Saturday, September 3, 2011

Hobby Tutorial: Celestial Guard (part 2)

or "It’s over. Prime”

A relatively small post here, but I’ve been busywith the NOVA Open and subsequent recovery thereafter. Having been an Army Appearance Judge over the weekend, I’ve realized that my own stuff isn’t up to par. How’s that for a kick in the pants? Anyway, since part one of this tutorial I’ve been otherwise occupied and in my free time have been determinedly plowing ahead with the “completion” of my Ultramarine vehicles. The only progress made on the Celestial Guard has been priming.

I could have waited a while longer to post, but since it has been well over a week, I figured now would be a good time. Also, the weekend at the NOVA Open and a quick trip to the local Penn Camera finally convinced me that my Nikon CoolPix 950 is a dinosaur and needs replacement, ergo, no photos for at least 2 weeks. Even with a lightbox and tripod, it’s a pain in the butt to get any decent photos. Here’s a close up of my Sniper. You can see that the prime coat is not 100% perfect, but does cover the majority of the figure without obscuring the fine details.

Over the years I’ve used several varieties of primer and have narrowed it down to a few reliable types: Armory (white or black), Tamiya (white or gray), Mr. Surfacer (500 or 1000), and Floquil. I only use Armory on wargaming miniatures because the can is relatively large and relatively cheap compared to the other options I’ve listed. If I’m working with resin figures, I’ll usually hit it with the Mr. Surfacer because that brand is a self-leveling primer that does a great job filling small file marks and scratches that resin kits tend to be prone to. Tamiya, though good, is rather expensive for the quantity you get, and as a result I usually only use it on my regular scale models. Same for Floquil, although I have found that it provides the best adhesion to metals (white metal, brass, steel, or otherwise).

The other reason I’m posting now is because I have just been reminded of Why Not To Paint In Highly Humid Conditions. Now, not everybody primes their models before laying down the first layer of color, and I’m happy for you and Imma let you finish*, but for tabletop wargaming it’s a really good idea to prime your metal and resin figures, and IMHO if you are going to do it for those you might as well do it for the plastics as well.

So here’s my personal observation of the day regarding humidity: If it feels sticky outside, don’t spray paint, prime, or airbrush, or dull coat, or gloss coat, or anything. Don’t. If you do, you will wind up with some sort of terrible frosting nastiness that will ruin your work thus far, create terrible discord within your own humors, and allow pure evil to seep into the world unchecked. Do I exaggerate? Well, yes, but that’s not the point. The last thing you want to do is ruin the finish on 20 tactical marines, or a 5-man Celestial Guard squad that you spent weeks painting. Folks, it only takes 2 seconds to make this mistake. Do yourself a favor… think before you spray. Fortunately for me, I only messed up one vehicle, and usually a second coat of sealer will clear up the problem**

When I started dull coating this morning, the humidity was only in the mid 40% range. When I painted the final vehicle later in the evening, the humidity had almost hit 70%. I knew it had gotten worse out, but I didn’t think, and now I have to wait until both the model and the weather dries out a bit.

When priming (or using any sort of spray paint) there are other things to take in to consideration. For example- always shake the spray can vigorously and for at least a minute to make sure you’ve thoroughly mixed the contents. If you haven’t, you might have solvent shoot out and ruin your model, or have some sort of half-mixed watery mess spew forth. Also, be aware of the distance between the spray can and model. If you are too close, you’ll get too much paint on the model and the paint will start to run. If you are too far away, the paint may start to dry before hitting the model. This will cause a pebbling effect… the surface will look sandy. If you’re lucky, you can “dust” off the offending pebbles. Another nasty effect is known as “orange peeling”, and that’s where the paint refuses to adhere to the model and forms a very uneven surface, often with visible gaps. This happens because the surface of the model hasn’t been properly cleaned of dirt, oils (from handling), solvents or glue (from assembly), or mold release (for resin kits) and the paint just wont’ stick. If you are really unfortunately, you’ll have to either sand off the bad paint or strip the model and start all over again (as me why my Ultramarine tanks all have sparkly instead of smooth cannons…).

So, before you prime your model- make sure that you’ve completely cleaned and prepped your model (soap and water, denatured alcohol, plastic prep…), the spray can has been properly agitated (shaken, not stirred), the atmospheric conditions are correct (as dry as possible and no wind if you are outside), there is proper ventilation (respirator mask, ducted fans, spray booth, or open air), you have proper eye protection, and are not in a rush.

*this is both a pop-culture joke AND a modeling joke rolled into a double entendre, so it’s like a triple word score.

**this is another double entendre, as the chemicals of the fresh dull coat will immediately react to the earlier coat and sort of re-activate the initial coat and hopefully reduce, if not totally eliminate, the frosting effect.


  1. Very timely. I just got my Su-Jian ready for priming but after reading this, I realize I need to wait. it's just a little too sticky out.

    I actually stick with GW primers but I've had trouble with them in the past. I also use Army Painter color primers, but they are not really primers so much as acryllic spray paints. primers have a certain quality that paint just sticks to better, whereas with Army painter sprays you have to work at it more to get even coverage.

    Those celestial guard are really cool models. I hope we get to game again soon. I've almost completed my slum and I think it will look great on your realm of battle board.

  2. Yeah- at one time GW black primer was primer, but now it's just paint. Morgrim and I found this out the hard way about 2 years ago. Primer is chemically different stuff. It has more bite and will actually bond to the surface. That's why if you ever try to strip models, a piece without primer will come totally clean, but a primed piece may not ever clean properly.

    As for my dull coat mishap, I was able to recover by bringing out the big guns: re-coating with Testors Dullcoat. This stuff stinks and it toxic as all heck, but if you absolutely positively gots to do it right, accept no substitute.