11 Best Miniature Primers Today [Reviews & Buyer’s Guide]

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Miniature people: Workers team brush painting Medicinal capsules. Healthcare, Medical and business concept.

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Painting miniatures is a great way to make your Dungeons & Dragons game come to life!

Well, it doesn’t have to be Dungeons & Dragons – it can even be My Little Pony, if that is what floats your boat. At any rate, at least we are on the same page when it comes to wanting the best supplies for our miniatures.

If you are a seasoned miniature painter, you already know better than to skip the primer. For those who are new to this creative pursuit, and are wondering if priming is as important as they say – yes, it is. After all, primers give the paint something to really adhere to.

Perhaps you are looking for a colored primer, or a white one; maybe one that comes cheap, or maybe not so cheap. With all things considered, we have put together this list of the 11 best miniature primers today.

So, without further ado, let’s get right to the details!

Best Miniature Primers

Document
IMAGE PRODUCT DETAILS
Our Top PickOur Top Pickhstcstbl-table__imageThe Army Painter ARM03019
  • Primer and paint in one
  • Available in many colors
  • Acrylic-based
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hstcstbl-table__imageRust-Oleum 249846
  • Oil-based formula
  • Suitable on wood, resin, metal, ceramic
  • Low odor
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hstcstbl-table__imageGames Workshop 5120999904206
  • Black primer formulated for miniatures
  • Best results on metal, resin, and plastic
  • 9.9 oz pot size
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hstcstbl-table__imageVallejo VJ73602
  • Water-based acrylic primer
  • Compatible with air-brush
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hstcstbl-table__imageKrylon K01303007
  • Acrylic primer
  • Suitable with artworks, household items, miniatures
  • Comes in a spray can
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hstcstbl-table__imageLiquitex 5316
  • Brush on primer
  • White undercoat for lighter paint jobs
  • Acrylic primer
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hstcstbl-table__imageRust-Oleum 7582838
  • Spray on primer
  • Oil-based
  • Corrosion-resistant
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hstcstbl-table__imageTamiya TAM87042
  • Compatible with enamel and acrylic paint
  • Light gray base color
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hstcstbl-table__imageDupli-color FP101
  • Gray color primer
  • Suitable for lacquer paint
  • Scratch filler and primer in one
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hstcstbl-table__image3M 08682
  • White color base
  • Eggshell finish
  • For exterior use
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People on the street, ancient building, cyclists, miniature scene outdoor, europe. Mini figures with high detaling of objects, realistically diorama

  1. The Army Painter ARM03019

This miniature primer works overtime – it is also a spray paint in the same can. While we fully stand by the thought that it is essential to prime before painting, we can’t argue if you can do it simultaneously.

The Army Painter Color Primer, Alien Purple, 400ml, 13.5oz - Acrylic...
  • UNIQUE COLOUR WITH 100% MATCH - This undercoat...
  • SAVE TIME AND MONEY - All Colour Primers of The...

Why Did We Like It?

It may be stating the obvious, but we love that this product has combined all the properties of a great primer and a very pigmented spray paint. Needless to say, this saves time and money – so, no need to look for separate supplies or pay separate bills!

What makes it even more convenient is that the product can be found in a wide range of colors – from light to dark and yellows to reds. Just a light spray and your figures will be looking glossy and revitalized in no time. In fact, the makers (a pair of veteran gamers and miniature painters) decided to create The Army Painter to spend less time painting, and more time playing.

Speaking of which, we wondered where its name was derived from. And sure enough, the product is called The Army Painter because it has great coverage – enough to paint an army.

What Could’ve Been Better?

If you are looking for a matte finish, then you may run into some issues with the product. Even though the manufacturers do mention a matte finish, what we got was a glossy effect with a chalky texture. Perhaps, shaking it for longer than the prescribed 1-2 minutes might solve this.

Pros
  • Saves time and money
  • Versatile
  • Good coverage
  • Rich and pigmented color
Cons
  • No matte finish
  1. Rust-Oleum 249846

This is a well-established brand for protective coatings and paints for home furnishings and crafts alike. Many buyers blindly put their trust in Rust-Oleum products – and for good reason. With that being said, you can count on this product to leave a great undertone for darker colors.

Rust-Oleum 249846 Painter's Touch 2X Ultra Cover, 12 Oz, Flat Black...
  • Ideal for use on interior/exterior surfaces...
  • Oil-based formula is low odor, resist chips and...

Why Did We Like It?

