Review: AK Interactive Hobby Sprays – Black Primer, White Primer, Protective Varnish

AK1011 Fine Primer White, AK1009 Fine Primer Black, AK1015 Protective Varnish

Something a little different today, but something I think that will (or should) be worthwhile to the wider hobby community.

For the longest time, I’ve been searching for a Matt spray varnish that actually gives a good, proper Matt finish. Like many others, the best I’ve come across to date has been Testors’ Dullcote. So a little while ago, when looking to replenish my stocks of Testors, I found that the place I decided to buy from, also stocked a number of sprays from AK Interactive, which is one in the long and storied line of companies that star painter, Mig Jiminez has been involved with. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find ANY user reviews of these products on the internet at the time. What else could I do? I bought one of each to try ’em out!

Now at this point in time, I’ve only tried three of them. AK1011 Fine Primer White, AK1009 Fine Primer Black, and AK1015 Protective Varnish. Once I’ve tried a couple more of the ones I picked up, I’ll review those as well. All three of these cans came with an additional nozzle, or a “fine diffuser for better paint application”.

First up:

AK1011 Fine Primer White

AK1011 Fine Primer White. 

All I can say is WOW. This turned out to be the best White Primer I’ve ever used. No joke and no mistake. It went on smooth and opaque. It dried quickly. Where coverage was spotty (due to my spraying angles) the followup sprays to pick up the missed areas went on just as well, and the overlapping areas did not have any issue with clogging. I’ve had no issues with my spray distance (as I’ve had with Army Painter sprays, which are special snowflakes with regard to their spraying distance). I’ve done a fair few figures since the ones photographed above, including a variety of PVC figures, and the stuff is a dream.

My previous favourites in white were Gunze Sangyo/Mr Hobby Mr Surfacer or the Tamiya Fine Surface Primer. Both are still fine(!) products, but the little cans are quite expensive, while the large, full-sized can of AK comes to about half the price for the same high (or maybe better) quality primer. All three crap all over the Krylon I’ve used in the past.

When I get a chance, I’m going to place another order (for me, it’s only available via mail order) and stock up with a half-dozen or so more cans of this stuff as I only have the one, and it’s going down as it’s now been my first choice in white. That’s how much I like it.

I haven’t tried spraying Reaper Bones figures, because they suck when trying to prime them.

I haven’t tried the fine diffuser nozzle, since I prime in batches.

AK1009 Fine Primer Black

AK1009 Fine Primer Black.

To save a bit of time, I guess you can look over my thoughts on the White Primer above. The bar with other black primers is a bit higher than with white, which is so often a bit problematic, but yeah, this stuff wins once again – beating out Tamiya, Gunze and Krylon (the Krylon black is better than the Krylon white). It’s perhaps a little more obviously satin than the white, but you can still see how smooth it is on the trio of off-brand Skaven above. As with the white, it’s easy to paint over, has excellent coverage and is once again my first go-to for any models I care about.

I’ll be getting a half-dozen cans of the black at the same time I stock up on the white.

AK1015 Protective Varnish

AK1015 Protective Varnish.

After such a pair of glowing reviews, I wouldn’t blame you at all if you were expecting similar here. Sadly my experience here was not positive at all – especially since this was the product that led me to finding and purchasing the others.

Let’s just take a snippet from the description on the official website:

Special varnish to protect your models and figures if is needed a constant manipulation. Developed for Wargamers. Ultra resistant and with the best adherence. The paint is a synthetic varnish that cures in a short period of time.

Uh huh. Sounds good, right? Developed for Wargamers, even (if I’m allowed to call myself that!) Well, what they fail to tell you, on the website; on the can; anywhere at all is that the stuff dries with a high gloss finish. You know, just like all wargamers want on their figures. Imagine my delight when I sprayed some models with this stuff, expecting it to dry with a nice matt finish, and found them an hour later still looking like they were freshly misted with water. Sorry, but you don’t get an example pic of those models, since they were quickly sprayed with a proper, matte varnish.

So yeah. More disappointment than you can imagine – especially after trying the two primers. While I’m sure the stuff works well enough for a solid protective coat, that’s hardly anything special – especially since my local hardware store sells two types of high-quality, fast-drying, non-yellowing gloss sprays (enamel or acrylic based – take your pick!) for half the price of this stuff. Not happy, Jan!

*Disclaimer: No part of this review was paid for, sponsored or in any way influenced by anyone. I purchased all of the above products at full retail with my own funds.

36 thoughts on “Review: AK Interactive Hobby Sprays – Black Primer, White Primer, Protective Varnish

  1. Untiĺ a year or so ago I had never varnished anything I had ever done, mainly because my figures and dioramas are really just for display, don’t get handled and I usually paint in oils. When I started my eBay adventure I thought I ought to apply a coat of varnish and just stumbled upon Humbrol Matt and found it to be pretty good and have only used that ever since. I’m far from qualified to sing it’s praises and as common brand I expect many people will have a different opinion as to its quality. Happy to learn of anything better though! For the record Humbrol paid me a fortune to say that! 😉

    Liked by 3 people

      • Haven’t seen those Humbrol cans locally, but if I do, I’ll give it a go. I’ve picked up some more Matt Spray options recently, but not used them yet – so I’ll no doubt review those eventually as well.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Gonna jump in here! I’ve found Humbrol enamel matt varnish spray very good and gives an excellent matt finish. Only problem I’ve found is that the spray heads can sometimes clog and leave you with half a can you can’t use. Have used them for years and never noticed anything turning yellow. Can’t remember if I’ve tried their acrylic matt varnish spray, but my instinct these days is to NEVER use acrylic matt varnish sprays unless I want something to turn white! The Humbrol enamel matt varnish is available in a tin for brushing on, but my past experience with that is that it dries white in any folds or crevices unless you gloss varnish first.

