Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Wednesday - Airbrush and Compressor

One of the things I have found when making terrain over the past few weeks is that it takes a long time to brush paint terrain, mainly due to the rough nature of the ground; sand, gravel and rocks make a lot of little cracks to get paint into.

I decided to dig out my old airbrush and see if it was any faster. After a few minutes messing about connecting it to a can of compressed air, mixing the right consistency of paint and getting the spray setting correct, I got to work.

The paint went on like a dream and I managed to get a rocky outcrop painted in a couple of minutes, but then the problems began. As I was using a can of compressed air, the pressure soon dropped and the spray was affected. I waited for the can to warm up but it didn’t help, the spray was still poor and I soon gave up. I then had to spend ten minutes cleaning out my airbrush and putting it all away. All together, I didn’t really save much time at all, and I was about ready to give up on my airbrush.

While looking around on the internet later I came across some posts on The Miniatures Page where people were talking about their airbrush woes. There was plenty of advice, but the main recommendation was that compressed air can were bad, air compressors were good. There were plenty of other bits of advice, but this was the main one.

I had no intention of buying a compressor yet (maybe later in the year), but I thought I’d pop into my local Machine Mart to see what range they had and check out their prices. Unfortunately for me, they were having a sale. All Clarke products (the company that made the air compressor I’d been looking at) had the VAT (15% sales tax) taken off, and it was for that day only. Naturally I couldn’t turn down an offer like that, and quickly bought one.

When I started my Frugal Year, my girlfriend was quite impressed with the thought of me not spending lots of money on games and gaming accessories. So it took me a while to build up the courage to tell her that I’d spent £70 on a very noisy air compressor…

After getting it all set up (which involved a lot of PTFE tape and sourcing a suitable adaptor to fit my airbrush hose to the regulator) I was ready to go! At first my results were even worse than with the compressed air can, but I realised that I hadn’t thinned my paint properly. Some more looking on The Miniatures Page came up with the best formula if using Games Workshop paints: 10 parts paint, 9 parts Water and 1 part Acrylic Flow Enhancer, this works fantastically, though you do get through a lot of paint when making numerous large pieces of terrain (I got through three pots of Codex Grey in an afternoon!).

It made painting the terrain much easier and faster, the paint got into all the nooks and crannies and gave a very good final finish, ready for drybrushing.

Overall, the airbrush with air compressor is now one of my favourite modelling tools and it’ll certainly come in useful when painting all those Imperial Guard tanks and vehicles!

So in my experience, the following tips are vital when buying an airbrush:

  • Ensure it has a holding tank
  • Ensure it has a pressure regulator
  • Ensure it has a filter or water trap

And when using it, remember:

  • Thin your paint properly
  • Set a suitable pressure
  • Always clean your brush fully after use

As a frugal gamer I couldn’t possibly recommend buying an airbrush and compressor as you’re looking at about £150 to get a decent set-up. Though if you are going to be making a lot of terrain and large models, if you don’t mind a lot of noise and the smell of oil and if you don’t mind stripping and cleaning your airbrush every time you use it, then you can have a lot of fun and get some fantastic results.

See you again tomorrow.

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