A Badger 100 double-action artist airbrush con gravity-feed reservoir. Notice how small the reservoir is, yet it holds enough paint for undercoating tre carri medi in scala 1:72. The rear cover has been removed to provide easy access to the needle. The lower part of the picture shows the needle cowling (2) removed, exposing the tip of the needle (1, left of the white line) inside the nozzle (1, right of the line). Airbrushes need to be cleaned during operation occasionally, ed in preparation of a change of colour. If acrylic paints are used, operational cleaning is a simple matter of wiping caked paint off the tip of the needle. Any built-up of dried paint inside the needle cowling can be scraped off con a steel awl.
Recommended Paints e Thinners
- Tamiya X20A Thinner
- Tamiya X21 Flat Base
- Pactra A48 Flat Clear
- Pactra A18 Gloss Clear
- Tamiya e Pactra Acrylics
- PRIMAkryl, AQUATEC e FERRARIO Artist Acrylics
Equipaggiamento Airbrush appears expensive at first, but it’s actually a great time- e money-saving investment. If you like scale modelling, consider investing approximately $US 420.00 in proper equipaggiamento airbrush. Here is what you need:
- Compressor con large tank e regulator. The regulator is very important, it will allow you to do highly detailed work con a simple twist of the knob.
- Double-action artist airbrush con gravity-feed reservoir, medium nozzle e needle.
- Fine nozzle e needle set (optional).
- Cleaning awl.
- Acrylic paint e (non-toxic) acrylic thinners.
- Black e brown ink.
- Respirator Type FFP2, to protect the wearer from solid e water based aerosols.
There are no cheap solutions to airbrushing. Don’t waste your money on single-action airbrushes, they don’t allow the kind of detailing work you want to do in scale modelling. Forget about cans of compressed air o similar makeshift solutions, they are very expensive, e the results you get are mediocre at best. You will enjoy the freedom of using cheap compressor air to clean your airbrush, something you would never even contemplate con an expensive can of compressed air.
Do not use enamel paints for airbrush work, because these paints require enormous amounts of toxic thinners. Military modelling is an indoor hobby, e noxious vapours are known to ruin a person’s health. Enamel thinners are also highly flammable, they are not safe to airbrush indoors.
What most people don’t realize is that airbrush work is a lot easier than regular brushing. Using an airbrush, even a beginner can paint tank tracks in under 45 seconds. There is no need to mask any part of the vehicle o running gear, just turn the regulator down to 10 psi, e paint the tracks as if you were using a paintbrush. The spray is much easier to guide between roadwheels than a small paintbrush, ed it provides perfect coverage con a thin film of paint. Unlike a paintbrush, the airbrush carries enough paint in the reservoir to spray the tracks of a dozen carri medi. Unused paint can be poured back into the jar con minimal loss.
Another little known fact is that the spray from an airbrush can be regulated easily, giving the user excellent control. If you’ve only ever used spray cans, you may be loathe to consider airbrushing a true alternative to regular brush work. Take the plunge, ed experience the amazing results you’ll achieve in very little time. The best way to get started is to practise the Jim Gordon technique: invecchiamento dei veicoli.
Cleaning is quick ed easy when acrylic paints are used. Paint changes are a matter of wiping the reservoir clean con a moist tissue, e spraying due o tre reservoirs of water to clean the nozzle. Thick paint at the bottom of the reservoir can be released by brushing it out con a small bristle brush, e spraying more water to flush the reservoir. Dried paint residue in the sump of the reservoir is not usually a problem, it does not not obstruct the paint flow or bleed into other colours, but excessive built-up should be scraped off con a steel awl occasionally.
Airbrushing is faster e more economical than regular painting. Once you understand how the airbrush works, you will be painting cinque carri armati in the time it took you to paint one vehicle previously. It makes sense to airbrush several veicoli in scala 1:72 at the same time, because even a small gravity-feed reservoir carries enough paint to apply schemi mimetici to a dozen veicoli in one session. As a rule of thumb, the gravity-feed reservoir of a typical artist airbrush holds enough paint for undercoating tre o quattro carri medi.
The gravity-feed reservoir needs only a few drops of thinner e paint to become operational, it uses paint very efficiently. If plotoni di cinque o more veicoli are being undercoated at the same time, one refill will be required which can be mixed directly in the reservoir. The paint in the reservoir can be shaded o highlighted by adding a drop of black o white paint e stirring it prudentamente. The colour change will be effective almost immediately, because the gravity-feed reservoir feeds directly into the nozzle.
The airbrush is a cost-saver, you’ll never need to buy a can of gloss o matt varnish again, e you can spray cheap artist tube acrylic paints which will give you excellent results. Airbrush techniques suitable for veicoli may also be used to paint buildings, terrain pieces, even soldatini in scala 1:72.
