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Paint & Tools Airbrush Sticky

Daz

LE
Airbrush precis

After some gentle prodding via PM from @Smeggers it’s time to produce a dedicated thread for all things airbrushing, basic tools, buying guides, recommendations and of course hints & tips and while @Dads203 writes up the gown up section/sections, I get to look at the cheaper end of the market.

First off, is the question “Do I really need an airbrush” and can I justify the expense?. Well, if you’re asking the question, the chances are the answer yes, if the cost is an issue, perhaps an alternative or a cheap airbrush kit is the answer, so let’s look at some of the alternatives.


1, The humble paintbrush.
model paint brush.jpg
Great if you’re Leonardo da Vinci painting a ceiling, not so much when you’re trying to mottle a BF109 in 1/48 scale (unless of course, you are in fact the reincarnation of Leonardo da Vinci) but on the bright side, a paintbrush is relatively cheap – just make sure you buy some tidy ones.

2, Rattle cans.
spray paint.jpg
Of which there are two types we need to be concerned with. Up first, there are spray cans that are automotive in nature, for most modellers, this is primarily for primers & undercoats (unless you’re one of these strange people on the R/C forum using the “correct” car paint). Up until recently, Halfords Grey finest has been recommended on numerous occasions by the likes of @Simmerit, so if you’re only looking for a primer, it might well be worth considering due to the lower costs involved.

The second type is obversely modellers rattle cans from the likes of Tamiya such as the Tamiya TS Spray Paint range, however, the range is limited if your interest lies outside R/C scale car bodies as while it does cover aircraft and AFV’s, there’s a far wider range of airbrushable paints available from the likes of MiG/Tamiya/Vallejo etc. However, for a one-off job or occasional use, it’s a viable option providing you can find the right colour(s) required.

Now on to the drawbacks of rattle cans, of which there’s a few – I’ve mentioned the limited colours available, now one of the advantages of an airbrush is that you can mix your own paint shades as quite frequently a kits instructions will quote mixing instructions such as mix 2 parts X colour to 5 parts Y colour to achieve the correct shade, quite clearly, this is impossible with a rattle can.

Another drawback is airflow control, as it’s a pressurised canister, there’s no easy way to alter the airspeed/PSI to enable very fine control for very delicate work such as markings, small areas, shading etc typically with an airbrush you’d by looking around the following PSI’s as a rough guide for the following tasks: 25-30 psi - priming/varnishing, 18-20 psi - general purpose, 10-15 psi - detail work (thin paint). Such variation in control is not really possible with a can due to its limitations.

Following up from that, there’s the corresponding issue of pressure drop when the can starts to run out of propellant, this could result in paint splatter due to surges as the can empties, thus ruining the finish.

And the final drawback for rattle cans is cost, while on the face of it, it might seem economical to buy a few rattle cans, overall it can work out to be rather pricy in comparison with an airbrush depending on how much modelling you’re doing. Currently, Humbrol spray paint is around the £10 mark depending on postage for a 150ml can on Amazon, Tamiya is around £6-£8 per 100ml can plus postage. As a comparison, you can purchase this set labelled “YSINOBEAR TC-100K New Precision Airbrush Air Compressor Set (TC-100K)” for around £35 including postage from Amazon as a (very) basic starter set – BTW, that’s not a recommendation of the set, but rather to indicate other options if you need more than 3 or 4 cans.
 

Daz

LE
Airbrush Sets – The cheaper end of the market (Sub £100)


Following on from the preceding post, it’s time to look at some of the alternatives airbrush sets for under £100

First off, we have the rather old-fashioned airbrush and propellent can set from the likes of Badger, Humbrol etc.

Badger 1.jpgBadger 2.jpgHumbrol 1.jpgHumbrol 2.jpg
These sets tend to be brought as individual items these days, typically, you’d buy the airbrush set followed by a can of propellant after ensuring the propellent can is compatible with the sets adaptor – Badger are notorious for using a non-standard connector size (M-5 thread) on their airbrushes, which is something to keep in mind if you upgrade later, luckily most connecter converters are sub £5 pounds if you need one at a later stage.

Advantages & Disadvantages – Well, apart from not having a compressor running, thus reducing noise, it’s hard to think of any, disadvantages on the other hand Well, let’s start with the obvious one – it’s a propellant can based system, its sod's law that you’ll find yourself running out of propellant part way through a session, normally the first indication you’ll get will be the spray spluttering out and splatting paint everywhere …oops, strip the paint off and start again, Oh deep joy.

