best primer for miniatures

How to Prime a Miniature – Guide with Tutorial

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Are you a model painter and searching for the best primer for plastic and primer for miniatures? When looking for a miniature primer, the most important thing to consider is the type of surface material you will be working on. You get primers that work better on metals and others that work on plastics. In general, a primer does the same job as a preliminary coat on all materials whether it is metal, plastic, or resin. The main purpose is to help inhibit the absorption of the paint layers that follow. Also, a model primer can help with evening out the surface before applying the paint layers.



What is a Miniature Primer?

Any primer including model primer is an essential base from which to work when it comes to all kinds of painting. If you do not primer your base, it will cause problems down the line. There are a variety of miniature primer products available including:

  • Badger paints
  • P3
  • Master Reaper Series
  • Scale 75
  • Citadel

You do not have to go out and purchase all these primers but having a few around is a good idea.

When there is such a variety of paints for models and miniatures, maybe you are thinking of skipping the primer altogether. But applying a primer is an important step not to be left out, as it provides a necessary coat to the unpainted surface. The primer then provides the perfect surface for your paint. You can be painting on metal, resin, or plastic models, it does not matter, as a coat of primer provides a general surface to paint on.

Do you deal with make-up? Then you know how important a primer is, it is the layer on the skin that prevents any make-up from being taken up into the skin. Primers are also great in smoothing out surfaces, creating a much neater and professional look. The primer prepares the surface so you can boldly apply your make-up, or acrylic paint and have control on the result.

miniature primer

So, in summary, the best primer for miniatures gives you a stable base on which to work so you can create your finest piece.



The best Primer for Plastic and Metal Models

The best primer for plastic models is mostly sprayed on, the models being around 28mm-35mm. In most cases, you can use any primer on larger models, as we will discuss further on. Again, the miniature primer is there to add a coat, which prepares the surfaces for the paint.

When it comes to details on your models, you do not want to conceal them. So, when you do add Miniature primer, it should be in extremely thin layers. The primer for miniatures will slowly coat the surface of any corners or finer details. You will therefore be looking for the best primer to use on plastic, one that can be applied in thin layers.

The best primer to use on plastic is an airbrush primer, as the spray will reach most angles of your miniature. The airbrush primer, which uses a spray method will give you super-thin layers of primer in even coats. You can use a brush-on primer, mostly for a specific application, but an airbrush primer should be your number one choice.


Reasons you should use a Miniature Primer

There are two main reasons you should use a primer for your miniatures and models.

  • The primer gives you an undertone on which to apply your colors.
  • Primer bonds the paint onto the surface of your miniature.


Miniature Primer helps Acrylic Paint adhere to the Surface

When it comes to acrylic paint, it does not stick to metals, plastic, or resin very well. Primer, on the other hand, does adhere to these surfaces and provides a layer onto which paint can cling to. If you do not add primer, you will see the paint flaking off.

You can also use too much primer, which can cause:

  • An extremely smooth, plastic-like surface, which the paint will not stick to properly.
  • You can wipe out the finer details of your miniature. Using less primer will give you better-defined details.

You should select your primer according to the colors you are going to use. Darker colors need a darker primer, while lighter colors need a light primer. So, you can get primers ranging from black to gray and white. Gray being the most commonly used, while the white primer is great for brighter more vibrant colors. For example, if you choose not to use a light primer, you will notice that your miniature looks a bit dull.


Primer helps with Scratches and minor Flaws

One of the major benefits of a primer, is to create an even surface by filling in minor cracks and scratches. This is perfect for miniatures as they can get a little damaged from use. This primer feature works best on other applications such as for vehicle surfaces.

best primer for plastic

Most miniatures have fine details and corner surfaces, especially the better-quality items. You will need a superior primer to thinly coat these surfaces, ensuring the details remain as they are.


Primer for Miniatures offers a Color Base

A primer is made as a base application and has its own color, which you can use to enhance the look of your item. The more popular colors of primer include white, gray, and black but you can also get a primer in a variety of colors.

The painting process is really up to each person. Many ardent hobby painters use white, while others avoid using it. Some say gray is the perfect middle color to use, while again, others do not like to use it at all.


Using less Primer offers more precise Detail

When you apply too much primer, it tends to cover up the details by filling fine lines and rounding edges. If you have purchased a miniature specifically for its delicate details, you do not want to ruin it by coating it in a thick layer of primer.

