Friday Quick Tip: Priming with Gesso

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?