Friday, September 26, 2014

Air-brushes and Paint

Back in an earlier post, this one to be precise,
I mentioned that I used an old Badger 200 air brush.

Now I really like this airbrush, its a simple, single-action, bottom feed brush that is great for beginners to get started on…and in experienced hands it does an excellent job. It's easy to adjust the spray thickness as you are  using it, with the easily adjustable needle control at the back and its very quick and easy to take-apart and clean.  That all being said it does have limitations as one gets more experienced at airbrushing, especially in the area of actual paint control and the fineness of the spray pattern.

So last summer I bought myself a Badger 105 Patriot……it is a top or gravity-feed, double-action airbrush. Being double-action it takes a bit of practise to use so be patient…but otherwise it is just as easy to master as the 200 above…and just as easy to adjust and maintain. Good job Badger.!!
I enjoyed using this brush and was so impressed with it that I ordered a second one within a week just to have as a spare and  I also ordered a number of air-hose quick disconnects at the same time, to simplify and speed-up the changing of air-brushes.

I have always used enamel paints such as Humbrol and ModelMaster paints to airbrush with mainly because those were paints I was familiar with from my armour-modelling days way back in my teens…but I have to say that as I have gotten older I am less tolerant of the smells and chemicals involved in using enamels. Well this Patriot airbrush was partly responsible for my decision to try using the dreaded acrylic paints that are so prevalent these days. 

My reading had made the use of acrylics in an airbrush seem overly complex and tedious due to having to be accurate in thinning them for good coverage and their propensity to dry so quickly thus clogging the tip and just being a pain to clean. Fortunately I came across two products that work extremely well to avoid these problems…..common household ammonia in the guise of….Windex and Vallejo Model Air paint! 
 I love this paint!!!!!!!!! Its really the best thing since sliced bread as far as I am concerned. It is specially formulated to use and spray right out of the bottle, no thinning required! I kid you not.  As you can see from the photo….the bottle is essentially an eye-dropper so it is perfect for dispensing exact amounts of paint into a jar,or side or top-mount airbrush cup. No wasted paint! You just squeeze as many drops as you need into your cup and thats it. No waste, no mess. 
One of the other great things about this particular acrylic paint is it doesn't dry-out in the bottle due to non-use…I've left my paint untouched,unused for as long as 8 months and found it to be as good as when I opened the bottle the first time.This paint is a water clean-up paint and if you really need to do it you can thin it with water too. 
Ok…one downside for model railroaders…no railroad specific colours yet…but with about 130 various colours available I'm sure you can find something of use from these guys.

Which brings me to the Windex. 

As any North American knows, Windex is the most popular and commonly available household glass-cleaner  in North America.
It is an ammonia based household cleaner for windows and mirrors and I'm sure something exactly the same as Windex is available in Europe and the UK.
The main thing about it is the ammonia…many acrylics, including Vallejo Model Air are affected by ammonia in such a way as to be beneficial to us. Among those ways are thinning of the paint and clean-up. You can save some money by using ammonia based products for thinning the paint instead of the manufacturers expensive brand of thinner…same goes for clean-up. 
When I'm airbrushing I keep a small container of windex next to me with an eyedropper…a few drops of it into the paint-cup, sprayed through the brush cleans out the cup,brush and needle ready for the next colour…I can switch from black paint to white paint in under a minute….without the black paint contaminating or messing-up the white paint! I also keep a few cotton-buds/q-tips handy that I dip into the windex to give the needle-tip a quick clean every few minutes…that helps prevent the dreaded tip dry syndrome.
When I finish a spray session I just fill the cup with the windex and give it a good spray through and boil with the windex.  After about  every painting third session I take the brush apart and soak the needle and tip in a shallow pan of windex and run a windex-soaked pipe-cleaner through the brush orifices and the brush is spotless…takes maybe 5-10 minutes at the most.  These couple of simple little tricks has not only simplified the clean-up process but it has actually hugely improved the whole air-brushing experience.

Give the Model-Air paint and the Windex a try…I guarantee it will change your air-brushing experience for the better!


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