Sunday, 11 March 2018

Airbrush Setup and First Use

Few of the reasons I'm adding airbrushing skills to my painting repertoire is to acquire the ability to paint smoother transitions as well as paint faster and more efficiently. This skill set is especially crucial when working with larger scale sci-fi/military scale model kits and garage kit figurines. And if you are serious about this hobby, then after a while an airbrush setup becomes a necessity rather than a luxury. Moreover, learning new painting techniques with new paint products should keep things fresh for a miniature hobbyist previously limited to only the good old hand brush and spray paint can.

HSeng AF186 Mini Air Compressor, piston type with an air tank and regulator
Getting an air compressor with a tank is the better option in the long run

With this being my initial investment in an airbrush setup, I had to forgo the expensive branded stuff. Getting tools and accessories to use superseded any personal wish for top of the range equipment. So with the perennial issue of a tight budget up front and center in my thoughts, I bought the affordable Haosheng (HSeng) airbrush setup during a store sale for a further discount. This made-in-China ensemble seems functional enough. But I honestly have no idea how good the setup actually is as I don't have a better system to compare it to. For now though, it will have to suffice.

Made in China Haoseng airbrushes of the 0.3 and 0.2 mm variety
Cheap, no-brand 0.3 mm airbrush - a no-frills basic tool for beginners
Similarly priced, the 0.2 mm version is slightly better as it comes with a needle stopper and an air adjuster

This being a cheap, no-brand airbrush meant imperfections were to be expected in the build quality (see immediate photo below). In addition, the various screw joints seem a bit rough on the edges (not shown) but thus far it hasn't been to the extent that performance of the airbrush is compromised. Meanwhile, the air compressor works like a charm. It's fairly quiet even when the motor kicks in to fill up the tank with air. Getting an air compressor with a tank is recommended as you will be able to work without the incessant sound of motors compressing air. You would also get to airbrush for longer periods simply because there is not need for the motors to run continuously thus overheat.

Imperfections in the metal are evident as can be seen inside the paint cup of the 0.3 mm airbrush
 
To make the airbrushing process a little bit more hassle-free, I bought a pair of quick release valve couplings (one of which is shown in the photo below). This piece of accessory makes is easier and quicker to disconnect an airbrush from the hose that itself is connected to the air compressor. I'm certainly game for anything that makes for a less stressful painting experience. I'm extremely clumsy as it is, so not having to fumble with unscrewing an airbrush from the hose in the middle of a painting session is most welcome. An airbrush would be disconnected from its hose for a variety of reasons e.g. for a quick clean in between colors; to switch between different sized airbrushes; etc.   

Generic no-brand airbrush quick release (disconnect) valve coupling: top and bottom connectors
Airbrushes with top connector of the quick release valve attached (bottom connector is fixed to the hose; not shown)

My first airbrush spray test was with a mixture of Tamiya Acrylic Paints. This particular paint mix comprised equal portions of XF-58 Olive Green and XF-4 Yellow Green resulting in one of the many types of Russian green evident on their tanks during World War II. Initial results were terrible due to a combination of paint not thinned enough coupled with a ceiling fan being switched on during the airbrushing session. And the fact that it was also a hot day that day meant the paint dried well before it hit the primed plastic spoon. But after a bit of trial and error I managed to better results.       

Mixing a form of Russian Green for initial test sprays with the 0.3 mm airbrush
Adjustments to air pressure, working conditions, paint mix ratio, etc. eventually yielded a smooth coat

After getting used to mixing the correct ratio of paint-to-thinner-to-retarder as well as mitigating windy (i.e. quick drying) conditions, other variables then came into play in my search for a smooth airbrush application of paint on a primed subject matter. These include distance of airbrush from the subject matter and level of pressure/pull-back applied to the airbrush trigger. The latter is based on the fact that both airbrushes are double action types i.e. pressing down on the trigger controls air flow while pulling back on the trigger determines amount of paint flowing into the air stream.    

