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"Priming with flat enamels" Topic

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1,773 hits since 5 Jan 2013
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Sumatran Rat Monkey Inactive Member05 Jan 2013 12:53 p.m. PST

Winter has finally arrived here in northeast Ohio for real, resulting in conditions that are not terribly conducive to my usual spray-priming method.

As a result, I've decided to try brush-priming some figures with flat black enamel, as described by Kevin Dallimore in his second, larger & more comprehensive painting guide published via Foundry.

He recommends thinning the paint a fair bit- a rough ratio of 70% paint to 30% mineral (white) spirits. I've picked up a tin of Rustoleum flat black (Humbrol only sell their tiny 14ml tinlets in the US, currently, hence the brand choice), and a small plastic jug of Mona Lisa "odourless" mineral spirits as thinner.

Does anyone else have much experience priming figures this way?

If so, is there anything in particular I should know beforehand? Any pitfalls to watch for, any tips and/or tricks to avail myself of?

I'm not completely new to enamels- I actually started my figure painting career in the very early 80s using them- but my only experiences with them in the past 2 decades or so were with gloss enamels, in specialty roles (enameled armour, patent leather, as well as on a few 1:24th/1:25th scale model cars over the years), and never required thinning.

As such, any advice is definitely appreciated!

- Monk

SECURITY MINISTER CRITTER Inactive Member05 Jan 2013 1:00 p.m. PST

I brush primed back in the 70s. All you really need to do is make sure you cover all the bare spots, and all flash and mold lines are gone.

VonBlucher05 Jan 2013 1:10 p.m. PST

I've brushed primed since the 70's and still do with Humbrol Flat Black enamel.

Besides what SECURITY MINISTER CRITTER said, I would wash them with dish detergent, rinse well, and let air dry, before painting.

In the old days I use to bake the enamel on the figure.

Personal logo John the OFM Supporting Member of TMP05 Jan 2013 1:21 p.m. PST

I prime with WalMart Flat Black and Flat White, at $.99 USD a can.
I also use Testor's Flat White and Flat Black right out of the bottle, dipping my brush in thinner to keep things flowing.

Sumatran Rat Monkey Inactive Member05 Jan 2013 1:30 p.m. PST

Aye, the mold line thing's pretty universal, or at least should be.

It always strikes me as such a shame, when I see beautifully painted figures that weren't properly cleaned up- all I can see are the mold lines, once I've noticed'em for the first time.

I've brush-primed before, as well, just always with acrylics (mostly w/Reaper's brush-on primer), to decent result. I just wanted to try this method out, really.

That, and if it works, I now have enough material to prime a ridiculous number of figures, since I bought half a pint of the Rustoleum (for less than $8 USD, at that).

@VonBlucher: The detergent rinse, would that just be for plastics and resins, or do you wash metal figures, too? I usually at least rinse off the first two, but I have to confess, I've never washed a metal figure before priming it in my life, unless it was for other reasons (dust buildup, something spilled on'em, etc).

- Monk

Sumatran Rat Monkey Inactive Member05 Jan 2013 1:34 p.m. PST

@OFM: I've used the Walmart rattlecans as well (although these days, for spray primers, I find myself prefering the Army Painter colour primers, for some reason).

You're right next door, though, so you know how the weather gets around here- factor in that I'm less than 2 miles from the shore of Lake Erie, and between the cold and the relative humidity, winter spraying never seems to work out well, here. Maybe if I had access to a heated garage, or even once I finally get a small spraybooth and an airbrush, though…

I always liked the paint itself, when it came to Testor's Enamels, and they're what I've always used for the aforementioned specialty jobs, but I have the worst luck with the bottles, or specifically, with the caps. They always seem to get messed up- either stuck on, or cross-threaded, or bent somehow, and so on- and so, the little 1/2 oz. bottles essentially become one-shots when I use them, a good 1/3 of the time…

- Monk

Timmo uk05 Jan 2013 1:48 p.m. PST

Washing figures: many will tell you they don't bother and don't ever have any problems. I wash mine and they come out brighter than went they went in so something is clearly coming off the castings. I'd rather prime castings that were as clean as possible. YMMV.

