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SonBae's Painting Miniatures Declassified - Priming 
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The next installment in the tutorials.....a discussion on Priming your models.

Post on Priming

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Thu May 31, 2012 11:56 am
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A good tutorial, however:

" Can you use "regular", paint that is not a specific primer as a primer? Yep, in fact that is what I do. A TRUE primer does make a better bond witht he metal/plastic of the model and a good surface for the paint to adhere"

Really, really bad advice.

True primer is specifically formulated to increase the adhesion of subsequent layers by increasing hygroscopy and porosity. In the case of metals, primer also acts as a barrier against oxidation. Paint and primer are two very different mediums and its important to point this out to beginners.

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Thu May 31, 2012 4:55 pm
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Dont mean to sound contrary...but...Sort of what I said ....minus the technical part, right? I agree there is a difference between paint and TRUE primer, no arguement there....but has using a normal paint caused me any difficulties in over 10 years. Nope...not a one. One place where I might consider a True Primer would be on The Battlefront plastic Airplanes. My experince with painting my Typhoons might have been easier with a true primer, not sure though based on what I have read from other peoples experiances with those plastics.

The biggest thing I have seen using a slightly thinned paint brushed or airbrushed on is that I do not clog ANY detail with paint and it alows me to be more aggressive with the regular paints (I can apply more layers)

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Last edited by SonBae on Thu May 31, 2012 7:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Thu May 31, 2012 6:59 pm
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SonBae wrote:
Sort of what I said ....minus the technical part, right?


Not really, no. You're positing this tutorial for absolute beginners and you should show them the right way to do it. The majority of seasoned painters prime their minis with some sort of true primer before painting. This has numerous benefits and ensures the paint does not wear quickly.

Let painters cut corners after they've learned the correct techniques.

SonBae wrote:
The biggest thing I have seen using a slightly thinned paint brushed or airbrushed on is that I do not clog ANY detail with paint and it alows me to be more aggressive with the regular paints (I can apply more layers)


The correct application of a quality primer should not obscure detail and should provide the correct ground for painting.

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Thu May 31, 2012 7:36 pm
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Out of curiosity which primer do you use? When I hear "quality" I see dollar signs. My primer Experiance has been the GW and Army Painter spray and brush on primers. And that was maybe 10 years ago when I switched from them and they might have gotten better. I might have to go back and look at them.

The "Declassified" tutorials are meant for all levels of painters...for beginners through experienced. The intent is to show the techniques and unravel the mystery behind talk. There are SOOOOO who thin pints but don't understand why they do it or really understand wht is meant by layering or building up a color. Once they understand why they can adapt the concept for multiple purposes.

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Thu May 31, 2012 8:21 pm
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I've had lots more chipped paint on minis that aren't primed properly. Its also worth mentioning surface prep in a priming tutorial. Primer on top of mold release = poor adhesion.

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Thu May 31, 2012 8:21 pm
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SonBae wrote:
Out of curiosity which primer do you use? When I hear "quality" I see dollar signs. My primer Experiance has been the GW and Army Painter spray and brush on primers. And that was maybe 10 years ago when I switched from them and they might have gotten better. I might have to go back and look at them.


I use regular Krylon Primer, whatever color is suitable for the effect. One can runs $4-5 and can prime an entire 15mm army. On any non-gaming models/minis, I will splurge for Tamiya Primer, which is widely regarded as excellent quality. There's a difference between good quality primer and cheap primer masquerading as "quality".

SonBae wrote:
The intent is to show the techniques and unravel the mystery behind talk.


Then you need to realize that you cannot "prime" with paint, you're confusing two separate mediums/techniques. What you're showing is how to paint w/o primer.

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Thu May 31, 2012 8:32 pm
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@TheRulesLawyer....Good point on model prep...I talked that in an earlier post, but mentioning it again would be a good idea.

@AncientSociety...Giving bad advice is something I don't want to do by any means and I thought the line below from my post was pretty clear:

" A TRUE primer does make a better bond witht he metal/plastic of the model and a good surface for the paint to adhere.  A regular paint adheres OK, and will survive normal handling once varnished and sealed."

Seems to be consistent with what you are saying....and from close to 10 years doing it this way have yet to see a problem on the metal/resin miniatures. Not sure of the physics of it, but when I airbrush or brush on then blow off thinned paint I have nice surface for the paint to build up from with no worries of rubbing off once sealed. It works for me and I shared it as another alternative. I ended the post with a line about experimenting with the different methods and mediums to find what best works for the reader.

***Edit*****
If the issue is one of semantics in calling thinned paint "primer" ...peace.... I agree not the best which is why I tried to differentiate between that and TRUE primers.

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Fri Jun 01, 2012 1:49 am
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As I've mentioned, it's not simply a matter of semantics (though that is part of it). You're positing this tutorial for those who may not have an in-depth knowledge about the differing mediums and proper technique so that they can learn. If I was coming to that tutorial with little or no prior knowledge, it's a safe bet I'd either think paint and primer are so similar they could be used interchangeably, get confused over terminology, and/or learn improper technique.

