I may be losing crisp details when I paint

I think my method of painting may be obscuring more detail than it's bringing out on some models. I'm not sure, but I feel like I'm losing the crisp edges I sometimes see on other models. It's not a big thing, but it's enough to catch my eye and make me look at what I'm doing.

I think I need to adjust the way I prime. I may be applying too much primer over the model and killing some of the sharper edges. I use a spray paint when I prime and I usually end up with a good, solid coat of paint to work from.

I fear that may be too much though. That layer combined with a few more as I add the base colors looks like it's killing some of the crispness to my models.

I think I am going to cut back ever so slightly as to the amount I use when priming my models and focus a bit more on thinning my paints as well. The model above is a good example. He's been primed white, but not as heavy as I would have normally done before.

how to prime warhammer 40k models

I like my priming technique... I just think I may be a little heavy handed overall.

I already thin most of my paints as I apply them in order to minimize surface texture, but I think I'm going to push that a touch further as well to keep the layers from building up as quick.

Hopefully this small change will help me recapture some of the crispness to my models I feel like I have been covering up as of late.

Since my next project is the Dark Vengeance Librarian I just converted, I thought this would be the perfect model to test my new theory on. I gave him the lightest of priming and I like to think it made a difference.

I've since started adding the base colors to the model while trying to thin my paints a little more and I honestly think it's working. The end result will tell me how well I did and it will be interesting to see if it takes any longer going this route.

Make sure to check out these posts as they might help:
The actual process I use to prime my models

Ron, From the WarpIf you've got any questions about something in this post, shoot me a comment and I'll be glad to answer. Make sure to share your hobby tips and thoughts in the comments below!


  1. i've had the same problem myself every now and then. might i suggest an airbrush?

  2. Ron, I think your issue is the spray that you use. Krylon is nice but isn't made for miniatures.

  3. Hi, Ron. Been a lurker for a while, but feel I should post. I had the same problem - my minis just looked glooped up. I'm painting Ultramarines with Army painter spray as a basecoat, so I can't avoid a heavy prime. However, thinning my paint to the point it is like semi-skimmed (US 2%?) milk has fixed it. You need to wipe off lots of excess paint from your brush on some kitchen towel to avoid floods, but I have been truly amazed by the level of detail I can now see. My painting feels utterly rejuvenated. Here's a great YouTube video on thinning your paint (not sure how to hyperlink):


  4. I second the tip with Krylon. I switched over to basepriming with Vallejo Surface Primer for airbrush. But honestly I think that your paintstyle does not really benefit from more crisp edges. You paint a very high tabletopstandard and from what you wrote in the future- you like it that way.

    But maybe you want to give Vallejo a try just to find out if you like the options you get from it- change is sometimes a good thing.


  5. I think the guys here have nailed it with the airbrush however, you may want to experiment with different caps on the paint tins before you shell out for an airbrush.


  6. Ettiene de Coning: I may be getting there. One day in my future perhaps. I know it would speed up my painting and help me with certain techniques for sure.

    Anon1: I don't know if it's the brand as much as it's my application. I think I've been a bit heavy handed like my weathering sometimes. I've never had any issues with Krylon before as a paint and giving the model a light dusting still covers the surface allowing me to work over it.

    Anon2: Glooped up is a good way of saying it. I think making sure I think my additional layers of paint will help as well. I feel like I've gotten lazy over time and just put the paint on there sometimes without really thinking about what I'm doing to the detail on the surface of the model.

    Cannonfodder: I do like the grim, dark style that is done above tabletop level in terms of quality, but I feel like I could benefit from some crispness to the model. I may have to try Vallejo surface primer. Thanks for the link.

  7. I used to spray prime, as well - then I discovered AV acrylic-polyurethane Surface Primer. It can be applied by airbrush or brushed on, it's super thin, super-durable, and a little goes a long way. It holds better than any spray primer I've used, so I don't have to worry about edge wear on models that get a lot of handling. It's available in several colors (black, white, grey and possibly others).

    I have to agree with Cannonfodder's recommendation.

  8. Agreed! Try Vallejo surface primers. They can be airbrushed on or brushed on. They self level and cover really well. I just started using them because it's too cold to spray outside where I live at this time of year and I need something I could spray with indoors. I'm not sure I'll go back even when summer rolls back around. Also, a 60ML bottle goes a hell of a long way when you airbrush.

