What do I need to know to get started air brushing?

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gjohnston

Slow Learner
I know nothing about air brushing, but want to learn. I have two old Athearn Blue Box Locos that I have converted over to DCC and want to make them Great Northern Locos so they need to be repainted. I am also planning to build out a little town on my layout so all of the buildings will need to be painted. So far I have gotten away with using a paint brush and rattle cans to do all of my painting, but want to up my game with an air brush.

What air brush kit or system should I start out with? What do I need to know to be a successful air bush painter?

Thanks for the help.
Greg
 

CambriaArea51

Well-Known Member
I have a Paasche H set. Came with 3 tip sizes.
As for a compressor, I got a piston type, some say that you can't use them due to oil vapor in the air but a water/oil separator after the regulator takes care of that. Don't fall for the modelers type compressor that cost hundreds of dollars. I spent $100 on a Craftsman back in 2002. Diaphragm compressor don't last and for me and don't recover fast enough to keep a constant pressure. Old cheap Tyco cars for example that you can get for a couple of bucks are great to learn on and get the feel for how the airbrush works. Watch Youtube videos that will help with operation and mixing of paints.
 

Patrick

GNRR Mechanic always fixing stuff
I've been practicing with an inexpensive Testor's airbrush kit I picked up when Michael's opened a new store and gave $50 gift cards. (Testor's #281244). For me it was free at the time. Something to get my feet wet with. So far I've only used a bit of acrylic paint and stuff looks ok.
 

gjohnston

Slow Learner
I have a Paasche H set. Came with 3 tip sizes.
As for a compressor, I got a piston type, some say that you can't use them due to oil vapor in the air but a water/oil separator after the regulator takes care of that. Don't fall for the modelers type compressor that cost hundreds of dollars. I spent $100 on a Craftsman back in 2002. Diaphragm compressor don't last and for me and don't recover fast enough to keep a constant pressure. Old cheap Tyco cars for example that you can get for a couple of bucks are great to learn on and get the feel for how the airbrush works. Watch Youtube videos that will help with operation and mixing of paints.
The Paasche H set is within the budget, so that might be a good option for me. I have many cheap old box cars to practice on.

I've been practicing with an inexpensive Testor's airbrush kit I picked up when Michael's opened a new store and gave $50 gift cards. (Testor's #281244). For me it was free at the time. Something to get my feet wet with. So far I've only used a bit of acrylic paint and stuff looks ok.
Thanks guys, I appreciate the input.
 

McLeod

Sprue-n-Glue Victim
Tom is correct in saying the continuous run hobby type compressor is ill advised.

The basic system is like this:
Airbrush - Air Hose - Water Trap - Pressure Valve - Compressor with Air Storage Capacity.
You'll need all the proper fittings to join everything up.

It is best to have a compressor with a tank, so the compressor isn't running 100% of the time when used. The bigger the tank, the better. - Water traps are important because the compressor is squeezing all the moisture in the air that you can't see into the tank.

My system involves an Iwata airbrush connected to a ROK dual tank contractors compressor, and an after-market inline water trap. I'm sure the total cost for everything was around the $400.00 mark; but, Iwata airbrushes are expensive. The ROK compressor was a big-box store sale item.
 

Stumpy

New Member
Tom is correct in saying the continuous run hobby type compressor is ill advised.
Agree.

If you want a quiet compressor this one is the ticket. I bought it because I needed a small, portable compressor (really portable not the 75 lb. "portable" compressor I have in my shop), so I wasn't paying any attention to the "quiet" aspect, but it is - surprisingly so. You can be in the same room with it while it's running and carry on a normal conversation.


https://www.lowes.com/pd/Kobalt-QUI...le-Electric-Hot-Dog-Air-Compressor/1001014016
 

GeeTee

Well-Known Member
Harbor Freight has set , for around $90 , Dual action brush w/ compressor. https://www.harborfreight.com/1-5-hp-58-psi-compressor-and-airbrush-kit-95630.html everything including the water trap.

I am going to pick up one of the brushes ($20) , I have a Paasche VL but by the time I rebuild it , which I probably will , I figure it will cost me $10 -$20 for parts. Besides I like to have at least a couple .

I think a new Paasche VL ? is around $50 -$100. Compressor $75 to $200.
 

skyliner

Active Member
Welcome to the airbrushing world. There's a veritable treasure trove of information out there in the interwebs, so let me see if I can distill down my advice. I've been using airbrushes since I was a teenager, but not much for railroading; I've been building plastic models for even longer, although my pace these days is really...slow.

I started with a drugstore special Testor's single-action airbrush, run off propel cans (Remember when drugstores carried hobby stuff? No, I'm talking in the 1980s, I'm not that old). Simple, easy to use. Probably breathed in enough fumes to give me lung cancer someday. Advantage of propel cans is you generally don't need to worry about moisture in the air, like with a compressor system.

These days I have two brushes, an old Badger 155 Anthem and an Iwata HP-B. The former is for large area work, the latter for detail. I assume you are planning on doing detailing/weathering, so you might as well start with a double-action brush, assuming it's in your price range. I still use an old Badger 80-2 compressor, although I've added a regulator and water trap. I'm sure there's plenty of affordable options for compressors out there, as suggested by others above.

Tips and other things I've learned over the years:
-If you're spraying indoors, get/make yourself a spray booth. Doesn't have to be anything special, I actually use one of those large clear plastic storage boxes you see at Target or the Container store. Turned it on its side, cut a hole in the bottom and installed a fan from Home Depot, connected to a short segment of flexible ducting. I cut up squares of furnace filter to put over the intake and replace when they get covered with paint. My workbench is near a window, when I'm spraying, I just open the window and put the end of the ducting out the window.

-If you're spraying indoors, especially if using enamel-based paints, wear a respirator. One of the basic cartridge ones from the hardware store should be fine, and will last many years considering we aren't painting nearly as much as say a home painter.

-Make sure your compressor system has a good water trap, especially if you live in a humid area. If you live in a dry area like the desert, you might be able to get away without it, but it never hurts. Water in acrylics may make it thinner than desired; in enamels it can ruin a paint job.

-Just starting off, you will probably need to thin the paint more than you think. It took me years to realize I started off spraying paint way too thick. For models, I generally thin until the consistency of "1% milk." But depending on what you are doing, you can go much farther than that. For example on light weathering or shading, you may be shooting basically tinted thinner, going for a very light coat. Experiment, see how different mixes come out.

-I use both acrylics and enamels, depending on what I'm looking for and/or how lazy I feel at the moment. I do use hobby manufacturer's thinner for airbrushing however. I know many people claim distilled water works fine for water-based paints, but I've not had as much success doing that.

-For cleanup, however, I use lacquer thinner (can at the hardware store) for enamels, and isopropyl alcohol for water-based paints. Again, yes you can use water for cleaning out the brush after water-based paints, but I find alcohol is more thorough and dries out much faster.

-If you don't want to buy a bunch of jars for a suction-feed airbrush, look around for other things you can modify. I use old plastic film canisters with a cap modified to take a suction feed tube. Paint doesn't stick to the type of plastic they used, and with the cap on, it's almost airtight. I'm probably dating myself now, but you used to be able to go to any photo developing store and ask if they had extra leftover film canisters. Today, it's "film? What's that?"

-For fine demarcations, use good masking tape. I like Tamiya's hobby masking tape. I also occasionally use liquid masking, where you paint it on, then after it dries, use a sharp knife to cut off the masking you don't want.

-The biggest hassle? If you're like me, you'll find you spend more time prepping, masking, mixing, and cleaning up than you actually spend spraying. Is it worth it compared to a regular brush? Yes. Usually. ;)

-And finally, as mentioned by others, practice. Try scraps, old cars, re-paints. Experiment with different brands of paint, mixes, thinners, pressure settings, how close to hold the brush, and so on. Learn when you might need a primer coat, or top coats. Discover how difficult it can be to paint gloss white or a metallic coat. Don't expect great results right away, it's a learning process. And if it doesn't come out the way you wanted, you can always re-paint it. Or blow it up with firecrackers.

Good luck to you.
 

gjohnston

Slow Learner
What about this setup? It seems to check all of the boxes. It has a compressor with a storage tank, pressure valve, water trap, hose, and an airbrush. It even comes with a set of paints. I like that it has the total package, so I don’t have to mix and match components. Comes with five year warranty on the compressor and a one year warranty on the airbrush.

I appreciate all of the input. You guys are awesome!

 
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RE#1

Active Member
I know nothing about air brushing, but want to learn. I have two old Athearn Blue Box Locos that I have converted over to DCC and want to make them Great Northern Locos so they need to be repainted. I am also planning to build out a little town on my layout so all of the buildings will need to be painted. So far I have gotten away with using a paint brush and rattle cans to do all of my painting, but want to up my game with an air brush.

What air brush kit or system should I start out with? What do I need to know to be a successful air bush painter?

Thanks for the help.
Greg
I know nothing about air brushing, but want to learn. I have two old Athearn Blue Box Locos that I have converted over to DCC and want to make them Great Northern Locos so they need to be repainted. I am also planning to build out a little town on my layout so all of the buildings will need to be painted. So far I have gotten away with using a paint brush and rattle cans to do all of my painting, but want to up my game with an air brush.

What air brush kit or system should I start out with? What do I need to know to be a successful air bush painter?

