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Airbrush/paint advice for clueless hairy stick painter


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Hi folks!

I have been a hairy stick painter for many years, but through the great generosity of a fellow Britmodeller I have come by an Iwata Revolution CR.  I want to give it a go and see if I can dip my toe in the world of airbrushing, but it doesn't have a wooden handle at one end and some bristles at the other, like the tools I have been using for two decades, so I am frankly clueless. Some advice is needed!

Realising the need for some kind of air pushy thing, I have purchased what is hopefully a decent compressor (Iwata Smart Jet).

 

Now, I build pretty much exclusively British military aircraft and paint them with acrylics. Both of those things will be continuing - I had enough of enamel fumes as a teenager. I am completely kitted out with paints that brush well and can be easily thinned with plain old water - mostly Humbrol and Revell Aqua, with a few Xtracrylix and Vallejo  thrown in here and there. I have recently become fed up with the increasingly lousy quality of Humbrol acrylics so I am receptive to gradually changing brand. I appreciate that what brushes easily doesn't necessarily airbrush easily and that water ain't gonna cut it for airbrush paint thinning.

So, my main questions are:

  1. what brands would people recommend which are a) acrylic, b.) spray well enough that as a complete newbie I might be able to make them work, e.g they don't clog the nozzle at the drop of a hat and crucially c) have a good range of British standard colours? Is my stockpile of usable Humbrol likely to be completely useless?
  2. What products should I be purchasing to thin said paint and clean the airbrush effectively? I understand it is generally necessary to spray through a cleaner after use to avoid clogging.
  3.  Is there anything else I have forgot to buy that I will regret not having?

Thanks in advance!

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I'm probably the last one to be offering advise on airbrush use, as I only started using mine last August. It's a Badger 150 IL, fitted with a medium .3 needle.

 

What I will suggest is practice on some paper/cardboard, then move to an old unwanted built kit. 

 

So far, I have only used Tamiya and G-S acrylics, thinned with their own proprietary thinners ( Tamiya X20A, Mr Hobby Leveling thinner ) I also added a few drops of Tamiya Paint Retarder to the Tamiya mix. I thinned to about a 40% paint to 60% thinner and at about 15 psi on the compressor. There is a lot of info on the forum regarding airbrush/paint use. I'm sure others with way more knowledge than I well be by soon the help you out.

 

Oh yeah! Practice! 

 

 

 

Chris

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Revell Aqua can be sprayed, though it's not exactly the best experience. I have zero experience with Humbrol's acrylics so I'll just leave them out of the conversation.

If you do want to spray Aqua you'll need the appropriate thinner (I would recommend against using water as airbrush thinner) and if Revell makes one: retarder. If Revell doesn't make retarders try one from a manufacturer that specializes in true water based paints (like Vallejo, Ammo...). Stick to the manufacturer recommended cleaner, otherwise you might make a big mess of the airbrush (water based paint turns to goo when it comes in contact with strong thinners).

In 100% honesty I would strongly recommend switching to some "stronger" acrylics: Tamiya and Mr. Hobby. They're not true water based, they use alcohol I believe and they spray beautifully, they grip and they're compatible with each other. Leveling thinner and Rapid thinner are ideal for them, but I suspect you want to stay away from the really harmful stuff (they're both lacquer thinners). You can just use the appropriate acrylic thinner and maybe grab a bottle of retarder for the longer spraying sessions. Don't rush and buy an enormous amount of paints, just grab a few bottles from each manufacturer and see which one of them works best for you. Cleaning can be done with IPA (I use bog standard lacquer thinner, but again, that's smelly and harmful).

As future purchases go you should consider a paint booth (preferably with the exhaust pointed outside, not just recirculating the air inside the room), as a beginner I have not so fond memories of gassing up the entire room with paint fumes when learning about air pressure and distances.

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I've only recently started airbrushing, and I have the Revolution and Smart Jet which are working well together.

I've been using Vallejo Model Air paints. The colours don't require thinning, although clear coats do but you can thin theirs with water. Results have been good so far. 

