Priming Tabletop Minis in the Winter Without an Airbrush

Painting miniatures is a year-round hobby. There are a lot of reasons that you might get new minis in the middle of the winter. Most likely you have received miniatures during the year-end holidays.

Simple Base Tutorial
Simple Base Tutorial

Once opened, you got them over to your hobby table, assembled them with loving care, and then you read somewhere that you aren’t supposed to prime models if it is too cold.

The question is… Can you prime miniatures during the winter?

Yes, you can prime miniatures in the winter. I have primed many models when there has been over a foot of snow at my house, and the quality is just fine. You might be miserable when doing it but this article has a few tips for priming your models, even in the dead of winter.

Disclaimer: There is a temperature at which the paint will freeze in the air between your can and the model. I don’t know exactly what the temperature is but I know stories of people priming minis at -26 Celsius or -15 Fahrenheit.

The problem that people have with priming in the winter

There is a legitimate issue that people run into when priming in the cold. You are using a pressurized can of paint. Pressure responds to temperature. Raising temperatures increased pressure. Lowering temperatures decreases pressure.

The outside temperature being so low is compounded by the fact that rapid depressurizing from spraying the paint causes the temperature inside the can to drop as well.

For paint to spray properly it relies on steady pressure in the can. If your paint can gets too cold it won’t have enough pressure to reliably atomize the paint and you can end up with uneven results.

Tips for priming in the cold

Prepare everything before going outside.

Prime in small batches: limiting the amount if time your paint can is exposed to the elements is the easiest way to maintain the temperature of the can. Priming one or two models at at time will take less time and your can and your fingers will thank you.

Prep your model before taking it outside: Attach your miniature to something to hold on to, even if you are wearing gloves. Use two sided sticky tape to attach it to a block of wood or a paint stick for example.

By contrast you can have a shelf or table set up before you go out. have it in a place that you can get to quickly. Setting up and taking down your models will be quick if you have this set up before hand.

Pre-shake your paint: Having well mixed paint is extra important in the cold. If you take the time to shake up the can outside it will be exposed to the elements longer and get colder.

Gently warm up your paint can: Since the biggest problem with priming in the cold is losing pressure starting with a warmer can can prolong the amount if time that you can spray by a little bit. If you let your can sit in warm, not hot, water for 5-10 minutes before using it, it will get a little bit warmer. Just remember to dry it off before going outside to avoid it freezing to your hand in extreme weather.

Use the shelter of your garage or shed: if you leave the door open you can ventilate the area OK. The primary benefit of this is being sheltered from the wind. In the winter the wind is much more unpleasant on your face and fingers that are exposed to the elements. On windy, or even breezy days finding shelter will improve your experience.

Test out priming on a practice piece: If you are concerned with how it will work out take some sprue or your practice model outside and test it out. After the paint cures c heck it out to see how you like the results.

Avoid condensation from rapid temperature changes: Changes in humidity can really affect your paint. When something is clod and then goes into a warm room water condenses on the surface. Think of fogged up glasses. There are two simple ways to prevent this from ruining your prime job.

First, you can just be really quick. If you don’t spend too much time in the cold, the temperature of your model won’t change too much and so condensation wont be too bad.

Second, is to let the paint cure outside, or in your garage or shed. The reduced temperature will mean that it may take a long time for the paint to set up properly. It might take overnight or longer depending on the temperature.

Primer to use

Army Painter


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