To say that I started painting miniatures eight or so years ago when I moved to Atlanta and started accompanying my, at that time, roommate to the game store and got sucked into the world of tabletop wargaming probably wouldn’t be entirely true. I actually painted miniatures way back in the 1980s when I first started playing Dungeons & Dragons and other role-playing games. Back in those days the minis were made of lead (yes, lead – the stuff everyone is afraid of getting poised by in their water supply now). I also did not know any better about types of paint or thinning them or layers and coats so I naturally just pulled out my Testors enamels that I used on my scale model cars. These days I know better and use acrylic paints and thin them properly and know about using thin coats instead of globing things on. I also know how important it is to first make sure the model has a coat of primer first, so the paint will actually adhere.
A decent primer coat is important enough, in fact, that one company has taken it upon themselves to pre-prime their minis before packaging and therefore market them as ready to paint right out of the box! I don’t agree that they are though. While I appreciate the detailed sculpts of the Dungeons & Dragons and Pathfinder miniatures from WizKids, I disagree with their choice to have already applied primer to them. I understand why they do it; they want to appeal to the novice painter and having them “Paint Ready Out-Of-The-Box!” would certainly appeal to someone just getting started in the hobby. However, there are things to consider before one starts picking colors and pulling out the brushes.
Any mass produced miniatures are undoubtedly going to have been made using injection molding which means a mold is made then the resin or plastic or whatever material that’s being used is injected into the mold in liquid form and allowed to cure and harden before the finished model is removed from the mold. This leads to there being burrs and mold-lines that need to be removed. Let’s be honest, the manufacturer might do some of that but I’ve never bought a miniature that I didn’t have to get out my hobby knife as well files and sandpaper to clean up those rough places. On these pre-primed minis that means you are going to scrape off some of the primer. For the most part, it’s not that much but I recently had one that a lot of the primer came off in one spot.
Notice the section right under her arm on what would be her rib cage. See how much of the primer came off there? What might cause this, you ask? Well, most likely what happened was that the release agent in mold wasn’t fully washed off of the model, then the primer was sprayed on too thick instead of in nice even thing coats. The result it, well, this – a big old chunk of primer getting pulled off while I was trying to scrape of what was a rather small mold line. If I tried to paint or even re-prime over that it would have been very noticeable in the finished product.
So the solution? Soak her in a plastic container full of Simple Green for a couple of days then scrub all (or as much as possible) of the primer off with a toothbrush and hobby knife. Was it a pain in the ass? Yes. Is it going to be worth the extra effort to make sure this mini looks good once I paint it? Also, Yes.
I do feel the need to comment on the primer itself. On one of my Facebook groups where the members share their endeavors at painting minis, several folks had negative things to say about the primer used, which is Vallejo’s Surface Primer. I’d like to say in that regard that that is the same primer I use myself. I don’t think the peeling problem is the fault of the brand of primer but rather the fact that these are all mass produced on an assembly line where it’s very possible to have issues like this and occasionally quality control might miss one that’s been over-primed. After I got all the primer off my Barmaid mini and the rest of the mold lines scraped off, I re-primed here with the very same brand, and color, of primer she came pre-primed with. The paint adheres to it just fine now.
While this is honestly the first WizKids model I’ve ever had do this to me, I have no implemented a self-imposed step of doing this to all of their pre-primed miniatures. It’s an extra step and very adds more un-fun to what was already the un-fun part of the hobby, but it helps insure that the end result doesn’t look like crap. To make sure I kind of have a good rhythm going with the pile of minis I currently have on the “to-be-painted’ shelf I figure I’ll just soak a few at a time; let them soak a few days; then when I’m at a point on a current mini (or minis) where I’m waiting for a something to dry or I’m contemplating color choice I can scrub the ones that have soaked. Eventually I figure I’ll have all the ones I currently own stripped well before I’ll be ready to paint them (especially since I also have another shelf of to-be-painted Reaper Bones which don’t have to be stripped first because they don’t come pre-primed).