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"So, about priming with Gesso...." Topic

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1,941 hits since 18 Mar 2012
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JohnXC Inactive Member18 Mar 2012 6:21 p.m. PST

As per advice, I've been using Gesso -- Liquitex Black Gesso, to be specific -- when priming my minis. It's not gone well.

The Gesso rubs off very easily. Even with my making pains to avoid any handling of the mini as I paint, some contact is unavoidable, and the Gesso just comes off…along with the paint that's covering it.

I've tried mixing it with Future. This helps a little, but it's still rubbing off. Painting a layer of Future OVER the Gesso works beautifully, but I'm afraid that too many layers of Stuff is going to obscure some of the fine details.
What am I doing wrong?

Chortle Fezian Inactive Member18 Mar 2012 6:45 p.m. PST

Are you mixing your gesso with water? I use mine neat. I don't use Liquitex, which is supposed to be better than the W&N stuff I use.

I put my minis on cocktail sticks, fixed to a hole I drill in the base, so there is no handling issue.

Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP18 Mar 2012 6:47 p.m. PST

I use the same Gesso (black). The trick is to let it cure for at least 24 hours. Really, a full 24 hours. After that I've never had a problem. I use it straight, don't thin it any.

CPBelt18 Mar 2012 6:48 p.m. PST

How long did you let it dry? You MUST let it dry at least 24 hours, or it will rub off very easily. After 24 hours, it is on there. (I usually let it sit for days before I'm able to paint again, so I don't have problems. )Of course, if you keep rubbing at it, it will come off but that is the same for any primer!

Gach! Don't mix anything in it. Don't dilute it. Don't 'paint' it on like normal paint--that's too thin and it will wear off easily. Glop it on. It will shrink to fit after 24 hours.

Gesso is like any tool. You have to learn how to use it properly, otherwise disaster. It may feel odd glopping it because this flies in the face of normal painting skills.

Also, make sure your figures are well cleaned and air dried.

BTW I've been working with gesso since the early 1980's because my sister was an art major. She used it on canvases.

Syrinx018 Mar 2012 8:23 p.m. PST

My only problem with gesso is putting it on too thin – leaving a bare spot here and there. Like CPBelt said, lay it on thick and let it dry.

000 Triple Aught Inactive Member18 Mar 2012 8:48 p.m. PST

Yep, combination of what Extra Crispy & CPBelt posted for best results. That's what I do. No problems. Definitely, the key is applying it on the fig correctly and letting it fully dry (24+ hours for me) so that it shrinks and conforms to the fig. Think of it a vacuum-sealing a fig with form fitting plastic.

JohnnyPainter Inactive Member18 Mar 2012 9:39 p.m. PST

I mix Gesso with Glass and Tile medium to give it a bite especially if the models are metal. Glass and Tile medium is something you mix with acrylics to enable you to paint on glass and tile so mixing it with the gesso gives it those properties where it will bond to materials that might not normally work.

I also second letting it cure for at least 24 hours. It will be dry to the touch within a few hours, but I find if I get overzealous with it and don't wait for it to cure, it rubs right off.

Here is a link to the medium – you can get it in most craft stores -


Terrement Inactive Member19 Mar 2012 6:40 p.m. PST


TheWarStoreSweetie Supporting Member of TMP20 Mar 2012 10:16 a.m. PST

Like Johnny, I mix my gesso (Liquitex) with the Glass and Tile medium. It makes the surface rock hard and adds some tooth, which is important on metal models. I mix it exactly half and half -- and I use a metal measuring spoon to get it right. I also let it sit for 24 hours. If I don't, the gesso will rub right off.

JohnXC Inactive Member21 Mar 2012 1:09 p.m. PST

That would be my problem, then -- I wasn't letting it sit nearly long enough. I primed some minis on Monday night, and I'll give them a look when I get home this evening.

Thanks, all! And I'll take a look for that glass and tile medium.