ABing paint over bare metal may work for you, but it is not a proper technique. You're simply applying acrylics over bare metal and allowing them to polymerize, there's really no true adhesion between the metal and paint. The all-round uniform plastic coating is the only thing holding your media together. To use an analogy - it's like putting on a big winter coat without any clothes underneath, zipping it up, and then saying that since it doesn't fall off your body that you're fully protected from the elements.

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Fri Jun 01, 2012 4:49 am
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I do appreciate your insight and I updated my blog post to hopefully make it clearer that there is a difference between the two mediums.

You did get me thinking though. It might be time to go back and look at the TRUE primers. Vallejo has a primer in the dropper bottles that I am going to give a try...should be able to work that in and still get the control/preserve detail I want and was willing to trade the true bonding of a true primer to get....heck it has been almost 10 years since I drifted from the true primer path...things had to have changed since then.

Also curious to see if there is any REAL difference between the two...does the polymerization (As you said...I studied History for a reason) I am getting with a thinned paint medium give a sufficient bond to the metal or will a true primer give me the control I want ......Hmmmmm cue the Mythbusters theme music!

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Fri Jun 01, 2012 9:04 am
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SonBae wrote:
Also curious to see if there is any REAL difference between the two...does the polymerization (As you said...I studied History for a reason) I am getting with a thinned paint medium give a sufficient bond to the metal or will a true primer give me the control I want ......Hmmmmm cue the Mythbusters theme music!


Polymerization is simply the binding of molecules within the paint with each other. When people talk about "curing time" for paints, this is what they mean. This isn't any type of binding with the metal, simply a coat of resin/plasticine over the metal itself.

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Fri Jun 01, 2012 3:59 pm
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A good primer will etch the metal a bit to create a better surface and has much higher adhesion than paint. I've used the Vallejo bottled primer. It works well, but it requires a long curing time compared to spray primers. If I use the vallejo primer I normally let it sit overnight before attempting to work with it as you'll rub it off in handling. Small area touch up you can work quicker as you can allow it time to dry without handling.

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Fri Jun 01, 2012 4:23 pm
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ancientsociety wrote:
As I've mentioned, it's not simply a matter of semantics (though that is part of it). You're positing this tutorial for those who may not have an in-depth knowledge about the differing mediums and proper technique so that they can learn. If I was coming to that tutorial with little or no prior knowledge, it's a safe bet I'd either think paint and primer are so similar they could be used interchangeably, get confused over terminology, and/or learn improper technique.

ABing paint over bare metal may work for you, but it is not a proper technique. You're simply applying acrylics over bare metal and allowing them to polymerize, there's really no true adhesion between the metal and paint. The all-round uniform plastic coating is the only thing holding your media together. To use an analogy - it's like putting on a big winter coat without any clothes underneath, zipping it up, and then saying that since it doesn't fall off your body that you're fully protected from the elements.


I had a guy suggest using thinned paint to do touch up after priming a while back (hitting spots that were missed with the spray can primer) and foolishly followed his advice recently. I just did that a week or so ago and when I mentioned it to a friend on Friday who has a degree in the graphic arts, he explained to me that paint is not primer and shouldn't be subsituted for it because it doesn't have the same adhesion properties as primer to the surface and also won't hold the paint like a good primer coat will. I went back and looked at the touched up parts of the model and the thinned paint had already flaked off of the metal in spots - doh! So this seems to confirm what you are saying above.

He suggested using Duplex sandable primer available at auto parts stores - its way cheaper than the GW or Armory stuff and lots of people swear by it (its designed for priming metal on cars). I've used it in the past and it works well but you just have to be careful to not spray it on too thick or it will fill in details (another rookie mistake I've made in the past). It does take several coats to get a good prime coat down though but you should spray several thin coats rather than one or two thick ones. I told him about the problems I was having with not getting good coverage (inside tracks, in open turrets, in halftracks etc.) and he suggested picking up the model and spot spraying with one touch of the nozzle button after they are mostly done to hit the spots that were missed and I tried this yesterday and it worked well.

I was also thinking of getting some of the Vallejo primer as well to use for touch up with a brush. They even make it in dunkelgelb and green brown and other colors and it could even be used for repairing chips and stuff but I do like priming with a spray can since its faster. I've noticed that using paint on resin as a base isn't so bad but acrylic has a hard time adhering to metal from what I've observed especially if its really thin.

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Last edited by Schwerpunkt on Mon Jun 04, 2012 11:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Mon Jun 04, 2012 4:45 am
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With regard to the topic I will say that I was naive to the term priming and the actual substance used as a primer for a time. There are articles and discussions out there that use the term primer interchangeably with undercoat. Perhaps it may help to say that I am priming my models with paint rather than primer?