  9. Yeah, Vallejo surface primer user here too. You get so much more control when priming with an airbrush.

    I used to like Army Painter coloured primers which go on heavy, but then shrink as they dry. I had great results. Unfortunately they changed the nozzles they use and ever since I've struggled to get decent coverage without losing detail.

    The airbrush on the other hand allows really fine control and gives a wonderful thin and even coat. It's a big investment to make just to prime models, but if you get a decent one you'll find it really helpful in loads of different painting scenarios.

  10. No insult meant when I wrote very high tabletopstandard :)

  11. It's been said already, but I'm casting my vote for Vallejo Surface Primer as well.

    As I was getting used to using it (at the same time as my airbrush), I applied what I thought was way too much of it, almost pooling in places. To my surprise, it contracted well and absolutely no detail was lost. I'm converted and never want to go back to spray cans; although, I do like the Army Painter colored primers.

    With practice, I'm applying it thinner now, with no ill effects. Great coverage, no detail loss, and way less odor.

    Priming with a spray can stunk up my paint shop for days. I did about 100 minis with the VSP in my airbrush, and my workspace smelled normal about an hour later. Yes, use a respirator. Better safe than sorry.

    For about $275 you can get a decent airbrush, compressor, and a respirator, well worth the savings in time alone.

  12. Cannonfodder: None taken! I appreciate the feedback.

    Looks like I need to try something new out for priming then based off the comments here. And it might be time to start looking around for an airbrush.

    I do appreciate everyone sounding off about this!

  13. A clear thumbs-up for Vallejo Model Air from me, too. Their Model and Game Color lines are a a pain in the *** due to the constant separation of the pigments from the medium, no matter how many hours you shake them. But Model Air is a reliable color that gives a very thin layer, exactly what you seem to be aiming at here.

    Be warned though: the surface of an airbrushed primer is noticeably smoother, so that some colors might need an extra layer or two to "stick". Spray can primer provides you with a much rougher surface that makes the color adhere more easily.

    Another thing to keep in mind: in case you want to undo your paint job the spray can primer (at least the white from GW) can easily be removed with isopropanol alcohol. Just drop it into a (closed!) container of iso and wait several days and it comes of nearly by itself. With Vallejo Model Air it's not that simple. Isopropanol alcohol can do the job here too but it requires much more brushing and scraping to get the color of.

  14. I am currently using vallejo acrylic-polyurethane white primer with an airbrush. I've only used half of a 60mL bottle in over a year, for all of my priming needs. I do find I have to thin it a bit for the airbrush.

    I think that some of the issues you are seeing with your primer are due to applying too thick of a coat. I read somewhere, I think from someone writing about a Mathieu Fontaine clinic, that you should only spray a light coating to increase adhesion. You are not trying to create a full coverage layer with the primer. You just need some texture for the paint to adhere to.

    If you get an airbrush, one model I would recommend is the Badger Renegade Krome. I got one a few months ago and have found it has excellent control and is simple to use. It is moderately priced too. The 0.2mm nozzle is perfect for 28mm applications.

  15. I have found that, if it's in a can, it's going to be about the same as every other can. Having said that, a full coat of Primer shouldn't be done. I noticed when I started painting marines (because they almost require you to paint cleanly and crisply) that just barely covering the surface of the model so it almost looks unpainted is sufficient. In my opinion, the Base coat does nothing more than hold the paint onto the model. If you put on enough thin thin thin coats onto the model, you can even transition Black to white. So IMO, the base coat needs to be thin.

    As far as Aribrush goes.... I want one :D
    An Aribrush covers completly and thinly, unlike any can.
    A can sprays larger specs of paint, therefore, the full layer will be larger. The airbrush is essentially a fancy atomizer.

  16. Anybody have any propulsion recomendations? What is the best method for the air?
    Good Airbrush Recomendations?

    1. Badger is a great air brush company with a vast line of air brushes from entry level all the way up to pro in both use and price. Compressors are another story all to themselves, but if you get one and you live anywhere other than a dry desert make sure it has a moisture trap.