Thanks for the help.
Greg
[/QUOTE
 

RE#1

Active Member
Iwata IMO is the best airbrush. I always use there product airbrush/compressor. It is expensive and you get what you pay for. Once you decide...practice practice practice. Once you use it you will see the difference😀
 

skyliner

Active Member
Or this one. Everything the one above has less the paints and supplies.
Hard to say. The one on Amazon has good reviews, but it's hard to know what's reliable with those anymore. I wouldn't give the included paint too much weight in your decision; it may be fine for practice, but there's a fair chance the type of paint included is not the most ideal for hobby (i.e. painting railcars) purposes. Most compressors have somewhat standard connectors, so once you have that, you should be able to use different airbrushes you might acquire in the future with just an adapter or different air hose.

On the second one, Paasche are certainly popular, but I've never owned one so I can't give you personal experience on that. Keep in mind, that one appears to be a single-action airbrush. If you don't already know the difference:

-Single action means when you pull the trigger or push the button on the airbrush, both air and paint come out simultaneously. Cheaper, but you cannot control paint flow. The only way to control paint weight is by thinning the paint itself.

-Double action means you have separate control of the air and paint. With most of these, when you push the trigger down, the air starts flowing. Then as you pull the trigger back, you control the flow of paint. The more you pull it back, the more paint you get coming out. Much more versatile, but of course more expensive.

One other difference I see is the first one is gravity feed and the second is siphon. For your purposes, that shouldn't really matter. About the only reason you might consider siphon is if you ever see yourself needing to switch colors on the fly. With a siphon, you just pull another jar out and attach it. On a gravity feed, you need to empty the paint cup, clean it out, and refill with your next color. To me, it's not a big consideration, I rarely find myself needing to switch colors in the middle of painting. There are some other advantages to each, check the following out if you want a more in-depth explanation:

 

gjohnston

Slow Learner
Hard to say. The one on Amazon has good reviews, but it's hard to know what's reliable with those anymore. I wouldn't give the included paint too much weight in your decision; it may be fine for practice, but there's a fair chance the type of paint included is not the most ideal for hobby (i.e. painting railcars) purposes. Most compressors have somewhat standard connectors, so once you have that, you should be able to use different airbrushes you might acquire in the future with just an adapter or different air hose.

On the second one, Paasche are certainly popular, but I've never owned one so I can't give you personal experience on that. Keep in mind, that one appears to be a single-action airbrush. If you don't already know the difference:

-Single action means when you pull the trigger or push the button on the airbrush, both air and paint come out simultaneously. Cheaper, but you cannot control paint flow. The only way to control paint weight is by thinning the paint itself.

-Double action means you have separate control of the air and paint. With most of these, when you push the trigger down, the air starts flowing. Then as you pull the trigger back, you control the flow of paint. The more you pull it back, the more paint you get coming out. Much more versatile, but of course more expensive.

One other difference I see is the first one is gravity feed and the second is siphon. For your purposes, that shouldn't really matter. About the only reason you might consider siphon is if you ever see yourself needing to switch colors on the fly. With a siphon, you just pull another jar out and attach it. On a gravity feed, you need to empty the paint cup, clean it out, and refill with your next color. To me, it's not a big consideration, I rarely find myself needing to switch colors in the middle of painting. There are some other advantages to each, check the following out if you want a more in-depth explanation:

Thanks
I think I would like to go with the double action spray rig. I think they offer that setup without the paint and supplies. So to start with that might be the direction I want to go.

Iwata IMO is the best airbrush. I always use there product airbrush/compressor. It is expensive and you get what you pay for. Once you decide...practice practice practice. Once you use it you will see the difference😀
Yeah, I don’t think I want to go top of the line right out of the gate. If I find I need to upgrade I can do that. But I think I am more comfortable at this point with a good solid rig.
I appreciate your input.
 

tootnkumin

Well-Known Member
Staff member
Anything with a tank will give a smoother air stream through the nozzle as the tanks capacity cushions the pulses from the pump.
 

Iron Horseman

Well-Known Member
Or this one. Everything the one above has less the paints and supplies.
Wow way cool set up to start with. I started with a no brand external mix brush similar to one at this link ($2.99 in 1973). Did the air supply by a using a bicycle pump to fill an intertube for an air reservoir. In 1984 I spent the big bucks ($169 at the time) and migrated to a Paasche V series they no longer make. Years later I finally got a good air supply for it and was in business. Once I sat it on the table, turned away such that my chair caught the air hose and flung it to the floor. It hasn't worked since. Since then I've got 5 or 6 different brushes of various different brands (including a different Paasche) and in my opinion none work as well as that first one did. For being so expensive the Aztek (my wife got it for me as a gift with the impression that you get what you pay for) was a total failure from day one. Frequent clog, leaked, splattered!