Although this product does not have the 2-in-1 character of primers that also paint, it can certainly double up as a primer for both furniture and miniatures. Anyhow, you will be getting a well-prepared surface with the smoothest finish.

Speaking of finish, the primer will go easily over your miniature and leave a clear matte finish that does not obscure even little details. Also, since the product has an oil-based formula fit for exterior use, your miniatures are protected from the sun and rain. What’s more, the product can dry as soon as 20 minutes, so you don’t have to wait very long to get on with painting.

As a bonus, a wide press pad on the can’s holder makes sure that your fingers are not strained while working. This, along with the “Any Angle” feature, facilitates spraying into every nook and corner with great ease.

What Could’ve Been Better?

As the product specs suggest, it goes smoothly over a wide range of surfaces – but we feel that this should not include plastic. Although the primer bonds well with plastic at first, it scrapes easily – making it a not-so permanent solution for this type of material.

Pros
  • It can be used on both furniture and miniatures
  • Creates a protective layer
  • Suitable for external use
  • Dries fast
  • Matte finish
Cons
  • Scrapes when applied on plastic
  1. Games Workshop 5120999904206

Fondly dubbed “magic black” by loyal customers, this primer has been around for more than 20 years. Apply this black primer on darker miniatures like Warhammer characters, and get your money’s worth. If you don’t want to take our word for it, just ask their huge fanbase.

Sale
Games Workshop Citadel Spray Paint Chaos Black 9.9 Oz
  • APPLICATION: Chaos Black Spray, by Games Workshop,...
  • MAXIMUM RESULTS: Reformulated for maximum results,...

Why Did We Like It?

What is most striking about this product is the thin and even layer it makes. There is very little possibility of streaking, running, or clogging up the product even in the tiniest details. Rest assured, you won’t have to deal with buildup or fading even in the long run.

A super-fine mist also means that it gives great coverage. Feel free to use it on multiple miniatures at once, and best believe, it will adhere to any kind of material you spray it on. And, once it dries, there is no possibility of flaking. In case you were wondering, it does dry within minutes.

In the end, you are left with a perfect matte finish that is far from grainy or chalky. Without a doubt, we urge you to go for this time-tested product which, interestingly, is also weather tested. While it is advised to finish your priming responsibilities before winters set in, this primer can work under a variety of weather conditions.

What Could’ve Been Better?

Over the past 10 years, this veteran from Games Workshop has seen a steep rise in its price. It’s true what they say – you get what you pay for. In this case, you may have to shell out a few extra dollars. If it’s any consolation, the volume in one can is actually more than that of most competitors.

Pros
  • Creates a very thin layer
  • Good coverage
  • No streaking, running and buildup
  • Matte finish
Cons
  • Costly
  1. Vallejo VJ73602

In the world of miniature painting, Vallejo needs no introduction. The primer in black remains one of the most sought-after primers among their products, and also in the entire business. To apply this, you need to have other painting supplies like a brush or an airbrush.

Vallejo Black Primer Acrylic Polyurethane, 60ml
  • Surface Primer can be cleaned easily using water
  • It is recommended to avoid mixing Surface Primer...

Why Did We Like It?

The deciding factor of a primer’s effectiveness is chemical bonding – in simple words, a good primer binds easily with the paint. In this area, the Vallejo primer is superior; it goes well with both acrylic and enamel paints.

Finding a good acrylic primer, as opposed to oil-based ones, itself is a tall order. This product is a flagship of its kind, and since it is water-based, cleaning is fuss-free and can be done easily with just water.

Now, when we really put it to the test, it scored tens all across the board. The finish is very fine, and no matter how much product you apply, it dries up very thin. This means that none of your details are covered – in fact, they might be highlighted even more. To top it all off, the layer of primer dries up in about 10 minutes, so you don’t have to wait too long to start painting.

What Could’ve Been Better?

The product specs do not explicitly state which materials it goes well on. This makes it difficult to figure out whether the flaking caused in some cases was because of the product itself or the material used. A touch-up before painting may be required to combat flaking.

Pros
  • Easily cleaned with water
  • Thin layer
  • Bonds well to acrylic and enamel paint
  • Dries fast
Cons
  • Flaking in some areas
  1. Krylon K01303007

Primers don’t always have to be the expensive, niche, and one-purpose kind. You can get many cheap alternatives that are packaged as industrial or automotive primers. Krylon is a leading name in such primers which cater to a wide audience with different interests.

Sale
Krylon K01303007 Acrylic Spray Paint Crystal Clear in 11-Ounce Aerosol
  • Moisture-resistant and smudge-proof.
  • Improves artwork and photo contrast.

