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"How tough is your ( brushable ) primer ?" Topic

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3,961 hits since 19 Jan 2014
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HarryB196119 Jan 2014 2:30 p.m. PST

Hi guys, can anyone recommend a reasonably tough brushable primer ? I live in the northwest of the uk and due to constraints of space, and constant rain, spray primers are out of the question. Back in the day Humbrol enamel was the the choice of primer, but it's not what was, in my opinion, and i'd prefer to use an acrylic to minimise smell and solvent chemicals.
So far ive tried two acrylic primers (black), these are gesso and vallejo surface primer. The gesso was a nightmare!! The vallejo was wonderful to brush on but has two huge faults, these being, firstly, it dries to a shiny satin finish making painting over it difficult due to the shine obscuring tiny details. The second fault is the essence of this post ie how tough should a primer be? Even if left for a day or two, the vallejo primer seems to bond very poorly and with a gentle wipe with a finger nail it comes off. With performance like that i'm reluctant to spend hours painting the top coats over it. But to repeat, how tough does the primer coat need to be? What do you use, bearing in mind i need a brushable black primer? Tough enough to stay on the figures would be a bonus too !

MajorB19 Jan 2014 2:32 p.m. PST

I still use Humbrol enamel as primer. Never had any problems with it.

CeruLucifus19 Jan 2014 2:57 p.m. PST

Which brand of gesso did you try?

I've been using Liquitex gesso, which comes in white, gray, and black (and also a clear variety). It's best to let it cure overnight. I haven't actually tried to scrape it off with my fingernail, but it seems plenty durable.

Note some people dilute gesso. This may work with other brands, but not Liquitex gesso. If you dilute it, you'll get spotty coverage and have to do more applications. Put it on straight out of the bottle even if it seems thick. It will shrink as it dries and form a continuous skin revealing all the detail.

There was a terrific post about this on Hyun's now defunct web site Wee Toy Soldiers; the article is preserved on the Miniature Review blog, including the time lapse video showing how the gesso dries and shrinks to reveal detail: link

RavenscraftCybernetics Inactive Member19 Jan 2014 2:58 p.m. PST


I Drink Your Milkshake19 Jan 2014 2:59 p.m. PST

Liquitex. No probs.

Henrix Inactive Member19 Jan 2014 2:59 p.m. PST

Did you shake that vallejo primer thoroughly? i don't recognise the problem at all – neither the satin finish nor not sticking.

What are you trying to prime? Metal miniatures? Hard plastic? Resin?

steamingdave4719 Jan 2014 3:08 p.m. PST

Gesso works fine for me- good key for acrylics of various makes.

HarryB196119 Jan 2014 3:23 p.m. PST

Hi Henrix, the figures i paint are metal and no matter how much i prepare the vallejo primer it dries shiny. In fact if it's shaken too much it's a pain to brush on as you get a mass of frothy bubbles! As to the guys using gesso, how well do you find it bonds to the figure? When i tried it would simply wipe off even when properly dry. My figure prep is good by the way, as i've scrubbed them in soap and also tried a pre-soak in white vinegar which etches the metal and provides an excellent pre paint surface. My problem isn't getting the top paint to stick to the primer, it's getting the primer to bond to the metal figures securely.

Teppsta19 Jan 2014 3:39 p.m. PST

I think it was the last issue of MW+BG had a whole article on this very subject and would be worth getting hold of if you can. The author's recommendation is to use an etching primer for optimum paint adhesion.

Not tried it yet but I plan to …

vexillia19 Jan 2014 4:00 p.m. PST

@HarryB1961: This stuff is pretty tough – and here's some background –

@Teppsta: Glad you liked the article but my primer of preference is a brush on water based product: "Special Metals Primer" from International Paints. The recommendation for etch primers is there for those who prefer spray priming.

Martin Stephenson
The Waving Flag | Twitter | eBay

idontbelieveit19 Jan 2014 5:52 p.m. PST

Yeah, I'm bummed about Humbrol also. I've shifted to Vallejo surface primer. Can't say I'm thrilled with it, but I haven't had the same problem of it going on with a sheen.

377CSG Supporting Member of TMP19 Jan 2014 6:32 p.m. PST

I use Reeves Gesso Primer for use with acrylic paint on all my metals and plastics – never any problems.

ernieR19 Jan 2014 8:22 p.m. PST

i use Liquitex gesso , no problems with it . if you don't paint over it soon after applying you can wear it off the pointy bits but after painting over it i've had no problem at all . 28mm figures and others that are likely to get handled a lot i also give a coat of Liquitex gloss varnish followed by their matte varnish .

MajorB20 Jan 2014 2:57 a.m. PST

Yeah, I'm bummed about Humbrol also.

I'm puzzled. What is the problem with Humbrol? I've used it for years with no problems at all and I'm still using it.

ScoutJock20 Jan 2014 8:55 a.m. PST

I'm not a fan of brushing the Vallejo primers, in addition to the issues you raise, I find that it takes two coats to properly cover anything. I have had no issues shooting them through an airbrush though. I haven't found a decent non enamel brush on primer so I continue to use the old reliable Humbrol or the new Testor's super fine gray lacquer when brushing a primer coat.

kreoseus2 Inactive Member20 Jan 2014 8:58 a.m. PST

Hi Harry

I use the Miniature paints black primer. It goes on well, is tough, brushes on like paint and dries as quickly as acrylic paint. I usually use a quite thin coat, it adds definiation to the models and is a shortcut to blacklining.


This is the place to get them, based in Liverpool.


