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Needed: Airbrush Equipment Basics and Recommendations


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I know a bunch of you guys use airbrushes for various projects. I have the crappy EE hand flamer version, and it's fine for terrain, but I want the real thing. I have a small collection of large models I want to paint, not to mention C'thuhulu and those dragons that are coming next Spring and I want to be able to do these models justice.


what do I need to get started? what kind of brush? what kind of compresser? what are basic do's and dont's of mixing the paint? any other really good advice?


I appreciate any input you airbrushers are willing to provide.

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That's a pretty good article although its still missing a couple of things. So let's dive into my setup and what that article is missing.

I have two airbrushes; an Iwata Eclipse HP-C and a Harder & Steenbeck Infinity. Both are dual action, gravity feed airbrushes. I much prefer the gravity feed over the siphon feed, there is just that much less to go wrong. I love both of these, the Eclipse is my workhorse and the infinity is my smaller detail brush. However, you really only need one airbrush, a good dual action brush will probably serve your needs quite well. I have bought all of my equipment from http://www.chicagoairbrushsupply.com/


My compressor is an Iwata Smart Jet pro, incredibly reliable and very quiet. However, you don't need a fancy compressor you just need one that that pushes air and in the case of the cheaper compressors has an air tank so that you don't get pulses of air through the brush. Often though a water trap will help relieve this condition. I don't recommend the big 3-5 gallon tank compressors they are very, very loud. So not worth the effort unless you can leave it in the garage and run a long line to your airbrush.


The real key to learning how to airbrush is learning how to clean your airbrush. This is the cleaning kit that I use and recommend http://www.chicagoai.../maaiclkit.html don't even begin to think that you can get away without this. If you don't have proper cleaning tools, you will probably be tempted to throw everything in the trash from frustration.


Learning how to use the airbrush itself really isn't that hard (I learned how after all). The first key to airbrushing is learning to thin your paints properly. I use a mixture of 10% Isopropyl Alcohol (99%) and 90% distilled water (this is the only time I use distilled water for painting, mineral buildup inside your airbrush is a very bad thing). This is not exact mix, its kind of like baking if I'm close that's good enough, don't get to hung up on ratios. I usually have three or four bottle of this mix at hand as well as a couple of bottles of regular distilled water at hand (and clearly marked). I thin paint and clean my airbrush with this mix. Some people swear by windex as a thinner and a cleaner (and I have used that) but windex can attack and destroy the o-rings in your airbrush. If I'm using regular acrylic paint (Reaper Master Series, Reaper HD, Vallejo Model or Game color) then I usually start thinning at 50/50 paint to thinner. I have little cups that I mix the paint in so that I don't introduce large globs or chunks of dried paint into the airbrush cup. Its not an exact science and you will have to experiment from there. You don't want a wash but something that will flow easily through the airbrush and give you good coverage all at the same time (and its not as hard as it sounds). I use a lot of Vallejo Model Air colors but never straight from the bottle, these are always thinned down a bit as well. If your paint is beading on the surface of your mini or model then you are much to thin.


The second key to airbrushing is learning why your airbrush is clogging and it will behave differently depending on where it is clogged. A dual action, gravity feed can clog either in the area where the paint and the air are mixing or right up in the tip where it needs to come out. Sometimes do short spritz's (release the trigger and let the pressure build up) will clear it, sometimes unscrewing the back and pulling the needle out a short distance will also clear it, depends on the type of clog. If neither method works then you will have to take it apart and clean it. Believe me, you will get very good at this. I can dissemble, clean and reassemble my airbrush in under 5 minutes. You don't have to do a complete clean to change colors either. Just pour out any remaining paint, wipe out the cup, shoot some water through it until it comes out clear and then you can go to the next color. A complete cleaning should be done when you are finished for the day. You really don't want paint to dry on the inside over night.


Also really give this some thought before you dive in. I paint a lot of miniatures and for some jobs (like vehicles) or large numbers of miniatures that are basically the same color an airbrush is the way to go. If you think you are going to paint your entire 28mm miniatures with an airbrush, I have some some swamp land in Florida for sale. Here is an example though of a piece that I have laid all the basic colors in with the airbrush (this piece was primed black):






And when you have a lot of horses to paint.