Why Did We Like It?

While we like a good spray-on primer(as opposed to brush-on), we love one that comes at a bargain. Apart from being inexpensive, the versatility of this product makes it a crowd-pleaser. Because of its water-resistant abilities, the spray is widely used to make jewelry, furniture, and miniatures water-proof.

Along with moisture, items become more resistant to wear and tear. Not only a protective layer against friction, it also acts against heat and other outdoor threats. However, the key feature is its ability to provide a solid foundation for acrylic paint to adhere to. In terms of bonding with paints, it gets along exceptionally well with oil, acrylic and enamel.

Moreover, this layman’s primer can be easily obtained from local stores in large quantities. In terms of coverage, well, it has you covered. You won’t be worrying about your product getting over any time soon.

What Could’ve Been Better?

Before using this product to prime your minis, we would recommend stepping outside and preparing some protective gear. A mask and rubber gloves will do – you don’t want the smell to get stuck to your fingers. After all, the fumes are probably not very good for you, and they do linger.

Pros
  • Inexpensive
  • Generous volume in one spray can
  • Water-resistant
  • Bonds well to acrylic paint
Cons
  • Strong odor and fumes
  1. Liquitex 5316

Another industrial primer that comes in a rugged and heavy package – all at a fraction of what you would pay for some of its expensive competitors. This product is a white base coat, which can also be used as a finishing coat for paintings and household objects.

Sale
Liquitex Professional Gesso Surface Prep Medium, White, 16-oz
  • Premium white acrylic gesso to prepare painting...
  • Lightweight, non-toxic, dries to a...

Why Did We Like It?

This Liquitex primer is actually a gesso, which is a plaster or glue-based compound. A gesso is a low-cost option that is a great primer substitute, especially if you are looking for an enamel-based one.

Moreover, this is your best budget bet when working with resin and metal – without a doubt, it will leave a tough and thick layer that is stable enough to make painting easy. Not only as surface prep, but the hardiness will also keep your miniatures protected and resistant to scratches.

Once the product dries, you will be left with leveled-out imperfections and a rugged texture, known as “tooth”. The tooth effect does give a certain texture, but it also provides a better grip so the paint can stick to the surface. These paints can be acrylic, oil-based, or water-based – needless to say, you don’t have to limit this undercoat to just miniature projects.

What Could’ve Been Better?

Because gesso is thick, it can take much more time to dry than traditional primers. Moreover, it is recommended to do two coats, which may or may not sabotage tiny details. Generally, you have to wait about 24 hours after application for it to be dry enough to use.

Pros
  • Provides protective layer
  • Sturdy surface prep
  • Tooth on the surface makes adhesion easier
  • Compatible with oil, water-based, and acrylic paints
Cons
  • Slow drying time
  1. Rust-Oleum 7582838

While Rust-Oleum does offer a base spray that is geared towards miniature painting, this one is more for industrial use. However, it still is a primer for wooden, metal, and plastic surfaces, and it comes at a steal. If you like the brand, but want to save a few extra dollars, try this one for size.

Rust-Oleum 7582838 Professional Primer Spray Paint, 15 oz, Gray Primer
  • Ideal for use on ferrous, non-ferrous metal, wood,...
  • High quality, durable oil-based formula maintains...

Why Did We Like It?

Terrain pieces also need love and care. However, these require more products, or just one product that has good coverage. This primer from Rust-Oleum is great for similarly large and oblique figures that don’t have too much detail.

It works best on metal surfaces – evident in the way it tackles and controls rust. Although a top coat is required, this primer makes sure that the base is protected from any future corrosion.

In terms of being an adhesive for paint, it works well. The application is smooth if you take your time in making thin layers. Since it is a fast-drying product, we highly recommend putting multiple layers instead of thick layers to avoid running.

Most of all, this is a great alternative if you don’t want to invest in miniature-specific primers, but don’t have the budget for expensive airbrushes either.

What Could’ve Been Better?

Instructions are very specific and therefore, one can easily mess up the application process. Since the product does not even itself out automatically, you may be left with a runny or sloppy project in the end. Avoid splattering by adhering to the instruction manual.

Pros
  • Spray technique instead of brush-on
  • Protective layer from corrosion
  • Repairs rust
  • Good coverage
Cons
  • Easily splatters and runs
  1. Tamiya TAM87042

Tamiya is a well-established name in the model and miniature world, so you know that you will get a product that is made exactly for that job. Perhaps, this is why the spray can for mini models comes in a mini size.

