Home Forums General General Undercoating/priming, do you prefer “toothy” or “smoothy”?

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  • #136719
    Rhoderic
    Participant

    Please excuse the poor attempt at a witty thread title 🙂

    I generally like my undercoats/primers to have plenty of “tooth” so I don’t end up slopping paint around on too slick of a surface. Hence, and taking into account my aversion to aerosols due to the fickleness and extra hassle they entail, I’ve been very content using gesso for undercoating. I just make sure to use a high-quality sort which goes on thin (if applied correctly) but has good pigment coverage.

    However, I’ve just been experimenting with attaining the shiniest possible metallics, within the limits of water-based acrylics applied by brush.  I want something that’s at least a little bit shinier than my other metallics so I can pretend it’s chrome, or some other metal polished to a mirror sheen, even if I can’t get it nearly as shiny as the real thing. Paints formulated for airbrush seem to be best for this (though as I said, I just brush them on normally – airbrushing is above me) since they go on in very thin coats that are less prone to leaving brush marks, in contrast to many non-airbrush metallics which are really quite gloopy and seem to be intended for drybrushing more than anything else. This has made the realisation sink in of how important it is to have a smooth surface to start with. Painting the same airbrush-formulated metallic paint onto two surfaces – one smooth and the other undercoated with gesso – produces two very different metallic finishes. The tooth of the gesso shows through and makes the metal appear much duller.

    So now I’m going to have to find another brush-on undercoat that dries to a much glossier surface, to use alongside the gesso when needed. It’s made me realise that certain undercoat products which I’ve traditionally thought of as inferior, lower-quality offerings due to the glossy surface they produce, are in fact what some other hobbyists perceive as the superior, higher-quality ones.

    Both types having their upsides and downsides, which type of undercoat do you prefer: “Toothy” or smooth and glossy? I’ll probably be using both from now on!

    #136725
    jeffers
    Participant

    Many, many, many years ago I used to love Humbrol aerosol white primer, which was a tad off white and dried ‘toothy’ (I like that term!). Quite happy now with army painter, but I’ve changed my painting style and I blob acrylic on rather than brush, so that may have more to do with it than the surface! But toothy would be my choice.

    More nonsense on my blog: http://battle77.blogspot.com/

    #136731
    Autodidact-O-Saurus
    Participant

    Toothy primer for me. I prime everything with gesso these days. When I first started painting the the ’70s, I had a bottle of Heritage brush on primer which I loved. Lasted for years but when it ran out I had to go to aerosols since brush-on hobby primer was impossible to find. Hated them. Still do. So a couple years ago I moved to Liquitex professional gesso for both metal and plastic figures. Much happier with it. I’ve never had it obscure details even on 10mm figures and I can prime any time I want. No ventilation issues. No humidity issues. Just give it 24 hours to dry and don’t wet your brush with water. Use an acrylic thinner if you feel the need.

    Normally, I’ll apply a wash of tinted floor wax to bring out the details. However, floor wax does leave the figure relatively shiny. So to tone that down I typically finish a figure with a coat of Liquitex matte varnish which ends up with a satiny finish which I like. If I want to re-introduce some more shininess to the metallic parts, I’ll apply a top coat of untinted floor wax. That’s about all the shininess I want. Shininess is all about the smoothness of the top surface. I think the floor was flows well and evens out the top surface of the toothy sub layers.

    Works for me.

    Self taught, persistently behind the times, never up to date. AKA ~ jeff
    More verbosity: http://petiteguerre.blogspot.com/

    #136734
    Nathaniel Weber
    Participant

    I like my primers toothy and use either grey automotive primer or gesso.


    @Rhoderic
    : do you color or tint your gesso? If so how? I have used white gesso and have tinted it with a drop or two of brown.acrylic ink to help provide a warmer base. Was wondering if you had experience with that and if something other than ink would be better, like maybe pigments or plain acrylic paint.

    #136735
    Mr. Average
    Participant

    I like a toothy finish and steer clear of anything that has body to it – the prime coat should be as thin as it can be and conform as well as possible to the contours of the figure. I’ve tried gesso but despite what I’ve heard about how it shrinks and conforms, I’ve found that to be problematic for small scales. It simply ruined my small figures when I tried it. I would not use floor polish, shading dips or anything like that for similar reasons but I can see how it could have a useful effect at larger scales that can tolerate it.

    My preference is spray applied hard white primer, either auto primer or metal rustproofing sealant. Krylon and Rustoleum are the two best for me. In dire straits I use Reaper brush on primer but it needs two or three thin coats to really take and you have to be careful not to let it pool in the details.

    I always prime in flat white – never black. I use a lot of high-value colors and I find that blacks and greys skew my base coat colors too radically for my tastes.

    Also, none of that is the be-all end-all of technique, it’s what works best for me. Bear in mind that I work almost exclusively at micro and pico scales: 6mm and 3mm, or at naval scales. So this formulation is based on that and the system may break down at larger scales.

    #136739
    Darkest Star Games
    Participant

    I like my figure primers to be smooth ( I use Tamiya super fine on them) and my vehicle primer to be toothy (Tamiya fine).  I like to be able to have inks and washes flow more easily on figures, where as on vehicles I tend to use oils for filters so need a mat surface with some grip.

