I decided to add my views on airbrushing for model making. I don't intend on making this a definitive guide on airbrushes or what the best airbrush is at the moment. I won't even try to talk about the best airbrush techniques for model making; why? Because I am by far no expert on the subject! I am however a beginner in using an airbrush to regularly build and finish models. So if you've just started using an airbrush or are considering using one then this is the post for you!!
What to buy?
Well this is the subject of many an article and video online and trust me I have watched a lot of them! Ultimately I would advise that when you are starting out the most important piece of equipment to invest in is a compressor, not an expensive airbrush. There are loads of options out there and these can range from compressed air cans (disposable after use) to expensive named brand compressors that can run to hundreds of pounds. I initially tried the air can and can say that it is definitely not worth the money. As the air is released from the can; the can becomes cold and the air pressure drops. At best you get an inconsistent paint finish and at worst it will not last anywhere near as long as you want it to. The cost is considerably high when one considers you are being sold air! The best option is to invest in an air compressor that has a tank (reservoir) attached to it. The main advantage of the tank is that it will remove any fluctuations in the air pressure being delivered from the compressor. Another advantage is the regulator that almost always comes with the compressor so that you can fine-tune the paint delivery from your airbrush. I would also add that the ancillary but essential parts that you will need should also be costed as part of your budget. Below is a bullet pointed list of the basic set-up that you will need to start airbrushing:
- Compressor with regulator & pressure gauge
- Air lines
- Quick connectors (for airlines)
- In-line water separator
- Airbrush cleaning pot
- Airbrush cleaning brushes
- Mask/filter (to be worn when airbrushing)
This list isn't in anyway exhaustive but it is what I consider an essential list of equipment to begin down the road of trouble free airbrushing. I have not included the airbrush as again these vary significantly in price and quality. As far as compressor selection I would suggest buying from somewhere such as amazon (for online shopping) or alternatively a specialist airbrush supplier (there's lots of them). In my humble opinion; a brand name is not as important as the reviews for the compressor left by customers (why I suggested amazon). It should be oil free (less maintenance) and as quite as possible during its operation. This may not seem important but over a period of prolonged use, the quieter the compressor; the longer you will retain your sanity while using it! The compressor unit itself is cheaper without the pressure tank and if your budget will only stretch to this then not to worry as there are plenty of options out there to buy a pressure tank at a later date and fit it to the compressor.
Airlines, water separator, etc can be bought from any source and again in my experience price does not equal higher quality for these so shop around for the best prices.
I've also recently had a mini rechargeable airbrush compressor as a Christmas gift from my daughter. It costs around £45 from Ali express although they are sold on other websites. She bought me this as when I go on holidays in my own country I like to take an "away case" so that I can make models while I'm on holiday (yes I know I'm obsessed!). Taking a complete air compressor and tank is not practical however this little bit if kit is ideal. The advertisement states 32 Psi from this little unit however when I've connected it to my pressure gauge it produces 23 Psi consistently. For my airbrush this is more than enough and I must say that its great quality for the price. I doubt it would last a long time with consistent use however if your working on a budget and don't want to shoulder the cost of a full size compressor straight away then this is a viable option to consider. For a more in depth review of this please click this link:
There are several types out there that will suit your individual needs. My first airbrush was a Revel airbrush that cost under £20. The image below is the updated version of this airbrush. Looking back it was not a good airbrush and was extremely limited in its capability for accuracy and reliability however; it did provide me with a great introduction as to what is capable from an airbrush when used on models. Needless to say I did not keep using this for very long but again if the budget you have is limited then don't be afraid to get this and use it as it does work.
The next type of airbrush that I purchased and still use today is the "knock-off" style of airbrush manufactured in China. I don't wish to be that unkind as some of these brushes are very good quality. They have earned their reputation as the designs of the brushes are very "similar" to those manufactured by well known and reputable companies. My particular brush cost around £30 from Amazon. Picture below: