Methods to get began with airbrushes

Wintry weather is coming, and for any person who paints miniatures (or gunpla, or different varieties of fashions) that implies something: You had higher have your whole priming completed to get you by way of for the following few months. Cans of spray paint don’t paintings really well within the chilly. Particularly in northern climates like right here in Illinois, that may be a major problem for hobbyists. That’s only one explanation why many of us go for the usage of an airbrush.

I’ve been portray miniatures at the common for a couple of years now, and I do know sufficient to mention that I nonetheless have so much to be told. I’ve put a large number of power into learning — the right way to follow a primer with a rattle can, the right way to block in colours, and the right way to get the ones great, crispy edge highlights. I’m nonetheless somewhat dangerous at glazing. Rainy mixing? No cube. However, even at my modest ability stage, it’s been a pleasant, meditative pursuit — particularly in those attempting occasions. That’s in part why I’ve given airbrushes a large berth.

In fact, the opposite factor is the associated fee. You’ll simply spend extra on an airbrush set-up than a next-generation gaming console. They’re additionally extraordinarily fragile, and finding out the right way to use one could be a chore. However, at the recommendation of a pal of mine I purchased one anyway — a in point of fact affordable one. I’m shocked at simply how helpful it’s been.

Even supposing all you wish to have to do is fundamental your miniatures throughout the wintry weather months, an reasonably priced airbrush can prevent each money and time. Installed just a bit extra effort and a complete international of complex tactics opens up. Right here’s what I’ve discovered, what I need to paintings on subsequent, plus a buying groceries checklist with the whole lot you’ll want to get began.

Airbrush buying groceries checklist

This checklist isn’t overly lengthy. You’ll want an airbrush and a compressor — like this package deal from Grasp Airbrush for less than $100 — in addition to some primers to get began. Clutch your self Vallejo black primer, white primer, airbrush thinner, and a few airbrush cleaner. Additionally, pick out up some disposable pipettes for shifting paint round, and substitute 0.three mm airbrush needles. You’ll additionally need to snatch a cleansing equipment.

Respiring particulates is rarely a perfect thought, irrespective of what they’re made from. So that you’ll additionally need to pick out up a reusable masks. 3M makes a just right one who I’ve had some revel in with. The filters are just right for 40 hours. Alternately, you’ll be able to at all times snatch a just right disposable P95 masks (or 10).

Master Airbrush with compressor

Prices taken at time of publishing.

This dual-action, gravity-fed airbrush is a great place to start. It also comes with a compressor that you can put to good use once you outgrow the brush itself.

Finally, consider setting up a painting hood to protect, well, everything else that you own. I use a sturdy box that I got with a shipment for work. I cut a hole in one side, put a $1.00 furnace filter over it, and duct-taped the whole kludge to a box fan. The goal is to aim the airbrush toward the filter, that way any overspray finds its way onto the filter and not all over your walls and work surface. I also use junk mail and old printer paper to line the inside of the box. That provides me with good reflectivity and consistent color temperature for my lighting.

Things not to do

If you’re like me, disassembling and reassembling your new gadgets is always step one. Don’t take the airbrush apart until you’ve used it a few times. Like I mentioned above, it’s pretty cheaply made. Lots of pieces are friction fit, and the manual isn’t all that helpful when you try to get them back together. Also, there’s a few gaskets that you might accidentally inhale they’re so small.

Just leave it alone for the first few times that you use it. Once you get some repetitions in, identifying the bits you should be taking off for deeper cleaning or adjusting and putting them back together again will become self-evident.

Most importantly, be mindful of the tip of the airbrush — especially the needle point.

Whatever airbrush you get, it’s going to have a thin, six-inch-long needle locked inside. They’re very sharp, but also very delicate. The very tip of the needle extends forward, right out the nozzle on the front of an airbrush. It’s so small you can barely see it, and just touching it the wrong way with a cotton swab or getting it caught on a paper towel can bend or break it. Treat the business end like fine crystal or a fragile sculpture and leave it alone.

Quick tips

A thin silver needle rests on the business end of an airbrush.

The needle at the heart of an airbrush next to a smallish, 28mm miniature from the BattleTech: A Game of Armored Combat boxed set. It’s foot is maybe a quarter inch long.
Image: Charlie Hall/Polygon

Airbrushes work by feeding paint into a stream of air, and then focusing that stream on the surface that you want to paint. The Master-branded airbrush I recommend here is a gravity feed airbrush, meaning that all you need to do is put some paint in the jar and it will find its way down and into the stream of air on its own. Use a few drops of thinner to keep it flowing.

