What is the Best Spray Primer for Miniatures? (2023)

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UPDATE: I have a new favorite spray primer for miniatures!

This question comes in two parts, the first of which is “What is the best spray paint primer for miniatures?” and “What is the best airbrush primer for miniatures?” I’m going to be controversial and ignore the second question today. This is not as a slight against airbrushes–airbrushes are amazing tools that produce stunning results when used correctly. But the majority of miniature painters do not own airbrushes and use a spray paint, or “rattle can” primer for their minis.

What is the Best Spray Primer for Miniatures?

We’re going to break things down below, but we’ll jump right to the results of the best spray primer for miniatures:

#1. Ammo by Titans Hobby

#2. Vallejo Hobby Paint for Metal and Plastic
#3. Games Workshop Citadel Spray Paint
#4. The Army Painter Undercoat Spray
#5. Rustoleum 2x Ultra Primer
#6. Tamiya Surface Primer

The Details About the Best Spray Primer for Miniatures

#1. Ammo by Titans Hobby Surface Primer for Plastic, Metal and Resin

I came across this paint by accident, as I was shopping at a LGS that was not known to me and I needed primer. My usual go-to primer, Vallejo Hobby Paint, was out of stock, so I picked this up instead. I got a single can of black spray primer and when I got home and primed my first model, I was hooked.

The finish on this paint is the best that I have gotten off of a surface primer. It was silky smooth, not a hint of speckling, and coated easily and stuck well. The can has lasted for quite a while, too, so they’re not skimping on paint. The coating on this paint is the closest thing on a primer that I would say came to “luscious.” I’m not exaggerating.

The downside, as there always is, is that it’s hard to find in stores. That particular LGS that carried it is 45 minutes from my house, and it’s available on Amazon, which is my go-to for everything. The best place to find it is the website Spray Gunner, where the average can costs $16.75 USD. (Plus shipping.)


  • The coverage of this paint is the best that I’ve found.
  • The surface is smooth and takes paint extremely well
  • The cans last a long time


  • Not available in my local stores
  • Price is about the same as some of the more expensive paints, like Citadel, once you include the cost of shipping.

#2. Vallejo Hobby Paint for Metal and Plastic

What is the Best Spray Primer for Miniatures? (1)

As we said in the article about what is the best paint for miniatures, Vallejo makes a stunning batch of paint in a million colors (well, more than 700). And something that you look for when you’re buying a spray primer is the color. Sure, some people may say that you need to spray prime your models in either black, gray, or white, but there’s a lot to be said–especially for beginners–when you can undercoat your mini in the color it’s ultimately going to be.

So when Vallejo comes out with a product line of Hobby Paint spray primer for miniatures that comes in 3 basic colors, 19 fantasy colors, 5 WWII AFV colors, and 4 WWII infantry colors, that makes me sit up and take notice. I recently painted an entire homebrew chapter of Space Marines using Vallejo’s Russian Uniform. The fact that I was able to undercoat the miniatures in Russian Uniform and then touch up any mistakes with the dropper bottle of Russian Uniform was fantastic.

Now, some people will say “You can do the same thing with Citadel and Army Painter” and that’s true, but there are two big problems with that. First, Citadel Spray Primer doesn’t come in a wide range of colors, and I’ve mentioned before how I don’t like Army Painter paints. So with Citadel you can color match a little, and with Army Painter you can color match quite a bit, but you’re stuck using subpar paint.

As for how Vallejo Hobby Paint for Metal and Plastic lays down on the model, it is a good, even coat. It’s nothing groundbreaking, but it generally only requires one coat, it doesn’t clog up the details of miniatures, and the color is flawless. So when we say that this is the best spray primer for miniatures, we mean it.

The one drawback to Vallejo Hobby Paint for Metal and Plastic is that, in my experience, it is hard to find. According to my FLGS, at the time of writing (Fall 2021) there are supply chain issues getting the paint to all of the stores, with speculation that it’s hard to even get it to the United States at all. But supply chain issues seem to be a given at present, and odds are good this will either be a minor bump in the road, or it will eventually hit all of these brands.

Vallejo Hobby Paint for Metal and Plastic

  • Very wide variety of colors that match Vallejo’s very broad selection of paints
  • Sprays nicely and evenly
  • Is relatively inexpensive, as far as dedicated hobby primers go
  • Currently hard to find without buying online

(Buy from Amazon | Buy from Element Games)

#3. Games Workshop Citadel Spray Paint

What is the Best Spray Primer for Miniatures? (2)

I’m going to go on the record and say that, if we’re just comparing one can of spray paint to another, Citadel is the best spray paint for miniatures compared to all of the others on this list. It applies the best, it preserves detail the best, it dries well, and the coat is smooth. It is simply the superior paint.

So why is Citadel Spray Paint in second place for best spray primer for miniatures? There are a few reasons, but the first is that it’s harder to color match Citadel Spray Paint with the accompanying Citadel range. This seems weird, and it is a little weird. According to Games Workshop’s website, they make 25 different colors of paint. However, currently (and this has been the case for many months if not stretching into years) the majority of those colors are listed as “temporarily out of stock.” And there was a run on the bank when some of the colors (like Averland Sunset) were discontinued and cans of it were going on eBay for $35 or $40.

