Cart: $0.00 - (0 items )

Priming 101 – How to Prime Miniatures

So, you have your first miniature/model kit built and want to get started painting! The first thing you have to do after building is prime your model. Here is what you need to start priming!

What you need:

Primer is special paint that adheres to smooth surfaces and gives your paint something to grab onto. Primer also provides a “foundation” on which the rest of your paint job relies on. A poor prime job will make the final result after painting less than ideal. Skipping this step can lead to your hard work chipping or flaking off.

There are a few different types of primer: Spray-can, airbrush, and brush-on. Since you are just starting out and probably don’t have an airbrush available to you, we will just cover spray-can and brush-on primers in this article.

Primers come in many different colors. The most common colors are white, black, and grey. Some primer lines like Stynylrez and Army Painter come in other colors which can be useful for painting large numbers of models that share a common color, like hordes of rats, or squads of space marines. For beginner painters, we recommend starting with a white or black primer. Choose a white primer if you want your primary color be bright colors like whites, reds, yellows, oranges, greens, and golds, or a black primer for dark colors like black, purple, blues, browns, and silvers.

Brush-On Primer

Brush-on primers are primers that are applied with a paint brush and include brands such as Reaper, Vallejo, and Citadel. Additionally, you can always brush on airbrush primers like Stynylrez or Vallejo Air primer. The advantage to using brush-on primers is you don’t have to worry about fumes or outside conditions when priming. The disadvantage with brush-on primers is that care must be taken to keep the primer thin enough to not fill in details or create raised lines from brush strokes.

Here you can see what it looks like to apply primer with a brush.

Spray-Can Primer

The second type of primer we’ll cover in this article is spray-can primer. This is primer that comes in a can that looks like spray paint. The advantages of spray can primers is that they are fast to apply and can give a nice even coat. Basic pre-shading can also be done with spray can primers (this will be covered in another post). The disadvantages are that they must be applied outside and can be affected by the weather conditions, and if not applied properly the primer can obscure details.

To apply spray-can primer, it’s best to avoid spraying when it’s extra humid, raining, windy, or very cold outside. It’s also best to spray in an open air environment and not into a box where the paint particles can bounce around too much which can lead to a fuzzy prime job. Gloves can be helpful to keep your hands from getting primed as well!

Be sure to shake the can for at least a full minute to properly mix the paint. Not doing so can result in a fuzzy or watery result.

After the can is shaken for one minute, hold the model about 8-12 inches away from the can.  If held too close the primer will go on runny, could obscure detail, and may dry with cracks and bubbles in the surface.  Too far and the primer particles will dry before they land on the model and end up collecting on top of each other instead of spreading out evenly, resulting in a fuzzy or gritty finish. 

Learn from our mistakes:  this might sound obvious, but always double-check that your nozzle is facing the anticipated direction!

With the model held about 8-12 inches away, sweep the spray can side-to-side while spraying in short bursts. By sweeping the can from side to side this insures the spray will not be concentrated on one point of the model too long. Turn the model to get all side and angles, but don’t worry about getting every single crevasse.

Using Spray-Can Primer













Don’t touch the models while they are freshly primed!  This will result in fingerprints and smudges that will show through several layers of paint, and can sometimes end up in raised textures that you can’t get rid of easily.  This is why having a cork that you hold onto is helpful for getting those hard-to-reach angles.

After priming it’s usually a good idea to let the primer cure between 1-24 hours. If you want to get started right away, then just let the primer dry completely before starting to paint. This should only take a minute or two if the primer was applied properly and not too thick.  A hairdryer can be used to speed this up.

Ready to get painting? So are we! Stay tuned for the next article, “Painting 101”!

Write a Reply or Comment:

Back to top