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Airbrushing Bones?

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Hey there everybody. It's coming up on my birthday and I'm thinking of picking up an airbrush rig. What I need to know is how well reaper paint sticks with bones when it's run through with a little Liquitex Airbrush Medium, or any other types of thinners? I'd hate to pick one up and find out that the largest batch of my minis can't easily be primed/basecoated without brushing first.


I saw Wren's Basecoating guide, but in all the page, it really only mentions one quick blurb "For those who prefer to use spray primer, the best option is to use an airbrush to apply a coat of acrylic paint to the Bones figure. Reaper Master Series paint thins well with Golden or Liquitex Airbrush Medium, and maintains its strong adhesion, though I have found that adding airbrush medium does noticeably increase the drying time of the paint."


This is good to know, but is there any further practical information on this I should know? How well does this compare to the other options? What are we looking at for drying time? Can alcohol be added to speed up the dry time, or does that ruin the paint in some way?


Thanks in advance for any advice the community can provide.

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One of the Bones figures I airbrushed onto is a display figure, so it hasn't gotten a lot of play. Though it did take me a while to finish painting it the non-airbrush parts and it was hauled around to several conventions and such during that time period, so it wasn't handled with kid gloves throughout its life. The other was something I was testing the Minitaire brand of paint on. The figure has seen a little bit of play, and seems fine. In both cases, I was impressed with how well the paint applied, and that it seemed to adhere sturdily once dry. I've seen nothing in either that makes me feel like anything is weaker about the paint.


My understanding is that airbrush medium is similar (if not identical) to the main component of paint aside from pigment, so that shouldn't affect the strength of the adhesion. My painting has been done with Golden airbrush medium, for no other reason than the art store in town was out of Liquitex when I went shopping for some. (The clerk also felt Golden was the superior product, but I have no idea personally.) I like it well enough that I use it to dilute my paint to greater transparency for many projects, not just on Bones. It does increase drying time in general, not just on Bones, and that's more noticeably the more of the product you use. It can also add a slight sheen to the finish of the paint if used in quantity. Also, the drying time of any paint painted directly onto the Bones surface seems slightly extended. In both cases (as well as on metal and resin figures), I regularly speed up the drying by using a hairdryer set on low.


I know several painters who use airbrushes who thin with 90% alcohol plus water. I don't know if any of them have done that on Bones, or if it would adhere well on Bones. There's a lot of water in the mixes the people I know use, it might not mix well with Bones's hydrophobic qualities. I don't know if you can mix both alcohol and airbrush medium together in the paint successfully. Alcohol thinning makes the paint dry pretty quickly on not Bones, which seems most useful for the layering stage of things since you can go over in quick passes to build up highlights or shadows, whereas I sometimes have to wait a moment or two with the medium-thinned paint.


I am hoping to review and expand the original Bones documents to try to cover additional questions, like this one, but that will likely be an undertaking of months, which is probably not helpful to you. :-< Hopefully someone else who's played around with airbrushing on Bones will see this thread and jump in with their experiences. I will try to remember to test the alcohol thinning as well as the medium. I've been a bit leery of breathing the overspray with use of alcohol, as I don't have an exhaust hood and it's hard to wear a mask, glasses and Optivisor simultaneously. Though why I think the overspray with use of medium is any safer is hard to say. ;->

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I used to use alcohol, but then I found out about the health hazards of aerosolizing isopropyl. I use airbrush medium now, and the paint went on smoothly, and adhered as well or better than when brushed on.

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Thank you for the advice, it's very much appreciated. It sounds like this should be a fun tool to add to my arsenal. Please let me know if you have any special advice on good airbrush tutorials for minis, or other information you think I ought to know as I jump into this.

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I've used Reaper MSPs thinned with a bit of alcohol+water on Bones through an airbrush and had no trouble with paint adhesion. I thinned the paint a bit less than I would for a non-Bones mini only because of all the information on the forums saying Bones don't like thinned paint. I haven't actually tried thinning it the same as I would for non-Bones to see if it would fail.


(For those concerned with the health issues, I have a high-quality mask I use for all paint spraying activities - airbrush, primer, sealer.)

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@trystangst - what are the health risks of aerosolizing isopropyl? My fears have been nebulous, just wondering what the specific dangers are.


If you're new to airbrushing, you might want to search this section of the forums for other airbrush threads, which have some helpful hints. (Like mixing your paint up in little plastic cups and then pouring it into the paint receptacle for fewer clogs.) Go into it knowing that you might find it frustrating at first. My compressor came with what appeared to be English instructions, but which were not at all instructional. My airbrush had better instructions, but I bought a fancy expensive one, so I would hope so. ;-> In both cases, it helped a lot to search on YouTube for review and usage videos. The compressor review I found included complete assembly instructions.


The first time I used the airbrush, I thinned just with water and it was clog city. Very frustrating. In fact I would say the first three times that I spent more time taking it apart, cleaning and looking for clogs than I did painting with it. But by the end of that I knew the brush well, knew a few things to make sure to do or avoid for smoother operation, and could streamline my cleaning process.

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Just like Wren and Jen, I just thin my MSP's with a mix of water and 90% alcohol (9 water-1 alcohol mix). No problems... Alcohol will speed up the drying time significantly.



Use a mask!!!! either way you go with cutting the paint. I ran out of alcohol a while back and just used straight water. Results were good but i still used a mask...




You wont believe the blends you will get!!!! Just keep in mind that airbrushing is a learning process. Take you time and practice a lot prior to tackling your favorite mini. One practice that helped me was to just airbrush on a piece of paper. Trying to make very small thin consistent lines, doing a series of small controlled dots, line - dot -line dot, etc... It takes time to get used to the flow of the brush... Oh, and your brush will clog. Dont get frustrated! just clean it and paint until it clogs again...


Good luck

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If you get something like the Badger Patriot 105 you should be able to spray undiluted Reaper paint at 15-20 psi with no problem. Keep the airbrush back from the mini and spray light coats. At the right spray distance the paint should dry almost immediately on contact with the mini. Using P3 I have had luck lightly thinning without beading on Bones. The trick really is getting that instant dry distance right. So if you get an airbrush with a finer needle and must thin it is still possible to do with water. It will, however take practice.

My recommendation for a first airbrush it the one I listed above. If you get it at Michaels it should have the .3 needle instead of the .5. This is big enough for basecoating and small enough to allow you to start working on details on the larger Bones. When you are ready to airbrush details on a 28mm human figure you will need a much finer needle.

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