Glass Bottles – The Horror
Cheap airbrushes feature detachable suction-feed reservoir cups o glass bottles, instead of the reliable e convenient gravity-feed reservoir found on real artist airbrushes. Detachable means just that, these reservoirs will detach when they are not supposed to. What’s worse, suction-feed is responsible for an unbelievable number of operating problems like air in the system, inconsistent paint flow, excessive clogging e paint spills, to name just a few. Suction-feed airbrushes with glass bottles are the worst, they only operate properly if the bottle is half-full at all times, they waste enormous amounts of paint, e they are a pain to clean. Sadly, many of these substandard airbrushes end up in the hands of beginners who are completely disappointed in the airbrush hobby within a day o due of using them. Do yourself a favor e buy an artist airbrush con permanently attached gravity-feed reservoir, anything else is a nightmare come true.
Of Nozzles, Needles, e Cowlings
There are only tre parts of the gravity-feed airbrush which require attention from the user. The front of the airbrush is the needle cowling, a protective cover for the needle, which also funnels the spray. Unscrew the needle cowling to reveal the nozzle behind it. Notice that the needle completely seals the inside of the nozzle, e that it may be retracted to open the nozzle gradually. Also notice that the air is directed to flow over the top of the nozzle, not through it. When the needle is retracted, thinned paint flows out of the reservoir ed is vaporized by the airstream. Gravity-feed, e the negative pressure created by the airstream flowing over the nozzle facilitate the flow of paint.
Pull the needle out of the airbrush now. Screw the needle cowling back on, e notice that the tip of the nozzle rests in a central opening in the cowling. The hole in the needle cowling is a fraction of a millimeter larger than the nozzle, a very important operating feature. Compressed air flows through a channel on the underside of the airbrush, it is then forced over the tip of the nozzle ed out through the needle cowling. If the nozzle is perfectly aligned con the cowling, the air pressure will build up evenly all around the nozzle, e the spray will be directed straight ahead. If the nozzle is bent o if dirt partially clogs the opening in the needle cowling, the jet of air will be disrupted, e the airbrush will spray o spit at an acute angle.
Insert the needle again, e fill the reservoir con water. Start the compressor, e turn the regulator to 60 psi. Completamente depress the trigger. Notice that a splatter of water is immediately ejected, followed by clean airstream shortly thereafter. This is a very important observation which will enable you to understand the airbrush better. Keep the trigger depressed, e start pulling it back toward you slowly. Notice that a fine mist of water is added to the airstream, and that the water spray increases the further back you pull the trigger. When the trigger is pulled all the way back, the reservoir empties in 3-4 seconds.
Popular Myth 1: Double-Action is Difficult
Double-action airbrushes are very easy to use, you’ll love them. Some people are needlessly afraid of double-action airbrushes, because they assume that air pressure e paint flow are controlled simultaneously, using only one trigger. Not so! Air pressure is controlled by the regulator, a valve e gauge mounted on the compressor, only the paint flow is controlled con the double-action trigger. Admittedly, "double-action" is a scary misnomer, we are really dealing with "phased action" here.
The key to double-action is to take it in due separate steps. First, completamente depress the trigger to blow excess paint off the needle. Keep the trigger depressed, releasing a clean airstream until you are mentally prepared to take the next step. Compressor air is cheap, there is no need to rush anything. Second, keeping the trigger completamente depressed, tilt the trigger toward you to add a tiny amount of paint to the airstream. Notice how the airstream changes colour e how the mist settles on the model. Less paint is better, it allows you to move the airbrush slowly e let the paint build up to the required intensity. Move the trigger forward to reduce paint, release it to stop air e paint completely. Remember to fire a jet of clean air to blow residual paint off the tip of the needle.
Popular Myth 2: Clogging Problems
Small scale veicoli e modellini may be painted con a medium nozzle e needle set, but a fine nozzle e needle may be even better. The finer needle set will require more frequent cleaning. If acrylic paints are used, cleaning is easy. Unscrew the needle cowling e pull the dried paint off the needle con your fingers. Use the awl to clean the central opening in the needle cowling, e remove any dried paint on the inside rim. Add acrylic paint thinner to the paint in the reservoir e stir con an old brush. If the airbrush continues to spit, pull the needle back manually, e press the trigger to eject a short jet of paint. Doing so will pull dried paint particles out of the nozzle. Add more thinner if the problem persists. In the worst case, the needle may have to be pulled for cleaning. First, pour the paint back into the jar, otherwise it will flow out of the nozzle e create a mess.
Popular Myth 3: Acrylic Paint Spit
Paint spit is an indication that the paint has not been diluted properly, it’s too dry, e the air pressure sends chunks of dried paint flying out of the airbrush. Very shortly, the built-up of dried paint will clog the nozzle e the needle cowling. Acrylic thinner reduces paint spit, ed it prevents clogging. Tamiya X20A acrylic thinner is ideal for paintbrush use, it mixes well con Tamiya, Pactra e most other acrylic paints, con the exception of GUNZE acrylics. The new Humbrol acrylic colours mix very well con Tamiya thinner, e they are true to the popular Humbrol enamel colour numbers.
