Best Primer for Miniatures - Best Primer for Painting Miniatures (2023)

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Would you like to paint plastic or metal miniatures and are you looking for the ideal primer? Each primer works differently depending on the product and the surface you are using it on. All primers act the same on the surface and are used as a first coat to prepare the surface of unpainted plastic, resin or metal. Primers are also applied to prevent the paint to be applied later from being absorbed by the material being worked on. Another benefit of primers is that they create a smooth work surface, covering and filling in imperfections.

table of contents

  • 1 What is a primer?
  • 2 Best primer for metal and plastic miniatures
    • 2.1 Best overall grade: VALLEJO acrylic polyurethane filler primer
    • 2.2 Premium Choices: GAMES WORKSHOP Citadel Spray Paint
    • 2.3 Economical: LIQUITEX Gesso Primer
  • 3 Why should I use primer to paint miniatures?
    • 3.1 primer allows acrylic paint to adhere
    • 3.2 Primer fills in small imperfections and scratches
    • 3.3 primers provide a color cast
    • 3.4 Use less primer for sharper details
  • 4 types of applications
    • 4.1 Brush Primers
    • 4.2 Primers for airbrushing
    • 4.3 Spray Primer
  • Top 5 tips for printing thumbnails
    • 5.1 Surface preparation for priming
    • 5.2 What is the best color option for a base?
    • 5.3 Prepare your thumbnail

What is a primer?

Primers are used as a base before painting begins. You need a good primer so that later applications of the products do not cause any problems. A primer is a product used to coat an unpainted surface. With the primer you prepare the surface for the application of the necessary modeling paint.

Regardless of the type of material you're working on, whether it's resin, plastic, or metal, you can create a universal surface to work on by applying a primer. If you love wearing cosmetics and makeup, you already have a good idea of ​​the importance of foundation. When applying makeup, a foundation is applied to the skin to prevent the makeup from being absorbed into the skin. Primer also ensures you have a smooth surface to work with.

By applying a primer you create a surface where you have more control over the result, whether you are working with makeup, an art medium or acrylic paint. If you want to paint miniatures, you need a primer that will give you a solid base.

The best primer for metal and plastic miniatures

When working with 28-35mm scale plastic miniatures, we recommend a spray primer. However, when working with larger miniatures, you can use any primer. The main purpose of a primer is to ensure you have a thin, even surface ready for painting.

When applying your foundation, you want to make sure you aren't covering up any detail. To do this, make sure your first primer is very thin. Choose a primer that is not too thick so that you can easily apply thin layers. Therefore, a spray primer is an ideal solution for smaller miniatures, as it is easy to apply thin layers to the model.

Spray primers are the best choice for miniatures, and while there's nothing wrong with a brush primer, you can't use them to apply as thin layers as you can with a spray. We've selected some of the best primers for your miniature project, some of which can be applied by spraying and others by brushing.

Best Primer for Miniatures - Best Primer for Painting Miniatures (1)

Best overall: VALLEJO Acrylic Polyurethane Filler Primer

Vallejos Surface Primer is an amazing product for model making and miniature work. This foundation comes in a variety of colors, but we recommend choosing gray as it is the most versatile color.

Best Primer for Miniatures - Best Primer for Painting Miniatures (2)

  • The surface primer is easy to clean with water.
  • Apply with airbrush or brush
  • Ideal for printing miniatures.

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(Video) The BEST Primer??

It can be diluted with water to be applied with an airbrush or applied as is with a brush. When used in an airbrush, the primer applies thinly and dries quickly. It leaves a smooth finish, making it ideal for working with pewter or plastic miniatures.


  • Good value for money
  • Can be applied with a brush or airbrush
  • Available in different colors
  • Quick dry

In contrast

  • Must be thinned for use with an airbrush
  • May require multiple layers

Premium Recommendation: GAMES WORKSHOP Citadel Spray Paint

This is a fairly expensive primer developed as a primer for plastic, metal, and resin miniatures. This product offers a great black color to give your models a matte unicorn base.

Best Primer for Miniatures - Best Primer for Painting Miniatures (3)

GAMES WORKSHOP Citadel Spray Paint (Chaos Black)

(Video) How to Prime Miniatures Correctly | Best Primers
  • Base coat for plastic, resin and metal miniatures
  • A quick way to get a consistent base color on models
  • Fantastic black paint color.

