Monday, July 25, 2011

Advanced Tools I: Airbrush and Compressor

Hey Guys,
today I wanted to give you some advice about one of the hot topics in wargaming: Selecting and using an Airbrush. This will be the first part in a series of articles concerning all things airbrushing.

This article will cover:
  • The Airbrush itself
  • Compressor
 These are the two most basic things you'll need. Following entries will cover things like:
  • Paints and the proper thinning
  • Masking Substance
  • Airbrush cleaning
  • Airbrushing Techniques 
That's about it, but don't be fooled. The list may seem small, but getting good airbrush-setup may set you back a pretty penny. I know, that there are a number of cheap options on the internet for getting complete airbrushing sets, compressor and more than one brush, for under 100 euro - but I seriously doubt, that these will make you happy in the long run. Sure, it will allow you to get into brushing relatively cheap, but in the long run, you might spend more, than if you bought quality right away. Especially, when you hear the stories of shoddy brushes which stop working after a few weeks and the like.

There are a ton of different airbrushes from a slew of companies on the market. The best way for you would be to go into a store and try a few, so you can decide, what feels comfortable for you. The feel of one brush over the other can be very distinct, so getting a feel for the airbrush is quite important.

Things you should keep an eye out for are the following characteristics: Get a dual action (press the lever down for air, pull back for paint to start flowing) instead of a single action (pulling the lever releases both air and paint). With an dual action you control how much paint is coming out of the brush, which is crucial for fine detail work.

Also, get a brush with a gravity feed, rather than a suction cup. With a gravity feed you can mix the paints right in the airbrush and swapping out colors is simple. With a suction cup you are limited to the paint you have mixed in your cup. If you have a number of cups, switching colors might also be easy, but it can be expensive. Suction systems are great, if you want to paint great numbers or basecoat an army at once, but for most modelers, a gravity feed would be the better choice.

There are a bunch of different nozzle sizes to choose from. In general, with smaller sizes, smaller lines can be drawn with be brush - so detail work may be simpler to do. But as the nozzle gets smaller, the risk of clogging the nozzle gets bigger. Wrong technique, dried paint or to thick a mixture of paint all are common mistakes which can clog the brush, at which point you'll have to clean it thoroughly to get it going again.

As for the compressor, you have to choose between piston and diaphragm types. The piston compressors may run hot, if you use the compressor for long durations, but for most people, this should suffice. Things to look out for in a compressor are a moisture trap, which filters out water in the compressed air which otherwise could cause the brush to sputter and ruin your paintjob.

Another thing is to look for a compressor with adjustable psi. That way, you can always regulate the airflow perfectly, especially for fine detail work, where a high psi might prove hindering.

Also, getting a compressor with an airtank might also be a good idea. When you start the compressor up, it only works as long as it takes to fill the airtank. After that, it will only kick in, when air needs to be replenished in the tank - which makes for far less noise in the long run.

That's about it concerning the basic things you'll need. I personally started airbrushing about a year ago and I'm still learning to master this great tool. And that's exactly what an airbrush is: a tool in the ever growing arsenal of today's wargamer. It is great for some things, that would take forever with a paintbrush, but in no way can it replace the traditional brush altogether.

As always, enjoy and have fun,


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