HarryB196120 Jan 2014 12:38 p.m. PST

Thanks guys, great advice as always. I will definately order some of that primer Phil, thanks for that, i really want to go down the acrylic road and ditch smelly enamels and solvents.

kreoseus2 Inactive Member20 Jan 2014 1:25 p.m. PST

Hi Harry

you are welcome, glad to be of some help


bobm195921 Jan 2014 12:48 p.m. PST

I've got Miniature Paints and liquitex black gesso. The MP is always slightly shiny and rubs off easier than gesso.

teper1961 Inactive Member21 Apr 2014 2:19 a.m. PST

after years of hand brushing figures i now use double sided tape on a piece of wood.
Using coarse sandpaper, make sure the bases are flat and have groves in them (sandpaper does that).
mount them on the length (usually 0.80m to 1.0 m in length. leaving a 6" gap at each end (to hold).
then undercoat with Halfords matt Black. let it dry (about an hour), then give it a second coat.
When I've finished one unit i tend to set up the next overnight (although dont always paint again the following day)

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP21 Apr 2014 11:56 a.m. PST

Well I was brought up on Chaos Black…and hang the price it works as well on my Napoleonics as it did on the lads' Perry LOTR figures when they were several years younger.

Or at least till this afternoon. It had been an excellent lunch for Easter Monday. We all sat around the family table for hours chatting and imbibing. Finally I arose and pronounced that I felt a spraying session coming on. 'er indoors had more sense and advised postponing, but I would be told?

Off to the garage aerosol in hand. Bit heavy handed. Some beautiful castings of totally unique, once off, figures from Niels R at Westfalia, totally lost under gloopy masses of black primer. I panicked. I tried to brush off. Worse now.

The paint stripper from the local DIY shop tomorrow. But what does paint stripper do to Greenstuff additions? Why did I not listen?

I have these figures that no one else in the universe has…..ruined……(French line lancers…….brilliant castings). Never mind Denver legalising cannabis, ethanol has a lot to answer for in the UK!

Oh b….r. Sorry, this is about brushable primer….good idea I would now say……..apologies for a totally irrelevant comment then!

Supercilius Maximus Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member16 Jun 2014 6:35 a.m. PST

Harry and others you need to understand that what you are doing with your enamel or acrylic paints is not really priming, but just undercoating. Priming metal (or any surface) means providing a "rough" surface, or key, onto which the layers of actual paint will grip (for want of a better word). Without that underlying key, any paint will simply rub off – enamel will take longer as it is a harder surface, but it will happen eventually.

I use Halfords spray primers, but since you are a brusher rather than a sprayer, I would suggest go to B&Q/Homebase/etc paint sections or look at their "hobby" products; if in doubt, get an assistant to explain the difference. An undercoat is really just there to provide a suitable base for whichever colour you are using. A good primer can, in many cases, double as an undercoat, but an undercoat on its own will never be a primer.

Fizzypickles Inactive Member13 Jul 2014 8:44 a.m. PST

Something I keep meaning to try out are Vallejo's Acrylic Gouache. Mixed with some Airbrush extender it make a nice dead flat airbrushable primer.

1968billsfan Supporting Member of TMP21 Jul 2014 4:33 a.m. PST

I guess I'm cheap but find the following works well. Buy a small can of flat finish oil-based Rust-Oleum paint or your local version of this type of paint.

(These contain some chrome or zinc compound that helps bind to metal. Also they are formulated to wet well (spread on and into metal) rather than beading up and they also to flow into microscopic cracks (porous), which helps them connect mechanically to the metal figure. These oil based paints also will dissolve and make inconsequential any release-mold sizing oils still coated on the figures- no need to wash with detergent and dry.)

I white glue mount the figures onto sticks or cut cardboard strips. Then dilute the paint 1:10 or more with distilled mineral spirits in a recycled glass kitchen spice jar. Brush on a thin coating and brush as much as possible off with a drier brush and let cure for a day or so, although I have successfully painted onto still slightly tacky coatings. The coating should be only slightly visible- you are looking for a layer that is only a few molecules thick and don't want to flow-in and flatten details. There will be some odor, but nothing compared to spray painting. I can do it inside, without the "boss" noticing.

For colours, I usually use a black or dark grey, so that recessed parts of the figures that are "in the shade" are darkened. (Sometimes I will coat one figure with a white primer coat, if the figure has complicated "scrambled eggs" features on it that I can't figure out what they are.) The paint comes in various colors, (small cans are just $3 USD-5 and are a lifetime supply)and I usually will chose the largest area basecoat color as the primer color. White is a poor choice as you really have to get your overcoat paints into all small creases and you lose detail that way. Don't try to use the primer as a total basecoat, because it will then start to obscure patterned relief detail.

A thing to note is that your friendly hobby paint supplier does not have the volume or physical plant to even approach the smallest commerical/industrial paint or coating manufacturer in terms of equipment, economy of scale or research. The mixing, powdering of pigments and formulation of paint is big industry. They are probably buying already made paints, blending, mixing and repackaging. Bypass the expensive middleman and buy direct.

idontbelieveit09 Jan 2015 5:07 p.m. PST

I've given up on Vallejo either brushed on or airbrushed on. It's too easy to peel off, and then the hole doesn't fill back smoothly.

I've started priming with Alclad through an airbrush. It's pretty awesome. I wish it were dead flat but when I put it on too thick it isn't (operator error).

I wish I had a good brush-on version.

traveller09 Jan 2015 6:35 p.m. PST

I bought X-O Rust primer from True Value. 1/2 pint for about four dollars. Covered well. I bought dark gray, but it may come in other colors. Gave it one day to dry and started painting.

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