JohnnyPainter Inactive Member21 Mar 2012 9:14 p.m. PST

Let us know how it works for you. :)

John B Inactive Member22 Mar 2012 11:36 a.m. PST

I recently started using Liquitex in gray after reading the posts here. It was the best tip! I do make sure the drying time is at least 24 hours, and that results in great coverage that shrinks well to the figures. Plus, no more fumes in the hobby room from the spray primer or waiting for the weather to be right to prime outside. So far, it's been working great on 15 mm Battlefront minis. Thanks for the tip!

Patyrn Inactive Member27 Mar 2012 12:05 p.m. PST

So what is the benefit of gesso over normal spray primer? It sounds like quite a bit of extra hassle.

Zephyr127 Mar 2012 2:21 p.m. PST

No stinky spray; no nozzles to clog (or do worse things); you can use every last bit in the bottle; you don't get more primer on the newspaper under the minis than you do on the minis (i.e. wastage); you don't have to shake it for 5 minutes; one bottle of gesso will cost less and cover more figures than an equivalent cost of spray primer;

disadvantages: You have to glop it on each mini individually (but you get faster at it eventually); you have to wait for it to dry

Personal logo Sgt Slag Supporting Member of TMP28 Mar 2012 8:35 a.m. PST

In addition to the above benefits: it can be used indoors, without special preparation (vacuum-powered, painting booth, with activated charcoal filter for safe, indoor use, not required); it can be used year-round, regardless of weather conditions; it is absolutely consistent, and predictable, every time; water clean-up (use of brush soap advised, for best results); better control over coverage, as it is manually applied, rather than sprayed onto the figures; works well on any material (both soft, and hard, plastics, metal and resin). Cheers!

Patyrn Inactive Member28 Mar 2012 3:28 p.m. PST

Sounds like a good option for my friends in Florida then. Their weather is hell on spray primers.

I think for myself, my time is worth more than any possible cost savings from switching. Thanks for the info!

John B Inactive Member01 Apr 2012 5:21 p.m. PST

As I said in an earlier post, I've started priming with Gesso and love it. However, like many, I was worried about glopping it on too thick and ruining the miniature. Well, I've gotten over that and have posted a short "tutorial" on using Gesso, with photos, on my blog. The photos demonstrate how well the Gesso shrinks to the figure details.


John B.

JohnXC Inactive Member02 Apr 2012 8:35 a.m. PST

…and based on your pictures, there's my other problem. I wasn't put it on anywhere near thickly enough.

Happily I keep a stock of crappy old figures just for this purpose; I'll apply various thickness of Gesso tonight and let them sit for a few days.

John B Inactive Member07 Apr 2012 7:08 p.m. PST

JohnXC: How did the Gesso experiment work out?

JohnXC Inactive Member09 Apr 2012 8:57 a.m. PST

I glopped the stuff on to one miniature, and was amazed by how good it looked afterwards. A proper experiment was delayed, thanks to the kids getting sick and my not getting a chance to paint for the past week. I'm hoping to remedy that tonight, though.

laptot Supporting Member of TMP10 Apr 2012 7:20 a.m. PST

How well does it work on wood and stylrene?

John B Inactive Member10 Apr 2012 5:50 p.m. PST

laptot: I haven't tried anything aside from resin and metal. The Liquitex bottle indicates "Apply to raw canvas, hardboard, paper, wood and other non-oily porous surfaces."

John B

Dwarf King Inactive Member12 May 2012 1:01 p.m. PST

I've been using Gesso for a while now with pretty good results. Then, for what ever reason, I started noticing that it seemed to be thickening on me (maybe the brand – Bob Ross). I tried to thin it a bit with water, but did not like the results…

So, after reading here. I thinned it a little with Glass & Tile Medium. The results are great!! Can not ask for anything better.

Thanks Johnny and Sweetie for sharing that tip!

JohnnyPainter Inactive Member23 May 2012 8:14 a.m. PST


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