Applying a layer of special paint called primer allows paints to stick, and it shows surface imperfections before real painting begins. For resin kits, you have to prime the surface because the paint won't stick otherwise. For vinyl kits, you don't have to prime if you paint with acrylics or lacquer paints, but I still recommend it because it allows you to see surface imperfections and repair. Enamels do not dry on vinyl surface so they should not be applied directly on vinyl. However, you can still paint with enamel if you give it a solid primed surface.

What color should you prime your kits with? In general anime figures are best primed with white to give them a vibrant color, and for real people grey can give them a more subdued color.

Brands & Types

There are many primers available. The most common ones are the ones sold in hardware or automotive shops such as Krylon's or Duplicolor's. Some of these primers are enamel-based so you shouldn't apply them on vinyl! In general the grey primers has finer grains than the white ones. When you spray the white on it feels very coarse. For this reason, many people prime with grey and coat with white paints later. The figure from the left: Duplicolor primer surfacer, Mr. Surfacer 1000 (grey), Mr. Base White 1000 (white, bottle), Mr. Base White 1000 spray, and Krylon sandable grey.

Duplicolor primer surfacer is my new favorite, its grain is very fine and is only slightly darker in grey than Mr. Surfacer 1000, and it's relatively cheap. It's also very opaque, and I like their spray head very much. It's available from your local automotive shop.

Mr. Surfacer 1000 gives very smooth surface and is one of the best primer, but it may not be easily available in the states, and are relatively expensive. There is the bottle and spray variants. With bottles, you can thin it with lacquer thinner, however some brands of lacquer thinner are too strong and the surfacer may dry right after they left the airbrush. In this case you have to either thin the mixture more, or add Mr. Retarder to slow down drying.

Mr. Base White 1000 is a very opaque white, otherwise it's the same as Surfacer 1000. I recommend buying their bottle variant rather than the spray.

Finally Krylon is one of the most common primers, but its grain is more coarse than Duplicolor and is even darker in grey. It's however very cheap.

You can prime with the spray can primers or with your airbrush. The latter offers more control, but the former is more convenient. I do both.

Here I'm priming Misato's body with a spray can. When working with spray cans, try to keep the spray head about 8-10 inches away from the object. If you're too close, you'd flood the surface and cause the primer to run. The Duplicolor spray head has finer control however, so if you can press it very lightly, you can be as close as 5 inches from the object. Try to make a sweep from left to right (or right to left) starting from just before the object, to just the end of the object. This way you should get an even coat. Remember to read the label on the spray can, most primers are toxic. Use adequate ventilation and better wear a respirator.

A "drying station". All primed and ready to go! Here skewers are used to support the pieces (each piece has a hole from pinning), and the skewers rest on a piece of foam.


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