Thursday, November 17, 2011
Primer: My Brand of Choice and Rules of the Road!
Old School here with a post on primer. I know primer is part of the hobbyist "Holy Trinity" of Glue, Primer and Varnish - those things for which each hobbyist has their own brand they swear by, no matter how well/terrible it works for others - but I am here to talk about my personal favorite primer; Valspar. Why this and not one of the Hobby brands? Good question, let's talk about it.
This post was inspired by a post at Miniature Tim in which he asks what kind of primers people prefer and it seemed like certain hobby primers were a fan favorite.
Hobby brands in this case include Army Painter, GW, Armoury and P3 canned primers. I can tell you from my personal experience that Armoury is canned garbage and that I have never had a friend use it who didn't regret it as he scrapped and stripped the gritty, black sand off his models. Army Painter and GW both have good sprays, which I have used extensively in the past. Army painter has a ton of color-matched primers that provide an easy means to base an army while priming, while GW is the perfect place to get an actual Chaos Black Primer (which is good since most non-hobby brands no longer make primers in black).
With the obvious advantages listed above, there is a disadvantage: Price. I know this is an expensive hobby, but to pay $15+ per can for primer is a little steep for what I use it for. I don't paint my army with primer, I lay a foundation with it, so it seems absurd to pay so much.I willl also say that I have heard horror stories about GW and AP primers. These may be from genuine bad cans or from improper storage. Either way, not worth my money, IMHO.
Non-Hobby brands include Valspar and Krylon along with any other canned primer that isn't labeled for use on your minis. These are going to be less expensive than your average hobby primer and readily available at hardware stores. Just because they are less expensive doesn't mean you should be a cheapskate though; most stores have a generic canned "black primer" which is usually a bad can of trashy paint that ends up leaving sandy residue on your models.
Another pitfall is buying Spray Paint instead of Primer - there is a difference - spray paint is generally not friendly toward being painted over, is thicker or turns into crap when the varnish hits it.
With that being said, you get a couple of brands that are universally recognised for a degree of quality. Krylon is the big one, which runs in red, white and grey primers and also carries Fusion flat black, which some people swear by. I used to use krylon, but even with careful storage, I got a few bad cans, which I caught on test models (thankfully). That was enough for me.
Then about two years ago, I stumbled upon Valspar while shopping at Lowes, which seems to be the exclusive carrier (they offer a military discount too). These cans cost me just over $3.
Go ahead and blow this photo up if you'd like, you will see that the coat on this model is smooth, even and consistent without obscuring any of the details, while providing full coverage over the rough basing material too.
Same from the front too.
Now, what has really turned me on to this paint is its consistent performance even when priming in inclimate weather. Unlike any other primer I have used, I have sprayed models in the trunk of my car in extreme heat and humidity, in my garage in 12 degree weather and everything in between and never had a model get gritty or bumpy on me. Now, I'm not just whipping my paint out from a dusty corner of my trunk or garage and spraying away - no matter what you prime with, there are rules to canned primer that can help you never mess up another model ...
I always store my spray cans in a controlled environment. For me, this is either my hobby closet (which stays between 68 and 70 degrees in my house) or under the kitchen sink, locked up for the kids' sake. The controlled temperature keeps the paint consistent. Storing cans in the garage, basement or outside will expose the paint to changes in temperature and humidity that, when compounded by the conductive surface of the can, will cause inconsistencies in the paint and therefore, terrible results on your minis. So whip the paint out and spray it wherever, but take it back to its home in the closet immediately after use.
My next rule is to always have a test model. This is obvious, but often overlooked. I don't care if you test on an actual mini or an action figure. As long as there is a smooth surface you can see and feel later to ensure the paint is ready to use on your models.
The bottom line is that you spend enough money on these models and you should respect the materials you use to paint them so that you have great looking miniatures on the table, which always enhances the fun of the game!
A last note for those interested in Valspar: It dries slowly and the surface will be sticky for about 4-5 hours. Don't handle the actual model as you will leave finger prints during this time. You can wait at this point (which I recommend) and come back when the paint is done being tacky - or you can wash the model (usually Badab Black) to bring out the details and seal the surface - either way, you will end up waiting. Once it is finished curing though, you will have a great surface to paint on.
Well there is my take on priming models and my personal drug of choice for priming. Let's hear what your experiences with primers are, what you use and your opinions. What's your take on this member of the "Holy Trinity?"