I’ve always used Krylon primer (of their various types over the years) as my main primer. With my foray into 6mm though, I have started to think about alternatives. Spraying 6mm minis seems to waste a LOT of primer for me, particularly since I don’t use the strip method so common to 6mm. I have also started having problems with the primer reacting to plastic (particularly Reaper Bones minis), which is becoming harder to deal with since every primer company wants their stuff to ‘bond’ and changes their formula frequently. On top of that recently here in the pacific northwest we have been having unusually high heat and humidity.
I’ve tried several brush on primers over the last few years, and while they were good for touch ups, Ive never been to fond of any of them. Gesso is something I had seen around for a while, but the whole ‘slop it on and it will shrink’ just didn’t ring true for me. I ended up using liquitex white gesso. Lots of people suggest black gesso, I almost always prime white and wash with black though, so I stuck with white. With the weather the way it has been, I decided to give things a try. To start with I did as most sites suggest, and put the gesso on with no thinning. I did this with some Descent minis I am painting (one of the ones I have had bad reactions with krylon too). There is a Dystopian Wars carrier in here too.
Needless to say, I was not super pleased with the result. Neither of these are particularly detailed models, but on the spider in particular, you can clearly see some detail was gone over. The Ogre belly is still showing brush strokes as well. I next tried to slightly water down the Gesso. Maybe two or three drops per tablespoon.
The Indian Javelin users I posted previously were also done with slightly watered down gesso. From this picture you can see the coating is not particularly uniform, but not much in the way of detail is covered up. The primary problem I had with slightly watered down Gesso was bubbling. You can see a bit of it between the girders on the carrier picture here. It is not visible on the javelin user pictures, but the space in behind the shield in particular are full of bubbles. I found if I went extremely slow I could get good coverage with minimal bubbles, but it was taking me a minute plus per (6mm) model to do that.
Next I attempted to water down the Gesso even more extensively, over a 1 to one ratio this time. Roughly the consistency or watered down skim milk (I know I’m offended by the idea too).
Hopefully that the pic will give you an idea of how thin I was using the gesso. Now when I prime 6mm, unlike larger pieces, I’m not to worried about complete over all coverage with a nice consistent coat. The figures themselves rarely get handled other than the very edges, and I tend to put on fairly thick (dull) coats. What I am looking for is mostly just a light dusting. As an example, here is a pic of what I would characterize as a thick spray prime coat (for me).
This is a very thick coat for me, but still thin, the high points there is still a bit of metal that isn’t quite exposed, but the coat is very thin. After watering down Gesso I got this.
As you can see, there is barely a coating on them (you can also see a comparison of rapier and microworld centaurs). For my purposes, this was perfect. the best part it was super easy. On the camels I deliberately slopped the watered down gesso on.
These pictures hopefully show how (deliberately) lackadaisical I was about applying the primer. Its pooled up, there were lots of bubbles, etc. After it dried though, presumably because of the watered down nature, there was no detail loss and no bubbles. There were a few small spots of bare metal after ‘shrinkage’ but all of it within acceptable limits I think (as I said, I don’t expect the miniature itself to see heavy touching)
This picture shows just one coat of thinned reaper palomino gold on one of the camels. Still some dark from the metal coming through, but after a wash and highlights, it wont be visible at all.
I think overall I was pleased with my 6mm gesso primed results. I will definitely be sticking to spray primer for bigger pieces in metal and polystyrene, but for alternative plastics and small scale, I think I will be using Gesso going forward. If your minis are going to get handled a lot, I think maybe spray may still be the superior choice. If you don’t like waste, don’t mind taking a little bit of extra time, and are ok with a thinner priming coat, then Gesso may work for you.