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"What am I doing wrong?" Topic

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Action Log

10 Oct 2020 12:43 p.m. PST
by Editor in Chief Bill

  • Changed title from "What am I doing wrong" to "What am I doing wrong?"Crossposted to Painting board

10 Oct 2020 6:22 p.m. PST
by Editor in Chief Bill

  • Crossposted to Pre-Paint Preparation board

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tommyb2985 Supporting Member of TMP10 Oct 2020 12:06 p.m. PST

When I receive the minis the first thing I do is remove any flash & mold lines.
I then wash them in warm soapy water then rinse well.
Next I mount them on painting sticks and prime them by hand with Vellejo black surface primer.
Let dry for at least 12 hours then paint with acrylic paints Ceramcoat or Vallejo.
As I paint I notice the primer and paint are lifting off here and there exposing the bare shining pewter.
I paint over these areas but the paint doesn't take and the bare pewter is again exposed.
This problem happens on elbows, cap visors, folds in clothing and boot tops.

What's causing this. What am I doing wrong and how can I prevent it.


Royston Papworth10 Oct 2020 12:28 p.m. PST

Hi Tom,

I've had this too. It seems to depend on the manufacturer and like you I've not found a cure. Sorry I can't help, but I will be interested in the answer…

tommyb2985 Supporting Member of TMP10 Oct 2020 12:40 p.m. PST

I'm painting AB ACW miniatures & Old Glory ACW and it's happening to both brands.

Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian10 Oct 2020 12:43 p.m. PST

I've never had much luck with hand-painted primer.

Are you using the primer straight from the bottle? Is it well stirred?

79thPA Supporting Member of TMP10 Oct 2020 12:48 p.m. PST

I've never washed metal figures. Try a good spray primer and see what happens.

Glengarry510 Oct 2020 12:52 p.m. PST

I use Tremclad grey brush on primer (suitably thinned with water) and have never had that problem. I don't wash my figures although I'm not sure if that would make a difference.

Personal logo Herkybird Supporting Member of TMP10 Oct 2020 12:56 p.m. PST

I never wash figures and brush on a white acrylic water based wood primer from a local store and have never had that problem!
I hope you get a solution to your difficulties, its heartbreaking for a figure to peel after all your hard work, I imagine?!

Sundance10 Oct 2020 1:14 p.m. PST

I usually only wash figures if they feel greasy or oily from the manufacturer.

tommyb2985 Supporting Member of TMP10 Oct 2020 1:17 p.m. PST

Bill, yes I'm using the primer straight from the bottle and it's very well stirred every time I use it.

Herkybird, it is heartbreaking and frustrating when this happens.

I've used spray primers in the past and the same problem arose.
I read long ago that minis need to be washed before priming because of a powder the manufacturers use to help release the figures from the molds and that powder, if not washed off, will not allow the primer to stick to the minis so ever since I've washed the figures in warm soapy water.

MajorB10 Oct 2020 1:46 p.m. PST

I use Humbrol enamel as primer and have never had any problems in over 40 years.

Big Red Supporting Member of TMP10 Oct 2020 1:56 p.m. PST

I find Vellejo brush on primer to be thin and soft so I don't use it.

I've never had adhesion problems with metal figures using spray primer (Krylon ultra flat primer) whether I washed them or not. For brush on primer I've used white (although it comes in black too) gesso applied liberally. When there is a spot that didn't take I just apply more gesso.

Here is a short YouTube video on using gesso as a figure primer:

YouTube link

emckinney10 Oct 2020 2:00 p.m. PST

Do not wash miniatures with dish soap, detergents, or spray cleaners. Spray cleaners in particular will leave a film and the paint won't adhere. Your last cleaning must be with alcohol, and let it dry thoroughly. (Washing with only rubbing alcohol should work fine.)

We had a problem with this in a job I had long ago, when the prep cleaners changed their cleaning solution.

skipper John10 Oct 2020 2:32 p.m. PST

Alcohol! Amazing. And I just happen to have a glass half full of the stuff right here… Perfect!

Personal logo Stosstruppen Supporting Member of TMP10 Oct 2020 3:09 p.m. PST

I have never washed one of the thousands of figures I have painted. Always used a basic spray primer. Never a problem.

Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP10 Oct 2020 3:20 p.m. PST

Likewise, I never wash figures. Just clean up and prime.

I would strip them, wash in alcohol, and then try priming again.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP10 Oct 2020 3:23 p.m. PST

Tommy, generally, it's plastic figures you need to wash and dry to remove mold release compound. Strongly recommend you do NOT wash pewter figures, but use a good commercial spray primer followed by a wash of the same color. If that doesn't work I will refund the full charge for this advise.

Col Durnford10 Oct 2020 3:23 p.m. PST

Also in the no wash club. I use spray on auto primer in the rattle can from Walmart. No issues.

tommyb2985 Supporting Member of TMP10 Oct 2020 3:48 p.m. PST

OK, it's settled then. No more washing.
I'll go straight to priming the next group.
I'm going to try Big Red's suggestion of gesso.
Ordered some that'll be here Tuesday.

Think I'll try rubbing alcohol with another group as well.

Thanks for all the input guys.

Thresher0110 Oct 2020 3:52 p.m. PST

I'd wait at least 24 hours, to 48, before painting, just to be safe.

Wargamer Blue10 Oct 2020 4:02 p.m. PST

I do all the steps you do including using Vallejo brush on primer. Never, ever had this issues. Very strange.

Nothing wrong with washing your figures mate, especially after filing and cleaning mould lines. There's always a bit of muck left behind.

jhancock10 Oct 2020 4:16 p.m. PST

Ditto on Thresher: Vallejo primer needs more time to cure before painting over. I switched to Liquitex black gesso, but it also needs time to cure. I wait 24+ hours usually.

emckinney10 Oct 2020 4:22 p.m. PST

For the ones you already cleaned and the paint won't hold, strip the paint, rinse very thoroughly with water and a brush, let dry, the clean with alcohol and a brushnto remove any residue.

HMS Exeter10 Oct 2020 4:35 p.m. PST

I dont normally wash figs. I use Gesso or Testors gray primer and have never had a problem.

If I were to wash, I'd finish with an alcohol rinse. Soap must be rinsed. Alcohol evaporates.

3rd5ODeuce Supporting Member of TMP10 Oct 2020 4:42 p.m. PST

Tamiya fine surface primer is hands down the best primer I've used. As the can says it goes on super thin while still having a good tooth.

Extrabio1947 Supporting Member of TMP10 Oct 2020 4:45 p.m. PST


The soap is leaving a residual film on your castings which prevents the primer from adhering.

Rather than wash your castings, after you remove any mold lines and flash, give them a soft scrubbing with a brass-wire brush. It will lightly scour the surface of the figure without harming the detail, and allows primer to adhere tightly to the casting. It also helps to remove any residual seams.

They are inexpensive; about $1.00 USD.


CeruLucifus10 Oct 2020 4:46 p.m. PST

I wash my figures now, any kind.

It seems clear the issue is a film preventing paint adhesion. I'm not sure if it's left by your dish soap or your soap isn't strong enough to remove the mold compound. Either way, switching to different cleaner is a good suggestion. I would say try Simple Green or PineSol but alcohol will probably work too.

The Black Wash10 Oct 2020 5:00 p.m. PST

The argument for washing is that handling the figs while cleaning them leaves residue from your skin. That said, I have not been able to tell it makes much difference before primiNg with a rattle can.
If you do wash I recommend a detergent (not soap) like dilute Simple Green. (If you were painting your walls you'd want to wash them first with Simple Green.)
The other thing is to make sure you are not touching the fig while painting it. Again, skin residue.

Oberlindes Sol LIC Supporting Member of TMP10 Oct 2020 5:34 p.m. PST

I haven't had the problem described.

My usual approach is to deal with flash, wash with warm water and dish soap, dry with paper towels, leave out to air dry for at least an hour, then spray with rattle can white primer from the hardware store (usually Rustoleum).

