Help support TMP

"Cheap quality spray paints" Topic

41 Posts

All members in good standing are free to post here. Opinions expressed here are solely those of the posters, and have not been cleared with nor are they endorsed by The Miniatures Page.

For more information, see the TMP FAQ.

Back to the Modern Painting Guides Message Board

Back to the WWI/WWII Naval Painting Guides Message Board

Back to the WWII Aviation Painting Guides Message Board

Back to the WWII Painting Guides Message Board

Back to the Early 20th Century Painting Guides Message Board

Back to the Painting Message Board

5,957 hits since 29 Aug 2012
©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

Personal logo John the OFM Supporting Member of TMP29 Aug 2012 10:33 a.m. PST

I use walMart house spray paints all the time for priming.
I NEVER use "hobby" primers, because uinvariably, they turn on me.
I also rarely use "hobby" spray paints. I bought the US OD spray can for $12 USD or so from Battlefront at a convention. The first time I bought it, it leaked all over my hand and the floor.
I have an Army Painter "army Green", and it seems to be OK.

I always prime with WalMart Flat White or Flat Black. NOT so-called "primer". Each can costs $.99 USD and none have ever leaked or spit out grainy crap, like "hobby" cans do.

For a basse coat for tanks, I use Krylon Caomflage series. My two favorite are Khaki and Olive Drab. Each can costs $3.99 USD, and are dead flat. None have ever leaked or spat out grit. Unlike "hobby" spray cans.
What prompts this is that I have just undercoated black and base coated Olive Drab a bunch of Easy 8s and Stuarts.
Last night, I primed a bunch of Boxers in Flat White.

So, why is the cheap Big Name paint superior to Hobby paints?
Simply put, I think it is the bullying power of stores and chains like WalMart, K-Mart, Lowe's, etc.
All these big chains have liberal return and refund or exchange policies. They have the power to crack the whip at suppliers to enforce "quality". What is "quality"? One manufacturing course I took said it is simply "confirmation to expectations". Period.
A Big Box store can have the expectation of quality, mening that it does not leak or go grainy. And, they have iron-clad contracts with the suppliers and I bet quite a vicious charge-back policy for defective product. So, quality control is high.

Hobby spray pints, however, are produced in much smaller lots, with not the incentive for quality control. And, the independent shop does not have a tiny fraction of the bullying power of a WalMArt, and it shows.

To me the "quality" of a $4 USD can of base coat or a $.99 USD can of primer is far superior to that of a "hobby" can of paint, sold at 3 or 4 times the price.
Oh, you can't get "authentic" Hungarian Panzer Gray? That's what washes, stains and hand painting are for. Spray something cheap and "close enough" and use your skills to bring it up to the "correct" shade. Ignore the fact that the "correct" shade will change when the first ray of sun or drop of rain hits it. grin

kreoseus2 Inactive Member29 Aug 2012 10:38 a.m. PST

I got an excellent grey primer can for €1.50 EUR at a local cheepo shop.

Angel Barracks Inactive Member29 Aug 2012 10:41 a.m. PST

I have found Citadel and Humbrol sprays to be better than the cheaper brands I have tried.

jay13829 Aug 2012 10:58 a.m. PST

I'm with the OFM on this. I use Krylon which I get from walmart never had a problem unlike some of the other "hobby" brands which are way over priced.

Frederick Supporting Member of TMP29 Aug 2012 11:03 a.m. PST

Have to agree – Krylon White is my favourite primer – it has never bit me in the butt the way that GW White has more than once

Tacitus29 Aug 2012 11:08 a.m. PST

the krylon fusion camo line is amazing! i now prime most figures in brown.

Chocolate Fezian Inactive Member29 Aug 2012 11:09 a.m. PST

I have found GW primer to be with out doubt the best primer for miniatures

ming31 Inactive Member29 Aug 2012 11:21 a.m. PST

The only thing I will add is the turn around rate is higher . How long has the hobby primer sat on the shelf compared to the Wally world brand .
i am a loyal user of the Wal mart brand flat white .

richarDISNEY Inactive Member29 Aug 2012 11:21 a.m. PST

Well, they don't have the 'gritty' feel that my Armory paints have.
And I actually do love that 'gritty' feel to it.
I ONLY use Armory primers.

boy wundyr x Supporting Member of TMP29 Aug 2012 11:29 a.m. PST

I've had issues with Krylon flat grey (the fuzzies), and have switched to a Walmart grey that seems ok so far. Still have some Krylon black and white to use up, then switch to the cheaper stuff for those too.

