Monday, 20 February 2012

Airbrush Noob: Day One - The Purchase

I very definitely did not
do this.
I've spent the better part of a year (casually) researching airbrush recommendations. I've learnt quite a bit from the 40k community online and also a few bits here and there from airbrush forums and other miniature communities.

Everyone's been really helpful and quite patient in some cases. Here, fresh from the post, are the results of my quest for the ultimate new toy...

I first read up on airbrushes being used in our hobby 2 or 3 years ago. Sometime around when I first bought the Forgeworld Modelling Masterclass book (a sequel to which is in the works).

Since then I've been intrigued and a little amazed on a quite regular basis at some of the work these artists are producing. This time last year I decided to buy myself one and get cracking. Here's how I roughly went about choosing.

First things first. When you ask people what to get they'll almost all say "dual action, gravity feed".  To save me waffling on, here's a good, solid explanation of what that means:


The simplest airbrushes work with a single action mechanism where the depression of a single "trigger" results in paint and air flowing into the airbrush body and the atomized paint being expelled onto the target surface. Cheaper airbrushes and spray guns tend to be of this type.
Dual action or double action airbrushes separate the function for air and paint flow so that the user can control the volume of airflow and the concentration of paintflow through two independent mechanisms. This allows for greater control and a wider variety of artistic effects. This type of airbrush is more complicated in design than single action airbrushes which tends to be reflected in its cost.

Feed system

Paint can be fed by gravity from a paint reservoir sitting atop the airbrush (called gravity feed) or siphoned from a reservoir mounted below (bottom feed) or on the side (side feed). Each feed type carries unique advantages. Gravity feed instruments require less air pressure for suction as the gravity pulls the paint into the mixing chamber. Typically instruments with the finest mist atomization and detail requirements use this method. Side- and bottom-feed instruments allow the artist to see over the top, with the former sometimes offering left-handed and right-handed options to suit the artist. A bottom feed airbrush typically holds a larger capacity of paint than the other types, and is often preferable for larger scale work such as automotive applications and tee-shirt design.

Next up it the make/brand. A lot of people start off with Badger and Aztek brushes. For some, these are fine. DV8 on Bolter and Chainsword (click here to check out his stuff) has a cheap no brand one from eBay that he's super happy with. As with all things in life, your mileage may vary.

From asking questions a lot of people were fairly happy with their brushes but many were considering an eventual upgrade to either an Iwata or Harder and Steenbeck brush. These are, generally, considerably more expensive at the entry price point than other brands, H&S especially so.

I've been thinking of my airbrush to be a real investment so, after receiving some cash as a gift towards such a purchase and a nice little bonus from work (for once) I 'd saved up enough for an H&S model, choosing to go with one of the Evolution range:

This is the Evolution Silverline 2 in 1. The 2 in 1 part means it comes supplied with an extra needle, nozzle and paint cup, adding some versatility to the brush and saving me an extra purchase somewhere further down the road, it was only an extra £3 for that over the standard model (to buy a new needle and nozzle is just less than £40). This model was £139 with free postage. Like I mentioned before it took a little saving up for and is something of a proper investment. Hopefully, once I know what I'm doing, I'll be able to appreciate the benefits.

Next up comes the air source. I know less about compressors etc than 'brushes as I basically had one recommended by so many people that I just went for it. Important things here are pressure regulator (being able to set the pressure = more paint control and not blowing your model off the table), moisture trap/air filter (filters out any water condensation which can from from the pressurised air and ruin a hard days painting), and air tank (meaning that the compressor fills a tank allowing the compressor not to have to run constantly and also that air is fed at a consistent pressure). Here's mine:

The compressor is a retailer own brand one. It was about £80-£90 I think (Christmas present). It's pretty quiet (my dad was very impressed) and shouldn't completely stop my lovely girlfriend being able to use the same room as me over coming months.  The glass pot is so I can contain any overspray while cleaning the airbrush, a worthwhile purchase considering my rather limited space.

That was my adventure through shopping though. One thing I will add is NEVER TRUST THE POSTMAN! Well, the Post Office anyway. Here's the box that arrived today:

What did you notice first? The 'Handle With Care' tape? The huge dent? The ripped hole?? Honestly. It's been bashed about so much that the airbrush has moved inside it's case and split the (very thin) vacuum formed tray:

Just to the top left of the paint cup, there's a split. Must have
been bumped HARD.
Hopefully everything is OK. I need a connector to fit the hose the the 'brush and then I'll be able to start playing about and taking some wee baby steps!
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