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With this product you can spray your miniature quickly and easily. This product is optimal for miniatures due to its fine spray mist meaning little to no build up on the more detailed parts of your model.


  • Matt black base coat
  • Feines Aerosol
  • fast drying
  • easy to use
  • minimal smell

In contrast

  • Expensive

Spread: LIQUITEX Gesso Primer

The Liquitex Neutral Gray Gesso is available for just $9. It is a plaster that is an alternative to the standard primer and can be used on miniatures. Gesso is known to be used as a primer before painting, whether with acrylics or oil paints. It's a fairly hard compound and is formulated with a glue or plaster-like substance. Sanding between layers is recommended.

Best Primer for Miniatures - Best Primer for Painting Miniatures (4)

(Video) Ultimate Guide to Primer - HC 318

  • liquid in nature
  • Reduces the viscosity of heavier paints and gels.
  • Durable and crack free

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This primer takes about 24 hours to dry, which means you'll need some patience before you can apply color. Plaster can be prone to blistering, but it makes up for it by being a flexible material that will last a long time without yellowing. The plaster is best applied with a brush. So you have to be careful not to compromise on the finer details.


  • Thinner than most types of plaster
  • Continuous
  • Will not yellow over time.

In contrast

  • long to dry
  • prone to blisters
  • Cannot grasp the finer details

Why you should use primer to paint miniatures

There are two main purposes for the primer:

  1. The primer forms a base layer onto which enamel paint can be applied.
  2. Primer ensures that the paint adheres to the miniature.

In addition to these purposes, the primer also fills in small scratches and holes to create a smooth, even surface. If the surface is not smooth, the paint may not stick to it. Primers also offer a color cast, although their thicker consistency means it's easy to lose detail on your miniature's surface.

Best Primer for Miniatures - Best Primer for Painting Miniatures (5)

Primer allows acrylic paint to adhere

Even if you have thoroughly cleaned your miniature, whether plastic, resin or metal, you will find that acrylic paint does not adhere well to it. By using primer you can create a surface that will stick to paint. too, especially those like a metal surface. If you don't use a primer, your acrylic paint can easily chip or peel off the surface.

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Primer fills in minor blemishes and scratches

The primer plays an important role in filling in blemishes and small scratches on the surface of your miniature to ensure you have an even surface to apply your paint to. This is a great feature of the primer, especially since most miniatures will get dented or scratched through wear and use. The primer is even more beneficial for filling in blemishes and scratches when used in other applications such as. B. automotive parts is used.

The miniatures have fine details that are present thanks to small marks on the surface of the material. Higher quality miniatures tend to have finer detail and finer textures. Using a quality primer allows you to apply thin coats to the miniature's surface without affecting the finer details in any way.

Primers add a color cast

Although the primer is intended to be applied under paint, the substance is not light. The primer is an opaque color that you can use to your advantage or in battle. Grey, black or white are the most common colors of primer, but you will be able to find primer in almost any color imaginable. The white base is the choice for most hobbyists, while some use gray as a compromise if white isn't available.

A lot is up to you when it comes to choosing which primer color to use. We suggest that you consider the paint colors you will be using and whether they will be primarily dark or light colors. If you choose not to use a light base coat, the lighter areas in your piece can end up looking rather monotonous. A good option is to use a white primer as it works well with bolder shades of paint.

Use less primer for sharper details

Don't apply the primer too thickly as this will spoil the detail of the miniature. As mentioned, high-end miniatures tend to have finer detail and you don't want to damage such intricate parts by applying too thick a primer.

How can you make sure you've applied enough primer? A cleaned miniature, whether it's plastic, resin, or metal, will usually have a shiny finish. Apply your spray primer to an area with good lighting so you can see the reflected light anywhere on the miniature that still needs to be primed.

