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  • Air Brush Experiences Needed

    Hi all,

    This topic comes up quite often I'm sure, but here goes.

    I'm interested in jumping into working with an air brush on my 15mm -32mm models in all genres.

    I've narrowed down my choices to an internal mix (dual action, of course), gravity feed (or side feed- Give me your opinions) AB.

    However, I have no experience, nor any chance to see anyone locally use an airbrush, nor an opportunity to try one out myself.

    Can you give some suggestions and things to look for for someone who is looking at buying a brush and compressor?

    For example, when might I want a side feed compared to gravity or bottom feed?

    Types of compressors- I will be using it indoors, so noise is an issue.

    General work tips, things to avoid, problems, good experiences, etc.

    Thanks!
    "Stupidity is a disease that can, and should be, cured."
    DNA pioneer James Watson

  • #2
    My tip: don't forget the air hose!

    Last week I was all geared up for using my new airbrush for the first time. I had all the stuff ready, mini, airbrush itself, can of propellent, nozzle cleaner spray (came free with the propellent), paint mixed up. Then I realised I had no way to connect the can to the brush... gutted.
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    • #3
      My experiences are limited and I'm sure there'll be someone along soon with more experience than myself but I hope the following observations help.

      Gravity or siphon feed - I have both and tend to use the side/siphon feed brush for large areas such as vehicles or terrain or if I have a large number of models to undercoat, mainly because the side bottle holds much more than my gravity feed brush. With acrylic paints the action of an airbrush can dry the paint out quite quickly, especially at the tip/nozzle, so the less interruptions the better. I prefer using the gravity feed brush as it feels more balanced to me but it's surprising how quickly the paint disappears.

      As for buying an airbrush I would recommend trawling through airbrush and modeling forums where you will find a wealth of information and experience (sometimes too much !). As with most things you will see a great price differential and some of the more expensive brushes are very good indeed. If you want to go for really high end work and intend to use it alot I'd be inclined towards one of the well known brands, but be warned these can be very expensive. If you are going to be an infrequent user or if price is an issue I would recommend either the AB series or the BD series, these are unbranded brushes from the Far East.

      Some users say that these are inferior brushes as they are not built to the same tolerances as the higher priced ones and others say that they are the same as the higher price ones but with out the branding. All I can say is that I have an AB and a BD brush and so far they have been excellent and done everything I have asked of them. I would heartily recommend them to anyone for modeling or scale painting, producing fine art is another question.

      The same applies to compressors which can vary tremendously in price. If you are using it indoors then noise will be an issue so read up on the models you are looking at. I would recommend a compressor with an air-tank as this will give a better, more consistent supply of air. Compressors without a tank can be subject to the air flow pulsing during use which can ruin your finish. If your use is going to vary then get one that allows you to adjust the air pressure which will increase the variety of things you can do with your brush and allow you to use different mediums. You will also require a moisture trap to remove water in the condensed air, may compressors come with these as standard and some users also recommend fitting a trap at the brush end of the air hose as well.

      If you are spraying indoors I would recommend a booth with an extractor fan as even spraying fine work can lead to alot of particles in the air and these particles can settle everywhere, for similar reasons I would strongly recommend a face mask to prevent inhalation.

      I find using an airbrush great fun and it can produce some lovely stuff. You may find that initially it seems a bit of a chore to have to flush or clean the brush at every colour change and after every painting session but I found that this soon passes as you get into the routine of using the brush. The important part of the brush is the tip, i.e. the needle and the nozzle, look after these religiously and they will look after your painting/work. Use a good airbrush cleaner, make sure you get the correct one for the type of paint you are using and also get an airbrush lubricant, again the type of lubricant will depend on the type of paint you are using. I found it really helped to get into a good cleaning routine early on.

      As with most things I would strongly recommend practicing as much as possible. Get loads of paper and practice getting used to the feel of the brush as well as laying flat coats, fades, blends. Also practice fine control, doing little spots or dags or writing freehand, you'll be surprised how quickly you improve and how training your muscle memory helps even if all you are doing is laying down base coats.

      The biggest question everybody asks is about paint dilution and what ratio to dilute the paint at. From my (admittedly limited) experience I can only say this will vary depending on many factors such as air pressure, spray distance, paint type, dilutants used, required finish and many more. My advice would be to read up on the subject and then practice with different pressures and different ratios to get something you are happy with. For info I use Vallejo paint with my brushes, as it has a finer pigment grain, and dilute with a mixture of Vallejo thinners and distilled water, I also use a drop of drying retarder and flow improver, this mix seems to give me decent results. For ease of use I have this dillutant mixture pre-mixed in a dropper bottle.

