Preparing your miniatures for painting is one of the most important steps in painting them. If you mess up here then your mistake will carry through all the rest of the steps. For example, one messed-up seam will be painfully visible even after you painted your miniature. So I will teach you how to properly prime your miniatures to get the perfect results every time.
As a whole, to prime a miniature, it is important to remove any molding lines with a craft knife and to fill any gaps with some Milliput or green stuff first. Then fixate the miniature on some cardboard or wood and apply a thin coat of primer.
Now that is the very basic outline of how to apply a primer but there are a couple of nuances that you have to keep in mind when priming your miniature like applying the primer in multiple passes and not pointing the spray can directly on the miniature to apply the primer, for example.
I will explain all of these important things in more detail in the steps below.
But first, let’s take a look at the best primers for miniatures. Because you don´t need to use the official Warhammer citadel primer for your Warhammer miniatures, for example.
There are a lot of cheaper alternatives to the official primers that are equally good or even better and way cheaper than any of the official primers.
Best Primers for Miniatures
Believe it or not, the primer you use for your miniatures matters a lot. If the primer is bad then it will obscure the detail of the miniatures or acrylic paint won´t stick properly to the surface. But you also don´t have to get expensive primers either.
The best primers for miniature painting are the primers from Army Painter and the primers from Krylon Fusion for plastic. Both of these primers are cheaper than Warhammer Citadel primer and equally good for priming miniatures.
My personal favorite primer for miniatures is the mat black primer from Army Painter. I use it for almost all of my miniatures because it is easy to use, doesn´t obscure any details, and the matt finish is a perfect base color for painting.
You can get primers from Army Painter in different colors. This is really convinient as the primer can double as a base coat.
Krylon Fusion for plastic is also very good for priming miniatures. It is also cheaper than Army Painter but it is very shiny, which I personally don´t like.
You can get Krylon Fusion primer for plastic in your local hardware store.
You can also use Warhammer Citadel primer. It is really good and also very easy to use but it is more expencive than the other option that I mentioned in this article.
How to Apply a Primer to Miniatures Correctly
Now let´s finally start priming our miniatures. I will go over all the most important steps to prepare your miniatureas and to apply the primer properly and evenly.
If you follow these steps then you will end up with an amazing and clean base for painting your miniatures.
1. Remove Mold Lines From the Miniature
Every single step in this guide is very important especially this one!
Before you even start applying the primer to your miniatures you first have to remove all the molding lines on the model as they will be visible even after you apply the primer.
Mold lines are tiny raised lines that run along some model parts. They are a byproduct of the molding process.
You can easily remove them by using a crafts knife. Hold the knife vertical to the model and carefully scratch over the mold line to remove it.
You don´t need much force to remove the line.
2. Fix Ugly Gaps and Seams on the Miniature
When you assemble your miniature then you might see some gaps or small seams where the parts didn´t fit perfectly together.
You can fill in these gaps in various ways.
If the gap is very small then you can use some model glue to fix it. Model glue slightly dissolves the plastic of the model. This will fuse two parts of the model together permanently.
But we can use this to our advantage. Simply apply the model glue to the small seam and the glue will dissolve the area very slightly fusing the small seam and making it pretty much invisible.
If the gap is very big then you can either use milliput, green stuff, or sprue goo to fix it.
Milliput and green stuff are both two-part glues that have the consitency of dough. You simply mix the two components and then apply them to the gap.
Make your finger wet and then smooth the area as much as possible. It doesn´t have to be perfect because you can sand the area after the glue has dried.
3. Stick the Miniature to a Stick or Piece of Cardboard
After fixing all of the seams and gaps it is almost time to finally apply the primer to your miniature.
There is just one thing left to do which is sticking the miniature to a piece of wood, cardboard, or something simmilar where you can easily apply the primer without painting your hands.
I usually use cardboard and some double-sided tape to temporarily glue the miniature to the cardboard.
Some miniatures are a little more complicated to paint and you can apply a primer and paint the figure before completely assembling them.
For example, one arm could be very close to the torso of the miniature which would make it hard for the torso and the arm to be painted properly.
So you can apply a primer and paint the torso and the arm seperatly from each other and then assemble the miniature after you are done painting it.
4. Apply the Primer in Thin and Even Coats
The final step is applying the primer.
First, you have to shake the spray can very well. I usually shake them for at least a minute before using it.
It is also a good habbit to put the bottom part of the paint can in some warm water (not hot and not boiling water!). This will make it easier for the paint and the thinner inside the can to mix properly. The warm water will loosen the paint that usually collects on the bottom of the paint.
Only apply the primer in a well ventilated area or outside!
Once you are done with shaking the paint can, simply grab your miniature and then point your spray can slightly on the left of the miniature.
Now press down and then move the spray can quickly from left to right. This will make it so that the miniature is only lightly dusted with the primer.
Repeat this process until the miniature is covered completely in the primer.
Move the miniature around between each pass to make sure that you apply the primer to every part of the miniature.
The primer usually dries within a few minutes and you can start drawing your miniature as soon as the primer is dry to the touch.
Do You Need to Prime Miniatures?
There is often a little bit of confusion about how important it is to prime miniatures before painting them. I wrote a whole article about the importance of priming miniatures so I will only be very brief here.
It is important to prime miniatures before painting them to ensure that the applied paint adheres properly to the surface of the miniature. If the miniature is not primed before painting it then the paint will easily scratch off.
So priming your miniatures is very important and should not be ignored!
Can Minis be Primed in the Cold?
This might sound weired at first but it can be a little bit of a challenge to prime miniatures when it is very cold outside. But why is that and what can be done to propelry prime miniatures in the cold?
As a whole, minis can be primed in the cold but there are a few things to keep in mind. The spray can of the primer needs to be at least at room temperature and the spray can needs to be shaken for at least a minute. This will ensure that the pressure in the can is high and the primer is well mixed.
The biggest issue with applying primer in the cold is that spray cans lose pressure when they get cold and the thinner and paint inside the spray can don´t mix properly anymore.
So all you have to do is to make sure that the spray can has at least room temperature. You can also put the spray can in some warm water before shaking it to ensure that the pressure inside the spray can is high enough and to make sure that the contents of the spray can is mixed well enough.
Another thing that should be kept in mind is that the miniatures should also be at room temperature and not colder. Otherwhise the primer will have a hard time adhering to the surface of the miniature.
So prepare everything inside including shaking the spray can before you go out into the cold to prime everything.
Also don´t prime too many miniatures in one go to ensure that the spray can doesn´t cool down too much while you use it.
But if you keep all of that in mind then you will easily prime your miniatures no matter how cold it is outside.
Hi, I am a passionate maker and professional prop maker for the entertainment industry. I use my woodworking, programming, electronics, and illustration know-how to create interactive props and puzzles for Escape Games and marketing agencies. And I share my knowledge and my experience on this blog with you so that you can become a maker yourself.