You should use a flat or matte primer as it is non-reflective. Apply the primer by spraying in short bursts while holding the miniature about a foot from the spray can (this is about a third of a meter). You only need to apply enough primer to cover the miniature's reflectivity.

application types

The way you prime your miniatures can significantly affect the results. The main goal is to apply the primer as evenly, consistently and thinly as possible without affecting the fine details of the miniature. You want to create a smooth surface that the paint can easily adhere to.

brush primers

You will find that there are many projects that you cannot use a spray primer on as you always need a well ventilated area to spray. There may be times when you need to use a brush to apply your foundation. This may be because you are in a small room, such as a bedroom. B. in an apartment or at a meeting, or that the weather is damp or too cold to spray outside.

Some hobbyists prefer the brush approach, but you will need more patience and skill if you choose this application option. If you apply the primer with a brush, you will get thicker layers. We recommend that you take your time with this application method and use a flat head brush.

Airbrush primers

If you choose to apply the primer with an airbrush, you can effortlessly apply thin, even coats and avoid air bubbles. psi.

You may need to thin the primer, especially if you chose a brush-on primer that is thicker. You are looking for a milk-like foundation consistency. To thin the primer, you can use 1 part airbrush thinner or water to about 3 parts primer.

Best Primer for Miniatures - Best Primer for Painting Miniatures (6)

Spray primer

Another easy application for the primer is through spray cans. You can buy generic primers, industrial primers, or special miniature primers. General industrial primers are very affordable and can be bought in bulk.

You won't apply as thinly when using aerosols as with airbrushing, where some cheaper aerosol options can result in a grainy finish. You can sand industrial primers after drying, which is not possible. to do with specific primers for thumbnails. This sanding allows you to create a smooth surface before you start applying the paint.

These disadvantages mean that you should only use an aerosol primer for miniatures and large parts that don't have finer, more intricate detail, as this form of spray application covers larger areas at a cheaper price.

Spray primer doesn't produce a fine spray like an airbrush, so to avoid lots of waste or primer we recommend spraying multiple pieces at a time.

Top tips for printing thumbnails

There are a number of tips and tricks to help you prepare miniature surfaces for painting. However, before you can apply the primer, you need to make sure your miniature's surface is completely clean and dry. You may also need help choosing the best shade of primer for your project.

Substrate preparation for priming

The main purpose of the primer is to adhere well to the miniature, which means it is important that you have cleaned your miniature sufficiently before you start applying the primer.

Miniatures are made with molds, filling the mold with liquid plastic, resin, or metal. They are then allowed to harden by cooling. After curing, the miniature must be demolded. So that this is possible without any problems, the mold is first coated with a lubricant to facilitate demoulding.

Mold release is similar to a non-stick spray you would use on a pan and ensures the miniature pops out of the mold with ease. However, this means that your miniature will be coated in a thin, invisible layer of lubricant. This lubricant negatively affects the process of applying glue, primer and paint.

Therefore, it is important to start any miniature project with a thorough cleaning of the figures. You can clean them with soap and water. It is very important to start this cleaning process.

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What is the best color choice for a primer?

We recommend sticking with neutral colors like black, gray, or white. You can buy a variety of colors, but those that differ from the basic colors can be quite expensive. Since you'll be painting over the primer anyway with your chosen paint colors, most layers of the primer won't even show through.

The reference colors for the primers are black, white or gray, the choice depends on your eyes. Are you one of those who prefer lights or shadows? Do you want to make something darker or lighter while painting? This is a very personal preference as the primer color you choose will have minimal impact on the final color of the paintwork.

Best Primer for Miniatures - Best Primer for Painting Miniatures (7)

Prepare your thumbnail

  • If you have decided to use an airbrush or spray can, be careful not to get too close to the miniature when using the equipment.If it's too close, it can result in "spider webs" or spatter caused by the spray pushing the primer onto the miniature's surface. Start spraying away from the miniature, using short, quick bursts at least 6 inches away.
  • Always start preparing your miniature before you start applying the primer.. Quickly clean the miniature with mild soap and a toothbrush. Because most miniatures are made in molds, they are often coated with a release agent. If the thumbnail is still coatedrelease agent, primer and paint will not stick to your surface.
  • When using a rattle spray can, the weather can play a role.If the weather is extreme, very humid or freezing cold, it can affect your results.
  • Never apply thick coats of primer to a miniature; Always use thin layers.This is to ensure that the fine details of the piece are not compromised in any way.
  • Allow each coat to dry before applying a new coat.It may take 30 minutes to an hour to dry sufficiently.