My Iwata Eclipse is now my go to brush for high quality and detailed paint. Got a Badger 150 for day to day just painting something a color.
 

gjohnston

Slow Learner
Wow way cool set up to start with. I started with a no brand external mix brush similar to one at this link ($2.99 in 1973). Did the air supply by a using a bicycle pump to fill an intertube for an air reservoir. In 1984 I spent the big bucks ($169 at the time) and migrated to a Paasche V series they no longer make. Years later I finally got a good air supply for it and was in business. Once I sat it on the table, turned away such that my chair caught the air hose and flung it to the floor. It hasn't worked since. Since then I've got 5 or 6 different brushes of various different brands (including a different Paasche) and in my opinion none work as well as that first one did. For being so expensive the Aztek (my wife got it for me as a gift with the impression that you get what you pay for) was a total failure from day one. Frequent clog, leaked, splattered!

My Iwata Eclipse is now my go to brush for high quality and detailed paint. Got a Badger 150 for day to day just painting something a color.
Those are some high quality airbrushes you have. Love the story about your inner tube as a source for your air supply.
Looks like if I get a reliable air source and a beginner airbrush and if I get to the point I think I need to upgrade the airbrush there are many options out there. It just becomes a matter if I am willing to part with the cash to move up.
Thanks for the feedback.
BTW
Thanks for all of your help from years ago helping me get my layout off of the ground. I really appreciate it.
Greg
 

Espeefan

Well-Known Member
Ask this question 100 times, you'll get 100 different answers! Your objectives matter. Some of us have an airbrush because we like to use them, painting is a key part of our hobby. Some of us have one because sometimes we have to paint something. Where you fall here should dictate what you want to spend. First off, stay away from the Harbor Freight 10 an 15 dollar wonders. Yes they're cheap, they also are low quality, and if you bought ten each one would perform differently. A good painter can make one work, a newbie may not be able to tell the difference between poor equipment and mistakes they are making. Get yourself a name brand. Doesn't have to be expensive. Hobby Lobby gives you a 40% off one item coupon. Also stay away from the Badger 250. It's not really an airbrush, it's a spray gun. It will behave differently, and you'll outgrow it fast.

There are two basic types, external mix, like the Paasche H, and Internal mix like the Paasche VL, Badger 200, 150, Neo for Iwata, Iwata, and Grex. Every airbrush shoots a line of dots. External mix shoots larger dots than internal mix. Nice for large areas. Internal mix are better at fine coverage. There is also single action like the Paasche H, and Badger 200, or dual action like just about everything else. Dual action lets you vary paint flow with the trigger. Single action shoots the same amount of paint whenever you push the button. Either one is relatively easy to use. I find dual action more versatile. Compressors: There is nothing wrong with the hobby types. Yes they are a little more expensive, because they are light weight and quiet, and their regulators are better than the home store cheapies. You can get a cheap diaphragm pancake compressor from your big box store. It'll work, but it will wake the dead when it runs. Make sure it has a regulator and a water trap. I've used several hobby style compressors with and without tanks. The better tankless ones incorporate a pressure switch that will shut the unit off when it's not in use. Don't get overly fixated on a particular brand. All of the big names make good equipment. I've painted with Badger, Paasche, Vega (now part of Badger) Iwata, and Grex. Iwata and Grex are more expensive, but their parts are better quality and you won't buy as many spares with them as you will with others. There is also siphon feed (bottle or cup), vs gravity feed which is cup only. Gravity feed is better for fine detail and easier to clean than siphon feed. It's a bunch to take in. Iwata has a selection guide on their website, and Don's airbrush tips is also a good site to look over.
 

MOWboss

Member
Car Duster-

I saw this detail on a layout many years ago. At the time I was struck with 2 thoughts - "I gotta make me one of them" and "COOL!" Sadly I've not yet made one but the impression has remained after all these years.

Basically this was a brass tube -2 sides and a top soldered at the corners. Along the sides and top were a series of holes pointing inwards. One vertical leg was sealed and rested on the tabletop, the other (longer) leg went through the tabletop and was connected to a length of clear tubing that was attached to a small compressor. Think of your car being pulled through a car wash and the water jets spray a blast of water on the top and both sides of your car as it passes - same thing but with air.

I recall that the holes started at coupler height and went from one side to the other. Hole spacing - can't recall; tube size - can't recall; air pressure - didn't ask. His air bar was located in front of a tunnel opening and what caught my attention was the thought that it was a bit robust for a telltale. It didn't look that out of place.

My host told me that every month or so he would hook up the compressor and run trains through it to dust them off. I think of that little detail every time I pull a dusty car off the layout to dust it. On a side note regarding air brushes/compressors - I've not turned my compressor on for a year or more. It's an invaluable tool. There are times when I've pushed paint 4x a week for a month - but that job is done and now the equipment sits. I offer up this idea as a means of pulling your compressor out of retirement and perhaps a solution to the task of dusting your rolling stock.
 




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