Airbrushing - lessons learned by a beginner

Joined
Jul 15, 2013
Messages
750
Likes
403
Points
63
#1
As I've finally completed and airbrushed a kit (see my Bf109 completed thread), I’ve put together a few ‘lessons learned’ by someone new to airbrushing and acrylics. It’s nothing original, and I know there are lots of folks around this forum who know far more about it than me, but this is my experience, and if you’re starting out with airbrushing, you might find it useful:

  • Those compressors you get off eBay work just fine, as do the cheap Chinese airbrushes that come with them, at least if you’re just using the airbrush as a small spraygun (which most of us do most of the time).
  • Practise on plastic bottles, packaging, etc. before attacking the kit. I found this really useful. Even when I felt ‘competent’, I test sprayed my ‘practice bottle’ before each new coat. Plastic packaging with various contours and corners was good for practising the awkward corners such as wing/tailplane roots (not too much paint and keep the brush moving). The bottle was also useful for testing out decals for silvering, etc.
  • Acrylic paint is fragile even when dry, so handle with care and think about giving it a coat of varnish if you’re likely to be giving it a hard time in later stages of the build.
  • Because the airbrush gives such a thin coat, you can give extra coats of varnish, primer, etc. if you need – it won’t obscure the detail.
  • Clean and prime surfaces really thoroughly – I had a few problems with the top coat coming off when masking was removed, which I put down to missing sections with the primer (see next point).
  • If your eyesight isn’t the best (like mine), it can be difficult to see whether you’ve primed properly if the primer is the same colour as the plastic (e.g. grey on grey). Try putting a different colour primer on first, such as white, then priming again with your preferred colour.
  • For some top colours, such as yellow and, I believe, white and red, a white primer/undercoat is required. I had major problems with yellow top coat over grey primer looking very dull, resolved by stripping it and recoating over white primer.
  • Vallejo Model Air works very well in an airbrush (as you’d expect), but not so well if you have to paint smaller parts with a brush. It might be worth airbrushing these too. If you do use a brush, a large soft one seems to give the most consistent coverage.
  • Thinning Model air in a ratio of 10:1 paint to thinner worked for me. It may not have been necessary. But I found the Vallejo varnishes really needed thinning, more like 1:1.
Overall, my first experience of using an airbrush has been very positive, and if you’re thinking of taking this particular plunge, I’d encourage you to do it. Like everything new, it’s a bit nerve-wracking at first and you’ll leave your comfort zone temporarily, but, for me at least, it’s been well worth it.

This has got a bit long - sorry!
 

monica

“When there's no more room in hell, the dead will
Joined
Oct 30, 2013
Messages
12,510
Likes
5,882
Points
113
Location
Melbourne
First Name
monica
#2
hi Doug, any info or in put is good and can always pick up tips, so well done,i have a new one as well but have not taken

it for a test as yet, as i wont to try the vallejo air as it has been highly recamended , as my local hobbie shop dose not have

it, waiting for one that only opens twise a week to get some, or buy online , i think,can get much cheaper ever with $6 postage

cheers
 

stona

SMF Poster
Joined
Jul 22, 2008
Messages
8,211
Likes
1,156
Points
113
First Name
Steve
#3
Sound advice Doug.

I'm afraid they'll have to prise my enamel paints from my cold, dead, hands to paraphrase a certain late Hollywood actor. The principles are the same though and you never stop learning.

Cheers

Steve
 

MrSprue

SMF Poster
Joined
Dec 19, 2012
Messages
47
Likes
1
Points
0
#4
Useful post Doug. I can agree with all your points apart from the Vallejo as I haven't used it.

Re eyesight, I'm quite short sighted but have excellent close vision, (after I whip specs off). Unfortunately this means any blemishes are glaringly obvious!

Colin
 

Andy Mac

SMF Poster
Joined
Sep 21, 2013
Messages
338
Likes
91
Points
28
First Name
Andy
#6
Great post Doug, all information is useful to have. And as a beginner, we don't always need to see the advanced advice before we get familiar with the basics. As an airbrush newbie myself what you said makes perfect sense.
 
T

tecdes

Guest
#7
Great run down Doug and for a beginner at this this is a good starting point.

A couple of points to add. I use Vallejo and have had little problems with the paint being stripped. Just wondered if your preparation of the bare plastic is causing the problem. I wet and dry the plastic with about a 1200 gauge wet/dry paper. This gives a bite to the primer. Otherwise you are just relying on the primer's strength in itself. Just like a wet suit it is there but is not sticking to the body.

Varnish. If you are using Vallejo varnish you should not have to thin any of the 3 grades. I airbrush all as they come out of the bottle. If you thin then gloss will not be gloss without additional coats. Be interested to know why you thinned so much. Did it clog up and if so what is your needle/nozzle size. Really needs to be 3.5 or 4 for varnish. I also nip the pressure up to 30psi. With the varnish really double clean the brush otherwise it is a dig out and very deep clean. It goes off quickly and is then the very devil.

Hey and not to long at all Doug. Very informative.

Laurie
 
Joined
Aug 23, 2013
Messages
1,214
Likes
703
Points
113
First Name
Leo
#8
Top advice, thanks mate. I also got a brand new AB and still afraid to use it on a kit. Hopefully able to practice on a kit asap.