And then there’s the cost issue, propellent cans are a consumable item – currently, a 750ml can of Badger propellent is around £7.50 on Amazon with their spray gun chiming in at £22.59, so around the £30 mark – This price point brings you into the lower end of the airbrush and compressor kit market and that’s before you buy additional propellant cans, so you can see how the costs can escalate making it uneconomical in the long run.



Compressor and airbrush set – No separate air reserve tank.
1.jpg
These little sets are normally aimed at people into cake decorating, tattoos, nail art, etc rather than the modelling fraternity, typically what’s in the box is a mini compressor and one or two airbrushes, either single or duel action depending on the seller and the market they are aiming for, price-wise is somewhere in the region of £30-£50 from the likes of Amazon and for the vast bulk of them, there’s bugger all difference outside the packaging and branding stickers.

Now, these will do the job at a basic level, so for occasional use, they can be more cost-effective than the propellent can based system mentioned above. However, they do come with their own issues such as noise, because there is no air tank, the compressor is permanently running, which after a while gets on you tits, not to mention the other half’s – sound carries after all. Another aspect of having no tank is that in event of power loss, your airbrush stops there and then, a system with a tank will keep going for a little while before quitting, and that can make the difference between ruining the paint job or being able to stop in time to prevent that.

Another issue to be aware of is the lack of both a moisture trap and pressure gauge/regulator, however, these can be picked up online either as separate items or as a combi set – see examples below, cost-wise £10-15ish online.
trap 2.jpgtrap 3.jpgtrap.jpg




Compressor and airbrush set with an air reserve tank.
AS-186 Compressor.jpg


It should be noted that I started airbrushing with the previous set before upgrading to an AS186 Compressor and airbrush set, at the time it was £79.90, this item was purchased after recommendations on the modelling thread, as it’s been the default recommendation for a number of years by the inhabitants of arrse.

This, as has been noted previously, is a far better set up straight out of the box, the compressor comes with an air tank so it’s not permanently running, it has a built-in moisture trap, and it's also equipped with an air regulator complete with gauge - the version I got came with two airbrushes, one side loading and one bottom loading, and since the hose is a universal fitting one (1/8 inch), pretty much any airbrush acquired can be attached – stand fast Badger, not you.

AS186 sets are listed on Amazon, Ebay etc, under various different brand names, however, these are just rebadged examples from various retailers, the only real difference being the mix of airbrushes they offer as part of the package, mine came with top and side loaders.


Price-wise, somewhere between £75 and £110 on Amazon – the version I purchased Airbrush Kit AS186 AS 186 with Compressor with Tank with 2 x Double Action Airbrushes and Hose: Amazon.co.uk: DIY & Tools is currently £97.99, but I’m not going to recommend it, as the current airbrushes in the bundle will not be to everyone’s taste, I’d suggest shopping around and picking up a version with a double-action top loader airbrush.

Edit to add the airbrush link
 
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Dads203

Old-Salt
Time to invest ?

Airbrush - is it worth the investment or yes or no?
As a young Dads203 pre mob I was fascinated by the models that I saw in various
Publications of the time and always wanted to build a kit to standard that might one day pass in one of the many publications I witnessed. Verlinden being one of the more noticeable from my era, what a guy, really the grandfather of the art as we know it today.

Modellers today have many tools in the box that can really boost skills with the Airbrush being the silver bullet of these. With a bit of trigger time and patience you can take that build to the next level and create that masterpiece that you dreamed of. The finish of an airbrush is very hard to replicate with a paint brush and the time saving is worth it’s weight in gold. What takes a brush painter hours to paint can be done in minutes with an airbrush.

So considerations if you are looking down that road, what do I actually need?
  1. An Airbrush
  2. An good air source
  3. A way to regulate the air
These are the basics that you need for any airbrush setup, just the very basics and I’ll build on those in a few moments. So firstly the main item is the actual airbrush, these come in 2 basic guises - single action and a double action.

Single action is the most basic form, it has one trigger function, airflow on and off and that’s it, the paint flow is controlled by pre-setting the needle via a screw on the back of the brush the trigger just controls the airflow. Very simple and relatively easy to master. I cut my teeth on a Badger 200 single action brush, I still have it thrown in a drawer somewhere for sentimental reasons. Obviously cheaper than the double action brush below.