And some detail work (everything on these horses was airbrushed, they are 28mm)




Edited by Heisler
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Okay, it looks like the 1st and 2nd one are the same basic airbrush, while the third one is a bit different. These aren't going to be bad airbrushes to learn with; dual action, gravity feed. I suspect that these are Master Airbrushes out of China and they greatly resemble Iwatas. I have seen people get some great results with these and its hard to beat the price. The issue I have with these is cleaning.


If you look at this one: http://www.ebay.com/...=item1c1f5bda81


You can see some great pictures of the whole thing in pieces. Scroll down to the 4th picture, which is split between a close up of the front end of the airbrush and the gravity cup on the right. When you look at the needle you can see the needle, the piece that the needle comes through (which is removable for cleaning) all of which sits atop a brass piece. In the high end airbrushes this brass piece is removable for cleaning. If these are Master Airbrushes its not and if its damaged or clogged in the right way you can basically through the airbrush away as its part of the main body. That being said it doesn't happen very often and you could go years without this happening.


So these are not bad to learn on especially considering a name brand airbrush is going to run you at least $100 (although you can get some good deals out there sometimes).


As far as compressors, the hobby compressors just tend to be quieter. Having a tank style hobby compressor allows the compressor to not be constantly running. The high end hobby compressors tend to be very quiet with automatic shut offs so if you aren't spraying paint the compressor is not running.


Any compressor that you can step down to feed air to the airbrush and you can control the PSI on will work just fine. Its mostly a matter of noise as those types of compressors typically are kept and run in garages where noise is not an issue. I think that Harbor Freight makes a pretty good little compressor for airbrushes that isn't to bad.

Edited by Heisler
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I'll step in and advocate for the home improvement type of compressor. I use one and it is loud, but it only runs once an hour and costs less than $50 with fittings. (on sale) It has a three gallon tank, so it does not have to run often. I put it in the closet, so the noise is not an issue. Finally, I now have an air compressor for filling low car tires and such.


If you live in an apartment and paint late into the night, this is not an option for you.

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Let me put in my two cents,


I picked up this poorman's Iawata from Ebay



I then went and got a 10 foot plastic 1/4in tubing from Menards and a Toolshop compressor.

In all the whole set up cost me about 90.


It is loud but I have been able to use it with decent effect. There is a great deal I need to learn. As for the cleaning kit recommended, I listened to a presentation from the president of Badger and he said that those kits will muck up an airbrush and void your warranty. Just an FYI

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Let me put in my two cents,


I picked up this poorman's Iawata from Ebay



I then went and got a 10 foot plastic 1/4in tubing from Menards and a Toolshop compressor.

In all the whole set up cost me about 90.


It is loud but I have been able to use it with decent effect. There is a great deal I need to learn. As for the cleaning kit recommended, I listened to a presentation from the president of Badger and he said that those kits will muck up an airbrush and void your warranty. Just an FYI


So what did the guy from Badger recommend? I have used this kit literally for years and I don't have any problems with my air brushes. Now that being said, one of those little cleaners is almost like a router bit and its designed to scrape at point in a very small space and it certainly can (and does) damage your airbrush.


EDIT: I just went out to the Badger Airbrush site and they don't actually make a cleaning kit of any kind. So I'm definitely curious what Badger recommends to clean their airbrushes.

Edited by Heisler
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Fantastic! That airbrush type is actually called triple action by Iwata. The dial on the front bottom of the airbrush is for an additional level of atomization of the overall paint and air mix. Larger drops, no problem, finer drops no problem as well!


Let me put in my two cents,


I picked up this poorman's Iawata from Ebay



I then went and got a 10 foot plastic 1/4in tubing from Menards and a Toolshop compressor.

In all the whole set up cost me about 90.


It is loud but I have been able to use it with decent effect. There is a great deal I need to learn. As for the cleaning kit recommended, I listened to a presentation from the president of Badger and he said that those kits will muck up an airbrush and void your warranty. Just an FYI

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