      All my experiences with my brushes have been good so far and as I said above I would whole heartedly recommend them to anyone. Sorry to waffle on but I hope my observations help in your decisions. For info I have put a couple of links below that will at least give you some information, I'm not sure whereabouts you are based but the suppliers are UK ones, they should at least give you some ideas and I'm sure you will be able to find similar suppliers in your part of the world.

      http://www.everythingairbrush.com/

      http://www.airbrush-pro.co.uk/

      http://www.follymodels.co.uk/airbrus...sories-2-c.asp


      Whatever you decide let us know how you get on.

      A community driven repository aimed at the whole miniature painting community.
      Contributions can be made directly in the Wiki or by contacting the admin team here.

      ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

      "The concept of 'why' is way more important to understand than the question of 'how' (which is only ever a variation of 'get paint - paint paint')." - Orki, November 2010.

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      • #4
        Thanks for the links...sometimes Google and Yahoo just don't turn up decent sites to grab information from.
        "Stupidity is a disease that can, and should be, cured."
        DNA pioneer James Watson

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        • #5
          Ulf has pretty much said everything and posted the link I would have. One thing I would add is about air pressure. For priming a mini I turn this right up so it atomizes the paint as much as possible and for fine stuff I turn it right down, it's much easier to get into the small areas and do tight lines with a low pressure.

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          • #6
            For myself I bought a mid range Aztek A270 airbrush and it works fantastic for everything I do, which includes just basecoating to fully painting and highlighting space marines. If you live in the US, then check out Harbor Freight tools. I bought an airbrush compressor from them for only $79.
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            • #7
              Originally posted by Cregan Tur View Post
              For myself I bought a mid range Aztek A270 airbrush and it works fantastic for everything I do, which includes just basecoating to fully painting and highlighting space marines. If you live in the US, then check out Harbor Freight tools. I bought an airbrush compressor from them for only $79.
              How loud is this compressor? I live about 1.5 hour drive from Kansas City, the nearest Harbor Freight, and have actually seen them on the store shelves when I've visited.

              Anyone else experienced with this compressor? Did it come with a regulator and water trap/filter/catch?
              "Stupidity is a disease that can, and should be, cured."
              DNA pioneer James Watson

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              • #8
                It has regulator and water trap. It's very quiet- my infant son's room is on the other side of the wall near where I keep the compressor and I can use it while he's sleeping- it's that quiet.

                I've also used it straight for an hour and a half without any problems other than it becoming very hot.
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                This Writer's Journey

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                • #9
                  Another question- does it have an air tank, or just the air pumping straight through to the AB?
                  "Stupidity is a disease that can, and should be, cured."
                  DNA pioneer James Watson

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                  • #10
                    I'm pretty sure it's straight through, but I'm not sure. Check the link in my original post to see the details.
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                    This Writer's Journey

                    If wishes were fished we'd all cast nets. - Gurney Halleck

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                    • #11
                      It looks straight through to me and now at $59.99 according to the HF site.
                      For reference compressors with a separate air tank usually look something like this;
                      compressor.jpg
                      The compressor fills the air tank which releases air on demand at the pressure required, the compressor only kicks in when the pressure in the air tank drops below a certain level.

                      A community driven repository aimed at the whole miniature painting community.
                      Contributions can be made directly in the Wiki or by contacting the admin team here.

                      ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

                      "The concept of 'why' is way more important to understand than the question of 'how' (which is only ever a variation of 'get paint - paint paint')." - Orki, November 2010.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Everyone has made some great comments and suggestions so I hope I don't seem redundant.

                        I am not exceptionally experienced with miniature painting and am myself working to improve this. I'm starting by building a new spray hood to work indoors. Most of my airbrush experience comes from restoring motorcycles, murals and canvas but I hope my knowledge will prove useful.

                        There's a lot of grey with getting started but I'll try to cut it down. I would like to address the air compressor first. Obviously you don't want to go whole hog and spend thousands on a whisper quiet air compressor to use. For indoors and late hours I use a 1/8 HP Oilless Compressor with a moister trap and pressure gauge, similar in look to the one pictured atop the black tank Ulfgrimr posted. Mine can build up a pressure of 56 PSI but is perfectly capable of maintaining 1-40 PSI without any pulsing. It makes a quiet hum which is unoffensive to my neighbors and I would say it is about as loud, if not quieter, than my microwave running. During the day and out doors I have a much larger compressor, 5 HP with twin tanks, 125 max PSI and 100 PSI constant supply. It was cheap and requires that the oil levels be monitored and regulated. It's also so loud I have to wear ear plugs. For that supply I have a special setup (VERY IMPORTANT if your air compressor is not oilless!!) which is an oil/water trap then a water/air filter. These types of air compressor are much like two stroke motors and oil (a very small amount) gets atomized and will end up in your brush and then on your painting. This also makes it extremely important that the oil trap be before any other filter in your hose line or you will quickly clog the filters with oil and they will be useless. I don't have any links handy but I can have a look around.

