A New Starter’s Airbrush Tips

The tabletop deities were particularly kind to me this festive season. I was gifted an airbrush setup, something I’ve been eager to attain for many years. Having had it for a week now and getting tonnes of use out of it, I’ve decided to collate my initial airbrush tips and findings. I’ve learned plenty and this information might be enough to push you into acquiring one yourself. I can say confidently that the difficulty curve is quite steep, but quick to overcome!

I’ll summarise my key airbrush tips from over the last week. Some have been positive experiences and some have come from less-than-ideal situations.

Unsurprisingly, Practise Makes Perfect

Something of a cop-out and a boring start, this one makes the most sense. You can spend as much money as you wish on the airbrush itself but it won’t produce the results you really want until you become accustomed with it.

Should you purchase an airbrush setup, one of my top airbrush tips would be to simply keep using it. Try to get used to it and mess around with the PSI, practise thinning your paint to the best consistency, etc. Airbrushing can be potentially off-putting due to the difficulty at the start. Good things come to those who wait, after all. Keep at it and you’ll soon get over that steep but very brief difficulty curve.

A Stormcast Eternal Liberator, primed in Screamer Pink. This was used to practise nailing the consistency of the paint in the airbrush.
The first thing I did was practice getting use to the right consistency within the airbrush. This old Stormcast Eternal Liberator was the perfect practice dummy.

Don’t Skimp On Cost

I’m not saying that you need to buy the best, top-of-the-line airbrush when you start out, not by a long shot. However, I learned that you certainly get what you pay for. After purchasing a compressor and airbrush bundle for around £30 ($40~) I was excited to start getting some colours down. However, the compressor had no gauge so it was impossible to tell what PSI it was set to. The airbrush itself was proved quite inconsistent in use and, as it transpired, the brass nozzle was broken within the airbrush itself the whole time. Thus, the airbrush is useless until I can get the nozzle replaced which is more cost to front.

I have since purchased an Iwata Neo airbrush along with a Flourean Airbrush Compressor, in total coming to around £110 ($135~). However, this setup has proven unquestionably reliable and is already showing better results in use. With the appropriate apparatus for gauging PSI and a moisture trap, this equipment bundle will likely last me for a long, long while. Again, you certainly get what you pay for. Don’t be put off by cheap, nasty products. If you’re looking to get into it then put into that initial investment. Else, you’ll never get off the ground.

Prepare and Maintain Your Station

One of the less fun airbrush tips but a hobby necessity in general, you need to look after your hobby area. Having an airbrush station only makes this more critical. If you’re reaching over for airbrush paint thinner or cleaner you need to make sure they are in reach, distinguishable and unobstructed. If you’ve got an airbrush in one hand, you’re probably going to end up shifting things and knocking stuff over! I have already knocked over my airbrushing waste pot twice, narrowly preventing disaster with my unexpected cat-like reflexes.

Further to this, airbrushes and their components can be quite fragile. Thus, you want to ensure your area is as efficient and clear as possible. This could certainly become far more important when it comes to cleaning your airbrush. Should you have a messy station and you fail to keep track of your needle or nozzle cap, then losing them can cease your hobby work dead in its tracks. Keep your station tidy and clean, which brings us on to our next point…

A Chaos Space Marine Lord with Jump Pack painted in Word Bearers colours.
Being able to prime this model and the spray it the ideal red is certainly handy. Not only that but I could spray him red and the decorative Primaris on the base blue within minutes of each other in the middle of the night, temperature outside be damned!

Keep Your Airbrush Clean

They say that a poor soldier blames his bad performance on his weapon. For airbrushing, this can also apply. With paint going in and out of your airbrush through such tight spaces, this is the most important of airbrush tips if you’re just starting out. As soon as you’re done with your airbrush for the day or for your current painting session, clean it immediately!

The less frequently you clean your airbrush, the more likely you’ll find it clogs and jams with paint. This means more time taking it apart for scrubbing and declogging. This also means less time painting, of course. Your airbrush will take care of you providing you take care of it. Keep it clean and handle it with care.

Experiment!

One of the biggest advantages to having an airbrush is the ability to experiment further with your paints. You can achieve such wonderful effects with an airbrush that you couldn’t as easily with a brush. Therefore, for this airbrush tip, it’s a little bit vague but a big part of it. Experiment. Blend colours, mix them together, try them on models that are undercoated differently. Try to find your perfect red or a garish purple you’d never achieve otherwise!

This miniature shows my first attempt at a subtle blend between colours as seen on the blazing daemon-summoning arm. It was fairly painless and I’m very happy with the results.

From fiddling with different colours, you’ll find it better for yourself later on to work out ideal paint ratios if you then put them in dropper bottles. This, combined with some airbrush flow improver will make your hobby soul exceptionally happy. Try and do some fun and crazy stuff with your airbrush. After all, you’d not have bought it in the first place if you weren’t willing to try new things. Be they funky gradients or subtle blends, just try them out first. You may well find the perfect process for your upcoming projects.

How many of you guys airbrush your miniatures? Have you been doing it for very long? What sort of setups do you use? Let us know, your airbrush tips or better yet, show us! I’ll certainly be using my airbrush for some of the new upcoming Squigs that I’ll be acquiring imminently.

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