Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Airbrush Newb Needs Advice

Hi, my name is Tim T., and I'm an Airbrush Newb.

After years of seeing even what an airbrush can do for the hobbyist in blogs like Dark Future Games, and talking to award-winning painters who compete in Golden Demon and Crystal Brush, I took the plunge and emptied my wallet on an entire set-up.

…but what do I do now?

Mind you, I made this purchase back in April at Adepticon and haven't touched it yet. I did have to rearrange a bit at home to have a place for my equipment to go, so I don't feel too terrible about it. Yet. Of course, since I had to do that my wife felt it was the perfect time to not just make room for it, but to completely rearrange and reorganize my studio on the whole. That took more time than I had intended, but I do love the end result.

Yet I digress.

Back in 2012, I was at Feast of Blades, and Grex was there with prize support and a table full of merchandise. Their prices, however, were not appealing to me to purchase and try and fly home with, nor ship home at my expense. I liked what they had there though, and instead of dropping over 500 with them I remembered that earlier in the year, Badger had a table at Adepticon for the first time. I also seemed to recall some amazing convention-pricing that Badger had, that Grex did not. So I swallowed my "Ohhhh, Shiny!" Syndrome, and bided my time until Adepticon 2013.

When Badger was setting up their tables at Adepticon this year, I literally stood there, waiting. The convention prices were as amazing as I remembered, and I was not going to chicken out this time. The guys were really patient with everyone asking questions while they didn't even have their boxes unpacked, and mentioned that if anyone had cash, they could purchase now.

I had cash. I purchased.

They were very understanding of my inexperience with airbrushes, and asked me some very good questions on how exactly I planned on using the airbrush. Did I just want something to base coat models with, or did I want to do painting and blending applications. Was I planning on doing any fine line work, or would it be more broad applications, and more. Based on my answers, they were able to make very good recommendations, and I forked over a wad a cash.

The two big purchases were the Badger Krome, and their TC910 Aspire Pro Compressor. I also picked up a braided hose with a moisture trap, cleaning solution, an extra fine tip to change out, the basic set of Minitaire paints and a couple other sundries that I was advised to buy. I received the Ghost Tints from the Minitaire line for being a part of one of Les Bursley's classes that weekend.

Since then I made a few further purchases. One being a very versatile collapsable spray booth with ample filters, and another an Iwata cleaning station. I've also picked up some Matte and Gloss varnish, airbrush medium and some Vallejo Model Air paints and primer I want to try.

Notice something? All I've done so far is buy all the components to be able to conveniently use and maintain and airbrush in my home. I've yet to actually use it. Why? I'm a little intimidated actually. It's new, unknown territory for me and no one in my local area actually uses an airbrush to work on miniatures for me to source knowledge from. So what's my answer?


Here's where I'm asking for advice, places to go, YouTube'ers to watch, blogs to read, etc. I want to utilize this amazing tool for my armies and figures. I just need to know everything from the basics on up. I"m not afraid to make mistakes, but I figured I'd reach out to the community first!

- Tim



  1. Tim, welcome to the airbrush club!

    My best advice for you, find a old busted rhino (I'm sure you have a few), and go to town! You can read every article and watch every youtube video but it all means nothing without try it yourself.

    I started with base coating larger models (land raiders, rhinos, fortress of redemption), and now I use my airbrush for about 75% of the work on everything.

    If you remember my team's army from Adepticon this year, I painted 3/4 of the teams army, and 90% of that was with an airbrush.

    Airbrushes make the boring part of painting so much easier and faster (the large / plane base coats), it helps you get to the fun parts (the finer details). You can even get fancy with highlighting using an airbrush. (Zenithal Highlighting),_OSL_and_Snow_and_Ice_Tutorial,_subject_-_Grey_Knight

  2. Tim I'm in exactly the same boat as you aside from my new airbrush being sat for over a year now untouched due to me being so (weirdly so) damned intimidated by the fething thing! Right now I am getting ready to paint up my next batch of 15mm tanks and an airbrush would make the base-coating a whole lot easier, but.... eh, I dunno.
    I'm comfortable and knowledgeable with painting with a brush. I know the hows and so forth of applying paint as I'd like and getting the results I require. But this airbrush shenanigans has me hesitant as all hell and I think it's more to do with my pride than anything else. I just can't get over the idea that I'll be a virtual hobby child with the thing and can't face the inevitable horrid results of my initial attempts at airbrushing.

    I hope you get some good advice in these comments, cos I'll be interested to see if they'll apply to me too.

  3. Yay Tim congrats on your purchase and doing it the "Man way" and buying everything you would possibly need before painting a drop.

    Check out BuyPainted on Youtube his early stuff is great and you can see what he uses his airbrush for.

    But practice, practice and practice with the paints for distance and spray flow and just to get used to the way paint comes out of the airbrush, it took me at least 10/15 times before i felt comfortable just doing the basics.

    Other tips are

    dont mess about with mixing your own paint, just use the minitaire they are great.

    Dont blow air through the brush without pulling back on the trigger, this will dry paint in the nozzle and ruin your day doing multiple clean ups. This happens most when the cup runs out of paint do not let that happen top up before it runs dry.

    dissassmble re-assemble before you put paint in to get familiar with the parts and to check there are no random metal shavings floating about.

    Try and have a few mini's on the go at one time so you dont have to swap paint so much it also allows drying time in between coats.