To mix the thinner and the paint, put them both into a dish or a shallow jar with the pipettes and swirl ‘em around. I use about 6 mL of paint (about two pipettes full) and four or five drops of thinner when using Citadel Air paints. You could also mix them in the pot right on the airbrush, but that risks bending the needle.

This Master airbrush is a dual-action airbrush, meaning the trigger has two functions. Press down on the trigger to get the air flowing, and pull back on the trigger to increase the flow of paint. Pull back far enough and you’ll rip the trigger right out of the airbrush, so please be gentle.

To avoid getting paint stuck to the nozzle — which can lead to paint splatters and jams — begin and end every press of the brush with air. The pattern should go like this:

  • Press the trigger to begin blowing air
  • Pull the trigger back to introduce a flow of paint
  • Paint your miniature
  • Push the trigger forward to stop the paint from flowing
  • Let the air flow for just a moment longer once the paint stops flying
  • And, finally, release the trigger to stop blowing air

A disassembled airbrush showing the major components.

To remove the needle of your airbrush for cleaning, you’ll need to unscrew the back cap and the tiny nut that locks it in place.
Photo: Charlie Hall/Polygon

Start with black primer, and go slow. It will take some time to get the feel for how much paint is going onto the model. Keep your air pressure around 20 PSI, and thin your paints 50/50 or more with thinner — even if they’re paints specifically designed for an airbrush. You won’t need higher pressures at first, unless you’re doing large models or bits of terrain. Remember to hit the model from all angles — including from underneath.

What you should be left with is a fine coat of black primer. It will have much less “tooth” than if you used a rattle can, meaning that the finish will be much smoother. Stick with that black primer for as long as you like, and prime a good half-dozen or so minis before your pot runs out of paint.

Congratulations. You just saved yourself a good $6 in spray paint, saved a nasty can of paint from heading to the landfill, and got a cleaner finish on your miniature to boot. The miniature is also dry and ready for additional layering much more quickly. Also, since you’re inside, you didn’t have to worry about temperature or humidity — a big deal if you live in a northern climate.

Cleaning your airbrush

Cleansing an airbrush is an actual ache, which is why I love to color giant batches of miniatures a unmarried colour at a time. However you wish to have to do a right kind cleansing each time you end running together with your airbrush, otherwise you’ll smash it.

Some of the perfect guides I’ve discovered comes from Cult of Paint. Now not best is he thorough, he’s additionally economical along with his use of cleaner, which is likely one of the nastier chemical substances you’ll use all the way through the entire portray procedure.

Complicated tactics

Clean, quick-drying coats of primer are only the start. There are much more complex tactics that an airbrush is just right for.

Zenithal highlighting is any other superb method, however one who takes reasonably extra specialised fabrics. Mainly, you get started with a gloomy colour after which follow a lighter colour from above — as regardless that the miniature used to be being lit by way of the solar at its zenith. I’ve used black and white to nice impact. You’ll additionally slip a coat of grey in between to offer a extra mild transition.

Hassle is that whilst you follow your base coat, you wish to have so that you can see this high-contrast layer via it. The Castle Air paints that I’m the usage of for my basecoats appear to be too opaque to turn the undercoats underneath. A just right choice that I latterly stumbled upon is the usage of Castle Distinction paints. They’ve a miles decrease opacity — which means that you must follow them in more than one coats to building up a wealthy, forged colour on best of a primer. However even with only one or two coats the colours are colourful, and you’ll be able to simply see the zenithal spotlight beneath.

Three pre-shaded, black and white miniatures.

3 zenithal highlighted miniatures.
Symbol: Charlie Corridor/Polygon

Different painters get across the limitation of business acrylic paints by way of the usage of inks as an alternative for zenithal highlighting. The Miniac YouTube channel does a perfect activity of masking the fundamentals of that method, and in addition has some just right suggestions for inks.

Airbrushes also are just right for positive element paintings, however that’s additionally going to require specialised portions — smaller nozzles and other needles, amongst different issues — that I don’t but have any revel in with. Be at liberty to discover the ones strategies by yourself.

Subsequent steps

As your talents develop, you’ll most likely transfer past what this actual Grasp airbrush is in a position to. That’s positive, because it comes with a wonderfully serviceable air compressor. While you’re waiting the entire thing is absolutely suitable with higher-end airbrushes from corporations like Badger, Iwata, and others.

Hopefully, this information has helped you shave off a while on getting your miniatures as much as table-ready requirements — and helped you get extra miniatures painted general throughout the wintry weather months.

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