Mardaddy Inactive Member29 Aug 2012 11:49 a.m. PST

Been using the Home Despot and Wally World $.96 USD – $.99 USD cans of flat white & flat black for YEARS.

I don't even glance at the other options for the same reasons the OFM has posted; if they ever gave me a reason to doubt the predictability of performance, I'd be seeking alternatives, but have never been disappointed.

Rorschach Inactive Member29 Aug 2012 1:09 p.m. PST

Walmart brand and Krylon all the way for me as well. For all the same reasons as stated above, but in my case most specifically, price! Why pay 10x more if you don't need to?

Then again, I also stick to craft acrylics in the $0.99 USD range as well for the rest of the paint job. In that case I find the more expensive brand paints do a better job but .. for me .. the craft acrylics work just fine.

Farstar Inactive Member29 Aug 2012 1:11 p.m. PST

Tried many over the years. GW, Armory, Krylon, auto primers, etc. My current primer is Rust-o-leum Ultra, one of the "expensive" Home Despot brands ($3 a can). The only time I've seen it get futsy is when the pressure is almost gone.

I have owned multiple rattlecans of Army Painter's Flat Clear, but I use it as a finisher not a primer.

Stuff NOT to use on miniatures EVER includes the heavy automotive primers. Most of those, even in rattlecan, are wannabe fillers. Stay away.

Personal logo Rrobbyrobot Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member29 Aug 2012 1:54 p.m. PST

I've been usind Model Masters from Testors for years. But I just tryed some cheaper stuff. Can't remember the brand name just now. Got it from the local hardware store. I've seen lots of recommendations for the really cheap stuff on this site. I'll be trying out John and company's idea soon as I'm out of the pricey and not quite so pricey stuff.
I've also started using Apple barrel and Folk Art paints on my Dervish. So far, so good. Dropped one of the new guys on the floor the other day. Not a scratch.

dglennjr Inactive Member29 Aug 2012 2:02 p.m. PST

I'll jump on the OFM bandwagon too. I only use the Walmart and Home Deopt flat white and flat black for primers.

I use the white primer for 15mm AWI, SYW and Napoleonics so that the colorful uniforms stand out. I use the black primer for dingier effects, such as 28mm ACW, 28mm Zulu, 28mm Seminole Indian, 20mm WWII, and 20mm moderns. I started using the white primer on my 15mm ACW, but have switched to black primer on my 28mm ACW. I don't know what I'm going to use yet on my recent 15mm Hellenistic DBA acquisitions, but am leaning towards going back to white.

I've been experimenting with a black primer followed by a drybrush of white, before applying color to my 28mm Wild West figures. So far, I seem to like the process. Pics are here on my blog. link

I've also been using the Krylon Khaki and Olive Drab for a basecoat on most of my figures and vehicles lately…been priming/painting like crazy on 20mm WWII (US, British, Japanese, Russian). 20mm Moderns (US, UK, Iraqis, Insurgents), 20mm Falklands (UK, Argentinians), and 20mm Grenada/Urgent Fury (US, Cuban, Grenadians).

David G.

thejoker Inactive Member29 Aug 2012 2:59 p.m. PST

Krylon does a good job but at $11 USD (and up) a can and postage at £5.00 GBP ( and up} it is too expensive ! (in the U.K.)

Personal logo Flashman14 Supporting Member of TMP29 Aug 2012 4:01 p.m. PST

The purpose of primer ( is to aid in the adhesion of paint to the surface of the mini. Adding just a smooth coat of spray misses the point. That's not priming; that's just undercoating.

I only use primers for priming – I don't know if car primers are superior to miniature ones but I'd do that ere I just went to a spray paint. I'm not being elitist but I can tell the difference when I'm painting – they just aren't the same thing, they don't do the same thing, they don't have teeth, paint doesn't stick as well, they don't protect as well.