    Finally (and sorry for going on its just so rare to be able to give someone advice on this usually its me wanting it) Check you have painted everything before you empty the cup, i currently have a landraider 99% base coated in a custom mix only to miss the inside panel by the assault ramp and not know the exact ratio i used :-(.

    Good look and post your results

  4. Airbrushing takes a while to master for sure. I struggled with mine for a long time. The good news is that a quality airbrush really helps. I had a cheap one I replaced a year ago with a Renegade Krome and it made a huge difference. I really like my new badger airbrush. Made airbrushing much easier. It is way easier to maintain and works better.

    Basecoating and priming is a good place to start as you will learn to control the paint and spray it evenly (easier said than done initially). Practice drawing lines and dots on paper. Practice shading boxes and evenly filling boxes on paper with the airbrush.

    For more advanced stuff, you could do basic zenithal highlights of power armour or something just from above with successively lighter shades on a model. Learning to mask with tape and silly tack and paper can help you to get some nice effects fairly quickly. I have some tutorials on my blog on airbrushing that may help you (a lot are 15mm stuff though):
    And a tutorial on yellow power armour:

    Airbrushing is frustrating at first. I have found it is an indispensable tool now. I prime everything by airbrush as I have more control over how thick the coat is. I also use my airbrush to paint, shade, and highlight at least something on most models. On 15mm tanks probably 70% of the work is done by airbrush.

  5. Tim, I too would like to welcome you to the glorious realm of airbrushing.

    I took the dive a few years back and while I could go on and on with tips and tricks there is one clear cut piece of advice that sticks out in my mind above all else.

    Never, no matter who may say differently, never put Windex through your airbrush.

    My parting thoughts...
    1. Very important - Learn how to tear down the airbrush for cleaning. There are tons of YouTube videos for this.
    2. Walk before you run. If you can; work with terrain before moving onto models with finer detail. Start with priming then move to base coats. Learn spray control by experimentation: a. how the paint flows from the airbrush depending on how far the trigger is engaged. b. how the paint lands at various distances and angles from the target. Once you're comfortable with spray control try doing some zenithal highlighting and object source lighting.

  6. As Josh said you need to take a hands on approach to learn this kind of thing.
    If you have some unpainted armies, or something you can base coat over the current scheme then start there.

    Base coating is airbrushing 101, and it is surprising how much you can do right or wrong, as far as too much paint, too little, painting in the wrong weather, paint consistency and more.

    From there you can start looking at basic source lighting techniques, which are a great way of giving your models realistic looking blending on armour without needing to do it all by hand, plus it is very simple. For some schemes you can do this, the details and maybe a few final highlights and the army/squad is done. Well apart from basing.

    Figuring out assembly prior to starting is also smart, if you want different coloured helms, do them separately, same with shoulder pads, arms, or even torso/legs combos.

    Sounds like you have a good airbrush so you can probably move onto blending and finer detail work after getting the basics down.

    It might be a good idea to start a new project that you like the idea of to get started... Maybe a new army, or a Battleforce that you would like or could give friends to use to get them into the game.
    Some armies really lend themselves to the use of an airbrush IMO, like Eldar and Dark Eldar (particularly their vehicles).

  7. Just get into it man! I had the same fear a while ago. The more you use it the more comfortable you become. I am currently thinking of getting an even finer version to do more preshading and blends and such. You'll never ditch the brush but you can save tons of time and get nice blend to shad down from right out of the gate. Buy Painted has some great you tube videos to watch just so you get the idea. Les has a bunch of great ones at APJ too. Just get a bunch of cheap minis or repaint a bunch of old ones and play around with the brush. Also your badger came with a sheet that had a bunch of exercises on it right? Try them out and practice them. I swear to god it helps you learn how to use the brush and control it and what different amounts of thinning and PSI can do.

  8. I have zero experience with airbrushing, so I could not possibly give you any advice on what to do. So, for a refreshing change, let me tell you what not to do:

    To be honest, whenever a hobbyist whose work I enjoy picks up an airbrush, I tend to get a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. Because, while an airbrush can obviously be a fantastic tool that allows you to create some amazing effects, over-relying on it might have the consequence of making your stuff look like the myriad of uninspiring, samey looking airbrush painted armies with lots and lots of superfluous blending and OSL added just for the heck of it.

    So, as a bit of a contrast to the other guys' - indubitably great - advice, let me just state that one of the most important things about using your airbrush is to know when not to use your airbrush and go back to using an actual brush for the details. It's like Karate in that way: Knowing when not to use seems to be half the art.

    Sorry if I come across at sounding negative! This isn't suppose to disparage the work of any of you that use an airbrush. I just get sick of that look from time to time ;)

    1. You are not wrong. He's not. You'll never do away with the bristles. They are how you make that bland generic AB job look great with extra shading and glazes and freehand and weathering and- you get the idea.

  9. Resources that rock:
    Awesome Paint Job on youtube

    the rest is playing around

  10. Bookmarking for when I pick up my Airbrush (hopefully in early 2014)

    Great advice everyone!

  11. I wanted to say thank you to each and every one of you for the advice given. This is what community is about :) Life's been a bit hectic lately, otherwise I would have responded individually like normal, but we'll see about getting back to that in a week or so.

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  13. I'm in exactly the same boat, and also bought everything but have yet to fire up the brush at all. I was so eager to get it and now it just feels so intimidating . thanks to all for the advise. I'm going to try and push myself tomorrow to use it.