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"Pink isn't a color. It's a lifestyle." - Chumbalaya
"...generalship should be informing list building." - Sir Biscuit
"I buy models with my excess money" - Valkyrie whilst a waitress leans over him

Monday, November 22, 2010

Airbrush Basics: What types

The first article I would like to throw out is a pretty basic one, talking about some of the basic things you need to know about buying an airbrush. I have been using an airbrush to paint models for many years now, it is important to understand that airbrushing skills are not instantly obtained. It takes time, practice and patience to understand the ins and outs of your particular brush. Once you learn what you can and can’t do it really makes it much easier to use an airbrush. The image I have attached is an example of the subtle blending that can be achieved by using an airbrush properly, for reference that model is about 12 inches long.

First off let’s talk about expectation. What is it that you would like to do with your brush? Answering this question will help guide you in making financial decisions about your airbrush. If you want to simply apply even coats of paint to broad areas, i.e. applying base coat colors, then you’re life as an airbrushing artist will be easy and inexpensive. It is possible to get some very fine lines with airbrush’s, less than 1/8 of inch even, but these take very precise models and very steady hands. For myself I use my brush to apply a basecoat and a simple highlight or two, I find this adds nice depth to my models and speeds up the painting process. Basically I don’t want you thinking that you will be able to highlight the rivets on your rhino w/ an airbrush. Now that we have that expectation set let’s talk types.

There are two basic types of airbrushes, dual action and single action, then with-in these types you have gravity fed (may favorite) and siphon fed.

Single action- Single action brushes are the most basic design and probably the least expensive. This type of brush would be ideal for someone who is simply looking to apply single even coats of color without using the airbrush to highlight or blend. Single action brushes are simple, you press the button or trigger and equal amounts of paint and air are released through the nozzle. If you plan or hope to do any type of blending or highlighting of color, do not buy a single action brush as you will not be able to accomplish this task, if though you just want something that can spray all of your mini’s ultra marine blue without having to use a paint brush or rattle can, this is a good investment.

Dual action- A dual action brush works differently than a single action. The button or trigger on these brushes has 2 movements, typically down and back. In the case of my Iwata, when I press down on the trigger the air flow is let through the brush, then as a gradually pull back on the trigger the paint is introduced in to the airflow. The amount of paint let through is directly related to how far back the trigger is pulled. This paint flow regulation is controlled by the use of a needle located in the nozzle, essentially when the trigger is in the forward position to needle closes the nozzle hole, then as it is pulled back the opening in the hole allows more paint to pass by. This paint regulation is what allows the subtle blending to be achieved. A drawback to this though is applying to much paint which results in a very wet mess.

Siphon Fed- Siphon fed brushes will have a jar or other similar container located below the brush and near the nozzle. As air passes through the tubing of the brush it creates suction in tube leading to the paint, thus pulling it up into the brush and out the nozzle. Generally Siphon feeds are not very good for detail painting, as you have to be quite close to the object you are painting and the jar tends to get in the way. I have also found through experience that siphon fed brushes require the paint to be thinner than gravity fed and that more paint is consumed w/ siphon fed. Siphon fed brushes are also a little more cumbersome to clean.

Gravity Fed brushes- Gravity-fed brushes are a lot better for close up detail work. The paint well sits on top of the airbrush and the paint is fed directly into the air stream. One of the drawbacks to gravity-fed brushes is the paint well size, it is fixed and cannot be changed, so to change paint capacity you would need to buy a new brush, with siphon fed you would simply buy a new jar. However I have never painted something with my Iwata that has required me to refill the paint well before finishing a single coat of paint, this is because gravity fed brushes use about half as much paint as siphon fed, so a smaller amount of paint goes a lot further.

In my next article I will talk about how to actually use an airbrush, I actually no longer own a siphon fed brush, so I will be giving my examples using my dual action gravity fed Iwata, the principles I will be speaking about though can be generally applied. Feel free to email me any questions that you may have in the mean time!!


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