There are tons of scams in the world but this isn't one of them. But like other aspects of the hobby the business side is often a hobby too. Why wouldn't there be frustration at quality too from time to time? I've had more good luck than bad – though I've had my share of faulty nozzles over the years.

Avalanche of anecdotes will undoubtedly follow. But, a doctor once told me, "the sum of anecdotal evidence is 'anecdotes' not data."

Hitman29 Aug 2012 4:35 p.m. PST

I'm with the OFM on this one too. I use Krylon flat black as a primer from Walmart all the time never and have not had a problem so far. Mind you it is more money in Canada. I think I have to pay $1.99 USD

spontoon29 Aug 2012 5:09 p.m. PST

Where can you get it for $1.99 USD? Not 'round T.O.!

Farstar Inactive Member29 Aug 2012 5:10 p.m. PST

While I agree with Flashman14, I do have to point out that many flat sprays do have tooth even when they are not primers. Different amounts of tooth are needed for different paints and painting techniques. It may well be that the drier techniques and heavier paints require less tooth, so the dry-brush folks see less need for a true primer. I can't see the ink-and-wash folks doing well with low tooth bases, though.

As for the auto primers I mentioned, they are low tooth primers relative to what acrylics need. They are intended for both pre-paint sanding and the very heavy automotive paints. They are not intended for detail preservation; quite the opposite in fact. I have a few minis from those experiments that look like they are drowning in their primer. Go with general purpose primers and avoid auto primers.

Don Manser30 Aug 2012 3:33 a.m. PST

I've run into my first brand of cheaper paint that doesn't work.

Valspar Flat Black Don't waste your time. Really bad.

The Krylon camo paints are excellent.


Thomas O30 Aug 2012 6:55 a.m. PST

I use Krylon camo colors and have good results with those. For priming I mostly use Walmart gray primer. If you can find it Krylon makes clear flat spray that dryes dead flat. It's not easy to find and not all Walmart's carry it, of the 4 or 5 in my area only one store has the Krylon Flat. It is not the same as the Krlyon Matt finish. The Krylon Matt finish has just a bit of a shine, the Krylon Flat is more like the Testor's Dull Coat.

ancientsgamer Supporting Member of TMP30 Aug 2012 7:11 a.m. PST

I use what John uses for the most part. The camo paints are the bomb. Useful for base painting WWII infantry as well :-)

I have had good luck with some craft store paints, but they cost more.

For plastics, I have heard the Rustoleum brand of plastics paint is a bit better than the Fusion stuff….

WarrenB Inactive Member30 Aug 2012 7:37 a.m. PST

I've no idea what the Walmart equivalent is on this side of the Atlantic – if there is one.

I've had very few problems with Plasti-kote's 'Super' acrylic range – primer and regular spray – from B&Q, but it's far from ~$1 a can! I have a years-old can of GW skull white that still goes on smooth, and Halfords grey auto primer does well but it's maybe a bit toothy for my tastes. A nearby shop started stocking Rustoleum, so I should try that sometime soon.
Worst sprays I've tried include Plasti-kote enamel (thick thick thick), Montana Gold (thick, gritty and glossy), and Humbrol (glossy and [I]thin[/I]). And then there's the spray varnishes…

Warren B.

ordinarybass30 Aug 2012 8:08 a.m. PST

I also use hardware store brand (name varries from Menards, home depot, walmart, kmart, etc..) white and black sprays and Krylon camo sprays. Rustoleum camo sprays seem to work well also. More paint in each can, cheaper price, and near-flawless performance

Since I'm using them on sci-fi figs the exact color doesn't matter. Though if it does, between Krylon and Rustoleum camo colors you should be able to find a shade that is close to most historical colors.

I use the camo sprays as a combo primer and basecoat and have never had any problem with durability.

My one caution is that the Camo sprays seem (could just be my perception) to come out alot faster than hobby spray cans, making it easy to overspray and lose detail if you are not careful. Easy to avoid with careful spraying but worth being aware of.

I still use the black spray for terrain, but I don't use the white spray as much as I now prefer gesso for ease of use and no need for additional setup prep.