Tamiya TAM87042 87042 Surface Primer L Gray, 180ml Spray Can, Light...
  • Made from high quality materials and designed for...
  • Use Tamiya stock and hop-up Replacement parts,...

Why Did We Like It?

The Japanese company Tamiya broke new ground when they introduced this nifty little product to the world of miniature painting. And more than a decade later, it is still receiving rave reviews for its high-quality long-lasting finish.

At first, this spray-on primer was meant to rectify the drawbacks of airbrush and brush-on applications. So, needless to say, if you don’t want to buy an expensive airbrush or waste time hand-painting small and large miniatures, then you can safely go for a can or two.

To get the best results, spray the primer evenly and thinly, and make multiple coats. Even then, the minutest carvings still shine.

Moreover, because of the thin mist, you won’t face issues unless you are very heavy-handed. Predictably, this is a premium primer that is perfect for professional and competitive painters.

What Could’ve Been Better?

The quality of the miniature primer cannot be doubted. However, you don’t get a lot of product for the price. Especially if you are a novice, you might have to get more than one can to figure out how to make the best of it.

Pros
  • High-quality finish
  • Details are visible even after multiple coats
  • Sticks well to plastic, resin, and metal
  • Even and thin layers
Cons
  • Expensive
  1. Dupli-color FP101

If we are talking about miniature painting enthusiasts, we cannot leave out the 3D printing aficionados. 3D printing will provide a lot of customized figures, but prepping them is another story. Dupli-color’s product is a filler and primer in one – and a great tool for those jobs.

Dupli-Color - FP101 Scratch Filler& Primer Gray, 11 oz
  • Package Dimensions: 18.796 H x 6.858 L x 7.112 W...
  • Package Weight: 0.386 kilograms

Why Did We Like It?

As most 3D printing hobbyists know, 3D printers are a great way to access a plethora of molds ranging from patterned phone cases to action figures. Although these do look great, they still don’t look complete – perhaps because they are monochrome and have untidy lines.

The Dupli-color primer tackles these two problems at once – by offering a nice undercoat that acts as paint adhesive, and a filler to smoothen lines. Not only does the filler even out visible layer lines on your 3D model, but it can also be used to fill gaps and minor flaws.

Once it is dry, you can easily sand it to perfection before beginning the paint job. But, you might not even have to sand it down because the product leaves a smooth and thin layer.

With the mold primed and dry, it is time to breathe life into your figure by painting. Here, you will find the primer’s adhesive properties to be up to par.

What Could’ve Been Better?

It takes skill and careful adherence to instructions to get the best out of this primer. Since it creates thick layers, we cannot rule out the fact that minute details can get lost. We conclude that this is a good primer for larger models, and not so much for high-resolution figures.

Pros
  • Smooths out layer lines in 3D models
  • Evens out scratches and imperfections
  • Easy to sand
  • Good adhesive for paint
Cons
  • Thick layers that cover small details
  1. 3M 08682

The brand 3M has designed this primer specifically for car windshield replacements. Surprisingly, this product that works exceptionally great on the windows of Audi cars and convertibles will prime your miniatures too.

3M Single Step Primer, 08682, 30 mL
  • Designed specifically to promote urethane...
  • Can be used to inhibit corrosion on pinchwelds

Why Did We Like It?

As the name suggests, the 3M single-step primer does not need to be mixed with any other component to be functional. Needless to say, the product is supposed to go over plastic and metal – this spells great news if your molds are made up of either of the two.

Since this is an industrial-specific product used for touching up tough scratches in automobile parts, best believe that it can cover-up, and fill gaps if you are working with 3D prints. Also, because it is undeniably meant for exterior and automotive use, it provides your miniatures with UV protection and corrosion resistance.

The product itself dries very fast, claiming to be ready to use for 5 minutes. However, we would give it about an hour before use, so as to be on the safer side. Overall, we wouldn’t give it any less stars than a fine hardware store primer.

What Could’ve Been Better?

Like most industrial-grade primers, this one leaves a thick layer on application, so be mindful if you are dealing with detailed figures. However, you can’t compromise on the strong odor it releases. Using it outdoors is not a recommendation – it is a necessity.

Pros
  • Sturdy
  • Covers scratches
  • Adheres well to metal and plastic
  • Corrosion-resistant
Cons
  • Strong odor of chemicals
  1. Games Workshop 5120999904106

Veteran miniature painters know that paying Games Workshop prices means investing in quality. This product, as expected, works like a charm on Warhammer miniatures, and is actually the color of “Wraithbone” of Warhammer fame.