Should you prime miniatures before painting? ›

Priming miniatures before painting them is one of the best things a tabletop gamer can do. This simple step ensures that paint sticks to the miniature's surface, protects its durability, and evens out textures for an easier painting experience.

What should I use to Prime miniatures? ›

You'll always want to use a flat, or "matte" primer, meaning it's nonreflective. Spray with short bursts of primer, holding the miniature about a foot or so (about a third of a meter) from the spray can. Apply just enough primer so that it eliminates any shininess when dry.

How many coats of primer do you need for miniature painting? ›

1-2 thin layers of primer are all you need for painting miniatures.

Should I use brush or spray primer? ›

When Should You Use a Brush on Primer? In general, it is always good to have multiple options available for when your hobby needs change. For large or multiple models that you need to prime, use a spray primer. In poor weather, or when you work indoors without a spray booth, a brush-on primer will be a better choice.

Is rustoleum primer good for miniatures? ›

I would consider Rustoleum 2x Ultra Primer to be a great starter spray if you're just getting your feet wet in miniature painting and don't know if you want to invest too much in the hobby. It's cheap and it's everywhere.

What happens if you paint minis without primer? ›

Painting without priming can lead to streaky results and more coats needed. Black priming is actually a shortcut, as small amounts of black left behind can look like shadows, or help bring out detail. Although you will need to paint white over black before applying red/yellow and other light colours.

Does the color of primer matter for miniatures? ›

Depends what color you're going to paint the minis. If you're painting them dark, black is better. If you're painting them light, white is better. If you want to be a little safe, gray is good.

How long should primer dry before painting minis? ›

The quick answer to this is approximately two hours. This is the average of the drying time for primers from Army Painter, Citadel and Tamiya but there is one gotcha that you need to be aware of.

Is it better to do 2 coats of primer or paint? ›

You will want to use 2-3 coats of primer to ensure there is a good bond between the new paint and the wall, and also to cover up any previous colors, especially if they are red, orange, or a strange outdated color. In short, you will typically need 2 coats of primer for most painting projects.

Can you spray primer without sanding? ›

The highest quality bonding primers will often state 'no sanding is necessary' and will adhere to almost any shiny surface, such as glass, metal, tile etc. Primers like Kilz, Fuse, and Zinnser are good for bonding very strongly. Primers can be costly, but if they are of good quality there will be no need for sanding.

Can I use primer without setting spray? ›

A good primer will help to create a smooth canvas for your makeup and allow your foundation to apply evenly. You can use a setting spray after primer and foundation to make your makeup last longer, but it's not a necessary step in your beauty routine.

Should you apply primer with a roller? ›

Applying primer first is the best way to ensure a perfect finish later. Just as it does with makeup and on cars, primer creates a smooth base that promotes better adhesion and truer color from your topcoat paint. Pro-tip: Apply primer using a brush first to “cut in" around edges, then use a roller to fill in.

What kind of primer should I use on plastic models? ›

The best primer to use on plastic is an airbrush primer, as the spray will reach most angles of your miniature. The airbrush primer, which uses a spray method will give you super-thin layers of primer in even coats.

How do you prime miniatures fast? ›

Place the miniatures on a surface you can hold in your hand, but where you avoid spraying primer on you. Shake the spray can (a lot). Gently spray the miniatures from a distance (about 20-30 cm) in short bursts. Move the spraycan while spraying so you avoid spraying in the same area for long.

Should you wash minis before priming? ›

How to assemble your miniatures. Some forms of plastic have a bit of chemical residue from the molding process, so it is a good idea to wash them in soapy water before priming and painting. Rinse thoroughly afterwards with clean water.

Which is better red oxide or zinc primer? ›

Zinc chromate provides more corrosion resistance than red oxide, although red oxide is excellent for exposure to sunlight and exterior exposure. If you are concerned about corrosion, then in my opinion, zinc chromate will give you better corrosion resistance.

Is Citadel primer worth it? ›

So, Are Citadel Spray primers worth it? Citadel primers are pretty much a must-have when painting your minis. While they are pretty expensive compared to other brands, they are worth it with their exceptional consistency and durability. Plus, they won't ruin your miniatures.