Moqawama Inactive Member30 Aug 2012 8:10 a.m. PST

O brave new world where one can find "quality" at cheapo retail chains like Walmart and Kmart


Garand30 Aug 2012 11:46 a.m. PST

While I use Wal-mart's valu-cheapo white, gray and black spraypaints as a primer, I find if I want to do a basecoat/primer in all one action, the Walmart brand doesn't have enough color density for a one-time pass. I still use Testor's Flat Black in the rattle can for priming plastics or using as a basecoat. Better color density and I don't have to give it a few coats. Must be agitated thoroughly though, or it turns glossy…


Ken Portner Inactive Member30 Aug 2012 12:07 p.m. PST

The Krylon Cammo colors are very flat.

One thing to note though. The Cammo Black is not really black.

It's more of a very dark grey.

thejoker Inactive Member30 Aug 2012 12:15 p.m. PST

'I've no idea what the Walmart equivalent is on this side of the Atlantic if there is one.'
Walmart actually owns ASDA.

Farstar Inactive Member30 Aug 2012 1:14 p.m. PST

Montana Gold (thick, gritty and glossy)

Gritty AND glossy?

CeruLucifus30 Aug 2012 3:35 p.m. PST

Like the OFM, I have had quality issues with hobby primer. And I stopped using it because of this.

However after that our approaches differed. He said he's paying too much for the quality he's getting, so he resolved to pay less, and then he decided he was paying so little, why even prime at all, why not just use paint.

As someone else said already, it's fine if it works for you, but that's not priming, that's undercoating.

I figured the issue wasn't cost, it was quality. I wanted a consistent high quality primer for acrylic paint. The highest quality acrylic paint is made for artists. Professional artists need their paint to be consistent from batch to batch. The primer sold for artist acrylic paint is acrylic gesso.

So that's what I use. Liquitex Acrylic Gesso.

At first it seemed a drawback that it had to be brushed on, but I realized with spray primers I was always brushing touchup into corners and undersides anyway, so I don't think brush primer actually costs me any time over spraying.

It turns out Liquitex Gesso sprays fine from an airbrush, so in fact, I can spray it when I want to.

People have said artist gesso is meant for canvas so it's not a proper substitute for hobby primer. To which I say, the directions for the gesso say it is suitable for multiple surfaces, not just canvas, so it is not chemically formulated for canvas; it is just primer. And if hobby primer was really chemically formulated for models, there would be separate hobby primer sold for metal, hard plastic, soft plastic, and resin. And there's not. Hobby primer is sold as suitable for all of these. Which means it's not specialized either. It's just primer. So is gesso.

Personal logo John the OFM Supporting Member of TMP30 Aug 2012 5:48 p.m. PST

As someone else said already, it's fine if it works for you, but that's not priming, that's undercoating.

But, why do I need "priming", when what I have is perfectly adequate? Nothing has ever rubbed off, so why pay more for the word "primer" on the can?

WarrenB Inactive Member30 Aug 2012 6:33 p.m. PST

TheJoker: oh yeah! But is there an Asda-brand spray paint? I haven't been in too many branches. I'll go look at the site…

Farstar: the non-gritty bits are glossy, and the non-glossy bits are gritty. grin See the painting board.

CeruLucifus30 Aug 2012 9:34 p.m. PST

But, why do I need "priming", when what I have is perfectly adequate? Nothing has ever rubbed off, so why pay more for the word "primer" on the can?
As has been said, it works for you. I started at the same place as you but I *do* want primer, so I end up somewhere different.

I'm sure in a minute the guy will post who never uses sealer because he says a good primer is all that's needed.

WarrenB Inactive Member31 Aug 2012 5:55 a.m. PST

Meanwhile, back in Blighty. It looks like Asda, Tesco and Poundland sell cheap spray paint and primer; but it also looks like it's a seasonal product (or a 'when we trip over some' product) and you might need to look in the larger shops for it. It's not on any of their own sites, it was talked about on a bunch of auto enthusiast forums.

Jabo 1944 Inactive Member31 Aug 2012 5:34 p.m. PST

In the UK, I found Halfords grey primer for vehicle applications worked well on my white metal figures. Here in Nova Scotia the nearest equivelent to Halfords is Canadian Tyre or Tire if you prefer ! There are usually several guys @ any time cruising the paint shelves, so it seemed logical to ask them. I've tried several, @ the moment I'm on Dupli-color grey primer, it leaves a really fine finish and covers well.
Like all primers I've found, It does'nt smell too good though, use in a well ventilated area and wear a dust mask.