Regardless, I prime my infantry models with a white undercoat and then apply the base colours.

With AFVs my techniques have evolved from priming the model with the base coat colour. I now do the following steps:
Rigorous flash cleaning, resculpting, and recreating detail.
Cleaning with a pre-paint cleaning agent - Testors Plastic Prep
A couple of light coats of Vallejo Acrylic-Polyurethane Surface Primer (Grey) applied through an airbrush
Then the base coat colour, etc

I will say that I do go a little overboard on preparation. I do this to avoid the situations where I come to the final highlight or picking out of detail only to find that I missed a mould line or the paint chipped. This frustrates me no end and, if the problem requires it, I strip back the paint and start again. The pre-paint cleaning agent is clean off any impurities such as mould release or fingerprint oils from all of the preparation work (which I mostly do with latex gloves).

SonBae I will take the time to read your article. It is always worthwhile sharing your experiences with other fellow modellers/painters.


Mon Jun 04, 2012 5:58 am
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@Schwerpunkt...with regards to the metal flaking off. Did you seal that model with a varnish first?

@MoW. I beleive that is exactly what I have done here. interchanged Undercoat with Primer. When I was talking about a TRUE primer I was refering to primer and elsewhere it was really an undercoat. Using my walking on ice analogy, the undercoat is like throuwing kitty litter on the iceit gives enough traction to get from point A to Point B, in this case to build the paint up and seal it with a varnish which holds it all in place. Primer is like throwing rock salt on the ice....it etches the metal like salt etches the ice.

I ran some experiments over the weekend on this and the results were quite surprising. Working on that post now.

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Mon Jun 04, 2012 11:44 am
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No it was just Vallejo black paint thined with 50/50 distilled water to future floor polish on bare metal and resin (none flaked off of the resin though) - the models were just primed with Duplex sandable primer a week or so before (I hit them from each side 2-3 times) but when I turned them over some of the metal on gun barrels and commander's heads and stuff was touching the cardboard below and peeled off when I picked them up so they needed a bit of touch up. I should have been more careful when I primed them - the cardboard was wet with primer and should have been replaced with dry cardboard but I was doing a lot of stuff and it didn't occur to me to do that. The funny thing is I touched them up with the black paint and put a paper towel over it to keep dust off (my house is very dusty) and when I removed the paper towel a day or two later it was as if I hadn't touched them up because bare metal was showing in a lot of the same spots that had been touched up and I hadn't even handled them or anything. I don't think it stuck to the paper towels because it was dry before I covered them (I think it was too thin).

Its all primer for me from now on after Tony explained the purpose of primer to me last week - I'm going to get some Vallejo primer for touch up work or just use the spray if possible for touch up (sometimes spray primer touch up won't work though on interior areas without the primer getting too thick on other surfaces).

The other valuable lesson was that I read online that using Vallejo thinner medium works bettter than water and future floor polish for thinning their paint. I originally was thinning with distilled water but it was screwing up the paint (water can act as a solvent for latex paint unless you mix it with a medium like future or another medium per what Tony said and too much water makes it worse). After switching to 50/50 future to water it was better but still a little problematic (bubbles and stuff would form and it didn't go on smooth all the time). Once I switched to using the Vallejo thinner that problem went away and it goes on like a dream now - the first stugs I tried to paint were a disaster (the paint went on too thick and is already peeling in spots - I should probably just strip them at this point).

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Mon Jun 04, 2012 9:15 pm
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Almost close to how I thin my undercoat.....except for the future wax. I use a little future wax in my black wash/magic wash...but not my undercoat. You think that future wax might be causing the poor adhesion?

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Mon Jun 04, 2012 10:36 pm
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I don't know - I'm kind of new at painting vehicles (just getting started really) though I painted up some infantry a while back with no issues (they turned out OK using the duplicolor) but I didn't have to do any touch up on those just on the vehicles. I just never realized that primer and paint aren't the same thing and have different properties until someone with an art degree pointed it out to me.

On the plus side I painted up an all resin kubelwagen as a test piece using the Vallejo thinner and paint and it looks pretty good and had no issues (no primer touch up needed since there was no metal - it was the all resin one with the canvas top). I'll post some WIP photos at some point. What I'm realizing is that primer really helps paint stick to bare metal but maybe isn't as necessary on the resin for whatever reason (or plastic from what I've read online).

I guess there is a difference between the verb "to prime" which could be done with paint and the noun "primer" which is not the same as paint. You might be able to prime with paint and get good results (like with adequate surface preparation or whatever) but I'm sticking with actual primer from now on. This whole thing is just one great big learning experience and you probably never stop learning stuff - knowing what question to ask is half the battle.

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Mon Jun 04, 2012 11:14 pm
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Experiment...experiment...experiment to find what works best for you. After all....you are the one person I world who will be seeing those figures the most. ;-). Look forward to the WIP pics.

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Mon Jun 04, 2012 11:35 pm
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