        Liked by 2 people

      • The Humbrol sounds like a quality product with so many people vouching for it! I’ve not ever had a problem with my White Knight Acrylic spray, though. The worst that I’ve gotten from it has been being a little too shiny when the can is almost done.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Great review mate, will check out the primers for sure, but never use matt varnish, seen too many excellent paint jobs ruined by a defective can.

    Liked by 2 people

    • No worries. I guess I’ve been lucky overall, though I do admit I do much prefer the look of my figures more before I varnish them. But then, with a little use, the paint gets rubbed off, so it’s the best of a few unfortunate options…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Regarding protective sprays, I have abandoned the fight by years now. After ruining more than a few models, having read countless web pages on the subject and tried every suggestion to prevent and recover frosting, I definitely moved on brush-on varnish. A bit tedious, I agree, but way more less frustrating.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Same here. It might be the humidity where I live (rarely extreme, but always significantly present), but I have never managed to get a clean matte coat from a spray varnish.

      Liked by 2 people

      • It could well be a climate thing – aside from some WIP pictures, everything I’ve shown on the blog here has been varnished – and the overwhelming majority of it has been with a spray can – Gloss, Satin or Matte.


    • If I were in the same situation, I’d no doubt have the same reaction. I’ve had a couple of models ruined by a bad can, but (very) luckily it’s been a super-rare occurrence. I do the odd bit of brush-on, and a bit of spot-varnishing by brush. If I were more talented, I’d probably use my airbrush for it as well, as I know a lot of other people do.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m quite happy with my spray varnish (one you’d used previously – White Knight clear acrylic), but happy to try a new primer. I need a can of white now, so I’ll watch out for the AK. Thanks

    Liked by 1 person

    • The White Knight is still my go-to for both Matt and Satin, but the search for a more convenient Matte continues…
      The primers were top-notch at least, though!


  5. Great review- the primers looks good but I was hoping you’d found a new Matt Varnish. I’d like a new one to replace my Humbrol acrylic spray like TIM uses. It works well but I’d like something more economical.



    Liked by 2 people

    • So had I, sadly. The other two cans that I have picked up from another company (Japanese Cans I can’t remember which company right now) I haven’t had a chance to use yet so I’m not sure how they will turn out. They seem a little bit better maybe in terms of price than the tiny little cans of dullcote but still not as good as a large full sized spray can

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Interesting review. Bit of a fan of AK products so might give the primers a go. Haven’t used can spray varnish for a while, except for GW Ardcoat for terrain. Otherwise it’s Vallejo Gloss and Satin via the airbrush.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks mate. I’ve used the GW varnished awhile back (what was it called before it was “purity seal”?) but at AU$30 a can even back then, it wasn’t worth more than 3x the price compared to something like White Knight.
      Terrain are one area where I happily go hard on the sealing. Gotta get that stuff protected!


  7. Thanks for the review! I’ve been happy with the Army Painter anti-shine spray varnish, although with a new can I bought I quickly learned that you only need a very light dusting over gloss to keep it from going a bit satin.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Welcome, mate. I had some issues with the Army Painter stuff in the past, so while I might be willing to try it out on scenery if I was in a rush and had nothing else available, I personally go with any of the other options.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh yeah! I did use a can of their Plate Mail Metal primer that I’ve had around for many years the other day since my custom “steel” had expired, and it worked alright. Still, once it runs out, I’ll stick to the custom cans from the local paint shop over the AP stuff, at much the same price…

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I’ve just heard too many horror stories, so I sidestep the whole issue & avoid varnishing completely! Most of my minis are played quite infrequently, but even the more regularly used ones don’t seem to suffer too much from chipping & handling… I’m pretty careful anyway, but can always do a quick touch up if needed – less of a ball ache than trying to master varnish imo :-/

    Liked by 1 person

    • In the old days ™ I didn’t varnish models, but over time too many dints and chips and rubs came to happen (especially on that old-school lead) so I’ve been all in on the varnishing for at least a couple of decades now.

      Liked by 1 person

    • It’s been a long time since I used a GW primer, and I haven’t used the current line – but at (for me) half the price and this quality I’d likely go with these every time.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I have just found the Humbrol matt spray TIM is talking about at my hobbie shop in Boronia and felt I had to try it as I’m really fussy about having shiny figures, I found it really did give a good matt finish but at $16. for a 150ml can it’s bit much for me . I have used the Humbrol 49 matt varnish in the 14 ml tin for five years with good results but as John says it does dry white if it’s too thick in the crevices ,so to avoid this I just thin it a little with thinners before applying.
    Thanks for this little review mate ,any information like this is sure to help us in our pursuit for perfection Ah Ah ! .

    Liked by 1 person

    • No worries and welcome – Your issue with the Humbrol has pretty much been my main issue with Dullcote as well – quite expensive for quite a small can. It’s also been a bit inconsistent with being properly matte as well at times.

      Liked by 1 person

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