They also make a cleaner which I've been using to good effect, both between colours and after finishing a session. I'm sure other brands would work just as well, but I thought it best to stick to one brand to start with and maybe try others in the future.

I also bought a book called Airbrushing for Scale Modelers by Aaron Skinner which I've found useful. It covers basic set up and use plus cleaning and maintenance. It also has some step by step guides although some of those are about masking techniques and which order to do things in, which would be the same for brush painting. 

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Thanks all! So it seems like at least some decent thinners designed for water based acrylics and/or retarder would be a good start for working out whether I can use my existing stock. I will also investigate the Vallejo Model Air range.

I actually have a bottle of Mr Hobby Dark Sea Grey as the first project I wish to try the airbrush on has needs this colour in buckets! I will try and get a couple of thinners (maybe a lacquer and a less "nasty" alternative) and try and work out spraying this as a starter.

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Hi Phil, I've had a terrible time airbrushing Humbrol acrylics, but @Procopius and @ProfSparks have done it!

 

It looks like ProfSparks used Future/Klear as his thinner.

 

My default thinner for water based acrylics (like Vallejo, MIG, Lifecolor etc) is a mixture of Future/Klear, distilled water and a little Flow Improver, and it's been working for me well for the last five years or so.

For cleaning water based acrylics, I use distilled water, and Iwata's airbrush cleaner (it's very mild). I flush about 1/3 an airbrush cup of each between colors and then a full airbrush cup or so of each at the end of the session (always ending with distilled water, since I figure it is least likely to adversely react with water based paint if it isn't all dried out at the beginning of the next session.) Dental cleaners from the drug store come in handy too. Only remove the nozzle from your Revolution if absolutely necessary - it's very delicate and can be damaged - especially when tightening it back into place with the included wrench.

Vallejo paints spray very nicely and the new 'Warbirds' series have decent color matches.

For water based primer, I'd recommend Badger Stynylrez (I believe Ultimate sells it under their own name in the UK). It's durable and dries very smooth, although you have to wait 24 hours or so before it can be sanded without peeling. It will make your chosen water based top coat (Humbrol, Revell, Vallejo) much tougher as well (but still fragile compared to enamels, lacquers and Tamiya type alcohol based acrylics).

 

Lastly, and I was as annoyed by this advice as you will be, just keep practicing. Keep old plastic water bottles around and practice on them whenever you have some paint left in the cup. First, just paint them a solid color, then try some multi-color camo schemes and see how tight you can get the overspray between colors, and then start seeing how thin a line you can produce.

 

 

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Thanks Cookie! I don't want to mess up your princely gift so this is good advice.

Going to start with the more tractable Mr Hobby I think and just see if I can get a nice smooth Dark Sea Grey surface worthy of a Shackleton (don't worry, I shall paint lots of non-Shackleton-shaped objects first!. Then I shall start experimenting with the existing stock following the advice here...

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

I'll chuck in my tuppence here if I may? I'm currently using an Iwata Revolution CR, having upgraded from a Neo for Iwata. I really like the CR, it sprays well and is easy for a hamfisted bass player such as myself to strip down and clean when needed. 

 

On the paint front, as a Scotsman I typically err on the side of frugality and use Revell Aqua, which is at the cheaper end of the market. I thin it for spraying with Xtracrylix thinners, which in a 300ml bottle is also relatively sensibly priced. I've found the Revell paint, pretty forgiving as well over the years although with an unmixed consistency like partially melted bitumen it does have a habit of drying up in the pot if not sealed well. Possibly false economy due to that but I've stuck by it over the last few years.

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 4/6/2021 at 3:16 PM, ModelMonkey said:

 

On the paint front, as a Scotsman I typically err on the side of frugality and use Revell Aqua, which is at the cheaper end of the market. I thin it for spraying with Xtracrylix thinners.

Really useful to know, thanks! I used to love brushing them by hand although as you say they do dry out pretty readily.

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18 hours ago, Vulcanicity said:

Really useful to know, thanks! I used to love brushing them by hand although as you say they do dry out pretty readily.

I did read a suggestion somewhere that they can be thinned with vodka - the more agricultural the better - but never tried it. I don't think the post I read it in was created on 1st April...

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