To be fair, I have heard of a few people who don’t prime their metal miniatures, but that makes me cringe. When I painted my very first Ral Partha and Grenadier models back when I had to fight the sabertooth tiger for my brontoburger, I bought a bunch of those Testor’s paints in the tiny bottles, purchased paint thinner, and proceeded to glob it on. For your amusement, here’s one of my better ones.
Many years later, about the time Reaper was a fledgling company and minis were in that sad, intermediate place where they were almost forgotten, I purchased a Partha blister. On a whim, I asked the man behind the counter, “how do you paint these?” He handed me a can of Partha primer and told me to prime them first, then use whatever kind of paint I wanted. It sounded good to me, and he made a sale.
(Insert Disney music from Aladdin here) “A whole new world” opened up after that visit, and I began to prime all my miniatures. I switched paints, starting with cheap acrylic paints from Wal Mart which were 50 cents a bottle. I gradually progressed to better brushes, paints and techniques.
I was willing to put aside my primer prejudice to try painting straight onto the new Reaper plastics to see what it would do. It would save me a step and some money if I could put the primer back on the shelf with the 8 Track and Beta recording… nevermind.
My experiences with primers on plastic figures has been hit and miss. Back with the earlier Games Workshop grey plastic figures, a lot of the primers came out with a “fuzzy” finish to them. This happened because it was either too thick or the plastic had a reaction to it. I normally use Krylon white spray primer which I get at Wal Mart, Lowe’s or just about anywhere you can buy spray paint. It’s more convenient, dries in about 10 minutes, and I’ve never had any issues with it ruining in the can or messing up my figures. It doesn’t have quite the same, solid coverage as GW brand, but I’ve used hundreds of cans and it works for what I do with it. It was also cheaper than GW when all I could do was mail order, but those are the only current types of spray primer I’ve used. For plastic miniatures, I normally use Reaper Master Series brush on primer from the squeeze bottles.
Unfortunately, my photos don’t show very much, but in my defense there’s not much to see.
Left: Scorpion – No primer at all
Middle: Beetle (not Ringo) – primed with Krylon
Right: Spider – primed with Brush on RMS white
It’s not particularly easy to see what you primed because the figures and primer are both white. Be careful you don’t overdo it or you’ll lose details.
I began on the scorpion using a black acrylic paint designed for canvases and non-miniature artists. I use a lot of black so this is more economical. It normally has to be thinned down a little in a squeeze bottle with Medium, so I found that brand pulled away from itself to show the miniature underneath. It took more than one coat to cover. The flash gave me problems, but inside the red is where it “pulled” away from itself. The green is reflected highlights from the flash or my desk lamp.
I switched to a brown made by RMS and it covered as per normal, even without the primer.
When I went to paint the beetle, the black paint covered and went on smooth. I didn’t get the “pulling” away. RMS paints behaved the same way and it didn’t seem to matter. I didn’t see any difference between the Krylon and RMS brush on except I can usually get the spray types on more easily with smoother coverage and speed.
Once the Scorpion was dried for a few hours, I rubbed my thumb over the top of it really hard several times, trying to get the paint to come off. It stayed put. I put the figure in a bag full of plastic and metal miniatures and proceeded to shake vigorously for about 30 seconds. That’s some pretty serious abuse for an unsealed miniature. It had some very small chips in the paint, but showed some really impressive resilience. I don’t actually play with my figures and seal with 3 coats of spray gloss. I finish with either one coat of either Testor’s dull coat or Vallejo brush on matte for a truly flat finish.
In conclusion: Personally, I’m going to stubbornly sit in my “It must be primed!” camp because I have less hassles with the paint sticking every time and I use a variety of different paint brands. However, I think it’s possible to paint straight on these figures and particularly if they’re sealed (plus treated gently), have it work out just as well.
On the Nightspecter, I added some straight paint to try and bring out the details a little more. It looks brighter in person to me than it does on my monitor. I’m having trouble getting a decent photo of it because of the flash.