    "I saw this in a cartoon once, but I'm pretty sure I can do it..."

    #136745
    Rhoderic
    Participant

    ‘toothy’ (I like that term!).

    I’ve definitely heard/seen other people describe undercoats and painting surfaces as “toothy” and “having tooth”, so I can’t claim credit for it. I like the term, too.

     

    So a couple years ago I moved to Liquitex professional gesso for both metal and plastic figures. Much happier with it. I’ve never had it obscure details even on 10mm figures and I can prime any time I want. No ventilation issues. No humidity issues. Just give it 24 hours to dry and don’t wet your brush with water.

    This is the same gesso I use. I’m fond of it for the same reasons and will continue using it for the vast majority of surfaces, basically any surface that I don’t intend to paint as particularly shiny metal. As for drying time, I find it to be much less than 24 hours, assuming it’s not watered down and has been applied no more liberally than it needs to be.

     

    Shininess is all about the smoothness of the top surface.

    This is what I want to believe, and traditionally have believed, but my experimentation with undercoats, metallic paints and varnishes these last couple of days hasn’t really borne that out for me. Airbrush-formulated metallic paint (thin in consistency but rich in aluminium pigment) with a gloss varnish on top definitely looks shinier on top of a glossy surface, than on a surface undercoated with gesso. For most purposes, painting metallics on top of gesso will do perfectly fine for me, as the things I’m painting metallic aren’t usually meant to look polished to a gleam anyway. I’ll be reserving the shinier metallic finish for those few items that I want to have stand out as having an exceptional glint to them. This might not even be an issue with historical miniatures, but most of my miniatures are more fantastical so I want the odd bit of chrome and the occasional item of metal that looks like it belongs on a parade ground.

     

    @Rhoderic: do you color or tint your gesso? If so how? I have used white gesso and have tinted it with a drop or two of brown.acrylic ink to help provide a warmer base. Was wondering if you had experience with that and if something other than ink would be better, like maybe pigments or plain acrylic paint.

    Sorry, I don’t. In fact, I must admit I no longer even subscribe to the “received wisdom” that the colour of the undercoat affects the end result. When painting miniatures, I tend to prefer paints that are thin in consistency but heavily pigmented, especially for basecoats (by which I mean the coats that go on top of the undercoat, in case anyone defines “undercoat” and “basecoat” differently than I do), and to paint several layers of basecoat, however thin each individual coat may be. I really don’t see the undercoat “shining through” at all after that. To me, the only purpose of the undercoat is to provide tooth and make the paintjob more durable.

    I’d personally steer clear of mixing inks with gesso, as I really don’t like watering down gesso at all. I’ve found that watered-down gesso has a weird habit of forming a skin and taking a very long time to dry underneath, so that it may “slop off” if I mistakenly believe it has dried and begin painting over it too soon. This has never happened to me with any other paint or primer, and with gesso it’s only happened when it’s been watered down.

    I’ve heard that you can tint gesso with regular acrylic paint up to a ratio of approximately one part paint to two parts gesso. But I also have vague recollections of having had gesso turn thick and grainy when I’ve experimented mixing it with acrylic paint in the past. I suggest just doing some experimenting to see what happens.

     

    I’ve tried gesso but despite what I’ve heard about how it shrinks and conforms, I’ve found that to be problematic for small scales. It simply ruined my small figures when I tried it.

    I’ve actually never experienced the famous “shrinking gesso” effect myself. I only use white gesso. Maybe it only happens with black gesso, which presumably isn’t as “bulkily” loaded with pigment (because black pigment gives better coverage than white)? In any case, what I do is simply to apply my white, undiluted gesso very thin to begin with. I take care not to overload the brush, and I just sort of dab it on. If it goes on too thick for a start, I keep dabbing (insert joke about hip-hop dancing here) and wiping my brush on some paper until I’ve gotten it thin enough. A small amount goes a very, very long way. Even the thinnest of coats sticks very well to the surface and provides plenty of tooth. I’ve done this with 6mm figures but must admit I haven’t taken it down to 3mm yet, though I own figures in that scale.

    #136746
    deephorse
    Participant

    Toothy or smoothy?  I’ve never even heard of those terms let alone considered which one I want.  I use Vallejo matt white or matt black depending upon what I want the final product to look like.  I can’t use either of them on EWM’s one-piece resin castings though because they just pool on the surface.  That’s when I have to use a spray can.

    Trust science, not the scientists.

    #136749
    Rhoderic
    Participant

    Toothy or smoothy? I’ve never even heard of those terms

    “Smoothy” was a joke. “Toothy” however I’ve picked up from other hobbyists.

    #136762
    MartinR
    Participant

    Toothier the better or some paint has trouble with coverage. I usually spray matt black on (depending on manufacturer that can range from a nice grainy finish to a horrible slick surface) then I mist it with white from two feet away. The light white spray gives all the tooth I need ever time, and also does high and low lights over the black. Thank you Dr Faustus painting clinic for that.

    If I want a smooth surface , just paint some more base coat on by hand.

    "Mistakes in the initial deployment cannot be rectified" - Helmuth von Moltke

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