Mixing a darker hue for testing out the fine line capabilities of a 0.2 mm airbrush
Squiggles and fine lines achieved with the generic 0.2 mm airbrush
After awhile I had gotten the hang of layering a smooth coat of paint with the 0.3 mm airbrush. I then proceeded to paint fine lines with the 0.2 mm airbrush using a darker hue (Tamiya XF-65 Field Grey). I loved that the 0.2 mm airbrush had a needle stopper that determines how far back you can pull the trigger. This in turn controls how much paint is released and makes painting fine lines easier. So far I've only toyed with Tamiya Acrylic Paints which are easy to work with and forgiving to beginners. Going forward, more practice is in store with lacquer paints as well as water-based acrylics.   

https://www.facebook.com/FourEyedMonster-313145002078520/

I'm itching to start painting figurines and model kits with the airbrush but I can't, not yet. It's doubly hard to continue practicing especially when the stuff being sprayed on are just plastic spoons, pieces of Tamiya Pla Plate or plain paper. However patience is key so I'm going to have to soldier on with the practice sessions until I'm fairly comfortable using the airbrush with different types of paint. It's better to bungle a paint job of a spoon than an expensive figurine/kit. Well, I had better get to it then.

16 comments:

  1. Thank You so much for a review sir!
    warm regards

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    1. You're most welcome Michał. Hope it helps in a small way somehow.

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  2. Technology at the service of your talent!

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    1. I wish I had talent ... all I have is hard work but I will take it if I can get better and better at painting. :)

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  3. Great report my friend ! But you'll experience , how much you practice a miniature is a whole other matter than a spoon or paper. I learned that the hard way & still learning ...
    Greetings

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    1. Thanks for the heads up Mario! :) I'll bear your advice in mind when I begin my first miniature painting with an airbrush. I can only hope I don't screw things badly because as you well know these miniatures are so expensive and to ruin them would be heart-breaking.

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  4. Good luck on that new endeavor! I‘m sure you‘ll master this technique in no time. While I do use an airbrush tu undercoat miniatures and apply the camo to my tanks, I‘m sadly lacking the patience to master the finer points necessary to make best use of this tool.

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    1. Thanks! ^_^ My patience isn't that good either ... lol ... :) But I plan to give it a go and hope things turn out well in the end.

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  5. I'm really looking forward to seeing what you can achieve with an airbrush. That technology is beyond my skills (and space at home!), I will certainly follow your progress :)

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    1. Thank you Suber! :) I don't really have that much space for an airbrush system too hence no painting booth (though I'm seriously considering how to fit one in a small space) so just the other day there was a bad smell of vapourised lacquer paint (and poisonous too) all over the small living room. Luckily I had a mask on and was alone in the house AND the windows were open so it was well ventilated O_O

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  6. This reminds me of my first foray into airbrushing (link below for my original kit review). Having plenty of airbrush cleaner is a must too.

    http://tabletopapocalypse.blogspot.co.uk/2016/04/foxhunter-kms-airbrush-review-complete.html

    If you want to read about techniques, Angel Giraldez is the pioneer of airbrush and brush technique. He is the staff painter for Infinity, and has written 2 books about it. It's how I got started.

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    1. Thanks for sharing you review! I know the book you are referring too. I saw it in a local hobby store a while back but had no budget for it at the time. After saving for it and going back it was sold out to my dismay!!! And I've since blown that budget on yet another kit I most likely didn't need XD

      Thanks though for reminding me about his books. They are certainly a must-read and I hope to get my hands on them one day in the future.

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  7. Nice one, I really need to dive in as well, that's useful info here.

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    1. Thanks. Hope it helped you even in a small way. :)

      Anime garage kits are what I had been itching to get into for some time now so learning how to use an airbrush is a necessity rather than luxury when dealing with garage kits.

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  8. Looks good. I find airbrushes intimidating but primarily I paint infantry figures and besides perhaps using it for zenith highlighting can't see the use in one yet

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    1. I've the same feeling which is why I never could justify getting one for the longest time. But as I scale up in the figurines and model kits I work on it has become a necessity. Airbrushes intimidate me too but I'm determined to wield one like a pro ... at least look like a pro doing it ... LOL XD

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