Airbrushing Basics: 101
By: Bryan Tucker and Brett Vecchiarelli
SUPPLIES - WHAT YOU
NEED TO START:
- Airbrush - single-action
easier to learn; double-action for elaborate work
- Air source - canned
propellant or compressor (moisture trap)
- Paint - acrylic,
- Thinner - isopropyl alcohol
for acrylics (70%); lacquer thinner for any enamel
- Clean up tools - Q-tips,
paper towels, tissues, etc.
- A well-ventilated painting
area or spray booth
- Respirator - to protect
your lungs from any over spray
for paint by washing with soap or alcohol.
Start with a
clean airbrush. If it wasn't cleaned after the last use,
shame on you. Clean it now before starting a new
paint to roughly 2% milk consistency. 2/3 paint and 1/3
thinner. Mix well.
Connect to air
source and test spray on scrap plastic. Adjust
paint/thinner ratio as needed.
Rule of thumb:
Finer spray pattern = more thinner in paint
Apply thin light
coats. Start with lightest colors first. Let paints cure
completely before any masking.
Supplies: What you need to start:
masking tape (Tamiya's is awesome!)
paper for paper masking
tissue (for covering cockpits, interiors, wheel
knife and a steady hand
Band-aids/sutures if you don't have a steady hand
Preparing The Model
I (Bryan) use
Kleenex tissues slightly soaked in water as a masking
material for cockpits, wheel wells, turret hatches,
etc., in order to keep over spray out of those detailed
areas. The Kleenex is very pliable when damp and can be
wedged and worked into some pretty small areas. When it
is dry, it holds its shape and place very well. It is
best to let the Kleenex dry overnight before you paint.
When the painting
session is done, wet the Kleenex again and remove.
Although I rarely
use a primer coat, Brett swears by them. If you have a
good primer coat, you give the top coats something to
adhere to, thus limiting the possibility of lifting top
coats off when you remove the masks (in hindsight, I am
going to start priming my models as I have a problem
with the top coats lifting off with my masks).
Tried and True Masking
Take tape strips
and press them once (gently) onto the palm of your hand
to reduce the tackiness even further.
strips at a time to the edge of your hobby desk, etc.
Take your hobby
knife and cut the tape strips down the middle so you
have two pieces of thin tape with a straight edge on one
Use these thin
strips to "outline" your camouflage pattern (using
straight side of tape - of course) then fill in the
large areas with "full size" masking strips. Be sure to
use the palm of your hand to reduce tackiness - this
prevents the tape from lifting primer/other top coats.
The So-Called "Wet
I (Bryan) have
only tried this once and had varied results, so try at
your own risk. The secret to it is having a pressure
adjustment on your airbrush so you can reduce the
pressure to where you don't blow the mask off the model.
Cut paper masks
to the desired shape and pattern.
Dip them in water
and place them on the model in the desired location.
Remove any excess water with a towel/tissue. The surface
tension of the water should keep the mask in place
during painting. Simply remove upon completion of
painting or whenever the paint dries.
I (Bryan) have
tried this by both hand-held paper masks and masks set
slightly off the surface of the model with tape, etc.,
with good results.
Cut paper masks
to the desired shape.
method, simply hold in place over the desired spot and
paint. If you find it difficult to hold the mask while
painting with the other hand, simply use alligator
clips, etc., to hold the mask while you paint.
If using the
set-slightly-off-the-surface method, roll pieces of
low-tack masking tape or 3M "Stick-All" (a roll-able
putty type of material used to hold posters, etc., to
walls without nails, etc.). Press the tape or putty onto
the paper mask so that the mask is roughly 1/16- to
1/8-inch above the model.
Spray at 90
degree angles to the mask as much as possible to limit
the amount of "bleed through" (a dusting of color in
places you don't want it to be).
If you do have
"bleed through", simply remove all the masks and touch
up the affected areas by hand with the airbrush. You can
also use a very fine sanding stick and very, very gently
sand the over spray off the other color. I really mean
gently as it is easy to sand too hard and go through to
the plastic (trust me, I have done it too often).
Freehand!! - (Gulp!)
If you are brave,
grasshopper, you may attempt this method, but be
prepared for the potential disappointments.
The secret to
freehand airbrushing is good-to-excellent control of the
airbrush you possess. You need to go very, very slow and
do many thin (consistency) and thin (width) passes in
order to establish a paint border line/area. From that
border you will fill in the area with the camouflage
color. Do not be worried if you over spray onto other
colors. You just have to be prepared to do lots of
little touchups with this method. Needless to say, this
technique only works for "soft-edge" camouflage. For
"hard-edge", refer to the other masking techniques.
The only advice
we can offer is to get out there and use your airbrush.
You will never get better at it unless you practice.
Learn from your mistakes and apply them to the next
model. Remember, Easy-Off oven cleaner can strip off
ANY mistake!! 8)
Many thanks to
Brett for the set-up of this cool-looking document. All
I did was add to it. Thanks, man!