The other problem that I have with Citadel Spray Paint is their Chaos Black Spray. It’s a great can of black spray paint, but in every. single. Games. Workshop. tutorial. they spray a model in Chaos Black and then repaint it with Abaddon Black, the reason being that, if you make a mistake, you can touch it up with Abaddon Black, because the two Blacks aren’t the same. IF this is the case, then WHY is Citadel still making Chaos Black instead of turning Abaddon Black into a spray paint for miniatures?

The final reason why I dislike Citadel’s Spray Paint is because it is so much more expensive than any of the others on this list.

Games Workshop’s Citadel Spray Paint

  • Wonderful coverage, smooth coats, maintains detail
  • Most of the available colors will color match with Citadel paints
  • Chaos Black should be changed to Abaddon Black
  • Too expensive

(Buy from Amazon | Buy from Element Games)

#4. The Army Painter Undercoat Spray

What is the Best Spray Primer for Miniatures? (3)

I have three reasons for putting Army Painter Undercoat Spray as high on this list as it is, and they are: it comes in a lot of colors, it color matches with Army Painter paints, and it’s easy to find.

First, the colors. Army Painter Undercoat Spray comes in 23 different colors, all of which are very useful. They are definitely more varied than the Citadel Spray Paint, but they are all in the fantasy realm of paint–they lack the WWII varieties of Vallejo. This may or may not be a problem for you.

Second, they color match with Army Painter paints. As we’ve written before, Army Painter paints are definitely the cheapest hobby paints on the mass market, but they are, in this reviewer’s opinion really hit-or-miss in terms of quality. So the fact that Army Painter Undercoat Spray matches these colors doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to have a good experience using them.

Third, and the biggest reason why you would want Army Painter Undercoat Spray, is because it is as easy to find as Army Painter paints–which is pretty easy. In fact, I know of many FLGSs who don’t stock Army Painter paints but do stock Army Painter Undercoat Spray.

On the downside, I have noticed that Army Painter Undercoat Spray has a tendency to go on thick and can muddy the details of a delicate miniatures. I’ve had good experiences with this and bad. Sometimes the paint will go on thick, appearing to obscure detail, and then dry with all of the detail beautifully in tact. But I’ve also had it go on thick and dry thick. It seems unreliable.

Also–and I realize this is a small thing, but it bugs me–the paint cans don’t say what color they are on the can. So if you throw away the cap (as I imagine most hobbyists do) you have to take a good long look at the nozzle to see if you can identify the small speckles of spray that remain. I have found that some Army Painter Undercoat Sprays have the name inked on the bottom of the can, but it is an annoying issue that could be resolved without a lot of effort.

(As an aside, it’s worth pointing out that The Army Painter makes my #1 most recommended paintbrush.)

Army Painter Undercoat Spray

  • A wide variety of colors
  • Color matches to Army Painter paints
  • It is very easy to find both in FLGSs and online
  • It is inexpensive
  • Color matching to Army Painter colors means you have to use Army Painter paints
  • Spray quality and finish is unreliable
  • Hard to tell what color is in each can once the lid is gone

(Buy from Amazon | Buy from Element Games)

#5. Rustoleum 2x Ultra Primer

What is the Best Spray Primer for Miniatures? (4)

The only paint on this list that is not made specifically for miniatures, Rustoleum 2x Ultra Power can be found in any big box hardware store like Home Depot or Lowe’s (and even at the occasional Walmart). And because it is so easy to find (and because it’s not a specialist paint) it is by far the most affordable paint on this list.

I would consider Rustoleum 2x Ultra Primer to be a great starter spray if you’re just getting your feet wet in miniature painting and don’t know if you want to invest too much in the hobby. It’s cheap and it’s everywhere.

It doesn’t come in a large number of colors, however, and it doesn’t color match to any brand of miniature paint. But, if you just are looking for a black, a gray, or a white, then this is all that you need.

You have to be careful about the application, as it isn’t the most forgiving paint if you apply too much. If you spray it on and it looks like you’ve obscured detail, odds are good that when it dries that detail will still be obscured. But the problem there lies not so much in the paint itself–which is reliable–but with knowing how to apply it. Remember: thin coats.

Rustoleum 2c Ultra Primer

  • Easy to find
  • Very affordable
  • Doesn’t come in a wide range of colors
  • Doesn’t color match any miniature line
  • You need to be careful in application

(Buy from Amazon | Buy from Element Games)

#6. Tamiya Surface Primer

What is the Best Spray Primer for Miniatures? (5)

Tamiya Surface Primer is really an excellent primer. It comes from Tamiya, to begin with, which is a brand that is associated with quality for a reason. It applies very well with a smooth and even finish and won’t gum up the detail on the miniatures.

But there are drawbacks to this good–very good–primer. For starters, while it comes in a handful of colors, none of them color match to any paint line. Second, it is quite expensive–even more expensive ounce for ounce than Citadel Spray Paint. And third, it is really hard to find. Virtually no FLGSs carry it. I only know of a single store in my metropolitan area that does, and they carry a few cans, on occasion, for hobbyists who build planes and cars.

Tamiya Surface Primer


  • Applies very well, perhaps the best of all of these paints
  • Doesn’t come in a large number of colors
  • Doesn’t color match
  • Hard to find locally and even online

(Buy from Amazon | Buy from Element Games)


So with all of that said, I will say that my hobby shelf currently holds cans of Vallejo Hobby Paint for Metal and Plastic, Games Workshop’s Citadel Spray Paint, and The Army Painter Undercoat Spray, and I use all of them. I just have favorites among them, for the reasons outlined above.

But when I’m at the FLGS and I need the best spray paint for miniatures, I will always check Vallejo first.

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