    2. I know what you mean with regards to paint covering models. The first major set of models I bought was second-hand off a guy who had given up the game. They were actually High Elves (I've since got way more into 40K) and luckily he was selling cheap. On closer inspection I was willing to believe that he had used wall paint rather than model paint, considering the thickness of his white base coat. Lots of details obscured.

  17. I started with this kit:

    It's an amazing setup for a hobbyist. The Iwata Eclipse is a beautifully engineered brush and so very versatile. You can really easily go from hairline to basecoating just by altering spraying distance and pressure.

    There are undoubtedly other brushes that would do just as well and you can certainly buy cheaper if you don't want to commit to something as well built as the Iwata. On the other hand the compressor is exactly what I would recommend. You absolutely NEED one with a tank. For one thing the noise is greatly reduced since the compressor only runs to build up pressure in the tank, so comes on briefly every few minutes. Most importantly though, the tank means you have constant pressure. If you buy a cheap compressor without a tank you are getting the airflow direct from the compressor and that means it pulses. That's really horrible when you're trying to get an even coat or fine line.

    I spent a lot of time researching before settling on that kit and I couldn't find any other compressor that performed nearly as well without paying a lot more.

  18. How do you gents feel about the GW airbrush? It's drastically more affordable than the Iwata that FlffyPanda linked.

    Is it a good one to learn on? Is there a significant downside to the canned air propellant vs a compressor?

    I'm just a lot more comfortable dropping $40 on a gun and the canned air than I am dropping $100-$500 on a kit when I don;t even know how to use an airbrush yet, and I'm far from certain it's going ot be a major addition to my hobby kit.

    1. See if there are any craft/hobby stores in your area offering classes where you can try air brushes out. The GW one is sketchy at best and the cans of air can be used up REALLY fast if you don't know what you are doing. I like GW, but its just not a forgiving set up or learning curve with the GW gear.

    2. We're getting a little in depth here for a comment section, but here we go:

      1. Compressed air cans are really pretty pointless. They cost a fortune since they last almost no time, and you aren't able to regulate the pressure, which just drops off while you're using them. Even if you decide to go with the GW spray gun then you should still seriously consider getting a compressor for it.

      2. The GW spray gun isn't an airbrush, it's a spray gun. They serve pretty different purposes, but basically the GW one will only really work for base coating and will waste a ton of paint doing it. It's not a bad little tool, but it does only a fraction of what a decent airbrush will do.

      3. The GW gun is suction fed. This means that there's a big pot of paint suspended below the gun and a tube is dropped down to allow the air source to suck paint up into the gun. This gives a nice big container of paint to work with so is quite good for base coating a whole army, but for small jobs you will waste a massive amount of paint.

      4. The GW one is single action. That means that you press the trigger and air and paint are dragged through and propelled out. The airbrush I linked is double action which means you can independently control the air and paint. Press down to release air, then pull back to vary the amount of paint in the airstream. This gives you a lot more control and allows you to do cool stuff like getting smooth fades on power weapons. Or you can just pull all the way back and base coat a whole Rhino in a few passes.

      5. Iwata are kind of the porsche of airbrushes... you can buy a cheap dual action brush on ebay for a fraction of the cost if you just want to try it out. The Eclipse CS is a really versatile tool though and I don't think you'll be rushing out to buy another airbrush for years if you get such a flexible one to start with.

      6. I've never used a Badger. I believe they are pretty popular in the US so you might find it easier to get parts for them if you live on that side of the Atlantic. Personally I don't like the non-standard connectors they insist on using. It's not hard or expensive to buy adapters though. I've heard some badger users on youtube who were impressed by the smoothness of the Iwata brushes... not sure if that reflects badly on them or not.

      tl;dr version:

      A compressor, ideally with tank, is massively better than cans of air, and cheaper in the long run.

      A proper dual action airbrush is a better, more versatile tool than the GW spray gun (which is far from useless itself).

  19. I have gone 100% to brush-on primer. Vallejo surface primer comes in various colors and I use a mix of black and white for a dark gray (akin to PP greatcoat gray) that is dark but doesn't suck all the light out of the room. Lemmetellya ...this stuff is fool proof. If all paint want on this smoothly my life would be so much easier.

  20. Anonymous: I wonder how airbrush primer would do with the paint stripper I use now when I need to (Dawn Power Dissolver). Either way, I've never picked a paint for that quality so even if it's harder to get off, that would be ok with me if it came with the better coverage.

