Comrades! today, for you delectation I bring you an article from party member Hugo of Ichiban Painting on whether or not you should get in to airbrushing. That ancient art that is a mystery to so many of us novice painters out there. This will help you decide if you ought to do it and if you do, where you should start. Any and all pictures were added by me and may not be relevant…
The Airbrushing World: Is It For You?
Right now, airbrushing is a hot topic in the miniature wargaming world. Most of the professional painters and big contest winners in the modeling scene rely on the wonderful tool that is the airbrush. We want to find out if it’s worth the investment.
First of all, we have to take a look at what kind of miniature painter you are. You have to decide what traits define you. Considerations may be different if you have “New-army Syndrome,” or if you are aspiring to become a commission painter. Many people strive to win a big painting contest. There are many personal considerations when buying an airbrush.
Whatever your goals you have will decide on if you buy an airbrush. If you are the type of painter that is happy with one army and doesn’t really paint many models in a year, then I would be honest and tell you that investing in an airbrush isn’t really for you. Of course, if money isn’t a problem, then you might not mind having your airbrush gather more dust than it sprays paint. If however you see yourself as more of a part of the other categories I’ve mentioned above, you should consider an airbrush. Yes, particularly “Mr. New Army Syndrome” whom has more models than he can ever hope to paint. Even you out there that want to risk it all in a big contest and have the best possible results. In my opinion you should think about investing in an airbrush.
Buying an airbrush is an investment. Getting started in the mysterious world of airbrushing isn’t cheap. It can also be a bit confusing. With that in mind, let’s try to break that confusion and make things easier. Following is the basic list of things you’ll need to get started:
Respirator or paint mask
This is the very basics of what you will need to get started. Most likely you’ll need to purchase other items that will make it easier for you to get started. Here’s some optional gear you might consider picking up.
One or two water traps
Let look at these items a little bit more in-depth. The basic airbrushing kit will consist first and foremost of a compressor. The compressor will deliver air to your airbrush which makes it invaluable. There are many types of compressors. The two main types are diaphragm compressors and piston compressors.
Diaphragm compressors are rather small in size; They don’t deliver a lot of pressure. They can run for a long time without overheating. They are nomally favored by people who paint nails or do cake decorating since they are very portable.
The second type is the piston-driven compressor. These are more suited to the modeler’s needs since they can deliver higher pressure and can be cheaper. The piston compressor type are available in many variants. There are oil-lubricated compressors as well as oil-less compressors. Some come with an air tank and others without it. Making a decision is easy though, as the oil-less requires no maintenance and is the way to go. The second thing to look for is that the compressor has a tank. Without a tank, the compressor will overheat after 30 to 60 minutes of use. Therefore, the real solution is to go with a piston type compressor with at least a three liter air tank. This will allow you to be able to use your airbrush for a longer period of time without having to stop to let your compressor cool down.
The airbrush itself can also be pretty confusing. There are so many options out there, it can be challenging for a newcomer. Airbrushes come in single-action, double-action, side-feed, and gravity-feed. They also range from very cheap to extremely expensive.
First let’s look at a single-action airbrush. Single action means that the action of the trigger will require only one push for the airbrush to spray paint. This type is not very precise. It is mostly for people that want to use an airbrush to apply a base coat or primer.
I believe double-action is the type you ought to buy. The trigger has two actions. If you press it down air will come out, and the more you press the more air that will come out. Then, if at the same time you pull the trigger back you will start mixing paint with the air thats already spraying. This will allow you to have really good control of the paint. It also gives you the opportunity to do more detailed work when you are comfortable with the tool.
Now let’s look at where the paint cup will be. A siphon or side-cup-feed airbrush is a type of spray gun that will have the paint cup either on the side or under the gun. They tend to use more air pressure. They are more aimed towards people that need to spray heavy amounts of paint or that have to spray upside down. They can be used upside down since the paint cup is closed and sealed. For a modeler these types aren’t really the best but they will definitely spray well enough to get the job done since the only difference is in the cup and feed system and not the needle nor nozzle. As a modeller you should more look at a gravity-fed brush airbrush. This type uses gravity to put paint from the cup into the airbrush. It runs using less pressure and will run with just a drop of paint; The other types will require a large amount of paint. Let’s face it, in the modeling world we will sometimes only paint a small thing with barely any paint needed.
