Where To Start With Airbrushing: Part One

If you might have missed it, I recently gave a few tips and tricks for those looking to start airbrushing. If you’ve taken the plunge and recently committed to start airbrushing your miniatures, congratulations! That’s the hardest bit over and done with. Soon, with plenty of practise, how best to use your airbrush will come naturally to you. However, I’ve decided to apply some of my learning experiences in using an airbrush and to extend my learnings to you guys.

Some of the advice given in this series of articles may seem horrendously basic. However, sometimes it’s better to retread old ground and go over the basics before stepping up to more intermediate things. So, ensure your hobby space is tidy and that your airbrush is nice and clean. Let’s crack on!

Start with the Base-ics

The very first thing you want to practise with your airbrush is learning how to get smooth, consistent base coats on your models. This is possibly the single, best reason to grab an airbrush. If you’ve ever wanted smooth, stroke-less paint jobs on your models then the airbrush will leave you feeling joyous after each session.

I was fortunate enough to receive an Eclipse HP-CS airbrush from the fine folks at The Airbrush Company. This brush was advised to be as being great for beginners, being easy to use and easy to clean. I had a Neo for Iwata airbrush previously which was fine for getting a flawless base coat. The Eclipse, though, allows for greater precision and is a somewhat sturdier model.

If you’re looking to start airbrush, I would advise grabbing a Neo from Iwata first, or if you are able to spend a little more, go for the Eclipse. Both of these models from Iwata have given me an absolutely ideal experience with starting airbrushing, especially base-coating and priming. When it comes to the consistency of your paint, when you thin it in the cup of your airbrush it should seem almost milky. Typically, I brush some up the wall of the cup and if it flows down naturally then it’s good to go. This is part of practise though and you’ll get the hang of it in-time.

“Building” the Skills

When you get your first airbrush there might be all sorts of things you’re keen to try. Don’t let the hordes of options blind you, though. You want to start with something that doesn’t need a great deal of precision. If you have larger miniatures I’d advise those be the best place to start. For instance, I would recommend you first begin with buildings. Large, ruined castle walls or industrial shipping containers, you want areas with large surfaces.

Using your new airbrush on these as a first run allow you to get a feel for the airbrush as well as nail down the ideal paint consistencies. You can also be a bit messy and make some mistakes knowing you can clean it up later with ease. Below you can see some doors I practised on from the Kill Team: Arena box.

The doors feature bulky frames and some angular panels. Perfect for practising broad areas as well as smaller, more specific locations.

Once primed grey, these doors allowed me to try honing in on a couple of areas. The framing of the doors are sprayed black and then the inner panels orange. These models really allowed me to practice honing on the right consistency of paint as well as how to balance air pressure as well as amount of paint.

I immediately learned some things from airbrushing these doors. For instance, I really should have started with orange and then done the black. This was a rookie mistake for me to make due to the excitement of taking my new airbrush for a spin. Black will typically cover everything, so would make cleaning up mistakes much easier. I’ll likely try cleaning up the framing over the door with black in my airbrush soon, practising precision without risking ruining any detail.

Tools of the Trade

Upon grabbing your airbrush, there’s all sorts of things you can grab to take airbrushing the extra mile. One of the first things I’d implore you to look into is masking tape. This will allow you to paint straight-edges flawlessly with little to no effort.

For instance, below is a door from Necromunda Underhive. I gave the whole door a very non-committal coat of metal over a black primer. I then went over the main hatch with black in the airbrush once again. When dried, I used some 3mm masking tape and left a couple of bits angled over the door. I then used yellow in my airbrush to go over the whole hatch, ensuring a somewhat even coat was applied.

With an airbrush and masking tape, hazard stripes are no longer terrifying. No more brush-marks, no more unmistakable blotchiness.

Of course, the chances of me getting the two stripes perfectly parallel were slim to none, although it’s not too bad. You can then throw-off the slight misalignment with some weathering by sponging on blood or dirt. This tricks the eye in not quite perceiving the uneven stripes, at first, anyway. This was also good practise for trying to keep airbrushed paint within the circular hatch without spilling over too much. Doing this was great for practising and learning how the brush handles on a large, mostly-flat surface.

Commit, Don’t Quit

With an airbrush at hand I’ve managed to paint at a far faster rate than previously with quality taking a notable rise, too. At this point I’m only disappointed I’d not made the commitment to an airbrush sooner and would encourage anyone who’s on the fence to jump in feet-first!

I had two major apprehensions at first; difficulty and cost. If you are worried about jumping into airbrushing due to the difficulty, I simply overstate encouragement that you should absolutely climb over that metaphorical wall. I was petrified at the thought of using an airbrush before I got one. However, after plenty of research and practise, I’m mortified that I hadn’t picked one up sooner. The difficulty curve is sharp but brief. As soon as you get to grips with a couple of basic things it really does come so naturally to you.

If cost is your concern then I can only advise you based on my own experiences. You’ll want a decent compressor and a few other bits like a cleaning station. However, when it comes to an airbrush itself I cannot speak highly enough of the Neo from Iwata and definitely more so for the Eclipse HP-CS. Both have proven wondrous for my hobby with the Eclipse narrowly besting the Neo purely for its ease of cleaning and reliability. You don’t need to spend £250 on an ultra-high-end airbrush, especially at first. The Neo was a fine first airbrush, but for a slightly higher price-point the Eclipse seems to narrowly best it in every singly way.

Let us know what questions you might have or tips you’d like to advise. We’ll be bringing out further articles about airbrushing with the hope of being as helpful as possible. As always, be sure to check us out on Facebook to be kept up to date.

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