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Made in us

North Carolina

Friday Quick Tip: Priming With Gesso
By: Realgenius

I love Tamiya Fine Surface Primer. Not only does it prime well, but it has a great grey color that I love to paint over. I've found the grey helps me see the model details and shadows better than black or white. The one thing I don't love about it is the price. That, and the rest of the hassle of spray priming.

So when I read about priming with gesso I figured it was time to give it a try. My local art store even had a nice shade of grey that was just a hair browner than the neutral Tamiya grey I love. Plus it was cold and rainy outside, so it was a perfect time to try out a spray primer alternative.

Yup, under $4. And that's probably enough gesso to prime a dozen Space Marine Chapters or Eldar Craftworlds and maybe even enough for an Ork army.

Here's our favorite Librarian, ready for a prime:

After reading WeeToySoldiers, I was careful not to glob it on too thick. Even as "miraculous" as gesso is supposed to be, I didn't want to have to strip it all off if it obscured some details. Here is the first coat when wet:

And when dried:

You can see it is a little splotchy with bad coverage in some areas (bottom of the robe, toes and wrist). Reading the comments on the gesso posts I've found that there is a big difference between the white and black gesso. It seems that you get much better coverage with the black. Not surprisingly the grey is probably in-between. To get good coverage you need two thin coats. With the black, one coat is enough. With the white liquid gesso, you might need multiple coats.

I also did a quick prime of one thicker coat on some plastic Scouts. The thicker coat covers better, but obscured a little of the fine detail. If you are doing a big horde of Orks, one thicker coat will be fine.

And not all gesso is created equal. The stuff I got was fairly liquid, about the consistency of syrup. The gesso in this tutorial looks to be quite thick, almost like paste. I am sure that any type will work well, but you'll need to get it to the right consistency first.

So the bottom line on gesso: it is a good alternative for black primer for single or small batches of models. But like anything else regarding painting, it takes some practice to get used to. Believe it or not, priming is a painting skill just like any other: the more you do it the better you get at it. So get out there and get priming! (That's one step closer to being fully painted.)

Have you tried gesso? What color did you use and what were your results?

This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2009/06/21 00:58:02

Illustration and Design

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I tried it out once using White Gesso mixed in with a bit of black acrylic paint to get a grey-prime.

It came out alright with decent coverage and little obscuring of details (granted, it was on a carnifex, so there weren't too many fine details to be lost). Only thing to look out for are little air bubbles, but even that's not a horrible thing.


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Hellacious Havoc

I live in the Northeast US, and as a result of wacky temperatures and weather patterns, there are about 4 weeks a YEAR that are optimum for spray priming.

I have been using Black Gesso for the better part of two years now, and I don't know if I'll ever go back. On anything smaller than a Leman Russ or a Land Raider, it's the best way to prime, hands down.

The Gesso should be reasonably thin, and may require two coats...but you'll learn HOW thin after some practice. Top notch stuff overall.

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Da Big Mek

London, UK

The weetoysoldiers gesso article is rehosted here on dakka too. You live in Texas - it does not rain and is never cold so I am confused as to the *real* reason you wanted to try it out

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Battleship Captain


So, other than if you're in a situation where you can't use a spray primer, what's the advantage of using gesso over a spray?

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Pewling Menial

Atlanta, GA/USA

I've found it easier to get into the nooks and crannies of the underside of minis when based, without priming the model several times from different angles. For me, I just wanted to try something different and brush-on, and it worked out rather well. I used black, thinned down a little bit, one coat most places. A little detail was obscured, but not more than a coat or two of primer. Overall, I like it. Spraying is a lot less effort, though.
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Blood Angel Neophyte Undergoing Surgeries

legoburner wrote:You live in Texas - it does not rain and is never cold

Yeah, I got fooled, too. When I primed that Libby it was in the 20's and we were having an ice storm. Not ideal spray weather.

For me the main reason to try gesso was to save time. I can gesso prime inside, at my painting station. But with since it needs 2 coats in my few trials, spray works better for me. I've actually become really skilled at using the Tamiya and GW spray primers and I get better results from spray. Speed is about the same, since the spray, like gesso, requires multiple coats.

For me, the best use for gesso would be for large batches of guys I could just slap it on and not have to worry about obscuring some detail. But if I'm working a big batch, spray is going to be a lot faster. I might occasionally use it for pieces I forgot or missed in spray priming, or small pieces that require some attachment so the spray doesn't blow them away.

So gesso goes back into the toolbox, for those times when I can't spray or am simply too lazy to get up from my paint desk.

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Arlington, VA

grey_death wrote:
Have you tried gesso? What color did you use and what were your results?

Yes, I used White "Bob Ross Gesso". Which I was able to procure at the local art supply store. (I picked this one because it came in a larger bottle, and was cheaper).

My results were mixed. I saw some good coverage, but you CAN get it on too thick, Drips can form obscuring detail and Adding water to it to thin would probably be a good idea.
Overall it finished smooth, and added little texture to the figures, and held paint well.

As it's REALLY cold here I'll likley play with it some more over the next couple weeks, but I was not immediatley converted.

you _CAN_ put it on too thick.

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Regular Dakkanaut


Just yesterday, I finally picked up some of the black liquitex gesso and I'm quite impressed, so far.
It goes on smoother than i expected and i get better control and coverage than i did with a spray can.
One caveat, however, is that the gesso is a bit more delicate than spray primers and can easily get scratched off if you're not careful, I've noticed.
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Fixture of Dakka

Sterling, Virginia

I used gesso for half of my LatD muties. I used white Liquitex, and added a drop of black to get the grey color I was using for the base coat anyway.

It worked out well for me, though like you said I ended up using 2-3 coats, just like regular paint. However, if I was only using it to prime and not base coat as well, 1-2 would have been plenty. The paint and washes stuck to it just fine, and I am quite happy with the results.

You definitely can over do it though, as I found out when experimenting with some failed traitors. Plus side, it scrapes off pretty well, and I think I will be ableto Simple Green it away.

Great though for when you just want to do a couple models, or it is too cold and miserable to go outside. Or in my case, when you don't want to spend 20 minutes in the basement killing braincells to prime a squad.

One thing though, I don't know how exciting it would be on an all metal model. I used it on plastic or mixed models. I don't think it would be bad though; it worked fine on metal heads.

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Regular Dakkanaut

lokilokust wrote:Just yesterday, I finally picked up some of the black liquitex gesso and I'm quite impressed, so far.
It goes on smoothe are than i expected and i get better control and coverage than i did with a spray can.
One caveat, however, is that the gesso is a bit more delicate than spray primers and can easily get scratched off if you're not careful, I've noticed.

I use liquitex paints almost exclusively and I can tell you that they seem to be delicate for about 12 hours. Since this seems to be the case with your guesso I would reccomen waiting a few hours before applying the primer. The reason that liquitex products tend to be "soft" versus a true acrylic paint like Vallejo or GW is because of the latex in the liquitex paint versus other "true acryic" waterbased brands. Liquitex is by far superior to hobby paints, but requires a bit of thinning with acrylic resin or h2O to get it to an ideal modeling consistency. Also anything that comes out of a spray can is oil based unless it specifically says otherwise.
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Liquitex gesso is supposed to rest for 24 hours to cure completely.

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Boosting Space Marine Biker

Sidney (Home of Nothing), OH. USA

I've been known to thin my gesso down with alcohol/water, and then use my airbrush. Works like a charm AND no fumes in the house!

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