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1676 Views 6 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  wildbill001
I purchased an inexpensive airbrush at Harbor Frieght the other day. I had some experience with an expensive airbrush years ago that didn't go well. I figured for $14.00 I would like to give it another try. I would like to use water based paints. The literature that came with the brush indicates that it will handle them. I am more familiar with on the job paint spraying by painting contractors and an HVLP gun that I used to paint ny barn a few years ago. For my model painting I resort to Krylon.

What tips can anyone give on getting the consistancy of the paint correct and methods of actually painting something with an airbrush?
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I've taken one airbrush class so I'm now an expert

The big difference between the acrylic craft paint you find at most hobby/craft shops and airbrush paint is the size of the pigment. The pigments used in airbrush paint has been ground to extremely fine size where as the pigments in craft paints is much larger. Think grain of sand for airbrush vs marble-size for craft paint to give you an extreme example. This makes a big difference when it comes to using a highergrade airbrush, which is typically an internal mix (paint and air are mixed inside the brush). I'm guessing the Harbor Freight $14.00 brush is the external mix with a jar hanging off the bottom. An ok brush for doing broad painting but *really* tough to do detail work with.

The H.F. brush should work ok with the craft paints but you will probably need to do two things: 1) thin the paint with either water or airbrush medium. You'll have to experiment with the mix but generally you don't want to thin more than 20-25% by volume. With either water or airbrush medium, stir thoroughly. 2) The second thing you will probably need to do is crank up the air-pressure so it will draw paint from the jar. Start at about 20psi and go up from there. Just to give you a benchmark, I use an Iwata Eclipse, internal-mix, double-action brush. I usually use a spraying pressure of 20-30psi. But then I'm also using airbrush paint. I haven't been able to get good results with craft-paints which is a bummer because they can be had for 50cents/bottle vs $2-3/bottle for Createx or other brands of airbrush paint.

Oh, one other thing. If you decide to use airbrush paint, you will probably notice there are two basic types, translucent and opaque. Translucent is good for mixing colors, weathering etc. It will cover but it will take more paint to do it. Opaque is made to cover in one coat, kinda like a rattle-can, a.k.a. a spray-can.

Most hobby/craft shops around where I live carry Createx brand of airbrush paint and Dr. PH.Martin's India Inks. There are lots of different brands but generally available via online-shopping. Dixie Art Supplies and Bear-Air are two places that come to mind for both paints and better quality airbrushes should you decide to upgrade. And of course there is always that well-known auction site.....

Didn't mean to rattle-on-an-on. Hope this helps.

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What tips can anyone give on getting the consistancy of the paint correct and methods of actually painting something with an airbrush?

As far as consistency, think anything between milk and water. You want the paint pretty thin. As Bill mentioned, typical craft paints have a thicker pigment which doesn't take kindly to being thinned enough to go through an airbrush. The (much more expensive) hobby paints, such as Model-Flex, Polly-S, etc. are better suited to airbrushing. As an alternative, buy a rattle can of whatever you line, spray it through a straw into a container, and then use that in the airbrush. The advantage is that the airbrush can apply a much finer coat of paint.

For acrylics, I usually run 25 psi, give or take depending on the result I'm going for. Methods are the same as with a large sprayer, or a spray can. Long, even strokes, etc.
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I've blown all sorts of paints through my airbrush over the years. If its water based then I thin with windex or something like it. Auto window wash fluid works well also. The craft store paints and even latex house paints can be used, they just take a little fussing to get the right consistency. Model paints are a bit easier. I tend to crank my compressor up more than has been noted here. Things just seem ti work better with more pressure and I generally like the paint the surface to hit almost dry.
The less pressure you use, the flatter the paint and the less waste. I try to stay below 20 psi.
I have had about 5 air brushes in my life. The first was a cheap HF air brush. It was junk, the next was a cheaper Badger. Those two air brushes leaked, and clogged and wouldn't spray at anything less than 25 psi. I finally broke down and spent 99 bucks on the primo Badger and was mildly satisfied.
Then I went to the accucraft site and they had an air brush listed at 49 bucks, I thought it was a cheapy, but thought I'd give it a shot. I bought another one after that, because it is by far the best air brush I have ever used.
It is slim,
well balanced,
lays down a nice coat of paint at 10 psi,
has easy access to the needle adjustment (you don't have to take off the back housing,
the needle tip is protected by a cowl,
the bottle can be completely dis-assembled and cleaned,
the hose is a good 2 ft longer than the other brushes,
and it comes with a quick slip coupler so you can disconnect the brush from the hose without turning off the air.

One thing you might like to try is make sure that you are using the proper proportion of thinner to paint. That can have a huge affect on how well the paint lays down. Also make sure your compressor is clean.
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wildbill001 --

Not to say anything against Dixie, or Bear-Air (I haven't tried either of them), but you might also check out Coast Air Brush. www.coastairbrush.com
Ah yes, forgot about them. They don't come to mind as often because I find their website difficult to navigate. But they are one of dozens outthere that deals with airbrushing.

Thanks for the reminder.

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