When do you know enough is enough when it comes to miniature primer? Once your metal miniature item has been cleaned, it should have a shiny surface. This is also the case with plastic and resin miniatures. Take your spray primer and apply in a well-ventilated room or outside where there is plenty of good light.

Your primer usually provides a matte look that is not glossy. Hold your miniature about a foot away from you and using the spray can spray in short bursts. A thin layer should cover the entire miniature, just enough to take away the shine. Allow to dry, it should now have a completely matte look.  


Cleaning your Miniature

As mentioned, it is important to clean your miniature thoroughly before applying primer. When miniatures are created from a mold, before you place the resin, plastic or liquid metal into the mold, a mold release spray is applied to the mold.

This release spray helps remove the mold from around the miniature more easily. The mold-release spray acts like a lubricant, which keeps the miniature from sticking to the mold. Unfortunately, a layer of this release lubricant is left on the surface of your miniature or casting.

The lubricant does its job for the mold, but it does make it difficult for any primer or paint to be applied to the surface afterwards. This is why it is important to clean your miniature or model before applying primer. The cleaning process is simple, wash with some soapy water, so it is not difficult and there is no excuse to skip this step.



How to apply your Miniature Primer

The main objective is to apply primer smoothly and evenly and this can be done in many ways. You are looking to apply the thinnest layer possible so as not to hide any details and the different methods provide varied results.


Airbrush Primer

Using an airbrush is the quickest and best way to apply primer. You can easily get even and thin layers that will not bubble. Many of the primers are sold ready to use and can be used by your average airbrush, which provides 25 psi to 30 psi.

When the nozzle of the airbrush is 0.3 mm or less, you will want to thin the primer. This is also the case with a brush-on primer, which tends to have a thicker consistency. You will be looking to get a consistency similar to that of milk. To thin the primer, simply add water or some airbrush thinner. Use 1-part water or thinner to 1 to 3 parts primer.

airbrush primer


Using an Aerosol Spray

You can purchase primer in a spray can, which can be general primers, industrial, or primers specifically made for miniatures. The benefit of industrial primer is that it comes in larger quantities and costs less.

When compared to an airbrush, an aerosol spray does not spray as fine, and some of the more low-cost products may leave a rough surface. Industrial primers can easily be sanded down and made smooth, which is not the case for your primers specifically made for miniatures.

Since the aerosol primers have these disadvantages, it is best to use them on larger surfaces and miniatures that do not have too many details. However, these primers are cheaper when it comes to covering a larger area.

As mentioned, the spray from the aerosol primers is not as fine as from an airbrush. So, to save primer, try and coat as many as several pieces at a time.


Brush-on Primer for Miniatures

In many cases, you might not be able to use an airbrush or aerosol primer. You need to have a well-ventilated space, enough room to spray and safety equipment. You might live in a place where it is humid or cold, or maybe you only have a small space to work in. In this case, you can use a paintbrush to apply your primer.

Many even prefer to use a paintbrush, but it does take a bit of practice to develop the skill. When using a brush, the primer layer will be ticker. You will have to have patience and take your time when doing this. The best brush to use for applying primer is a flat-headed paintbrush.

miniature painting set



Tips for applying Primer to Miniatures

Sometimes you just need a few tips to help you get good quality results.

  • When it comes to bad weather, high humidity or extremely cold, and you are using a rattle spray can be aware that the results might not be all that good.
  • Be patient, the primer must dry properly. Wait for at least 30-minutes before you move on.
  • Apply thin layers to your miniature, thick layers will just destroy the fine details and shape.
  • Always apply your primer a distance away if you are using an airbrush or aerosol can. If you spray too close, you may get a splattering effect on the primer as the spray presses into the primer. Spray at least 6-inches away from your miniature and use short bursts to cover the surface.
  • Remember to clean and prepare your miniature before applying the primer. Use some water and soap with either a cloth or toothbrush to clean the surface. Any spray release agent or lubricant left behind after the molding process, will prevent the primer and paint from sticking to the surface.



What Primer Color for Miniatures is best?

The best colors are generally black, gray, or white colors. There are color primers on the market, but they tend to cost a lot more than they are worth. In most cases, you will be using a color paint over the primer anyway. The primer helps with effect, but you will not see the color underneath the paint.

The primer color you choose is really up to you, but the black, gray, and white colors are the most popular and widely used. What are you looking to do? Do you want to form shadows or emphasize an area? This simply means do you want to lighten your surface or make it darker as you go. When it comes to the final product, the primer only has small to no effect on the final paint result.

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