Sunday, December 28, 2008

Gesso = Awesome

Ah, priming.

The bane of my painting existence.

Like most of you, I started out with the rattle-can. Oh, yeah, sure, it works. You hose on the paint and your mini winds up whatever color you've chosen.

The problem is, using the rattle-can is submitting yourself to tyranny.

Spray paint is ridiculously susceptible to variances in temperature and humidity. If you get outside of the recommended temperature range, you're going to have problems. Humidity is even worse. Anyone that's hosed on a coat of primer from a rattle-can knows what I'm talking about.

And then there's the "you've got to go outside" business. Plus, it's messy and time consuming, what with setting up an area to paint, and then hosing it on, followed by the clean up. It's a mess.

So, wanting to free myself from the tyranny of the rattle-can, I investigated paint-on primers. After some trial and error, I discovered Reaper Master Series black primer. Add in some Reaper Anti-Shine Additive and you're in business.

Well, mostly.

You always have to add the anti-shine stuff. And it's expensive, in the long run. Plus, you've got added time and effort involved what with the whole mixing up the primer and the additive. Now, make no mistake, the results are amazing, and I can highly recommend this solution. But I wanted something more, honestly, I wanted to find the ultimate solution to priming minis with minimal effort for cost.

Enter Ron's post about priming with gesso. The funny thing is, I remember reading the original post on a long while back and while I thought it was interesting, at the time I was more interested in finding a "paint" solution, and so I filed the whole gesso idea away for later investigation. Ron's post reminded me about gesso, and I thought it was time to check it out.

One trip to the local Hobby Lobby later, I walked out with an 8 oz. bottle of Demco Artist Series Gesso, color black. Cost: $3.99 plus tax. I also picked up cheap-ass #10 shader to glop it on for $4.99 plus tax, making my total investment around $10.00. Not bad for an experiment, right?

This evening I got a chance to try it out.

Here's what I did: opened the bottle of gesso, dipped the brush in, and glopped it on three different test minis: two chaos space marines and one chaos knight horse.

The result?

Pure priming nirvana.

Coverage is ridiculously fast, as in one coat and you're pretty much good. Neatness? Forgeddabout it. Drag your gesso-loaded brush over the mini and be done with it. You'll wind up using quite a bit of the stuff, as it's very viscous. When you're done you'll have a wet, shiny gloss black covered model with some of the detail obscured.

Now set your mini down, and let it dry. Give it a while, as in a couple of hours or so.

When you look at the finished product, you'll be amazed. You'll have a flat black mini that's ready to paint, with no loss of detail. As stated in the other article, gesso shrinks as it dries, and your details "magically" come back. The chainmail on the chaos knight horse? Perfect. Ridges on the helmet hoses on the chaos space marines? Perfect. In fact, setting down the horse I "gesso-ed" and the one I rattle-canned (yes, even I use the rattle-can sometimes...) I can't tell the difference.

The only thing I noticed on the horse was a tiny amount of visible brush stroke on one little part -- and that came about because I tried to "smooth" over a section with my brush. I should have left it alone, as that's what I did with the other side and it's perfectly smooth. Also, there's a tiny "pinhole" or two here and there on the marines where the gesso shrunk, but these "pinholes" are fractions of a millimeter in size and will be easy as pie to cover up.

The best part? It took a total of about 5 minutes to cover all three minis, and a couple of minutes to wash out the brush.

I know what you're all thinking: "Yeah, sure Joe, sounds great. Pictures or it didn't happen."

The good news is, the
fiancée got a sexy new camera for Christmas, and as soon as she decides that I can use it, I'll get up some pictures (don't hold your breath or anything, it may be a day or three). If all else fails, I'm probably going to inherit her old camera, which is a damn sight better than the one I have now, so either way, it means good things for photos in my blog. :)

In conclusion: Gesso = Awesome. If you're thinking about giving it a try, DO IT! It's cheap and very time/effort efficient, and the results will blow you away. CJ says, "Check it out."