Double Action is slightly more complicated. You control the air and paint flow from the trigger, much more versatile and ultimately more controllable. The mainstay of any serous modeller. Press down for airflow and pull back for paint flow. At first it’s like rubbing your tummy and patting your head but it becomes easier with practice and soon you become a master at it. There are some double action trigger airbrushes that look more like a traditional spray gun with a finger trigger. These are really good indeed and just as controllable as a brush with a traditional trigger setup.

Some people who I have listened to on various forums have said that it’s a lot of faff using an airbrush, cleaning , paint thinning and the smell, they are just not worth the effort ...Bollocks !

Paint thinning is indeed key so that’s right, you have to thin the paints down to get them to spray, totally correct and it makes or breaks the quality of the finish. A 50/50 ratio is about right for most paints and a good starting point for most unless they are pre thinned ready for airbrushing. Even then some still require further thinning down and all the ratios change with needle size and airbrush manufacturers.

With some experience you’ll be thinning paints without even thinking about it, it becomes second nature.

Cleaning, yeah a ball ache but not a deal breaker at all, I can change colours in seconds, a quick flush of thinners and then it’s ready to go again with a new shade.

A deep clean does take longer and a full strip and clean takes me 20 mins or so, no biggie at all. It’s really like your old gat ... it will keep on working well but when you stop it needs a good clean and degunge. It is a precision bit of kit after all and does need a bit of looking after and a bit of love and care.

Smell ... Fair one, yeah they create more of a smell than a paintbrush that’s a given but that also depends on what you are spraying. Enamels and lacquers are very stinky but the newer acrylics are more pleasing to the nose and less harmful if you breath in the fumes, best to wear some protective mask anyway when spraying any paints.

So the big question... Which airbrush?

I cannot answer that , it’s all down to personal preference. I think that Iwata is probably one of the best on the market in terms of use/ quality but others will shoot me down and say that Badger/ H&S/ Sparmax / Chinese cheapo/ Procon / Neo/ Sparmax are better. I will say that if you are serous about using or getting one then spend a bit of cash on it, it will save you a whole heap of frustration if you invest in one with a given quality. If you buy a cheap shitty brush for a few quid as a beginner and it doesn’t work then it will probably put you off for life in trying to master an airbrush. A double action brush would be my preference to start with over a single action, you’ll only upgrade to a double action in the end so just start with one, saves having to learn the trigger action of a double action much later on.

I have used a fair amount of airbrushes in my time and I’ll give you a run down based on my own experience and nothing more - no particular order.there are more companies out there but I’ve kept to the most popular manufacturers.
  1. Badger. Great level entry brush, simple to clean easy to use but hard to use well, like a Russian tractor, reliable , cheap and forgiving.
  2. Procon-Mr Hobby range, I like them, good quality and cheap for spares, awesome in spraying and a great brush for general use and detail.
  3. H&S. looks great, amazing features, but fails to perform consistently after a while. One of the most troublesome brushes on the forums when you read the help pages, some people do get on really well with them but they have a lot of complaints.
  4. Iwata. The gold standard for me. I have used them for the last 12 years and can’t really fault them. The are reliable,constant and a quality item. Expensive which is one of the downers - but you get what you pay for though. The Revolution is probably one of the best level entry brushes on the market and very capable of detail work. Can be awkward to clean, especially the head.
  5. The good old Chinese copy for a few quid ... Who could resist? Well I’ve heard a load on these and tried a few. Some have been great and performed very well indeed but others have been a bit shite. As a rule of thumb I reckon one in four is good. You pays your money so take your chances.
Needle size? Is that important?

Yeah it really is, it boils down to how fine you want to spray so most brushes use a 0.3 needle and head, that’s a good general purpose size and should spray every paint that you might want to throw at it. Recommended for Nigs and newbies who have never used an airbrush before. Most of my work is done with a 0.3 needle and it’s sufficient for most modelling applications.

0.2-0.23 needle is starting to get fussy about what paint you put in it, it will give you a really tight demarcation with the right paint and thinning ratio but will cause you a whole heap of issues if you get it wrong. Lacquers are the best option for these needle sizes. For advanced users who have had some experience with fine work practices. I have an Iwata CM-C brush with a 0.23 head and needle, getting anything other than lacquer paints thought it is a real challenge. It’s hyper critical on thinning ratios and paint types. Vallejo will not spray at all through it.

