Saturday, December 27, 2008

Ready for Prime Time

Ah, the serried ranks of primed figures!

Clausewitz said, "Everything in strategy is simple, but that does not mean that everything is easy." Every step of the way we've had simple tasks but all have called for decisions and some detailed follow-through. Fortunately, in the priming step our only decision is which primer to use. A metal primer, obviously. Tamiya, the Armory, Floquil and I'm sure many others make fine primers that you can find at the hobby or crafts store. Auto paint makers also make primers that you can find in the auto parts store. They all have the right colors: be concerned about the fineness of the pigment and how well it adheres.

Priming is essential because 1) you want to prevent "lead rot" and 2) to help the paint adhere to the metal. Plain old spray paint won't cut it. Invest in a nice can of primer--you're about to spend a lot of time and energy on a great paint job so lay the right foundation.

What color? There's a shaft of light coming in from the left of the photo above making it look like there's three colors, but in fact there are only two that I use these days. I can't see the detail if I use black (although a lot of people like it) and white is just too hard to cover up. (You'll see when I get to painting that I avoid black and white there, too.) Use light grey and dark grey.

If the figures are in a light-colored uniform, I use light grey primer. In this batch, the Turcos and Legion in whites are primed light grey. (I also prime all the figures I photograph for the Askari website in light grey--it shows off the detail best. If I go on to paint those figures I may well coat them again in dark grey paint or primer.) All the Berbers and the Foreign Legion in their blue overcoats are primed dark grey, as are the mules and donkeys.

The French general was a bit of a compromise: normally I'd prime all the horses dark grey but I wanted the general "bright" so I primed them light. Maybe I'll make the horse a grey.

This is all, of course, a matter of judgment and experience. I just don't like dull blues and reds and yellows and if I use a dark primer, then I'm going to spend a lot of extra time adding a light grey or white undercoat to the uniform parts. On the other hand, the Berbers wore white and off-white cotton and woolen clothes yet I primed them dark. We'll see why later in the painting phase, but for now let's just say there's a difference between pipe-clayed white and Berber crawling-around-in-the-dirt white.

When you see them all in a mass like the photo, the task of painting them doesn't seem too daunting.

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