Life is short, break the rules. Forgive quickly, kiss slowly. Love truly, laugh uncontrollably and never regret anything that makes you smile. - Samuel Longhorne Clemens (Mark Twain)

Monday, April 9, 2012

Airbrushing - My thoughts after the weekend

Two days of airbrushing class time is certainly going to influence how I approach painting from now on.

1) Once you are familiar with the equipment it doesn't take much longer to setup for airbrushing than it does for painting. That's just not even a valid argument against not pulling out the airbrush for me anymore. It does require some specialized tools and material but once you have them why shouldn't you use them?

2) Airbrushing saves time, a lot of time in most situations. Had I known completely what I was doing and not been experimenting as much the initial base coat, shading and highlighting that I did on the Nurgle Demon Prince could have been done in 30 - 45 minutes. That would have been an easy 2 hours with a brush. I'm not sure I could have matched the smoothness of that base coat with a brush either.

3) The first question to ask for any given project now is; how much of this can I airbrush?

4) An airbrush doesn't need a complete cleaning to change colors. Add clean water/alcohol in the cup, squirt through a few times, dumping the rest out of the cup and wiping the cup clean is just about all you need (white being somewhat of an exception). Add new paint, spray off the model till the color comes through and you are good to go. It does need to be stripped down and cleaned at the end of a session just like you would take care of any tool (you clean your paint brushes when you're done with them, right?). When coming back to start another paint session I found that it helps just to run a little bit of the water/alcohol mix through it just to prime the pump so to speak.

5) I can strip an airbrush blind folded now, well not really. I actually only had a couple of minor clogs over the weekend none of which actually required me to take the thing apart. Rocking the trigger back hard three or four times cleared most of the issues, if that didn't do it then I would actually pull the needle out of the way and do it again. Those two actions cleared it every time. However, the guy to my left (Derek) had a Paasche that he seemed to require a lot of attention and the guy to my right (Scott) had issues with his Harder & Steenbeck, until he changed his needle out from the .15 to the .4mm, after that he didn't have a problem.

6) I love my Iwata Eclipse (HP-CS), although I will definitely use the Harder & Steenbeck Infinity as well. This past weekend I wanted to concentrate using an airbrush I was familiar with.

7) The solution to use for both mixing up paints and cleaning the airbrush is about 10% Isopropyl Alcohol (rubbing alcohol, available at just about any major grocery store, department store or Walgreens equivalent) and 90% Distilled Water. Distilled Water is important to prevent non-paint build up inside your airbrush. Especially in areas with a high mineral content in the water, like Colorado.

8) Huge key, knowing when to stop using the airbrush and go in with the paint brush.

9) I haven't yet run across an acrylic paint that I can't send through the airbrush but some of them are a lot easier than others. This weekend I used; Vallejo Model Color, Vallejo Model Air, Reaper Master Series and Reaper HDs. Other people around me were using regular Citadel and Citadel Foundation paints (none of the brand new stuff though). I have also managed to get craft paints through my airbrush (not a lot of fun though). My favorite of the bunch was definitely the Vallejo Model Air, it was just easier to work with and required very little thinning to get it working, makes sense, its designed for airbrushes. Both the Reaper lines were easy to work with too. Oh, and sadly Vallejo Model Color Smoke, does not like airbrushes, that gave more problems to Derek (on my left) than any other single color. It seems to just be a gritty paint.

10) All pigments are not the same. This is not in reference to any specific brands, just some colors are thicker and require more thinning than others. Other paints required (especially airbrush specific) required very little to almost no thinning.

11) Messing around with the PSI is over-rated. I left mine on 20psi the entire weekend, regardless of the paint I was using and they all behaved the same. I won't rule out that there will be times when I will need more or less pressure, but you certainly don't need to be adjusting it all the time.

12) You can thin your paint to much! If it is taking more than a couple of passes with the airbrush to build up the paint coverage then you need to add more paint to the mix.

13) Little bottles with good lids are your friends. Its much easier to mix up the paint you want in a small bottle/jar and then dump it into the airbrush cup than trying to mix it right in the cup. I bought two packs that each contained a dozen little plastic jars with lids for the second day and things went much smoother and quicker. If I was working my way through a bunch of figures (say my WWI US Marines) or vehicles I would go ahead and pre-mix the colors I needed in larger more sealable jars. The important thing to remember here is that everything still separates and you need to make sure the color you have pre-mixed is thoroughly mixed again before you pour it into the airbrush cup.

 That's the stuff I learned this weekend. I'll be firing up the airbrush again tonight and looking forward to doing it rather than thinking of it as a chore.


  1. Your first airbrushing post reminded me that I had a old crappy Testors single action laying around, and after much hunting, it, along with a "can of air" were found. So, I mixed up some Vallejo and base coated my Soviet armor for Force On Force. Worked great and I had very little clue what I was doing!!! :)

    So now, combined with your latest two posts, I'm in the market for double action! Woo Hoo!

    That is... after I go back to work and make a little cash. :)

    So for a first timer, what airbrush should I be looking at? Iwata? Paasche? From everything I've read online, Iwata holds the lead. I curious about your opinion.

    1. I really love my Iwata Eclipse, its been a solid workhorse for me and has pretty much done anything I have asked it to do. I'm leaning away from the Paasche, simply because of the problems Derek was having with his. Now some of that certainly could have been user error, but he had used that one before just not very often. Now Derek on the other side of me was using the Harder and Steenbeck Infinity and once he went to the larger needle he didn't have any problems with it. He hadn't even opened up the box before the class. I'm looking forward to using my Infinity, but I'm working on techniques with my Iwata for now because I'm comfortable with it. Everyone but Derek was running some form of quiet compressor (mine is an Iwata Smart Jet Pro, love that one too) except Derek. He was running a very loud Harbor Freight 3 gallon tank compressor that was pretty noisy. However, we set it up on the dock and ran a 50' hose and you could barely hear it. It did take a little longer to get the pressure up on that one because not only did it have to fill the tank but it had to fill up 50' of hose. After it came to pressure he had not problems and pretty much ran all day long. I guess at this point I'm pushing for Iwata, and I really like by Eclipse HP-CS (Gravity feed all the way baby). I guess at this point I'm an Iwata guy.