0.5 needle. Is the easiest to grasp, you could probably spray non drip gloss through one with this setup, used more so for primers and large area coverage, not much use for detail work. Great for gloss finishes as you can lay down a nice wet coat in a single blast.

You then go down to 0.18 and below, the pigmentation of the paint and thinning ratio really has to be fine or it won’t spray at all. You will get some sub pencil line results with these head and needle sizes. They take a bit of practice that’s for sure and can be fussy even with the paint brand that you try and use. They were originally the mainstay for graphic designers who spray inks rather than paints so expert use only.
The results once you have cracked the paint type and thinning ratio are stunning. Normally these brushes are bloody expensive to purchase.

So you have read all the above and think it’s time to invest in a quality airbrush .....You’ll need a compressor then. Same as above. Try and go for a good brand, most airbrush manufacturers sell them ( but not make them only brand them)
Sparmax are the biggest brand, quality kit and cheaper than the manufacturers, my preference, they make compressors for Iwata and I think Badger?
There are a small number of good quality compressors from China that are worth a look at if the airbrush purchase has really smashed the wallet, but please do a bit of research on them first before spending out on them, find one that has good reviews.
You will need a good regulator and moisture trap fitted to the compressor, most come with them as a single unit, without a moisture trap you will have issues with water contamination in the paint when spraying, especially during humid or wet weather.

The regulator is normally part of the trap as mentioned. Without one you cannot adjust the pressure that you spay at - that’s bad. You need to dial the pressure down for really detailed work like multi colour cam schemes with tight demarcation lines, so the control of precise pressure is key with any airbrushing.
Try for a compressor with a tank, 2.5 ltr is about right for a setup, it stops the compressor running all the time when spraying and it stops pulsing of the airflow at the airbrush end again you don’t want a pulsing airbrush when doing fine detail work!
Remember the compressor is every bit as important as the airbrush so try not to skimp on it and if you bought one with a tank then remember to drain it of water after every session. If you don’t it will rot the tank out from the inside.

Top tips,

Always use the paint manufacturers thinners, don’t try home brewed concoctions unless you really know what you are doing.
Vallejo paint turns to rubber if you use Tamiya thinners, not good in an airbrush body at all and a real fricken mare to clean out.
Do clean the airbrush regularly, a deep clean with every new build is usually sufficient I find and flushing regularly with thinners or solvents during the build is enough to stop it jamming up overnight. No need for a deep clean after every single use.

Never ever use mineral oils such as 3in1 or light oils to lube the brush, they will destroy the seals and ruin any paint finishes that you are spraying . Avoid WD40 for the same reasons.

Polish up the airbrush needle with some metal polish- brasso or duraglit...Do this carefully as not to bend the tip. It helps massively with the performance of the brush and helps reduce the dreaded tip dry when spraying acrylics.

Get a decent airbrush stand. You’ll need it.

Oh and one other thing, like any new skill it takes time to master the use so don’t expect to be perfect on the first run. It’s taken me a fair few years to get where I’m currently at and I’m no expert at it. Always something to learn or tweak with every session.

Above all enjoy it - once you have mastered an airbrush you’ll never look back !
 
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Smeggers

ADC
Moderator
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
I asked both @Daz and @Dads203 if they could cobble something on airbrushes as I felt it is a market area in which we haven't dedicated too much time to. The guys responded with this, with only a minimum of tweaking! Personally, I feel they've both done a bloody good job, so once again Thanks Guys.
 

Daz

LE
BTW, We do welcome other contributors
 

ches

LE
@Dads203 have you used thinned Tamiya acrylics with the .18 needle? I only spray with Tam as imo still the best paint for an airbrush but haven't gone lower than .3
 

Dads203

Old-Salt
@Dads203 have you used thinned Tamiya acrylics with the .18 needle? I only spray with Tam as imo still the best paint for an airbrush but haven't gone lower than .3

I‘ve got an Iwata CM-C brush with a 0.2 needle and head and I can get most Tamiya paint colours though it, same as GSI paints, it’s not bad but one problem area is metallics. Tamiya Buff is another problem colour, it’s a mare to get it right. Some of the pigments are to big to go through it with any refinement I have found mate. The real key with smaller needle sizes is thinning, it’s so critical.
 
