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.

Some notes on painting the models #1: Spraying (A response to Tool Tips 09 – Paints)

I just read the latest post from my mate Faust over on his Double Down Dice blog – Tool Tips 09 – Paints. I saw that Lionoversuskingkong had posted something about Army Painter paints, and replied, and then was going to go on and reply in some detail to DDD and his post – and then had the thought – I’d talked about a lot of this in the past – in the comments section of Luke’s Start Your Meeples board game review blog. So then I decided to just copypasta the stuff I wrote in Luke’s blog, “Remix” my thoughts, and turn it into a “response video”-type post to DDD’s post, as an entry on my own blog.

Now everything I write here is completely 100% correct and true. I’ve been painting for a long time now, and I know what I’m doing, while still being open to learning new techniques and continuing to improve. I’m not going to win any Golden Brush or Crystal Demon awards anytime soon, because I don’t paint in the “competition” style. Maybe I could? I’m sure I could go down that path, but I’m not actually interested in competition painting. I’m interested in good quality models for my own table, use and blog. I see some amazing work from pro painters and people who strive to make each model better than their last – and that’s awesome for those who choose to go down that path, but many painters of that type often finish a dozen or fewer models per year. Which for me is not going to get me a game of The Warhams with two fully-painted sides clashing.

So like I said. Everything I state here is true. But it’s true for me, in my own experience. In one particular Tabletop Minions video, Adam asks a bunch of Pro Painters for tips on improving. Which is an interesting 10 minutes, but if you watch it, you’ll see that a lot of these Pro Painters offer contradictory advice. Some only use cheap, disposable brushes, others swear by the Pure Sable, Windsor & Newton Series 7. What they state in that video is also 100% true, and factual. For them. It’s a kind of different thing to opinions, in that they (and I in this post) aren’t talking about favourite colours, but actual, factual things and techniques that work. For each person. Watch it, or don’t!

So here we go:

WASHING

Always, always wash resin and PVC models before priming or assembly. I probably should theoretically wash metal and HIPS plastic as well. I read that some people swear by doing so, but I’ve never had a problem not doing so in 30+ years. I’d also wash Mantic’s crap “restic” and especially Trollforged’s shitty “Trollcast” (this is what Raging Heroes’ “resin” models are made from. That shit is the worst production material ever.)

PRIMING

Spray prime your models – don’t do it with a brush if you can avoid it. Black and white paints that you paint on with a brush are radically different to using a proper brush-on primer, and again different to using a spray. Just use the spray. Sprays stick to the models much more effectively than painted-on primer or undercoat.

Get three cans of primer (cheap spray paint from the hardware shop works – you don’t need GW’s expensive cans).
Black, White, Grey. Make sure they’re all matte, not gloss. I use hardware shop cans for most models, and have some Tamiya ones for “extra special” models.
Unless you’re going to pre-shade with zenithal highlighting (and you should try it sometime, anyway).

Just choose the colour most suited to the dominant base colour paint you’ll use. White for bright and light colours, black for dark colours and metals, grey for “in-betweens” and… you’ll get a feel for it. Reds and pinks get white.

It’s probably also worth having some “good” primer as well for those special models. I use either/or Tamiya or Gunze or Mr.Surfacer from “normal” model shops. At the same time, most models aren’t “special” and don’t need it.

If I’m painting a whole lot of something in particular, I’ll often follow up on a black or white initial coat with a coloured (or metallic) coat. It’s a hell of a lot faster, and gives you a pretty decent base coat that you can still touch up and continue to paint over. I’ll use another cheap can from the hardware store if they have an appropriate colour – but if they don’t, I used to buy a can of Tamiya Spray, or Citadel, or another hobby brand. Now, I go to the local paint specialist store (Paintaway is my local) and go through their book of colours, and choose the exact shade of custom colours that I want. Sure, the cans cost AU$30 each, but so do the Army Painter Sprays, or the Citadel, or the Plastic Soldier Company, or…  and the Tamiya ones are cheaper, but tiny. Also, I can always go back and get the same mix and don’t need to worry about them discontinuing the colour that I’ve been using (unlike GW/Citadel).

Great Unclean One

It seems to work pretty well.

Or to put it another way:

This is how I prime and base coat (when I spray a base coat):
Results?

but…

I personally don’t like Army Painter sprays. They sandpaper your models’ surface too easily if you spray from too far away, and I’m just not into spray can brands that need special snowflake instructions in order to function as well as the cheap stuff from the local hardware store. Other people find the Army Painter sprays to be perfectly fine, and so, you know, good for them. Genuinely. I can’t and won’t personally recommend them though – as I have better options available and feel that anything that doesn’t require special snowflake instructions is a better option.

Over many years I’ve seen a lot of people complain about GW sprays being inconsistent or sandpapering their models and such. I was always fine with them, but don’t bother anymore – because as I’ve noted, I can just get custom cans from the paint shop which is much closer than a GW or any GW stockist.

Here’s a couple of great videos from Luke of Luke’s APS on how to use Spray Cans properly. Including the cheapest brands he could find in the UK.

I use this one.

Matte is completely fine as long as you don’t go too thick. You want a bit of tooth for your brush paint to get onto. Gloss is only good if your first step is going to be to wash the models, but can have its place as a coloured undercoat that is also a basecoat. Satin is my go-to. You can also cheat with a gloss base spray by then going over it with a satin mid-coat, and then continuing to paint.

Some people live in places where spray cans don’t work very well, due to humidity or temperature which may or may not be seasonal. I often see airbrushes recommended here, and I’d probably agree, but I’m hot garbage with an airbrush and I find it a massive pain in the arse to set mine up, especially for priming a few figures, and so I just never end up doing it – so I’d suggest that they’re right, but can’t speak from personal experience. I suspect that airbrushed primer would be a bit less hardy than sprayed-on stuff, which is another reason that I just don’t bother. But then the climate that I live in means I don’t need to worry about it. In winter, it’s a pain in the arse waiting and hoping for a weekend when it’s going to be warm and dry enough to spray. The weekend because I’m usually still at work during the warmest part of the day, it gets dark early (and spraying at night time, even with a porch light isn’t the greatest), dry because I spray outside and can’t do it in the rain (obviously). Sometimes this means I build up a backlog of a couple of weeks worth of stuff to varnish and undercoat, and so on those rare days, I seem to be out there constantly, spraying this and that. And then leaving them to dry forever. Yeah, I can see the appeal of using an airbrush!

This has now gotten a bit longer than I’d anticipated, and I haven’t even gotten onto the paint that you paint on with a paint brush yet. So I’m going to call it here and do a follow-up post on that in the next couple of days. Otherwise I’ll be here all day, and I’ve got pressing stuff to do.