Leo
 

monica

“When there's no more room in hell, the dead will
Joined
Oct 30, 2013
Messages
12,510
Likes
5,882
Points
113
Location
Melbourne
First Name
monica
#9
like me Leo sit there and look at it alot :confused:
 
Joined
Aug 23, 2013
Messages
1,214
Likes
703
Points
113
First Name
Leo
#10
I couldn't find Vallejo Air as well, so i dare myself with Tamiya enamel. hopefully it will turn out good. Should ask stona (Steve) lots of advice, cos i know he uses Enamel from what i read from early posts in the forum.
 

monica

“When there's no more room in hell, the dead will
Joined
Oct 30, 2013
Messages
12,510
Likes
5,882
Points
113
Location
Melbourne
First Name
monica
#11
well i found a shop that has the Vallejo AV so got a bottle off primer and some panzer gray for a start,

but did not have cleaner or any thinners,so need to wait a wk longer till it comes in,i have done a bit off

back reading in the forums, about it , think just need to try it out and see,
 
Joined
Aug 23, 2013
Messages
1,214
Likes
703
Points
113
First Name
Leo
#12
I use medical alcohol for acrylics and lighter fluid (zippo) for enamels as thinner substitute, so i clean my AB with those too. Hopefully nothing wrong with that.
 
B

Bunkerbarge

Guest
#14
Doug, we can't thank you enough for taking the time to put this post together. It is feedback such as this that is priceless for beginners to find their feet with something as unknown as an airbrush and reading your experiences will be invaluable to anyone thinking of giving it a go.

You seem to have picked out the very points that a newcomer would be concerned about and helped to put them on the right track and their minds at rest that operating an airbrush is not beyond their capabilities.

Many thanks again for your time, great post.
 
T

tecdes

Guest
#15
Worth noting that Vallejo paints have there own thinners and the constituents are the same as used in the paint. The thinner was developed for helping in airbrush use and also as a glue to the plastic or an under layer of paint. If you thin with water or other thinners than Vallejo you are losing that advantage.

Place a drop of most thinners on a piece of plastic and it will evaporate with out a trace. Do the same with Vallejo and you will see the difference.

Laurie
 

Gern

'Stashitis' victim
Joined
May 17, 2009
Messages
5,305
Likes
1,813
Points
113
Location
Stourbridge
First Name
Dave
#16
Methylated spirits works fine as a cleaner for Vallejo paints - for both hairy sticks and airbrushes. Like Laurie though, I use their branded thinner as it's designed to help the paint stick.

Gern
 

Ian M

GB Mod
Staff member
Administrator
Moderator
Joined
Dec 14, 2008
Messages
11,803
Likes
2,127
Points
113
Location
Falster, Denmark
First Name
Ian
#17
\ said:
I use medical alcohol for acrylics and lighter fluid (zippo) for enamels as thinner substitute, so i clean my AB with those too. Hopefully nothing wrong with that.
Zippo fuel as a thinner/cleaner. Now that has to be the most expensive thing you could use. A 5 litre dunk of White spirit costs about the same.....just cant use it in a zippo though :-/

Ian M
 
Joined
Jul 15, 2013
Messages
750
Likes
403
Points
63
#18
A couple of points to add. I use Vallejo and have had little problems with the paint being stripped. Just wondered if your preparation of the bare plastic is causing the problem. I wet and dry the plastic with about a 1200 gauge wet/dry paper. This gives a bite to the primer. Otherwise you are just relying on the primer's strength in itself. Just like a wet suit it is there but is not sticking to the body.

Varnish. If you are using Vallejo varnish you should not have to thin any of the 3 grades. I airbrush all as they come out of the bottle. If you thin then gloss will not be gloss without additional coats. Be interested to know why you thinned so much. Did it clog up and if so what is your needle/nozzle size. Really needs to be 3.5 or 4 for varnish. I also nip the pressure up to 30psi
Thanks for these tips, Laurie. I'll try the wet/dry 'keying' trick. I decided to thin the varnish originally because I was getting the dreaded 'sandpaper' effect with the gloss, and because it just looked too thick - not like milk. It did work fine for me when thinned, even without additional coats, so maybe there are multiple methods of flaying a feline... Clogging wasn't a problem - my needle is 3.5. I'll have a go at upping the psi and using it neat, to see which I prefer. Always good to get new ideas.
 
Joined
Aug 23, 2013
Messages
1,214
Likes
703
Points
113
First Name
Leo
#19
\ said:
Zippo fuel as a thinner/cleaner. Now that has to be the most expensive thing you could use. A 5 litre dunk of White spirit costs about the same.....just cant use it in a zippo though :-/Ian M
Will try to look other thinner then. Thanks Ian for the input
 

yak face

Moderator
Staff member
Moderator
Joined
Jun 13, 2009
Messages
7,242
Likes
2,465
Points
113
Location
sheffield
First Name
tony
#20
Great post Doug , very useful for anyone starting out airbrushing. I too have had issues with the vallejo varnishes , sometimes working fine sometimes being a pig but the ones I have always need thinning or they just clog up the airbrush and spit white blobs . Ive recently gone onto the Windsor and Newton Galeria acrylic varnishes and these suit me perfectly,either brushed or thinned and sprayed. As for the cheap chinese airbrushes , thats all I use , apart from a brief spell when I was beginning with a single action Badger 200. Ive found them to be great value and if looked after , perfectly serviceable, giving excellent results (ive had my oldest one for about 6 years ,it cost me £15 !) cheers tony
 
Top