Painting: Priming and Stripping pt. 1

Painting: Priming and Stripping pt. 1

Now if that title doesn’t drive people to the site, I don’t know what will! 😉

I’ve been painting minis for years and years, ever since I first discovered D&D back in the 80s. No, not the 1880s, but still awhile ago. You would think I would be an amazing painter by now, but far from it. For one I haven’t been painting the whole time, having left and returned to the hobby a number of times.

I didn’t really try to figure out how to paint correctly until I got involved with Blood Bowl (and all those minis). I’m still a lousy painter, but at least I’m learning and picking up more and more tips along the way. This blog (eventually) is about one of those tips.

Priming (and stripping). I’ve been priming minis with spray cans since the 1880s, maybe that’s the 1990s, I forget. Usually it seemed to go quite well. But every now and then, it would go south. The primer would get this gritty, almost dry texture to it. The first time that happened, I just tried to paint over it. The paint just bled over the whole area and it was an ugly mess.

So I switched manufacturers, many times. I’ve tried Army Painter, Citadel, Tamiya, etc. but with all of them, I would occasionally run into this issue.

Now let’s flashback to a few weeks ago. I’m a Dad with a two year old toddler, and finding time to paint, is TOUGH. The little bundle of energy went down for a nap on the weekend, and I immediately headed to the garage. Lay out some plastic, boxes, the models were washed earlier that day. I am ready to go! Spray, spray, spray, things are looking good.

I notice that I’m going to need a second coat. I wait a bit, return to the garage, and notice there is a fine layer of red dust (I primed in red). Great, a mess. 45 minutes later, I got that all cleaned up and move everything outside for the second coat.

Let the paint all dry again, leaving the minis in a covered box in the meantime. Bring them inside and…

Bad priming, bad, bad!

Not sure if you can see it very well, but on close inspection the priming went south. The texture wasn’t smooth, like it should be, a grit had developed. Utter fail.

With the limited amount of time I have these days, I was pretty disgusted. So what to do?

Strip the minis, which I’ve had decent experience with in the past.

Here’s the part where we get to the tip. And here’s our buddy “Super Clean” aka “Purple Power” in some places.

Super Clean to the Rescue!

Now I’ve used Super Clean in the past and it’s worked really well on plastic and metal minis. I did run into an issue with some Mantic minis where they melted a bit and the primer started to fuse to the mini. It might have been because it didn’t work the first time and I so tried leaving the minis in even longer. To be safe, I would recommend testing a mini from a given  manufacturer first.

So how do you strip? Get some nitrile gloves (this stuff will burn skin), Super Clean, and old plastic Tupperware container, your wife’s toothbrush, I mean, an old toothbrush, that no one will use ever again. Easy enough, place the minis in the old Tupperware container, let soak in Super Clean over night. Next day, don your nitrile gloves, take the minis to a sink that you don’t mind cleaning. Give them some scrubbing with the brush, and the paint should start to goop off. There might be some more persistent spots in cracks, that usually have to pick at with a pointy metal file or something.

But that’s the way I used to do it. While looking for priming solutions, I happened onto an even better solution. All of the above, plus this puppy. An ultrasonic cleaner;


These little baths are usually used to clean jewelry, but work nice for stripping minis as well. Mine was about $20 on Amazon (different brand than pictured), but basically looks the same.

So you plug in the ultrasonic, throw your minis into the bath, add Super Clean, and then press the On button. The bad thing is that the Ultrasonic auto shuts off about every 3 minutes. So I kept it close by and just kept hitting the On button.

I think I removed the first batch around 15 minutes, tried to scrub them and not everything was coming off like I thought. I was skeptical about this working, but threw them back in for another 30 minutes.

I removed them all, scrubbed the minis with a brush again and the paint started coming off like cake. I was amazed. In the past, it took a usually a couple days of soaking and around an hour of scrubbing. This time only about 45 minutes of soaking, and about 15 minutes for scrubbing. Really nice.

Still sucks that I lost all that time to begin with, but glad to find a better solution for stripping in the end.

The only downside is that the paint left a pretty yucky mess inside the bath. It’s permanently stained for sure. At $20, not a big loss, and I’ll just be using it to strip minis in the future. If I get some bad ones on EBay or I screw up a paint job.

I owe this Ultrasonic Cleaner tip, and the subsequent part 2 to Tabletop Minions YouTube channel, which is linked to the right. No, your other right. Thanks for saving my bacon!

5 thoughts on “Painting: Priming and Stripping pt. 1

  1. Simple Green (in the States, Detol or something like that across the pond) is another very effective, yet gentle liquid for stripping minis. Works on everything but enamels.
    I used to get that powdered texture from time to time, but I haven’t gotten it in a while. You might try to get the mini a little closer to the nozzle when priming. I think I read once that you get that sort of effect, along with the “frosted” look from clear coat from the mini being too far away and the primer/clear coat partially drying while in the air. Maybe it’s true, maybe it isn’t. Might be worth a try!


    1. Thanks Mike, I’ve another solution for the priming issue, which I’ll cover in part two.

      I don’t remember if I tried Simple Green, but I definitely should give it a try with the ultrasonic cleaner. That thing saved me a lot of time.


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