Hello fellow wargamers
Airbrushing the early days
In case you don’t know, needles, nozzles and nozzle caps need to match up in size. The problem with my first get up was that there was no way to tell the different sizes apart. I supposedly had a 0.2mm and 0.3mm setups. I didn’t know that the nozzle was meant to work with a specific nozzle cap and it wasn’t long before I’d mixed it all up…so be warned, if you’re buying your first kit then prefer a a single size setup.
My first Pro Airbrush
My first step up to a more professional setup was to buy the Harder and Steenbeck Evolution Solo. I could instantly tell the difference in the quality of the brush, but I wasn’t about to make the same mistakes I made with the original…or was I? Mine came with a 0.2mm nozzle and needle kit I had a terrible time trying to get acrylic paint to flow through my airbrush smoothly. My big break came, when I discovered Tamiya paints and their specific thinner. Suddenly I could airbrush and paint would flow so easily it was genuinely a ground breaking moment for me. Looking back, I’m surprised I persisted so long with airbrushing in general, I got so frustrated with it all.
My next big break came when I bought the 0.4mm needle and nozzle kit. I found the bigger size meant I could use Vallejo paints that I’d thinned well.
The beauty of the H&S get up, is that they make it obvious what size is what. So my 0.4mm needle has a notch at the rear, the nozzle has an indented ring around it and the nozzle cap…erm I’m not sure about that, but there’s probably something.
Nowdays I never use the 0.2mm needle and nozzle in my H&S. It’s just a bit crap…sorry H&S, I’d love to say its awesome, but I can’t.
|My two babies|
|My compressor is so awesome|
Okay, I’ve already started talking about paint, but lets explore that subject further. As an airbrush user, I had to become great at thinning paint. For a while, nothing in life was more important than learning to thin paint correctly. Fortunately, I quickly learned that it’s not all that hard. Tamiya paints were a revelation I can’t state that strongly enough. However, their paint range is small. The pots don’t hold much paint and the thinner is expensive and smelly. Also, I found adding white to a colour would alter its properties too much and I couldn’t achieve a good finish. (See T70s for example)
I had to go back to Vallejo, I needed the choice of colour and also whenever you google the colour for X. You nearly always get the vallejo colour and then have to work put what the nearest tamiya equivalent is.
I don’t like Vallejo’s model air range and I have no idea why…I simply don’t get good results with them. In my opinion they still need thinning, so I might as well buy regular model colour and just use a bit more water. I find I get better results this way.
Where possible I buy Ammo by Mig paints for use in my airbrush. Relatively new, but I love the way you can buy different tones of the same colour. For example shadow/dark base/base/light base/highlight/shine all to make modulation easier and I find it works. You can use them straight from the bottle. The only downside is the amount of mixing/shaking required…these bad boys really freakin separate. To help with this issue, I add a fishing shot to every pot, this is a trick I borrowed from Les Bursley at Awesome Paintjob on youtube. However I believe Mig has taken this feedback on board and newer paint lines come with an agitator installed…sweet.
A little bit of research, lead me to discover about pigment sizes. Seemingly a bigger pigment results in a tougher finish, but that also makes it harder to squeeze the pigment between the tiny gap created between the needle and nozzle. I believe Vallejo Game Colour, uses a thicker pigment than Model Colour and this is the principle difference between the two. Therefore I no longer buy Game Colour and stick to Model Colour. I like to imagine I can tell the difference when I use them in the airbrush…but in all honesty…I can’t.
There are other paints out there. I’ve tried Badgers Minitaire line…bit weird and not great for realistic colours. I’ve still to try lifecolor, but the mis-spelling of colour puts me off 🙂
IMHO, buy Mig’s Ammo range…it rocks
|I use these when modulating|
|These fishing weights make good agitators, but buy a slightly bigger size|
|A recent purchase, lube every screw, spring, the needle, the nozzle…|
|Tamiya swabs help me clean the needle when in use|
|Don’t forget to look after yourself as well 🙂|
Highlighting & Shadows
I’m nearly done rambling, but this is a potentially big section. When you buy an airbrush for the first time, you have zero muscle memory for how to use your brush. This is something you need, you also need to know what to do when (not if) issues occur and better yet, when to anticipate the inevitable issues.
There’s not a lot you can do about this other than practice, practice practice.
First up, understand paint will dry on the end of your needle. Generally speaking we use water based acrylics, which have a fast drying time. You will need to learn to be able to clear that dried paint off the needle in double quick time. When I airbrush I do so without the guard, my needle and nozzle is exposed…this is dangerous, you will stab yourself and you will eventually do something stupid which results in a bent needle…however you also need to be able to access the needle tip so you use your fingers to remove that dried gak away. Depending on the pressure you are spraying at, the type of paint and how thin the paint is, you’ll find you develop drytip at different speeds.
When I’m doing detailed work, my pressure is usually low, i’m very close to the model and I’m spraying tiny amounts of paint…like this schh…schh…schh as opposed to a base coat which goes schhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. This means I’m going to develop dry tip really quickly and so I’m wiping and cleaning the needle ever 30 seconds or so. Once you develop a rhythm this become second nature.
With regards to the actual technique, it’s air on, paint on, paint off, air off. Or down, back, forward, up if you prefer. Again if i’m doing detail work, then it’s more like. Air on, paint on, paint off, paint on, paint off, paint on paint off, paint on, paint off…..air off. To spell that out, the air stayed on and that’s why you want a compressor with a tank. Also, you want a clear second, between air on, paint on and paint off, air off. This is good technique, learn it early. Symptoms of not doing this are, dried paint flecks appearing in your spray pattern. A block nozzle. A splatter at the start of spraying (I suffered with this for so long.)
My last piece of advice, is always spray some water a the start of a session. Then always spray paint onto a a piece of paper before you start applying to the model…making sure your pattern is good and flow feels right.
Sorry, this is so long…if you would like me to go into detail on any aspect then I’m happy to, I really want to try my hand at making youtube videos, so please give me an excuse.
I’ve been winnerdave, you’ve been awesome…happy airbrushing…