I wash them just in case oil from my fingers or the fingers of the packagers has gotten on them. Maybe it's not necessary, but it's not burdensome.

jwebster Supporting Member of TMP10 Oct 2020 6:10 p.m. PST

I had similar paint adhesion problems, for me, the solution was to use self-etching automotive primer (Rustoleum). I do wash figures with soap, but specifically researched a pH neutral dish soap. Rinse very thoroughly – last rinse with alcohol is a great idea, although I haven't been doing that

The primer can go on very thin if you practice a bit, you only need the thinnest layer of any primer. It's a murky grey green colour. I then prime white with an airbrush. Using the Badger stuff with the silly name. Again, very thin coat, effectlely you would want to still see some of the grey green in the shadows

A primer should do two things

  • Create a mechanical bond between the surface and the paint, that's what the etching part does
  • Provide a consistent surface for further layers of paint

Without the self-etch, any primer, however expensive or hyped, will just sit on the surface and is liable to peel off. I tried Gesso. It went on like concrete and left pinholes. I'm sure it's the best thing for canvas, where it is filling an uneven surface, but will never allow it near a miniature again

Good luck


tommyb2985 Supporting Member of TMP10 Oct 2020 6:11 p.m. PST

Again guys, Thank You all for your comments.

I think part of the problem, maybe the entire problem, is that I tend to handle the figures while painting even though they are on paint sticks. Something I need to be aware of while painting.

I've ordered the wire brushes. Thank you Extrabio1947.
I'll try the gesso, as well as the rubbing alcohol and I'll keep the paws off the minis.

Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian10 Oct 2020 6:21 p.m. PST

Not sure if I am up on current manufacturing processes, but with metal/pewter figures, my understanding is that no oils/lubricants are used in manufacturing, only a talc/powder to aid in flow.

If so, then there is no need to wash the figures, just dust them off.

Old Glory Sponsoring Member of TMP10 Oct 2020 7:39 p.m. PST

In 47 years of gaming I have never done, or even heard of washing white metal castings ?

Russ Dunaway

Zephyr110 Oct 2020 9:17 p.m. PST

I always wash them after prep/filing (metal dust likes to hide in the smallest crevices.) Sounds like it was a primer problem, but since you are going to try gesso, that should fix the problem… ;-)

Prince Alberts Revenge10 Oct 2020 9:27 p.m. PST

I wash all me metal miniatures. I prep them by filing away mold lines and typically place in a small bowl and rinse with some warm water dish soap. I then rinse with just warm water. The amount of metal dust at the bottom of the bowl is surprising. I use Vallejo brush on primer and never have issues with primer rubbing off.

My guess is the issue in handling the miniatures.

BTCTerrainman Supporting Member of TMP10 Oct 2020 9:36 p.m. PST

I have never washed metal figures. I just use regular spray (black or white) for priming.

Nick Bowler11 Oct 2020 2:44 a.m. PST

+1 to jwebster. I have been using etch primer for 20 years after a tip from another gamer, and never looked back!

ZULUPAUL Supporting Member of TMP11 Oct 2020 3:29 a.m. PST

Never wash any figures. I use white acrylic craft paint brush on & never had any problem. BTW I usually don't work with resin figures.


Personal logo Flashman14 Supporting Member of TMP11 Oct 2020 6:33 a.m. PST

Finger oils in the prep process remain so I wash with unscented soap with no moisturizers. Never had a problem.

How are you handling the figures when you paint them?

Also instead of using paint to cover the break-throughs use your brush on primer there again.

Palewarrior11 Oct 2020 6:45 a.m. PST

Have you tried letting them dry for more than 12 hours, I think the metal is slightly porous on the surface. So you may have trapped moisture under the layers of primer & paint.

Old Glory Sponsoring Member of TMP11 Oct 2020 7:24 a.m. PST

Whats "metal dust?" Two tons of metal goes through
the OG plant every month or so and I have never seen even a sign of such ?
NOW TALC !! Thats a different story.
Once again, I have painted 1000s of minis in my life, primed with flat black from Walmart-- no washing and have had many for years and all is well with them after much handling.
I think I will just put this one up there with "mold slippage,"
Either way, good luck solving the problem.