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Dads203

Old-Salt
Cheers bud, not far off spraying this 1/72 FW 190 i've got on the bench & want to get some fine work done on it.

MRP is your best choice fella, it’s so controllable - sprays beautifully on very low pressures and small needle sizes with minimal overspray. I pointed Sim in that direction and he creamed his kecks with the stuff.
Virtually no tip dry, pre thinned for airbrush use and is really tough and durable. Being a lacquer it does smell a bit though and make sure you have a good finish on the primer coat. Touch dry in 2 minutes which is a big bonus but a bit more pricey.

The other choice is the new Tamiya lacquer range, they are also stunning to work with but do require thinning with a lacquer thinner. The range is expanding and I think they do cover German WW2 colours now. Same price as normal Tamiya acrylics again I thin with Mr Rapid Thinners.

Both of these spray well in my CM-C
 

Daz

LE
MRP is your best choice fella, it’s so controllable - sprays beautifully on very low pressures and small needle sizes with minimal overspray. I pointed Sim in that direction and he creamed his kecks with the stuff.
Virtually no tip dry, pre thinned for airbrush use and is really tough and durable. Being a lacquer it does smell a bit though and make sure you have a good finish on the primer coat. Touch dry in 2 minutes which is a big bonus but a bit more pricey.

The other choice is the new Tamiya lacquer range, they are also stunning to work with but do require thinning with a lacquer thinner. The range is expanding and I think they do cover German WW2 colours now. Same price as normal Tamiya acrylics again I thin with Mr Rapid Thinners.

Both of these spray well in my CM-C
Not for aircraft according to their website Tamiya Color Lacquer Paint
 

Dads203

Old-Salt
I don’t think it will be to long before they release more of the LP range, they only had a dozen or so out at the end of last year. Each month more are being added to the range.
 
I bit the bullet in 1975 and bought a bottom feed Badger 200 for £20. Since then it’s been in fairly constant use spraying everything from watercolour to 2 pack epoxy. I’ve completely failed to break it (except for many paint jars) and the only downside is the amount of paint needed to make it work. I partly solved this by bodging carefully crafting a top feed cup a few years back, which allowed me to use the tiny touch up bottles some bikes came with. I’m currently using an Aerograph Sprite top feed double action which I found in a box of junk, which work with a drop or 2 of paint and cleans very quickly. I have a compressor with accumulator which is about the size of a cereal packet and runs very quietly, regulating the air is a fairly arbitrary twist of a screw, but I’ve got the hang of that by now. IMHO I’ve got all bases covered so I’m not looking around, unless someone has a big box of skill lying about...
 

Helm

MIA
Moderator
Book Reviewer
Found this on Amazon about £40 cheaper, your thoughts gents, not for myself but for a beginner? The only thing I would use it for is priming so will stick with Halfords finest.
 

Daz

LE
Found this on Amazon about £40 cheaper, your thoughts gents, not for myself but for a beginner? The only thing I would use it for is priming so will stick with Halfords finest.
Buy the AS186 Compressor off Amazon for £70-£75, the airbrush listed in the kit retails for £15-£20 on line and pocket the difference
 
Like the above, I changed from the basic Badger that I was given for Christmas (and "cheap" Revell compressor that I bought immediately) after a year or two, to a nice Aztek double-action top-feeder and an AS186.

Get an airbrush that feeds from a cup above the nozzle, not from a bottle below it. Much easier to use.

What no-one has mentioned is the advantage of a spray booth / extractor setup; it stops the kitchen being covered in a fine haze of acrylic, and more to the point stops me breathing the stuff. Not to mention the risk of accidentally spraying the wall...

Well worth getting something like this (mine doesn't have the damn great hose coming out the back, but otherwise it's the same) - I just grab a newspaper and fold it around / tape it to the plastic, and job's a good 'un.

Oh, and get some blu-tak - just the job for masking off aircraft camouflage, because you aren't going to get a sharp line without it, no matter how fine the nozzle...

1606953680844.png
 
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Smeggers

ADC
Moderator
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
This is the one I've been recommended by my bezzer. Been in my amazon basket for a cpl of years until i can be arse buying it. I need to stop buying bloody kits first.

Amazon product
With you on that mate
 

Smeggers

ADC
Moderator
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
BTW, We do welcome other contributors
If course we do, as long as they keep within the parameters of the thread!
 

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