Thursday, February 9, 2012

Airbrush first test

As promised, a little post about how the very first firing of my airbrush went.  I predicted either a triumphant report of success or a comedy story of paint explosions and near death experiences.  Happily for me (but less entertainingly for you) it's leaning much more towards the former.

Details after, as they say, 'the jump'...

So today marks my very first foray into what promises to be the wonderful world of airbrushing!

Vallejo Primer
Even though it's my day off I got up quite early to make sure everything I needed was prepared and within easy reach.  My goal was to prime a squad of Tau Fire Warriors with my airbrush instead of an aerosol primer. It's cold outside and aerosols don't like cold/wet conditions. To accomplish this task I'm trying the Vallejo Surface Primer in German Panzer Grey which is designed specifically as a primer that can be shot through an airbrush.

I did a bit of research beforehand and the general consensus, especially in the scale model making community, is that this is 'good stuff'.  It's not cheap though...  I got this on eBay from Panther Models for £9.99 + shipping.  For that you get 200ml of primer.  That makes it roughly twice as expensive as a Citadel priming aerosol (millilitre for millilitre), but more on that in a moment.

The great thing from my point of view is that this doesn't need any thinning, it can just be used neat, in fact that's the recommendation from Vallejo to get the best protection for your model.   They also recommend a compressor pressure of between 20 and 25 psi and using an airbrush with a tip of 0.35(microns) which is what I have.  NB I'll do another post in the future about compressors and airbrushes as I gain more experience.

Before I loaded my airbrush pot with the primer I fired a 50/50 mix of airbrush cleaner/water through it.  This was partly to clean the airbrush out prior to it's very first use and partly to raise my confidence a little bit.  Then the moment of truth...

I donned my face mask.

This prompted roughly 10-15 minutes of doing Bane, Darth Vader and Hannibal Lector impressions to myself.  You had to be there really.

After procrastinating with bad movie impressions I switched on the fan for my spray booth and made sure the compressor was on. Then I set up a piece of cardboard at the back of the spray booth to give me something to test on, tentatively poured some primer into the pot, connected it all up, pushed the trigger and hey presto, lovely airbrushed squiggles on my test cardboard.  After only a couple of minutes I felt confident enough to start priming something for real.

The action of the airbrush is a little tricky to master (press trigger down for airflow and simultaneously pull back for paint-flow) so I'm sure I spent a lot of time spraying pure air at the Fire Warriors but once you get the hang of it, the results are really very good.  The primer is a lot darker than I thought it would be but it also seems to have gone on in essentially one pass.  After priming 12 Fire Warriors I didn't appear to have made any impression on the primer in the airbrush.  It looked just as full as it had before I started.  This could bode very well as it will hopefully iron out the price differential between buying aerosols versus priming with the airbrush.

Even if this does work out as more expensive (which I don't think it will based on this very early test) I'm practically sold on the benefits already.  I can stay inside (which in a London Winter is definitely a plus) and I can be more accurate with my priming.

All in all I'm putting this down as 'mission-accomplished'.

Primed and un-primed 

The Filter is working apparently

Lung protector and bad movie impression enabler

The setup

Ducting hose goes out of the window

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  1. Very cool! I've been reticent to make the jump to an airbrush (I'm a die hard bristle brush man) but I've really enjoyed reading your posts about making the switchover. The spray booth is really nice, as well. Looking forward to reading more!

    1. Thanks Mordian, this whole process has cleared up a lot of the mystery around airbrushing for me. I'm really pleased with the way the whole thing went today and I'm busy prepping more models to go through the same process. I can really see me using this method for priming and base coating pretty much exclusively from now on.