A good primer is essential for preserving the fine details of your miniatures, and is the first step to an impressive paint job. Here comes a guide to the best primers & spray paints for painting Warhammer miniatures, from classic black and white to coloured and metallic sprays, with additional recommendations for Contrast and “one coat” paints, based on over 20 years of my own experience.

What makes a good spray paint or primer

First and most importantly, a good spray primer should be easy to apply, cover well, and dry out thin and smooth so that no detail is lost. There should be some leeway if conditions such as humidity or temperature are not ideal, or if you accidentally spray on too much paint. Good self-levelling properties are important.

Second, the mattness. The more matte the primer, the better the paint will adhere on your Warhammer miniature. A matt surface is rough on a microscopic level, which gives acrylic paint more grip. If, on the other hand, the primer is too glossy, paint adheres less well and you need to apply more coats for an opaque result, and thin paints such as washes / Shade paints or Contrast paints can even drip off. The gloss is a disadvantage of many metallic spray paints, and the only thing you can do about it is to paint over with a thin layer of a matching metallic paint or a matt/satin varnish.

And, last but not least, the affordability. As it’s often better to apply two or even three thin coats of primer, a can of primer will only last you for so long. And if your army’s paint scheme requires primers in multiple colours, it can add up quickly. Warhammer is already an expensive hobby. Luckily, there are a host of hobby companies which offer budget-friendlier alternatives to Citadel spray paints.

Stahly's best primers & spray paints for painting Warhammer miniatures

The difference between primer and spray paint

Most people use both terms and mean the same thing. But the difference between primer and spray paints is that “real” primers contain a solvent that creates a stronger bond with the surface of the miniature and thus provides better adhesion and higher resistance. Spray paints do not contain solvent, or less of it.

Some manufacturers even advertise a “real primer formula”, so make sure to read the product description. The “coloured” Citadel spray paints, however, are not real primers, so Games Workshop itself recommends applying a layer of “real” primer before applying spray paints like Mephiston Red spray.

In practice, however, I have used Citadel spray paints as primer on bare plastic without any problems, and if you’re careful and varnish your miniatures at the end, you should not have any problems with paint abrasion or the like with any of the products presented in this post.


Stahly’s best spray paints & primers for painting Warhammer miniatures

Most people start their Warhammer journey with Games Workshop products, and the Citadel spray paints are in general pretty good. They are almost completely fail-safe to use and yield to good results, but, they’re expensive, and not all spray paints match the corresponding Base paint perfectly.

Over the years, I have tested and reviewed many different miniature primers and spray paints, and here comes a list with my favourite products:


Best black, grey & white primers

AK Interactive spray paints & primers

AK Interactive Fine Primer Black, Grey & White

AK Interactive offers a range with various spray primers, paints and varnishes. Their Fine Primers come in 400 ml cans and are very affordable with a price of around 8/9 Euro (UK price is, unfortunately, a bit more expensive at around £11). The quality is excellent, the primers are straightforward to use and go on thin with good self-levelling properties. My favourite is their black primer, which is quite matte, but the white and grey (which is more of a light grey) are also great. I really like that the cans come with wide and skinny caps, as the skinny cap produces less overspray and is absolutely sufficient for smaller models.

Where to buy: In the UK, you can get AK Interactive primers from Element Games, and in Germany from Taschengelddieb, otherwise, check scale modelling shops or Amazon and ebay:

Citadel White Scar spray

Citadel White Scar spray

With their new White Scar spray paint, Games Workshop succeeded in creating a white primer that goes on without a fuss. This stuff is easy to use, has a very high coverage, and goes on thin and smooth, which also makes for a nice basecoat for Contrast and other “one coat” paints. It’s not exactly cheap, but its so nice to use that I gladly spend the extra money. You can find a more detailed review here.

Where to buy: Everywhere you can find Games Workshop products, for example from our partner shops with a discount up to 15%:


Best colour spray paints & primers for painting Warhammer miniatures

Vallejo Hobby Spray Paint Colour chart

Vallejo Hobby Spray Paint

The Vallejo Hobby Spray Paints are affordable, have a very high quality and opacity, and are super easy to apply. Especially the bright colours are amazing. Sun Yellow (basically Yriel Yellow in a can) is the best yellow spray I ever had and covers super nicely with just a few coats over bare plastic, and Skeleton Bone (= Ushabti Bone) also has amazing coverage. The colour match to their acrylic equivalents from the Game and Model Color ranges is also very good. As a bonus, each can comes with two different nozzles, a wide cap and a skinny cap.

Where to buy: The sprays are a bit harder to find in the UK, as none of the major hobby stores stock them, so it’s your best bet to check ebay and Amazon, or Taschengelddieb, if your located in Germany:

Colour Forge Primers Conversion Chart

The Colour Forge Primers

Colour Forge primers come in larger 500 ml cans, so they contain 100 ml more paint than comparable products at a price that is well below Games Workshop sprays. The 23 colours are all designed to closely match the Citadel Colour range. There are equivalents for almost all current Citadel spray paints, which makes them fantastic budget-friendly alternatives. The quality is good, some go on a bit thick, but with good self-levelling properties, it’s really not much of an issue. You can find a more detailed review here.

