Using Airbrushes for Modeling

For model airplanes that require painting, or for hobbyists who want to paint over an existing finish, there are a couple of options. Most kits will have small glass jars of paint included, that require the use of a brush to apply. However, a much more smooth application can be achieved if the paint is airbrushed onto the surface of the model. The major benefit of using airbrushing technique is its even overall coating and uniform finish. Model paints tend to leave spots of uneven paint distribution whereas airbrushing gives a much neater professional coverage.

Airbrush Basics

An airbrushing tool is a hand-held cylinder, much like a brush without bristles, and with a small jar attached to it for filling with paint. The “brush” is supplied with air from a compressor, or from compressed carbon dioxide can. The air (or CO2) forces the paint out from the attached jar and through the cylinder. Gentle movements of the hand, combined with finger adjustments to the pressure control wheel, will allow the user to disperse paint evenly and with a finer degree of control than a regular brush might permit.

Airbrushing can allow for a very large surface to be covered in a fraction of the time than traditional paintbrush methods. Along with airbrushing being much faster, it blends colors together seamlessly, so that colors seem to flow into one another without any obvious brush strokes.

Airbrushes and airbrush kits come in both advanced and beginner varieties. For example, the

Types of Paint

Standard Airbrush by Testors is an excellent starter kit. You can also have a look at the NEO Gravity-Feed Dual-Action Airbrush by Iwata, which has a double action trigger. Or, pick up a gift set with the Testors – Amazing Airbrush Gift Set. Airbrushing hobby toolsare often very affordable and do not take much time to get started.

There are essentially three types of paint that are used for applying to model aircraft: lacquers, enamels and acrylics. Acrylics are water-soluble and great for indoor use, because there are no harmful fumes associated with its use. Enamels and lacquers are also good and can provide a glossier sheen to the completed work. Be aware that all paints must be used in ventilated areas because their fumes can be dangerous to inhale.

Single vs Double Airbrush

In addition to the paint selections, there are also single and double action airbrushes. Single action, as implied, operates from the single act of triggering the release of the spray. They are simpler and less expensive, and excellent for beginners who are still mastering the airbrushing application technique. However, for different thicknesses of lines, the nozzle must be changed out, or the spray volume can be altered.

Double action allows the artist to mix the paint and air ratios while painting. It operates much like a single action airbrush, but, the air and paint amounts that are dispersed can be controlled while the trigger is pulled back, which allows for more command over the outcome. Double action airbrushes are often used by advanced artists to create more sophisticated effects. While the basics of airbrushing can be learned very quickly, mastery can take years.

Let us know any additional questions you may have in the comments below about painting models, we love to help!


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  • Steve

    as regards to painting: Recently I decided to bite the bullet and get into the more expensive new paints because the old standards seem to be deteriorating .I decided to try Vallejo but noticed in Abteilung’s own catalog that they seem to like Vallejo for a base and their paint for washes and weathering! Anyone tried this combo?