Friday, July 27, 2012

Airbrushing 101 Information & Tools


Welcome to Airbrushes 101!

There’s a lot to cover and I won’t get to everything but here are the basics. If anyone has questions, or wants me to cover additional material please comment below. Also If you have experience painting please feel free to add your own thoughts and airbrush comments.

What's an Airbrush? 

From Wikipedia: It’s a small, air operated tool that sprays various media, including ink, dye and paint.


Why an Airbrush?

An airbrush & compressor are likely to be the most expensive tools you own as a scale modeler. So why should you get them? Simply put, airbrushing provides the smoothest, cleanest finish when painting. Similar finishes can be achieved by using spray cans. Long term though an airbush will be cost effective than using spray cans. In general an airbrush will also allow you to have a higher degree of control, both in terms of mixing colors and spraying.

How does it work?

Interested in how and airbrush works? Check this out

Should I buy an Airbrush?

That all depends on your finances, and interst in modeling, airbrushes are usually the most expensive piece of equipment a modeler will own.


Where can I learn to Airbrush?

While nothing competes with hands on practice, but you can check out the following resources to get started. If you already have experience painting with spray cans it shouldn’t be too hard to pick up. Proper trigger control is crucial when using a double action airbrush, you can only achieve delicate pencil thin lines by practicing trigger control.

Fitchen Foo Flash Tutorial:

Those Gundam Guys:

What equipment do I need to get started?

Most commonly you’ll only need to buy, an airbrush and a compressor. Depending on the model of airbrush and compressor, you might need, an airbrush hose to connect the two main parts. A well ventilated area and a respirator are essential to safely operating an airbrush. You might also want to pick up a regulator and moisture trap to control the pressure and stop moisture from getting into your air line.

How much should I expect to pay, and who makes them?

There are several manufactures in the Airbrush market. The larger manufacturers are: Iwata, Paasche, Badger and Aztec. Cost of the airbrush and compressor are usually based on the manufacturer and the amount of bells and whistles on the airbrush. You can expect to pay anywhere from $100 to $500 for a complete setup. Craigslist also routinely has used brushes for sale. Check your local area!

What's the difference between a single action & dual action brush? Is there anything I need to know about the feed style?

Read this article to learn about the differences:
I recommend using a gravity feed brush, they’re easier to clean, paint flows smoothly and the paint has better atomization than the siphon or side cup models.

What do you use/recommend?


I use a Badger Renegade Krome airbrush. When I purchased my Renegade Krome I mistakenly believed it was a limited release due to a review I saw/read. You can get practially the same quality and feature set from the cheaper Renegade Velocity! The main difference being that the krome has a different chrome finish and the inclusion of additional parts to increase the nozzle sizes from .21 to .33. I’m very happy with this purchase. The Krome can spray from a wide 1 inch diameter down to wispy pencil thin lines. I also like Badger offers a lifetime warranty on their brushes, and replacement parts are very affordable, most are under $5 directly through Badger. (Badgers are also made here in the US).

UPDATE: Reader Big_Z pointed out that the Krome is still available. At the time I purchased it, I was pretty sure that Mid Tenn Hobbies was the only shop carrying it. However that appears to have changed.

You can still get the Krome here:

The Renegade Velocity however is still a commendable (and slightly cheaper version) of the Krome.

Badger Air-Brush Co R1V Renegade Velocity Gravity Feed Airbrush


Unfortunately like my airbrush Badger no longer manufactures my compressor! However I have been using the same badger airbrush since 2002. Ten years of pretty steady use without so much as a hiccup earns a rather bright, shiney endorsement from me! You can get a similar quality/functionality compressor  with the model 180-15.

Badger Air-Brush Co. 180-15 Airstorm Compressor



I know what you're thinking. 'Do I really need this thing? It looks uncomfortable, I paint oustide/in a spray booth'. You should want a respirator for two reasons. First it's going to protect your lungs, the atomized paint you breath in while painting does bad things to your body, especially if you're painting indoors or with lacquer or enamel paints. Second, you'll sound like this guy when you talk while your mask is on.


I've been using this mask for over a year, it's comfortable, it takes a while to go through a filter and replacements are cheap.

3M R6211 Low-Maintenance Half-Mask Organic Vapor, P95 Respirator Assembly, Medium

I want to try airbrushing, but I'm still not sure if I want to spend a lot of money. Is there a cheaper way?

The compressor makes up the 'lion's share' of the cost of my recommendation here. So an easy way to save on cost is to replace your compressor purchase with:

Compressed Air/Propellant

Badger Air-Brush Co. 13-Ounce Propel Propellant, 369-Gram, 2-Pack

I started off using cans of propellant way back when I started airbrushing. They're effective if you want just try airbrushing out, however after my fourth or fifth can I had resolved to buy a compressor to save costs over the long term. One thing to watch out for is that if you're paiting in a humid climate for extended periods the propellant cans can frost up. I had one stuck to a table for nearly an hour.

Even cheaper than that?

I bought my first airbrush in a similar package at my local hobby shop when I was in highschool. Although the set I bought was from testors (I can't honestly recommend that one). Unlike the other badger I have listed above, this is a single action brush, which means your paint and air flow are controlled by the same trigger. A single action is limiting to more advanced painters, but a beginner should be quite happy with the results they produce.

Badger Air-Brush Co. 250-3 Basic Spray Gun Set with Propel

Still on the fence?

Each kit featured on my site was painted using my badger airbrush. I'm not an expert painter either.



Questions, comments, suggestions?

Leave me a comment, I always enjoy and appreciate hearing your feed back.


  1. what type of primer do you suggest we use when airbrushing and what should the primer/solvent ratio be?

  2. Just stopping by after a search about the renagade series. Wanted to mention another in between price option for propellant for people who need a silent source. At most local industrial gas services you can rent a large bottle of compressed gasses. Co2 in my area runs about 15$ to fill up (large bottle) and 4$ a month rental fee of you don't want to supply your own bottle. Just need a regulator and correct fittings.