    Cameron: I think that's the case here... too thick of an application. I appreciate the airbrush recommendation too!

    FluffyPanda: Thanks for the tips and sharing your experience with airbrushes!

    Mike Howell: Another vote for the brush on primer as well. That stuff seems to have very few if any flaws.

    HiveTyrant36: I'm kinda hoping that I can reduce the amount of primer I use and prolong the purchase of an airbrush. I've got some practicing to do with applying "thin" coats to see how much of an impact it can make overall.

  21. I used to use spray as well and I often found I was either obscuring details or getting a dusty and textured finish. Anyway now I use the Vallejo black primer and its amazing. It doesn't need thinning when I use it with my airbrush and I can brush it on as well. Reasonably inexpensive as well probably one of the best hobby decisions I've made to be honest.

  22. Vallejo Polyurethane Primers can be removed with alcohols (and of course stronger chemicals), just like many if not all of their acrylics. It can be applied with brush or airbrush/pistol, with no or minimal thinning. Sadly I have found it doesn't stick too good to metals, but to plastics like the base, it seems to form a thin hard coat. It seems to be a common issue, I looked it up after seeing how it peeled just with the nail, and model makers were complaing about the same, specially with aluminium barrels for tanks. Probably metals are too smooth for it.

    Vallejo Model Color separation can be solved by storing upside down, and adding a rock or glass bead or metal bearing (something that doesn't rust). Then roll it (shaking causes extra foam), and it will mix a lot quicker than normal.

    1. I did add stainless steel balls designed especially for that purpose but it was still a time consuming, arm rattling matter. I even went so far as to design a special blade for my electric jigsaw and shook colors with that but guess what? Even if I had the bottles shaken for several minutes at considerable speed (yep, lots of ups and downs), they still separated on my wet palette.

      If they work out for you though I´m happy to hear it but for me I dropped them altogether (expect for a few from the Model Air range). Bought the Army Painter range instead and never looked back. They don't separate, they cover well and I even like the limited color range which forces me to exeperiment with the colors instead of buying hundreds of them (like the new GW range).

      I still wonder why Vallejo can´t do the trick, too...

    2. If they separate again in the palette, the solution is using acrylic additives. It happens with many art acrylics too, they can be thinned with water... to a point.

      AP is probably using the old GW supplier, which seems to be the Privateer, Coat D'Arms & Foundry one too. The chemistry and manufacture is different, Vallejo background is "art", HMG is "industrial".

  23. From a spray can, I don't think you can beat Tamiya grey surface primer. Very smooth and doesn't lose detail. I think its really important to be the correct distance from the model and to keep moving spray can or model.

  24. I've been wondering about this myself - I always diligently water down my paints, but of late I seem to have lost the balance between coverage and thinning. Either its too watery and takes me 2 or more coats to cover evenly (which is a pain, and also clots into the details like a wash does) or its too thick and becomes streaky.

    Although, I prime by hand most of the time as I only have black spray, and for most of the projects I work on I prefer grey or beige. And the few times I did use the spray were quite disastrous, despite taking into account advice I googled prior to trying. :/

  25. W.H. Painting Studio: See now in all my priming, I've only ever had one model end up with the dusty look and too much texture in the end. It was a windy day and I shouldn't have been spray priming outside anyway.

    Anon: I agree. Being the correct distance from the model is essential. Too far one war or the other and it changes everything with how the paint sits on the model.

    Captain Orkbane: Once I started matching my primer color to the predominant value of my model, it made a huge difference for me. I very rarely use black anymore preferring to use grey most of the time now.

    I like thinning my paints ever so slightly more for the control in application than coverage. Adding a second coat is no big deal for me if I have control when I apply it (especially when painting tiny details).

    1. Myea, I think I will try that too - matching to the predominant colour. I was wondering what you use under fleshtones? They easily change appearance and feel depending on what colours you use, and I mostly go with either white or off white (and green or purple if I am going for a chaosy or old look).

    2. I almost always go with a light grey as a primer when doing flesh tones. Then base either with a warm or cool color as desired.

    3. Sounds like a plan! I'll be giving that a shot with my Catachan boys :)


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