not better.

    1. I've used the Army Painter color primers for a handful of miniature projects in the past year. I've just yet to use their black primer.

      As always, I just like having more tools in my tool box, so to speak.

  5. I tried the Rustoleum black spraypaint but wasn't totally happy with the finish. I often dried with more of a satin finish than a proper full matt. Plus I found that spraying always seemed to leave "shadows" that I had to touch up by hand anyway. So now I just hand paint with a relatively wide brush (3/8" or 1/2"). I'm not in a hurry so the time factor isn't a problem for me. Never heard of Army Painter before so maybe I'll give it a try.

    1. The Army Painter primers I've used--Desert Yellow and Platemail Metal--worked well for me. As I've said to Warren, I've just yet to use black.

      If you have lots of miniatures for an army to paint, and you're not worried about winning competitions, "The Army Painter method" is the way to go, in my opinion.


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