Sunday, July 31, 2011

Advanced Tools II: Airbrush Paints, thinning and mixing

Hey you guys,

in this ongoing series about airbrushing I wanted to talk a little about what paints to use when airbrushing and how to best thin and mix these paints.

1. Different kinds of paints
There are many options for the aspiring airbrusher. Many companies sell paints specifically for the task of airbrushing. The problem there is, that the paints of these manufacturers don't really conform to the paints you might have been using before. The airbrush often is an addition to the tool selection of the modern hobbyist - often enough, you will already have a substantial army before you pick one of these badboys up. So an important part in your paint selection should be the compatibility with your existing paint jobs.

I mostly use Vallejo products for painting my miniatures. Because of that, I picked up a basic selection of Vallejos Model Air paints, when I sprung for my airbrush. You see, the Model Air paints are specifically designed for using with an airbrush need no further thinning in most cases. Also, they match the lines of Model and Game Color paints pretty closely, which is fine when you're basecoating new models.

2. Thinning your paints
But what, if the paints you've been using all along don't have an equivalent in the Model Air range? In this case, you can take it on yourself, to get your paints to the right consistency for brushing - there are a lot of different opinion, how thick or thin your paints ought to be, but a rule of thumb is, that for good results when airbrushing, your paint should have a consistency approximately too milk. In the end, thinning your existing paints may run you cheaper then investing in a completely new set, because most folks, who have been into the hobby for some time, will have collected a large number of different paints.

To get your paints ready for airbrushing, you have a number of different options - you can either use an airbrush medium - the best choice in my opinion, because it doesn't interfere with the covering ability or adhesiveness of the paint. Also there are a lot of other paint additives, who basically work the same as airbrush medium. One of those would be the Vallejo Model Color Thinner. I haven't tried it yet, but in a week or so I plan to make a large hobby purchase and the thinner is on my list - maybe I'll write my impressions on it down.

Another choice is using distilled water mixed with a painting additive like flow aid. I personally use a 10:1 mix of water and flow-aid, the so called "Magic Water".

The third option I know of is using straight tap water to thin the paints down - but I would strongly suggest not doing this - the tap water can damage your airbrush in the long run, when you're not cleaning the brush thoroughly after each use. This is because it can contain minerals and other substance, which may be harmful to the mechanism and interior of the brush.

3. Mixing the paints
Mixing the paints is relatively easy. You can either mix it internally, right in the cup of the airbrush, or externally and then fill it into the brush. You just have to be sure that the paints and any additive are well mixed before you use them, or else you might clog the airbrush.To make sure you don't damage the internal parts of the brush or bend the needle make sure to use a soft paintbrush you don't need anymore. In my experience these kinds of brushes make for the best mixing tools, far superior then say toothpicks.

You can also try this neat little trick: Add all the mixing ingredients into the brush and then hold the tip of the airbrush against the palm of your hand, so that no air can escape. Then, just press the trigger on the airbrush. The air won't escape through the nozzle, but will backdraft into the mixing cup, throwing bubbles and swirling the paint around. This way, you can easily mix up your paints.

Hope this may help some of you,


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