Test unknown substances before mixing them in your airbrush, otherwise they may turn into an awful slime which is difficult to clean. Paints used for undercoating should be diluted con 50% thinner. Put the thinner into the reservoir first, then add paint. Paint used for schemi mimetici should be diluted with 60% thinner. The more you thin the paint, the easier it sprays. Do not use water to thin acrylic paint, it reduces paint adhesion on the model. Water should be used for cleaning only.
Undercoating is not strictly necessary. If the model is cast in a dark plastic o if the overall vehicle colour is a dark green o khaki, apply the vehicle base colour directly, without undercoating. Acrylic paints will give you excellent coverage, you don’t need to undercoat them. If the vehicle is to be painted in a desert colour, undercoat in dark green to provide some pre-shading. If the desert sand base colour is sprayed on in thin layers, the dark undercoat will remain visible in the recessed lines. See Jim Gordon’s technique for details. Undercoating should be done con the airbrush held at a distance of approximately 8 cm from the model. The spray will be wider ed it will cover the model more quickly. Turn the regulator to 60 psi for undercoating, e thin the paint 50/50.
The key to detailing is a clean airbrush. Nozzle, needle e needle cowling should be cleaned thoroughly in the course of an important change of paint. Turn the regulator to 10 psi. Put thinner in the reservoir first, then add paint, using a mixture of 60/40. Spray camouflage lines as if you were using a felt-tipped pen. Never point the airbrush at the model when you begin to draw a new line. The needle still holds paint from the last line, ed it will splatter when the airstream is released again. Instead, aim the airbrush at your hand o a piece of paper, depress the trigger e blow the old paint out of the needle cowling until the stream of air turns clean. Point the clean airstream at the model, aim the airbrush e begin pulling back the trigger to mix paint into the airstream.
Draw the line slowly, releasing more paint if the spray is not strong enough. Make it a habit of testing the first lines on a piece of paper, ed always blow out the old paint before aiming the clean airstream at your model again. The closer you hold the airbrush to the model, the thinner the line will be. Conversely, the closer you get, the less paint you should release from the airbrush. Study this relationship by spraying ink on paper.
Masking is a clever way to control the spray in airbrush work. Masking is time-consuming, e some people use it unnecessarily. In most cases, a piece of paper o cardboard can be used to shield parts of a vehicle which need to be protected from the paint spray. Do not use masking when a simple turn of the regulator screw can control the air pressure. If air pressure is reduced to 10 psi, the spray will be easy to control by hand. Masking is necessary to achieve hard lines between sprayed colours. Masking tape can be used to section off certain parts of an airplane’s wing e contain the spray. However, even if an item is masked, excessive air pressure will force paint underneath the masking tape, ruining the work.
The use of templates to spray certain schemi mimetici like the «Mickey Mouse» ears seen on veicoli britannici nella campagna di Normandia is a form of "negative" masking. Such templates may be punched out of cardboard, using leather punches of various diameters. The templates are held against the vehicle to spray the ears on, using 10 psi air pressure. Quattro o cinque templates punched into a narrow strip of cardboard are enough to create amazing variety. Spray the outline of the pattern, then fill in the centre portion con freehand airbrush work.
Masking is very important in figure painting. The fastest way to paint cavalleria is to airbrush the horses con shades of brown, e to stripe the legs con white paint applied at 10 psi air pressure. Drape a paper hood over the horse, e spray the rider in the uniform base colour. Even the shabraque can be airbrushed at 10 psi air pressure, using a small L-shaped piece of paper to mask parts of the horse immediately adjacent to the shabraque edging.
Gravity-feed airbrushes are user-friendly, e you will enjoy mixing all kinds of things in the reservoir as soon as you understand the principle of air flow e paint thinning. Dirty tank tracks are an excellent study project. Play around con the following Tamiya recipy:
- 10 drops X20A Acrylic Thinner
- 6 drops XF52 Flat Earth
- 3 drops X21 Flat Base
- 1 drop black ink o paint
If you are experienced ed a little daring, add small amounts of flour, talcum or baby powder to texture the mud. If the powder is stirred well, it will spray nicely. Talcum powder gives veicoli e cannoni that realistic textured look.
Flat e Dead Matt
Tamiya Flat Base is a matting agent which may be mixed con acrylic paints e varnishes to create a dead matt surface. Flat Base is particularly useful for that dusty finish on tank tracks e desert veicoli, it will make the viewer thirst for water. Pactra Flat Clear is probably the best matt acrylic varnish on the market today, ed it may be turned dead flat con a few drops of Tamiya Flat Base. The advantage of Pactra Flat Clear e Gloss Clear is that airbrushed layers of these varnishes dry almost instantly, requiring virtually no interruption of the painting process. Again, Tamiya X20A is ideal for stretching most acrylic paints even Pactra varnishes. Thinner is much cheaper than paint, it prevents paint spit e clogging, ed it speeds up the drying process, because it evaporates more quickly than water.
Airbrushing is a cost-saver for serious modellers, it reduces paint usage overall, ed it uses cheap thinners to stretch paint. Airbrushed models appear much more detailed than hand-painted ones, because ultra-thin coats of paint do not obscure surface detail. If you are serious about the modelling hobby, ed if you value your creative work, airbrushing is for you.
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