Priming is a very basic and essential step to all miniature painting. It literally lays down the foundation for all of your work.
First thing to consider for priming white is the brand of primer. For white primer two brands tend to come to the surface quickly because of coverage and smoothness. Krylon white primer, a brand that can be found at a lot of retail department stores and home improvement type stores is very popular. The other, not-so-common brand, is Dupli-Color, which is an automotive primer. Both of these can create an excellent primer for any miniature painting. As always, when using primer, consider your environment when using it. Always prime in a well-ventilated area for your own safety, as primers tend to be a little nasty when breathed.
After filing, pinning, converting, etc., always wash down your miniature just before priming. Even the most perfectly cast miniatures will have a light residue of release agent from the casting and while you were doing all of that work prepping your work up to this point, just handling the miniature will deposit your body’s natural oils onto the surface. Both of these will make it very difficult for your primer to adhere to the metal’s surface. To resolve this, a simple cleaning with hot water, dish soap and an old toothbrush will do nicely. The water should be hot for two reasons: first, hot water breaks up grease easier, and secondly, it will allow the miniature to dry more quickly. Getting a miniature to thoroughly dry before priming is essential, as any drop of water hiding in a recessed crevice will keep the primer from getting to the metal’s surface. Personally, given the time, I like to allow the miniature to air dry for an hour or two to make sure all of those hidden drops are completely gone. This also allows me to not use a cloth to dry them with, which in turn does not allow any chance of lint from a cloth to find its way into my primer. If you must towel dry, try some lint free cloth that you can find in a hardware store near the paint department.
The next thing to consider when priming is weather. You will find that nearly all cans of primer will have suggested humidity and temperature parameters to watch out for when being used. Between 55f and 90f degrees is common, with low humidity usually being important. Brands will vary, so read each one carefully. I’ve heard of many people priming outside of the temperature parameters, but if you’re looking for the best results possible, they need to be followed. Humidity on the other hand…how can we judge this? I have heard of people attempting to prime in the rain only to find out too late that this shouldn’t be done. Even being in a garage isn’t always enough to hide you from the humidity from the weather. A basic rule of thumb that I have followed and that has kept my priming good is this: look at any pavement or concrete outside. Is it wet? If it is, then don’t prime. The humidity is still too high. Is it dry? If so, you’ll likely be good to go.
I use a variety of different items to assist in priming. One is a spray can trigger attachment. This item allows me to gain full movement of my hand and wrist as I’m spraying. By comparison, without a trigger attachment your wrist is locked into a more restrictive position and will not allow you to work as easily. These trigger attachments can be found in almost any place that sells a large selection of spray primers and paints. Another item I always use because I hold individual miniatures while I’m spraying is a simple latex glove for the hand holding the miniature. Only one is needed as your other hand is obviously doing the spraying. This serves two purposes. One, it can allow you to handle the miniature without worry of getting grease on anything that you are about to prime. The second is basic health and skin care. Whenever possible, keep primer from spraying on your skin; you have to practically scrub your skin raw in order to get the stuff off.
This is what priming is all about: getting it from the can to your miniature without it “going goofy.” The first thing to do as you are lining up your miniatures to be primed is to shake that can and shake it hard for a good two minutes. This is especially true with a new can; you’d be amazed at how much material can settle at the bottom of a can. Lighting is another thing to consider. Being outside in the sun is ideal, but sometimes priming at dawn or night is better because of the temperature. Make sure there is a light close by so that you can see exactly what you have and haven’t sprayed. While spraying, it is often best to spray from six to ten inches away in smooth, even strokes to obtain a smooth surface and finish. It is also always better to do two light coats compared to one heavy coat, as a heavy coat will often kill off the miniature’s detail. Doing two light coats will also allow you to come back for the second coat and better judge where you were missing the miniature with primer the first time around. You’ll often find two schools of white primer users. There are those that go for a light dusting (but still being covered) and those that go for a super white finish from a slightly full coat of white primer. I tend to lean towards the middle ground, personally, but priming only a few miniatures and going through the motions will tell you what you personally prefer.
After you have primed your miniatures and double-checked that all spaces have been covered, underside and all, let them sit for a minimum of two hours before painting. I wait twenty-four hours as a rule, as the surface of the primer then has had a good time span to fully cure into a hard surface that will provide the best surface for painting.
Until next time.