A Primer on Primer
My experiences and recommendations
By: Tim Doty

I've found that aerosol primers are not "pretty much all the same".

I would have to say, "shop around, spend a few dollars and try everything you can find." Here are a few that I have tried.

Zynolite primer (from my local farm store):
The black and gray are pretty good. They go on nice and smooth and cover well. Sands nicely. However, the white went on something like "spray flocking". We're not talking orange peel, we are talking FUZZ.
Lacquer friendly. About $3 a can.

This is the spray flocking that resulted from Zynolite white primer!!!

Omega primer (from the local AutoZone):
Nice sandable primer in black, red oxide, and gray. Goes on smooth and sands nicely, but the black seems to shrink quite a lot. Go easy with it. I've got a hood that looks like large scale vinyl....a heavy coat of Omega black primer that shrank. Also, it seems to need quite a bit of time to "gas out" or it will continue to shrink under the top coats.
Lacquer friendly. About $3 a can.

Brite-Touch (from Wal Mart):
Made by Sherwinn-Williams Specialty Division...has a green and white label. Doesn't cover very well, not sandable (but then , the label doesn't state that it is), not compatible with some topcoats. I had one bad experience using lacquer over this primer. Less than $2 a can.

Wal Mart used to carry a pretty good "generic" sandable primer. I'm not impressed with it's replacement.

Not sandable, not lacquer compatible. Normal Testors spray can "quality". Around $3 for a little can.

Duplicolor primer:
Great stuff! Sprays smooth, sands great. The "filler/primer" is good for cars without emblems and such...it's a bit thick, but fills small imperfections nicely.
Lacquer friendly. About $4 a can.

PlastiKote primer:
Same comments as Duplicolor. My personal favorite. Available as a sandable primer or a "filler/primer" in red oxide, gray, or black. I saw white once, at the local Wal Mart, but it sold out quickly and was never restocked.
Lacquer friendly. About $4 a can.

The PlastiKote primer is also available in bottles (as part of the touch up paint line), which is wonderful stuff for airbrushing. Thin it with lacquer thinner, about 50/50. It can also be used straight out of the bottle, as a spot filler.
Lacquer friendly. About $3 a jar.

Krylon Primer:
Great stuff!! It ranks right up there with the Duplicolor and PlastiKote primers! Works under lacquers too, but test it first - just in case.
About $3 a can.

Varsity is another brand of primer I've heard mentioned, though I haven't found it locally.

All of the primers noted as "Lacquer Friendly" require a bit of care to apply over styrene plastic (and most other plastics, I would assume) as the solvents will damage the plastic if the paint is not applied in light coats. Mist on the first few coats to avoid damage. Personally, the only damage I have done is on a Fujimi Porsche. AMT, Revell, Monogram, Tamaiya and Lindberg kits have all survived my painting techniques. The Fujimi wasn't as lucky. Always use caution, spray the first coats in "mist coats" and always, always, test first on an unused part from the same kit you are painting - use a piece of sprue if you have to. Lay on the test coats fairly heavily to assess the possibility of damaging the kit's parts!

For just under $4 a can, the Duplicolor and PlastiKote can't be beat, in my opinion. Airbrush users absolutely MUST try the PlastiKote touch up primer. If you are used to rattle can primers, you will not believe the difference!

These are just my opinions and experiences, for what they are worth. I hope to have pictures available soon.

Tim D.

Notes: All prices approximate, in U.S. Dollars, from memory, in central Illinois, at the time of writing.