Games Workshop Warhammer 40,000 Citadel Corax White Spray Paint
  • APPLICATION: Corax White Spray Paint, by Games...
  • MAXIMUM RESULTS: Reformulated for maximum results,...

Why Did We Like It?

We would like to end this list on a high note, so we brought in a time-tested brand that has crafted its products to cater to a niche audience.

Yes, this means that those who are already devoted to Citadel paints will get the most out of it. However, this does not take away from the fact that a stormtrooper model can look just as good in these colors. In fact, any miniature can make use of high-quality finishing and ease of use.

Apart from airbrush-like thin layers, you will also get a matte finish which helps outer coats shine vividly. Speaking of thin layers, don’t hesitate to apply multiple layers of primer. After all, the product is designed to dry very thinly, so it works hard not to diminish any parts, small or big.

What Could’ve Been Better?

Although the product claims to be a white primer, users have complained that it is too gray for their liking. Gray-colored primer, however, works well as an undercoat for most vivid and light-colored topcoats. In the end, it all comes down to personal choice.

Pros
  • Matte finish
  • High-quality and polished look
  • Easy to spray on
  • Layers that dry extremely thin
Cons
  • Base has gray tint instead of white

The officer and soldiers at a halt, miniature scene outdoor, europe. Mini figures with high detaling of objects, realistically diorama, toy model

Primer for Miniatures Buying Guide

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the wealth of primers out there, especially if you are just starting out. After all, the list of essential tools for miniature painting does get dragged out – and primers are literally just the beginning.

However, the good news is that you just need one of each to start your own collection of finely painted miniatures. In this short guide, we tell you the three main things to look out for in the best primer for your specific needs.

  1. Application

As we have seen, some primers come in a spray can, and some are meant to be brushed onto the surface or sprayed using an airbrush.

Spray-on primers are generally believed to be superior because they are capable of making thin and even coats without giving a chance for air bubbles to form. Moreover, spray-on, also known as “rattle can” primers, cover many figures in the time it takes to hand-paint just one.

However, applying the primer with a flat-headed paintbrush is something most start with. And as their skills progress, they might invest in an airbrush for their products. Airbrushes are even more expensive than spray-on, so if what you are looking for is an economical primer, then paint-on is the one to go for.

Apart from budgetary considerations, hand painting primers is a much more convenient way to prime your models when there is no space for spray booths, and when you are indoors. Surely, you don’t want the smells and toxic fumes from aerosols to linger in your house.

  1. Color

Black, white and gray are possibly the most used colors when it comes to undercoating.

Of course, as some of you might have guessed, white primers provide the best undercoat to light-colored paints – giving a vibrant tone when the paint job is done.

Black, on the other hand, is the go-to for darker tones. It is great in hiding gaps – although you may have to struggle to find smaller details beneath the dark layer.

And lastly, you have a mix of both worlds in the form of gray primers. Gray primers are not as good at hiding awkward spots as black primers, and colors won’t look as vibrant as with a white primer. However, it is a safe option when you are working with a colorful palette.

  1. Automotive Or Miniature-Specific

Automotive primers, which are generally sold for industrial use, come in large cans at cheap prices. These are good fillers for 3D projects, and often cover up blemishes while providing extra durability. The thick coating does provide protection, but it also hides intricate details.

On the other hand, you have the miniature-specific primers that usually come in a spray can. And, as you already know, these are known to spray a fine mist that makes thin layers that are suitable for highlighting little designs etched onto the model.

With that being said, for miniatures with fine details, you should consider shelling out the extra money because niche products are expensive. But, if you are working on larger terrain and do not specifically require a high-resolution finish, then opt for the inexpensive industrial-grade primers.

Travel and Journey Concept. Group of traveler businessman miniarure figure people sitting and waiting on passport with immigration stamped.

Verdict

There’s no denying that when it comes to the skin on your miniatures, priming the surface is what makes sure that products stick well and leave a spotless finish.

But, to achieve optimal results, a primer needs to cover the surface with a thin, even, and smooth layer. Be it metal, resin, or plastic, it should bond well and not flake off.

Our top pick – the Army Painter ARM03019 model – checks these boxes and goes even further by providing a primer that doesn’t need to be painted over. Think about all the time and money you save!

Although the Rust-Oleum 249846 model may be a better budget match, a few extra bucks are a small price to pay for a better painting experience for months to come.

After all, you need to spend less time painting and more time playing. On that note, we will sign off. Till next time!

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