Monday, 4 February 2019

Learning How to Paint with an Airbrush Part 2






Hi folks,

To finish my 2000 pt Dark Angels army I need to paint 3 models, a Techmarine, a Callidus Assassin and a Predator. The Predator was given to me by Craig R. a while ago, and it had a pretty rough finish to it. It was painted in the Black Templars paint scheme, which I figured would work well as a black undercoat for a Dark Angels scheme. Given that it was a "fixer-upper", I thought it would be a good test subject for another session of airbrushing. To start with, though, I gave it an extra coat of Army Painters Angels Green, from a high angle to introduce some early zenithal lighting.

Just to re-iterate, I am not an expert at using an airbrush. I am learning as I go and hitting up online tutorials left-right-and-center. As I learn lessons though I am going to post about them as a record of what I have done; hopefully someone can learn the basics a little faster thanks to my efforts. So, here are a few tips based on my second session of painting with an airbrush.


1) Positioning your compressor

Due to the vibrations as the compressor operates, it tends to walk around the table like an old washing machine. They often have suction caps on the bottom to help prevent any falls, but it is still good practice to place it away from the edge of the table. I moved my table over to close the gap between the table and the door; it had nowhere to fall. Just don't get too engrossed in the painting part that you let it fall off the end of the table!






I keep a bucket of clean water nearby for cleaning the airbrush. But not too nearby that the compressor can fall in the bucket. That would be an interesting Darwin Award entry... I also keep a container of clean water on the table, as a source of clean water for cleaning the airbrush as well.



2) Set the pressure

Last session I was pushing air at 56 psi, which is great if you want to undercoat a bunch of models from half a meter away. For closer, more accurate work, you don't want to blast so hard!






The dial for setting the pressure is locked in place, so you have to lift it up to unlock it. The direction you need to turn it is printed on the top, but you also need to be pushing the trigger for air on the airbrush to actually adjust it. For today, I started on 30 psi but ended up dropping it down further to 20 psi. For really fine detail, you would want to go even lower. This allowed me to paint closer to the model and get some more subtle blends.







3) Mixing and loading paint

I measure my paints into a deep plastic pallet using a plastic syringe, and make a note of how many drops I use in each mix. This is so that I can make the same colour again if I need to, and maintain the right consistency. This is a lot easier to do if your paints are in dropper bottles, so I can see why more and more people are transferring their Citadel paints. I am using both Vallejo airbrush thinner and flow improver, both of which suggest 2 drops per 8 drops of paint. That gave me a great consistency that did not clog the airbrush or take too long to dry.







After adding the drops together I mixed it all together very thoroughly with a brush. I used a clean syringe to add it to the airbrush reservoir. I always use the reservoir cap as well, I'm always worried I am going to tip it and get paint all over something. I keep the syringes clean after every use by pumping them rapidly into the bucket of clean water next to me.







To start with, I mixed a colour slightly lighter than Angel Green and applied it as evenly as I could to the top surfaces of the tank (about half the total height. To begin with I found my hand movements were too fast and it was not going on that evenly. After slowing down, though, my application control improved. I found myself using finer changes in trigger pressure to increase the paint load more. Here is what it looked like after the first round.






4) Cleaning the airbrush between colours

Now this may earn the ire of people who know better than me. For starters, my airbrush isn't that expensive, so I am not that precious with it. Sgt Waz has done a lot of airbrush work for commissions, and keeps some cheaper ones for bulk work like this and cleans them the same way. It is quick, effective, a little nasty, but hasn't wrecked any of Waz's brushes yet in the years he has been doing it.

a) I invert the front end into a clean bucket of water so that the reservoir and nozzle is immersed and swirl it backwards and forwards to remove any bulk amount of paint left over.

b) By pressing the trigger for air and drawing it back, water is pulled through the reservoir and out the nozzle, for an extra, continuous, flush.

c) I then deliver a load of clean water from the container on the table, then pump the syringe gently a few times and discard the washings in the bucket. I do this a few times.

d) I then add an additional load of clean water by syringe and spray it through for a final flushing step.

e) After a quick inspection and wipe down with paper towel, it is usually ready to go. If you leave droplets of water around the nozzle of the airbrush, I find that they invariably end up getting in the air flow and spattering on your work, which is a quick way to ruin careful painting.

f) After the final colour of the session I repeat the process, but clean some parts out with the brushes provided, particularly the tip. I do not strip the whole thing and clean it like Private Lawrence, unless something is going terribly wrong (see Part 1).






5) Blending

I used the residue from the last mix to make my next one, which helped each new layer to blend into the last (at least colour-wise). Pulling back less on the trigger to deliver less paint also helped to blur the interface between colours. I added progressively lighter browns to the green mix and applied to the lower half of the model to represent some mud spatter and weathering, which I will accentuate with a brush and some more finer detail later.












For a second go, I was happy with the results, much happier than the previous session. I would have to say that changing the pressure to match the job at hand probably made the biggest different in this regard. For now, I am swapping the airbrush for a normal brush and starting to work in some fine details. Next time I work on a tank, I'm going to try and prime it and add some per-highlighting to the undercoat, all with the airbrush. Here are some final shots to show you were I got up to.












See you across the table,

Marc


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