Hobby Help: Zenithal Priming with Rattle Cans

In the before times, I primed with whatever I had available. In my blissful ignorance, I simply thought a base coat of whatever would be fine. I never gave much thought as to what I was base coating with, simply that it was a vessel to allow me to paint.

While, yes, that’s all fine and good, and I’m not going say that’s strictly inferior, I’ve realized that there are more beneficial ways to prime. I started looking at the shade of what I wanted to paint, and going with how light I wanted the miniature I was painting to be.

Fast forward to about a year ago, when I finally decided to try zenithal priming. I had always thought that you needed to do it with an airbrush, which, while I have one and do use one on occasion, I would rather use a brush. I saw a great tutorial by Dana Howl that mentioned rattle can zenithal priming, and I haven’t looked back.

Make sure you use a flat primer. Citadel primers are fantastic, but, I also find Rust-oleum primers work very nicely as well.

First, what is zenithal priming? Zenithal priming is a way to base coat your model to help represent the way light naturally lands on real life objects. The light comes from the zenith, which, is where you get it’s name. You will need flat black, grey, and white primers.

So, I have some Bloodborne miniatures that I’ve been itching to paint, and thought it would be a good time to help explain this process. First, spray the entire model black. Be sure to do multiple short bursts so that the the paint does not get too thick, as you’ll be doing multiple colors.

After that paint dries, you then do a priming layer of grey. You’ll want to focus this on the areas that the light shines on, but, not directly. If you’re looking at the miniature, and having the light source directly on top, you’ll want to aim for about a 45 degree angle around the top half of the model.

Lastly, comes the direct light source. Using the white primer, spray directly over the top of all of models. As the spray falls, it will land on all the areas that will be more directly hit by the natural light.

The end result should look something like this

Here’s a quick diagram I found, all credit goes to Board Game Quest. You can read their article here. They’ve got a lot of great info and I highly suggest following them.

Honestly, you can even use this method of priming for helping pick out highlights for when your painting. However, this method really shines for when you use glazes to paint over the minis. The dark and light areas will respectively shade and brighten where you primed.

In a future article, I’ll discuss how to do use glazes to achieve the most out of zenithal priming.