Monday, July 9, 2012

Airbursh madness

Not really madness, but I finally got a new compressor and apropos of that though I would write a little something about the compressors and airbrushes I use.

Is started out with a suction feed, external mix brush (I'm not sure who by) and a mini compressor when I was fifteen (give or take). With fine, medium and coarse nozzles this a great place to start. These guys are mechanically simple, so easy to clean, and, while a but rough, give good coverage. The coarse end is also good for fuzzy edges on camo.

After a long hiatus I was putting together some tanks and decided it was time to get a bit fancier. I went out and bought an Aztek airbursh and a generic brand 2HP 24L compressor. This guy is big and noisy and puts out 120psi. Great for taking apart motorbikes and inflating tyres, and produces a nice steady stream of air. I added a moisture trap - definitely worth it as the regulator didn't have one.

The big yin

The Aztek was a bit of jump, being an internal mix double action. The Aztek is a very nice airbrush to use. It has an unusual design - the tip comes off as a whole allowing you to quickly change needles for different sized spray. I stumped up for a metal bodied version, though it shares the same of the same internals with its plastic bodied cousins.

Delta (top), Aztek and tip (bottom)

It terms of ease of use, it's not much harder than the external mix, once you get used to having to balance the airpressure and paint feed. The spray patterns are tight and you can buy a wide varient of tips. There is a down side to this though - it's a bugger to keep clean. The two factors that affect this are the single piece tip and the side feed for the paint cup. The single piece tip isn't really designed to be taken apart too much - recommendations are to soak the whole thing in solvent. A few of mine still stick when fully closed. The side feed is great as you can use it a a gravity feed cup, or a suction feed bottle, but is prone to clogging as it's a little convoluted.

More recently I've move and had a child, so the noisy compressor has been banished to the garage. I bought a small 1/6HP Delta compressor with tank. This guy only produces 50-60psi, but since I need 15-25 it's all good. It's under 50dB, compared to up near 90dB for the big yin. It also came with a Delta double action gravity feed brush.

Much quieter

This isn't the greatest airbrush, but did come with small, medium and large tips. It's in the format of a more traditional, through bodied airbrush and doesn't have the air pressure control of the Aztek. This may not be such a bad thing as I'm not a great artist. It's mostly smooth, though needs to be clean to work well. It's not the most precision machined piece - most most cheap airburshes are in the same league. On the up side, it's designed to be pulled apart and cleaned. Given the sticking Aztek tips this makes me a happy boy.

Some extra stuff I have to make things easier:
  • Isoproply alchohol - great for cleaning and flushing
  • Cotton buds - for wiping things down and getting into small places
  • A thimble and toothpick - for mixing very small amounts of paint
  • Syringe and tubes - for sucking up paint, water and alchohol
  • Pie tin - for dumping excess paint and dirty odds and ends
  • Cleaning pot - for spraying through with water and solvent.
  • Latex gloves - one on the left hand so I can hold things without getting finger grease on the model or paint on me
  • Paper - for test spraying

The kit
The first test for getting back into airbrushing was zenithal highlighting on Skullmuncha. I'd tried just using a brush but wasn't happy with my ability to make sense of the shading over such a large area that was also wrinkly! The colour was built up with black/orkhide shade, then orkhide shade/gnarloc green, then gnarloc green and finally two goblin green/bleached bone layers, with more bleached bone in the second. The early layers were with the Aztek, and the top coats with the Delta. He now needs a lot of brush work to get the texture right, but the distance I need to go with it is much less.

Skullmuncha, front and back
Over all I'm happy with how this turned out. I think I'll probably stick with the Delta since I can see that it's clean. I may want something a little better quality down the track, but I think I'll get another through-needle design rather than going back to the Aztek. Though I find it more comfortable (especially the air hose connecting at the back), the difficulty cleaning is a big negative for me. If you're meticulous (and probably more patient) this is an excellent brush. Getting a small compressor with a tank is definitely a win. Much quieter than the big one, and much more stable air than without a tank.

Melspray Equipement have some nice pictures of internal and external mix.
Don's Airbrush Tips  has excellent reviews, techniques and tear-downs.
Les at Awesome Paint Job has a good short airbush care tutorial.

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