6 Best Primers for Miniatures in 2023

If you’re looking for the best primers for miniatures, this guide is for you.

Primers are the foundation of any miniature paint job. No matter how good of an artist you are, if you’re using a poor-quality primer, the result of your miniature painting process won’t be as good as you want it to be.

Keep in mind that those primers work for 3D printed armor parts and props, as well as miniatures. If you want to make 3D printed models at home, check out our guide to the best 3D printers for cosplay and props making.

Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just starting with miniature painting, the following primers will make the painting process much smoother.


Games Workshop Citadel Spray Paint Chaos Black

Games Workshop is one of the biggest names in the miniatures world. In addition to making the super-popular Warhammer miniatures, these guys make one of the all-time best primers for miniatures.

The colors of the Citadel spray primer —especially the black— are a great foundation for any miniature paint job. The spray dries fast and leaves the surface smooth, clean, and ready for the actual paint.

The only downside of this primer is the fact that it’s a bit pricey compared to most of the non-specialized primer alternative. If you’re looking for maximum quality for your miniature painting though, this primer is highly recommended. Since this is an aerosol primer, you need to use it in a well-ventilated room. Also, if you are spraying miniatures, try to spray more than one at the same time to make the most out of each can.


The Army Painter Color Primer

In addition to making primers and miniature paints of the highest-quality, specialization is another thing we like about The Army Painter. Whether they’re medieval warriors or an undead skeleton army, these guys have the right primer to make the paint on those tiny figures come to life.

The best thing is that they recommend actual uses for every paint and primer shade. Want to color some WWII cards? Get this color. An undead army of skeletons and zombies? Get that color. The result is much less guessing involved in picking the colors, and more confidence when applying the colors you choose to your models.

Since its a spray primer/paint, you’ll be able to give an entire miniature army some base foundation fast.


Vallejo Grey Primer Acrylic Polyurethane

Even though this primer isn’t designed specifically for miniatures, it has a great advantage —aside from quality, which is flexibility. Since you can apply this primer with a normal brush or airbrush, it’s a great choice for miniature hobbyists who like to tinker with the painting process.

Even though it’s not necessary, you can use a thinner with this water-based primer, which allows you to get the exact results you’re after. Keep in mind though that using a thinner, retardant, etc. with this primer will affect things like how long it takes to dry and the overall texture of the finished surface.

If you’re a miniature painting beginner and want a miniature primer that’s ready to give excellent results right out of the box, the Games Workshop and The Army Painter primers are a much better choice.


Liquitex Professional Gesso Surface Prep

Even though this primer is designed with more traditional artists, it produces great results when used to prepare the surface of miniatures for painting. It works on everything from plastic to wood and metal. So, no matter what material your miniature figures are made of, you can apply your paint foundation without any problems.

While being a gesso makes applying this product to a single miniature nice and easy, it’s not that practical if you want to apply it to your entire miniature army. You’ll need to do this one-by-one, which will take much more time compared to any of the other spray alternatives.

Another thing we like about this primer is its absorbency. It absorbs the right amount of paint to prevent any color bleeding. The only thing we don’t like about this primer is the fact that it’s too thick, which might cause some bubbles to form on the surface of the figure you’re painting.

And that’s why we don’t recommend this primer for highly-detailed miniatures, as its thickness can hide some of the details.


Krylon K02732007 Fusion All-In-One Spray Paint

Krylon primer for miniatures is hands down the best budget primer that you can get. If you’re looking for a flat primer/paint that you can use for miniature painting without breaking the bank, you don’t need to look any further.

In addition to drying completely within 10 minutes (can vary depending on the temperature and humidity), this primer has a great conical tip that’s designed specifically to prevent runs and drips and give you consistent results every time. It’s also easy to press so your fingers won’t hurt after spray priming miniatures for a long time.

This spray primer also comes in a variety of colors and glossiness so, you’ll find the right choice for your needs, no matter how complex is the figure you’re painting.


Tamiya TAM87042 87042 Surface Primer

Few are the companies that have been in the modeling business since 1948. With more than 48 years in the industry, these guys know what they’re doing. This enamel-based primer provides an extremely thin foundation layer that helps you preserve the smallest details in the model you’re painting, making it one of the best primers for miniatures.

Whether it’s plastic, resin, or metal miniatures, this primer will keep even the smallest lines and rivets visible for the painting process. This is hands down one of the best primers for miniatures that are currently available.

The only reason to skip this primer is when you’re painting a large 3D printed prop or armor part that doesn’t have many small details. It will certainly do a great job in that scenario as well, but it won’t have the edge it has with small miniatures.

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Miniatures and 3D printing primers: Buying guide

If you’re wondering what kind of primer to use on miniatures and 3D printed parts, and what makes one primer better than the other, you’re not alone. To end up with the primer that’ll give you the results you’re after, you need to consider the following.

1. Spray vs. brush on

This is the most important thing that you need to consider when choosing a primer for miniature painting. While some people prefer the brush on method for more control, other people find it tedious and unnecessarily time-consuming.

We prefer sprayable primers, as the process doesn’t need to be super-accurate, and spraying is much faster.

2. Color

When you’re applying primer to your miniatures, choosing the right color is half the battle. Knowing the “base color” of the figures will help you pick a primer color that makes the painting process easier. Let’s just say that a pink primer for your undead army isn’t a great idea!

3. Toxicity

If the miniatures you’re spraying are used by children, getting a non-toxic primer —and colors— is simply a must. Even if the kids are old enough not to put things in their mouths, you can’t be too careful. Keep in mind that even if those figures are yours, they’re super-attractive for children and as they say, better safe than sorry.

4. Size of painted item

You should always consider the size of the item you’re painting when you’re choosing a primer. Things like the thickness of the primer and whether its sprayed or brushed makes a big difference.

We don’t want to overcomplicate things so, the general rule is that spray primers work best for smaller props and miniatures, and brush on primers are better for larger 3D printed parts —like armor— and figures that aren’t highly-detailed.

Pro tip:

The best primers for miniatures vary depending on the material of miniatures you are painting. So, the best primer for metal miniatures won’t be the best option for plastic miniatures. Always keep that in mind when you’re choosing.

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