Which Rustoleum primer to use for miniatures? ›

Rust-Oleum 2x Ultra Cover Flat Gray Primer

As a universal primer for applying paint, Rust-Oleum Flat Gray Primer is a popular choice among modelers and miniature painters. In my experience, almost all Rust-Oleum primers work well on miniatures with a few caveats.

Do I need a wet palette to paint minis? ›

A wet palette keeps model acrylic paint from drying out and helps a miniature painter thin and mix paint. With a wet palette, a painter can take their time working out their color palette before applying it to their working surface on a miniature.

Can you paint over already painted minis? ›

In general, however, it is usually best to strip old paint off a miniature before repainting it. This ensures that the new paint will adhere properly and will create a smooth, even finish.

Can you prime miniatures in the cold? ›

Priming in cold weather is not a problem. I used to prime outside all the time in cold weather. The trick is to make sure that your miniatures and primer are not cold. If you run outside and prime them quickly, then you'll be ok.

Is white or GREY primer better? ›

--For covering up walls that are dark, or rich in color, a gray colored primer works best. This hides the tone of the color underneath best. With a white primer you will need 2-4 coats of primer, to cover blacks, and reds.

Should I use purple or green primer? ›

"Think of the color wheel: Colors that are opposite from one another will help cancel the other out," says makeup artist Molly R. Stern. For example, if you're battling redness, go for a green primer. A purple one gives sallow (yellow) tones the knockout.

Should I use pink or yellow primer? ›

Pink makeup primers work a little like blush by making your complexion look illuminated and healthy. If you can see the bluish veins in your delicate skin, a yellow makeup primer will help cover these up. A peach-colored primer will help cover up dark circles and hyperpigmentation.

Can primer sit too long before painting? ›

Most water-based primers dry relatively fast, in 3 or 4 hours. After that, they will be good to use for the next 30 days. As long as you paint your surfaces in that time period, your paint will stick with no problems.

Can I paint over primer in 2 hours? ›

Most latex primers dry to the touch in 30 minutes to one hour. But for best results, don't paint until the primer completely dries—which can take up to 3 hours, depending on temperature and humidity.

Why is my miniature sticky after priming? ›

If your minis are Reaper Bones then it may be a reaction between the vinyl mini and the propellant used in the primer. Painting over the tacky primer is usually what most people do, but you certainly can strip the primer off and start over with a different brand of spray primer if you prefer.

How many coats of Zinsser 123 primer should I use? ›

In most cases only one coat is necessary to prime most surfaces. If excessive absorption occurs over very porous substrates a second coat may be necessary. Spot priming is recommended only under high-hiding topcoat finishes.

Should you let primer fully dry before painting? ›

Most latex primers dry to the touch in 30 minutes to one hour. But for best results, don't paint until the primer completely dries—which can take up to 3 hours, depending on temperature and humidity. Once the primer is completely dry, it's prime time for painting.

What happens if you apply second coat of primer too soon? ›

Applying the second coat too early will result in streaks, peeling paint, and uneven color. Not only will this ruin the entire project but it'll cost additional money to get more paint in some occasions. It's best to wait for the first coat to dry.

Do I need to prime plastic models before painting? ›

It's not necessary, but some model enthusiasts prefer to prime their projects before painting them. Use a thin coat so you don't obscure any details. The primer will slightly roughen the surface of the model, making it easier for paint to stick.

When should you prime miniatures? ›

And you should always prime your miniatures before painting. Primers adhere to a new surface and prepare it to receive paint. Without it, many paints just won't stick, and if they do, they certainly won't stay long.

Should I sandpaper plastic before painting? ›

Since most plastic is glossy, sanding is then an essential step. Lightly sand all surfaces with 180 to 220-grit sandpaper. Fine sandpaper such as this will prevent you from marring the surface. Since plastic is soft, you can do the sanding by hand.

What kind of primer do you use on plastic? ›

Use a specially formulated primer such as Rust-Oleum Specialty Plastic Primer Spray , Krylon CoverMaxx Primer , or XIM Plastic Bonding Primer.


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