Where to buy: Currently, Colourforge products are only available from UK retailers like Wayland Games and Element Games, but I heard they are planning to bring them to Europe and the US soon, so stay tuned.


Best metallic primers & spray paints

Citadel Leadbelcher Spray

Citadel Leadbelcher spray

Leadbelcher spray is in my opinion the best dark silver spray paint. It matches Leadbelcher base paint well, has fine metallic pigments, and covers well. It can go on a bit thick, so remember to use thin coats. Like most metallic sprays, the finish is quite glossy and smooth, which can cause washes and Contrast paints to drip off. The trick here is to apply another thin coat of Leadbelcher or matt varnish before applying the wash or Contrast paint.

Where to get: Everywhere you can find Games Workshop products, for example from our partner shops with a discount up to 15%:

Vallejo Hobby Spray Silver

Vallejo Hobby Spray Silver

The Vallejo Hobby Sprays are all pretty good, but one of my favourites is their Silver spray. This is a super light silver that matches Vallejo Model Air Steel or Game Air Silver, think Stormhost Silver base paint but even a nuance brighter. It goes on like a charm, and has super fine metallic flakes, and is on top of that very affordable. The only drawback is the drip off effect for thin paints, as with almost all metallic sprays.

Where to buy: Vallejo sprays are a bit hard to find in the UK, as none of the major hobby stores stock them, so it’s your best bet to check ebay and Amazon, or Taschengelddieb in Germany:

The Army Painter Greedy Gold Colour Primer

The Army Painter Greedy Gold Colour Primer

With a few exceptions, I’m not a huge fan of The Army Painter’s Colour Primers (anymore), but the new Greedy Gold primer has unique formula and is much easier to use. It covers very well and the metallic flakes are fine. The gold tone is a very rich orange gold, a perfect match to Greedy Gold Warpaint, and coincidentally, it’s also much closer to Retributor Armour base paint than Games Workshop’s Retributor Armour Spray, which is paler and more yellowish than the Base paint version. With an RRP of 17 Euro / £14.50, it is unfortunately much more expensive than other Colour Primers, but still much cheaper than Retributor Armour Spray.

Where to buy: The Army Painter is readily available in most hobby stores both locally and online, as well as on Amazon and ebay:


Best Contrast & “one coat paint” primers

Comparison of White Scar, Greyseer, and Wraithbone spray primer

Citadel Greyseer, Wraithbone & White Scar spray

These three primers create a smoother surface without being too glossy, which is intended to reduce the surface tension for Contrast and “one coat” paints so that they apply more evenly. Which is not to say that Contrast paints don’t work on other light primers, or that these primers don’t work for regular acrylic paints. But the smooth finish plus the eggshell colour of Wraithbone and light grey of Grey Seer compliment the Contrast paint style very well, as they can add a warm or cool tint to your transparent Contrast paints. Coverage is pretty decent for such light colours, two maybe three thin coats should be enough most of the time.

Where to buy: Games Workshop products are available virtually everywhere, so you shouldn’t have a problem picking these up:

Colour Forge Spray Primers and models

Colour Forge Wight Bone & Ghoul Grey

Colour Forge also have spray paints that match Wraithbone and Grey Seer, and are thus great budget alternatives with their low price and large 500 ml cans. They also have a white primer, which I haven’t tried yet, so for now I’d rather recommend AK Interactive Fine Primer White instead (see above).

Where to buy: Currently, Colourforge products are only available from UK retailers like Wayland Games and Element Games, but I heard they are planning to bring them to Europe and the US soon, so stay tuned.

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I have compiled this list of my personal best spray paints & primers for painting Warhammer miniatures to share my experience from over 20 years of painting and hobbying. On Tale of Painters, I have reviewed a plethora of hobby products from minor to major brands. Only those products that I actually use myself regularly have made it to this list and receive my Seal of Hobby Excellence.

You can find more of my hobby reviews in our review section, and more of my curated best-of hobby products posts here. A more in-depth guide to miniature spray paints can also be found on my Patreon.

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Conclusion

I hope my recommendations help you to improve your hobby and take your painting skills to the next level. A lot comes down to personal preference, but the spray paints and primers above have served me excellently over the last few years.

For the best results, read the instructions on the can thoroughly. As a rule of thumb, shake your spray cans at least for a minute, spray from a distance of about 20 cm, and apply multiple thin coats, leaving each coat dry for at least 15 to 30 minutes. Use spray paints only in well ventilated areas und avoid over hot or cold temperatures and high levels of humidity. Once your done spraying, empty the nozzle by holding the can upside-down until only clear propellant comes out, and perhaps most importantly, invest in a rebreather mask that is suitable for filtering paint fumes.

What are your experiences with miniature spray paints & primers? Which products should I try next? Feel free to drop your recommendations in the comments section below so that other readers can benefit from them too.

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