Personal logo Pictors Studio Sponsoring Member of TMP05 Jan 2013 1:58 p.m. PST

I'm in Western PA, not far from you probably. I still spray prime. I take the figs outside, spray them and then leave them out in the porch for them to dry. Haven't had a problem yet.

There is no reason why you can't spray prime in the cold just as well as in the warmth. It will take longer to dry but even if you don't have a porch you can get one of those plastic boxes to put them in.

coopman Supporting Member of TMP05 Jan 2013 2:14 p.m. PST

I've always used spray primers, either white or black.

Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP05 Jan 2013 2:25 p.m. PST

For brush on I LOVE gesso. Water clean up, just lay on a thick coat and let dry overnight. No fumes, no messy clean up, and dirt cheap. My last jar was $4.99 USD and three years later I'm only though 1/3 of it….

Sumatran Rat Monkey Inactive Member05 Jan 2013 2:25 p.m. PST

@Pictors: Maybe it's just the proximity to the lake, then- I spray without issue 3 seasons out of the year, but come winter, once it gets real, it simply doesn't work, period. I always assumed it was the cold causing the paint to seize up midspray, since I get granularity in the texture all over the figure, as well as orange peel, etc. Actual granulation, for the record- not contanimants in the paint, but the paint itself, for whatever reason.

Friend of mine had the same issues spraying his car (with a paintgun, not rattlecans) in an unheated garage one winter, as well, and I also had the same issue using spraycans of GW primer in the sheltered, unheated courtyard of our apartment building in Clermont-Ferrand, when I was living in France.

Now you've got me wondering what's actually causing it, then. I am by no means flawless (oh, how very imperfect I am, hah), but I've been spray-priming figured for over 30 years, so I'm confident I actually know what I'm doing when it comes to that. Hrm.

Would humidity (or severe lack thereof) cause paint to seize-up mid-stream like that, does anyone know? Or have any other ideas?

- Monk

Sumatran Rat Monkey Inactive Member05 Jan 2013 2:40 p.m. PST

@Mark: I've actually primed with gesso before, a number of years ago- I think on your recommendation, in fact. It did work really well, I agree- my only issue with it was that a few of the figures I primed that way subsequently ended up sitting a few years without being painted (I primed the batch a couple of months before the whole "Monk gets sick" period, where I got put on the shelf for a couple years, and by)

By the time I was getting around to painting them, the gesso surface was… I'm not sure how to describe it, precisely. Somewhere between flaky and powdery? It looked fine, but it'd rub off with the slightest contact, to the extent that I actually ended up stripping the figures with nothing more than an overnight soak in tapwater and a bit of scrubbing with a stiff-bristled toothbrush.

In all fairness, though, I have no idea what they were subjected to in the interim by, ahem, "helpful" family members who put all my stuff in storage when the docs said I was finito, and so on, either. So it may not have been the gesso itself, but something they were exposed to- I was stuck in a chair for a few of those years, and it was a year and a half before I was even in any sort of shape where I could consider painting, so, who knows.

Hell, considering my limited experience with the medium, it may've been something I did wrong in the application stages, too.

Ever have that happen with gesso primed figures, though, out of curiousity?

- Monk

EDIT: Just to clarify, as well- the gesso, when it rubbed off, had a smudgy, almost silky sort of powdery/chalky texture to it. Like some weathering powders have, I guess?

VonBlucher05 Jan 2013 2:53 p.m. PST

@Sumatran Rat Monkey
I've always washed my metal, and as Timmo uk said thy come out allot brighter, so something is being removed. This I do even with AB Napoleonics.

Garand05 Jan 2013 2:55 p.m. PST


Rather than Testors or Humbrol, I would get Floquil railroad laquer paints and use them instead, simply because the finish is a bit more durable IMHO. I sometimes use a Floquil Laquer grey in model building to prime brass parts I've already attached to the model before painting.


