A beginner’s guide to airbrushing

Introducing airbrushing and cleaning techniques for modellers interested in weathering, by Graeme Simmonds.

You open the box and there is your shiny new airbrush. You’ve also invested in a compressor to give a constant reliable air supply, in fact, let’s assume you’ve gathered the equipment you need to
get started, as this article is about the first experience of using an airbrush and, of vital importance, how to look after the airbrush so that it works reliably in the future; that said, I will be checking to ensure you’ve got some things as we proceed.

Be careful: Hands of make-up artist filling the airbrusher with liquid paint

I know you’re keen to start using your new airbrush; you want to spray something and see the result. First I will take you through the initial stage of weathering a simple box van. I’ve chosen a bauxite version because bauxite is more forgiving than freight grey.

Next I will take you through cleaning and looking after your airbrush: don’t skimp this or you will suffer, from the outset learn the importance of good cleaning, a good workman or workwoman will always look after their tools.

Straight in here, you need to mix paint to the right colour, and the right thinness to pass through the airbrush nozzle. We are using Humbrol Enamel 50ml (No.2) tinlets because nearly everyone can get hold of these through model shops, some art shops, and online; also it is forgiving, produces a good finish and dries slowly, this allows you more time to think while you are learning.

A display of the items I’ve mentioned, note the goggles included in the packaging are separate to the face mask; note also the brass-looking item in the centre: the shaped nozzle cleaning tool, and below it the tube of blue lubricant gel. The black object with magnifying lens is supplied in the Iwata cleaning kit – powered by a battery, it illuminates the airbrush needle point for close-up examination when checking for damage or paint adherence preventing proper seating in the nozzle.

Here’s a widely used standard mix for the wagon wheels and chassis: Humbrol number 62 matt leather, and Humbrol number 27004 metalcote gunmetal; if you can’t get 27004 substitute it with matt black 33, as the objective is to get you painting. You will need a thinner; I use Artists Low Odour White Spirit 500ml from an art shop, it is refined and doesn’t offend your nose – or the nose of your partner.

You will need a measure. I use glass pipettes available on eBay with a rubber bulb on the end; some airbrush kits include a plastic pipette, some have a scale on the side, if not simply mark the side with a felt-tip pen so that you get equal measure; you will need three pipettes at least in order to work cleanly, plus some spare ones.

You will need some small glass paint jars with a screw lid, these are also available on eBay; I also use glass 5cm tall crab-paste pots with a twist screw lid – I like crab paste on toast.

For the full article, see October’s edition of Modelling – available now!

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