Lastly let’s compare cheap and expensive airbrushes. That’s the question everyone has been asking about. Airbrushes are like anything else, if you buy an airbrush you’ll get what you pay for. The prices for an airbrush are starting at about $5 on eBay and go up to $400. You should spend as much as you’re comfortable with, as prices follow a fairly linear scale with quality.
Let’s take a moment and look at airbrush size. Airbrushes come in different sizes. Normally sizes are 0.15mm 0.2mm 0.3mm 0.4mm 0.5mm and 0.6mm. The most standard size is 0.2 or 0.3mm. If you have to choose only one I would recommend the 0.3mm. It will give you the best flexibility for modeling applications. It is fairly easy to use, as with a 0.3mm needle and nozzle size you’ll be able to do base coating of single miniature or vehicles. It will also be possible to use the airbrush for detailing. This size will give you the ability to have flexibility. Cheaper airbrushes normally are only one size, meaning that you won’t be able to buy an extra needle and nozzle of a different size and put it on the airbrush. Higher end airbrushes will have interchangeable needles and nozzles which means that you can have one airbrush but still get two or three different size options. Personally I use two airbrushes, the Harder and Steenbeck Infinity with sizes 0.15mm, 0.2mm and 0.4mm and the Harder and Steenbeck Evolution with sizes 0.2mm, 0.3mm, and 0.4mm.
Apart from your compressor and airbrush you’ll need two more things. You’ll need a hose, which is simple to procure and install. Most airbrush kits on the market do have a hose included. It might be good to get a braided hose if the kit you purchased has one of the spiral-style cords. The second thing you’ll need is a respirator or a mask that is made to protect you when spraying the paint. A particulate dust mask won’t cut it. Even if you think that spraying acrylic paint is safe since they are non-toxic you are mistaken. When spraying with an airbrush the paint will be flying everywhere in extremely fine particles which then will go directly into your lungs. This isn’t toxic per sé but it’s still bad for you health. So, please get a respirator that will filter those harmful particles. I suggest a respirator with a NOSHI-approved filter that is categorized to protect against paint particles. I personally use a 3M Series 6000 respirator with the 3M 6001 filters.
Another accessory you might want to consider is a moisture trap. It will prevent you from having water and moisture mixing with the air from the compressor.There are two types of traps. One that is placed near the compressor and one that can be attached to the gun. Both work fine, and even better in a combination.
Now you have the information you need to buy your first airbrush kit. There are many shops on the web and also modeling shops that sell airbrushes. Where you shop of course all depends on the budget you allocate yourself for your kit.
My first suggestion is if you want to go with a kit that’s cheaper, then go with a kit that has a no-name airbrush in it but still has a good compressor with an air tank. This way you have a nice compressor and tank, and can upgrade to a nicer gun when the time comes. You will also still have the older, cheaper airbrush to use for utilitarian applications. Conversely, if you buy a cheap compressor, then once you get the need to upgrade to higher end equipment you’ll need to upgrade everything.
If you don’t mind spending a little bit more, then getting a branded entry-line airbrush like an Harder and Steenbeck Ultra or an Iwata Eclipse with a good compressor will actually have you set correctly for a long time. This way you can go a while without feeling like you need to upgrade your airbrush.
Lastly is if you want to go all-out and get a very good quality airbrush in your kit right off the bat. This option isn’t really a good one if you are just starting out, since you might not like airbrushing at all or might not use your airbrush much and you’ll end up losing a lot of money. If you have airbrushing experience in the past and for some reason don’t have any equipment anymore, this option might be good.
In conclusion, airbrushing is an extremely invaluable skill. If you want more information on
airbrushes and airbrushing there is tonnes of information and tutorials available on the web, particularly on YouTube. You could also visit my YouTube channel where I have a pretty good collection of airbrushing videos. I have videos targeted to all ranges of skill. You can find me at http://youtube.com/ichibanpainting. Thank you for taking the time to read this article and I really hope I did shed a little bit of light on the airbrushing world.
So there you have it! Hugo is available for commission work should decide airbrushing is not your thing but you got the cash to splash. Why not follow him on Twitter @Ichibanpainting or look him up on facebook? Awe hell, why not do both? You can do it.