Timmo uk05 Jan 2013 2:59 p.m. PST

Yup I wash everything including AB's. In the winter or when it's wet outside I prime in my porch. I have a dehumidifier so I run that for a bit in the porch with the central heating on. I spray prime with wearing a breathing mask. I let the figures sit for 20 minutes then open the outer door of the porch to vent the fumes. It works for me.

Rubber Suit Theatre Inactive Member05 Jan 2013 3:05 p.m. PST

Some brushes are better than others. I noticed the flat nylon brush that I used to use tends to cause bubbles in my brush-on acrylics. I prefer acrylics to enamels because the thinners are considerably less noxious indoors – could be an issue depending on what your illness was.

Another trick that works really well on metal is dunking the figure in straight Future (sorry – Pledge "with Future shine!") floor polish. Puts a thin tough layer of clear acrylic over everything (no missed spots) and is easy to strip later should you feel the need (Future is its own solvent). You can then undercoat with whatever pigment you like.

MajorB05 Jan 2013 3:07 p.m. PST

I have always brush primed both metal and plastic figures using Humbrol Matt White. I don't like black as it seems to make the figures too dark.

I always wash soft plastic (e.g. Airfix, Revell) figures, but NEVER wash metal.

The above has worked fine for me for over 30 years.

14Bore05 Jan 2013 5:57 p.m. PST

I brush prime all the time, it's the dull coat finihing thats holding me up with finished figures in a metal box untill I can spray coat. COME ON SPRING.

14Bore05 Jan 2013 6:00 p.m. PST

P.S. in a conversation with my art student niece talking to my nephew and me about figures my mom us both. She says gray primer will make colors snap out better but haven't used this until spring gets here.

vojvoda Inactive Member05 Jan 2013 6:40 p.m. PST

I have risked it (spraying in winter) back in Maryland. The last thing I did was prime a dresser with spray Rustoleum and it cracked over the holidays. It was cold and I left it in the garage. I have had figures stay tacky with spary priming in the winter. I am concerned about all I have to prime here in Illinois right now. I might spray in the basement if it is not too cold.

James Mattes

SECURITY MINISTER CRITTER Inactive Member06 Jan 2013 9:37 a.m. PST

I started out washing my minis before priming, but stopped when I noticed no difference in overall qualit. Now I do wash all plastics.

Edit: I washed the metals with wood alcohol.

Personal logo John the OFM Supporting Member of TMP06 Jan 2013 10:42 a.m. PST

I lay a fewv opened up beer cartons, lay them on top of my washing machine, and spray in my basement.
That's at the end of the day, or in the morning just before I head out.
Never had any problems, unless I use special "hobby" primers. That includes Floquil, I might add.

IronDuke596 Supporting Member of TMP06 Jan 2013 1:05 p.m. PST

Hi, it is nice to hear from gents who use flat enamels to paint their miniatures. I use exclusivley enamels because of the one coat coverage for most of the colours.

I prime with Krylon Dual paint and Primer flat black spray cans in the Spring, Summer and Fall. I live on lake Ontario so I emphathise with the cold and humidity issues. In the Fall I make sure that I prime enough figures to last me through the Winter. I try not to spray too thickly and rely on humbrol flat black thinned slightly and a rough brush to touch up the areas that did get covered with the spray.

I generally use Humbrol enamels with Model Master and Testors as back ups and for colours that Humbrol does not make.

A caution regarding the use of odorless Mona Lisa Thinner; I started using this product about four months for cleaning and some thinning. It is great for cleaning brushes but I have lost several tins and bottles of paint using Mona Lisa as a thinner. Specifically, the paint becomes thick and lumpy -likely the pigment has separated from the medium- and so unusable. Previously I have used normal paint thinner and never had a problem for many years. At this stage I am not sure if I used too much of the Mona Lisa to thin or that this product is not suitable for thinning enamel paints. I would be very interested to hear from others re the use of this product.

Re your use of Rustoleum in a tin; is it a flat black primer and does it spray thin enough not to mask the detail of miniatures?

Good luck with your painting.

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