                        My primary airbrush is a Badger Dual action with a rotatable siphon so you can have the cup up for gravity feed which is nice for small/fine detail or when you only need a small amount of color (when I would paint I would switch colors frequently and get some neat blending from the paint still being a little wet). It can be rotated into a downward or side position with a bottle attached for basing or any other area applications. Realistically there is little difference (IMHO) to side or bottom feed but sometimes one can be more comfortable than the other. Oh, Dual action means I can control the air flow by pressing the trigger down like a button and the amount of paint (rate of flow) by pulling back on the lever like a joystick. This is a great feature for precision blending and shading but is very difficult to get used too. The down side is if you need a constant and consistent stream it can be exhausting on the fingers.

                        My other air brushes are simpler Single actions; one is an 80 max PSI detail brush and the other is a 125 max PSI automotive airbrush. The detail airbrush works wonderfully for small area base coats. The air for both is controlled by the trigger but the paint rate of flow is fixed by a screw that you set before spraying. It's best not to adjust the paint flow while using the brush as it can damage the internal components.

                        For getting started decide what you want to do with the brush. Just basing and painting large areas? Start with a single-action. Want to get into art, shading and fine detail? get a cheap Dual action and start practicing. Not just on miniatures but get some watercolor/acrylic painting paper and practice: make circles and then turn them into spheres, work on starting the air flow on before the paint, feathering where you increase paint rate of flow then decrease as you move across the canvas, etc. Just be goofy and have fun exploring what it can do.

                        Lastly regarding paint and cleaning. It is very important to keep the airbrush components clean, throughly clean. If paint builds up inside it messes with flow and can cause mechanical problems leading to taking it apart for cleaning (a real pain and dangerous with the delicate internal parts). If paint builds up in the tip your spray will be affected becoming uneven and many other nasty effects. So take care of it and clean it after every use and before changing colors.

                        You can use almost any type of paint in an airbrush but some require that your tip be a certain size, such as candy colors on cars, and others will need to be thinned, like oils, which can be tricky. With the candy colors and pearl the particles are to large for fine detail tools and can only be applied with a large (relatively large) nozzle. This brings me to my first point about paint: always filter your paint before using it in your brush if you want a really smooth coat. Try as we might we cannot mix the paint perfectly. I run my paints through at least my #40 then #60 mesh cone filters before using them, I have #80 and #100 with the larger the number meaning the finer the wire mesh will be. Doing that has saved more than one paint job and kept my brushes from getting clogged. I also like to use Auto Air Colors' Flash Reducer when thinning my paints (water based only). It "...decreases curing times by assisting water’s evaporation from color through a mild flashing of reducer’s co-solvent. Improves flow, decreases dry-tip and improves atomization of colors." So the paint tends to stay where I put it and allows for super fine detail because you can get very small amounts of paint flowing.

                        Just like brush painting and sculpting it all comes down to a willingness to experiment, explore, and practice.

                        Hope this was helpful and feel free to PM or e-mail me with questions.

                        -BFG

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                        • #13
                          I've had a decent amount of experience with using an airbrush.

                          The one thing I think that you should focus on is getting a high quality (Not necessarily expensive) compressor. Don't bother with a compressor that doesn't have a tank. It will frustrate you once you start doing fine line work.

                          I have two brushes. An Iwata HP-BS and an Iwata HP-CS. One is siphon feed and the other is a gravity feed. The gravity feed is what I use for all my detail work. It can hold a line smaller then a .50 pencil lead with great consistency and precision. The siphon feed I use for terrain work. It can hold a line a bit smaller then 1/4" with out much effort and can spread up to about a 2" footprint.

                          I use Liquitex low grade acrylics (Found at Michaels and JoAnnes in the fine art sections like this) in tubes for the siphon feed. I 8 parts hot water with about 1 part paint and shake it vigorously. I know you saw the Broken Coast piece I did as well as the drawbridge piece varagon. Both of those were painted with the airbrush at least partially. It should give you an idea of what can be done with one.

                          For figure painting I am also sure that you saw my Cryx work. That was done with the gravity feed.

                          Hope that helps!
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                          • #14
                            Thanks again. Much appreciated. So really, brands and lines of brands don't make much difference as long as it's decent stuff. Each item has it's normal use so I know what I'm looking for when buying for my needs- gravity feed for this application, suction/bottom for another, etc.
                            "Stupidity is a disease that can, and should be, cured."
                            DNA pioneer James Watson

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