Russell120120 Inactive Member31 Aug 2012 6:59 p.m. PST

I will tell you a secret. None of them are making their own paint.

I worked for a company that "made" its own hobby paints, including spray primer.

The big users of paint – the world automobile industry is likely the number one candidate – dominate production of all paint. The paint comes from a relatively small number of giant chemical companies who sell their bases (in the case of bottled paint) or the completed cans to the various end users.

If you are ordering by the tractor trailer load, they would consider you to be miniscule. At the time it was hard to even get them on the phone.

As an example, in the U.S. the original Citidel spray primers were automotive primers with citidels label on it. Except for some of the wild specialty primers, that is likely true for most of them. Obviously, the very big housing/home type companies (Krylon) can get the chemical giants on the phone, and order special stuff. But anyone else would be doing so at a prohibitive cost.

So ignore the label, and find the cheapest "generic" brand you can find that works for what you are doing. Aa automotive people are probably the fusiest crowd of large users, I would think that they would be one of the best choices for on-metal applications. As they can go through tons of the stuff, the labeling-packaging costs also get spread out over more units.

The one item that does interest me is that there have been a number of different types of hobby mixes out there. I am always curious as to where the product was first used. There is no way that the hobby industry generates enough volume to come up with sophisticated mixes like that on their own – they have to be piggy backing on someone elses uses.

WarrenB Inactive Member01 Sep 2012 1:50 p.m. PST

Is it run by space lizards?

darclegion Inactive Member07 Sep 2012 2:49 p.m. PST

Ive never had problem with walmart paint (flat white or black) as primers, the only thing I have ever noticed is that I have to use more cans that I would if I bought like Krylon. I think it is something to do with the propellant…or maybe I am just high on paint fumes….but I seem to have to buy more cheap cans of paint compared to more expensive paint that list the same OZ size.

But I prefer cheap paint…like Valspar All purpose Flat white, works really well too.

Personal logo Bowman Supporting Member of TMP09 Sep 2012 4:50 a.m. PST

People have said artist gesso is meant for canvas so it's not a proper substitute for hobby primer. To which I say, the directions for the gesso say it is suitable for multiple surfaces, not just canvas, so it is not chemically formulated for canvas; it is just primer. And if hobby primer was really chemically formulated for models, there would be separate hobby primer sold for metal, hard plastic, soft plastic, and resin. And there's not. Hobby primer is sold as suitable for all of these. Which means it's not specialized either. It's just primer. So is gesso.

Sorry, but I'll respectfully disagree. First off, Liquitex Gesso is not real, traditional gesso. It is an acrylic base with chalk for the "tooth". It is designed to penetrate and harden the porous surface of canvas. Enamel primers, such as Krylon primers, also contain chalk to give it "tooth". However, it is an enamel, made from fusial oils, which bind much better to smooth surfaces than any acrylic could. That is why they bind so well to metal, plastic and resin. Soft plastics are another matter. While enamel primer adheres well to the surface, it has no tensile strength. Therefore, it will crack if the plastic bends too much. Therefore a dedicated plastic primer, one with more "give", is recommended.

A quick word on auto primers. Most auto primers expand as they dry to fill any voids between parts. This is the last thing you want for your figures. The fact that some painters use auto primers successfully says more about their care and skill at using this product than any inherent characteristic of the product itself. Krylon shrinks upon drying. Spend the extra 2$ for a better product.

Personal logo Bowman Supporting Member of TMP09 Sep 2012 7:39 a.m. PST

To which I say, the directions for the gesso say it is suitable for multiple surfaces, not just canvas……

Just looked at the label of my bottle of Liquitex Gesso. Maybe the American label is different, but in Canada it says,

"Seals, stiffens and provides surface "tooth" for painting surfaces……Apply to raw canvas, hardboard, paper, wood, and other non-oily porous surfaces." (emphasis is mine)

Nothing about metal, plastic or resin. Now, I have used it as a primer. It holds OK on metal and less so well on styrene plastic. It is a primer that rubs off the plastic surface of my Warlord Germans with some finger pressure. Nothing like white Krylon primer. I'll have to make sure my Germans are well clear coated when done. wink

Sorry - only verified members can post on the forums.