Russ Dunaway

jwebster Supporting Member of TMP11 Oct 2020 7:56 a.m. PST

Thanks for all the ideas. Once I have a problem solved, my brain usually goes to sleep, but you have me thinking

Oils from fingers. Yes, huge. I don't see how you can prep a figure, filing, scraping etc. without getting fingers all over, hence finger grease is inevitable. After washing, handle minis only by their bases. When sticking them onto strips etc. for basing I use a cloth, paper towel, cotton glove, whatever to handle the figure, then only touch the stick until the figure is varnished

Not drying fully – I hadn't thought of that, but I'm sure it is true –

From when I researched this before and now, some people have a problem and some never do. Perhaps it is due to finger oils, some people will hardly prep, touch their figures before priming, others a lot, and as with everything, different peoples' finger oils may be different


GildasFacit Sponsoring Member of TMP11 Oct 2020 12:00 p.m. PST

I'd assume that 'metal dust' is fine filings from cleaning up the figure. It adheres to the figure by the grease from your hands when handling during prep. I usually find some at the bottom of my cleaning pot after soaking them in rinse additive (cheap degreasing agent for dishwashers).

I use a few drops in very hot water & swish the figures around, leave to soak for 5 minutes then rinse in hot water. Evidence of grease is a slight film on the surface so it is washed off the figures along with filings, dirt and/or dust.

I've tried twenty or more different priming methods and no one has ever been perfect in a single coat. I work mostly with 15mm & smaller, mostly 6 & 10mm, so coverage in the nooks & crannies is almost always an issue. Gesso is the best so far but not perfect and it is much slower than a spray can.

Frederick Supporting Member of TMP11 Oct 2020 1:58 p.m. PST

I almost never wash metal figures but if I do I just use hot water

Very interesting discussion – learned a few things!

Hlaven Supporting Member of TMP11 Oct 2020 2:41 p.m. PST

I have only washed resin minis.
Plastic and metal have always been fine with a spray primer.

BrockLanders Supporting Member of TMP11 Oct 2020 3:40 p.m. PST

I never wash metal figures and I prime them with hardware store black spray paint. Never had one single issue in 25 years of painting figs

Brian Smaller11 Oct 2020 5:57 p.m. PST

TO be honest I rarely wash plastic figures either. I use an automotive spray undercoat and it must be pretty forgiving because never had an issue with paint lifting. I have sprayed when the humidity was too high though and the undercoat bubbled terribly. Had to strip the figures and start again.

John the OFM11 Oct 2020 6:23 p.m. PST

Back in the day, I would soak Airfix in bleach, or something. Then I would coat with Floquil plastic primer, and then Gesso. But the paint still flakes off.
I repeated that recipe with metal, but back in the Carter Administration I switched to spray primer.
Then I discovered that "hobby primers" sucked. After half the cab was gone, it spit granular crisp.

I finally realized that commercial, "I'm sure you've heard of the famous name" famous Flat Black or Flat White did the trick. NOT "PRIMER". Primers are for heavy duty household or industrial use, not hobby with tiny details.
Laugh in the face of anyone who insists you need "primer". An undercoat is sufficient.
I have painted thousands of figures with that approach. And I have had no issues.
Washing metal figures is pointless. Nobody used mold release with metal figures.

So, there!

Personal logo Cardinal Hawkwood Supporting Member of TMP11 Oct 2020 6:31 p.m. PST

use an etch primer on metals

von Schwartz11 Oct 2020 6:38 p.m. PST

I usually only wash figures if they feel greasy or oily from the manufacturer.
All cast metal figures will have small amounts of die release compound left on them whether you can feel it or not.

Try soaking them for at least 12 hours, or overnight, in vinegar (I prefer white but red works just as well), a very mild acid. Rinse well and allow to thoroughly air dry. I've got figures I've painted in the 70s that are in good shape, maybe a little yellowed from age, but the paint is intact otherwise. Although I prefer spraying my primer now, many of those earlier figures were primed by hand with a brush.
An old grizzled gamer told me when I was just a wee one that the vinegar "acid" etches the metal giving the primer something to hold onto.

BTCTerrainman Supporting Member of TMP11 Oct 2020 8:11 p.m. PST

"I usually only wash figures if they feel greasy or oily from the manufacturer.
All cast metal figures will have small amounts of die release compound left on them whether you can feel it or not".

I have never heard of mold release agents used with metal casting. Talc yes, but this is really not an issue and I have never cleaned a metal miniature before priming. I would be interested in knowing what other release compounds are used for metal casting (what am I missing?)

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