Well, in the first two posts, we’ve covered the bare essentials and the stuff that will make a real difference to you on a regular basis. But it doesn’t stop there! There are even more things you can buy for airbrushing that are sort of bonus extras. Now, some of these may be essential depending on your style of painting. Others will be pointless. In general, though, for a beginning user of an airbrush, like my good self, they really aren’t needed.
Quick Release Valves
You can fit quick release valves onto your airbrush. These basically are designed to let you pop an airbrush off the pipe without losing the pressure in your tank, and let you plug a new airbrush in super quickly. If you are a hardcore painter with multiple airbrushes, this is kind of essential. If you are hitting lots of clogs and need to clean your brush by hand lots, its really useful. If you are a new airbrush user with one brush who is cleaning the pot regularly, its really not needed. They aren’t dear, coming in at < £10.
Extra Moisture Traps
Most modern larger compressors have an integral moisture trap to try and minimise any droplets of water entering the compressed air stream from the air. Additional bits of unpurified water can bugger your airflow and also build up mineral deposits in the brush. If you are getting unusual clots with well thinned airbrush grade paint, this could well be the cause. If you have a fairly humid climate (like airbrushing while its raining outside … so anyone in the UK) its probably worthwhile – and I’d go as far as essential if you have a small compressor without one. If you do get one, though – remember to include it in part of your cleaning routine and empty the thing! They tend to come in a £2 to £5, so won’t break the bank.
EDIT – one suggestion, if your booth is pretty static indoors, is to invest in a dehumidifier rather than worry about a moisture trap. If the air is dry, you won’t get any water issues with the compressor, and its better for mixing and storing paints in the room too. A good dehumidifier is pretty expensive though, so I think this may be more for someone who does a LOT of airbrushing indoors rather than a beginner. Unless its a beginner with lots of money. In which case, jealous! If you do go for a dehumidifier, though, don’t forget to empty it regularly, and to replace the desiccant if you haven’t gone for a refrigeration variant.
Nylon Brush Sets for Cleaning
Honestly, I think if you are doing adequate regular cleaning with a good cleaner, and are disciplined enough to clean while paint is wet, you shouldn’t need these. The second most damage to airbrushes comes from sticking this sort of thing down the nozzle (the first seems to be breaking the nozzle or stripping the threads when removing the needle for cleaning by over tightening or using the wrench wrong). They aren’t dear, but honestly – I’d wait until you absolutely have to do a deep deep clean before you look at anything like this.
Sounds silly, right? If you have limited time, like me, and don’t fancy having to change into disposable clothes to use your brush, its really useful! With an airbrush, you are likely to get paint flecks on your t-shirts and possible your trousers. Chuck a cheap apron on, and you are a bit less likely to be replacing your wardrobe every two minutes. If you have hobby clothes for painting anyway, you really don’t need this, but it comes in useful if you need to do a little bit here and there.
OK, you have your booth set up inside! Thats great! However…. you may occasionally have the odd accident, or paint particles escape because you forgot to turn the extractor on at first, or … you get the idea. Putting down an old sheet, or mat, around the booth to catch those accidents? Well, you don’t have to, especially if you re setting up somewhere like a garage, or just using the airbrush outside. If you are setting up inside, and are a married person like me? This may save vital organs and relationships!
Once you have your airbrush, you need to do things with it! It’s quite nice to have some easy wins, and airbrush work could be tailor made for larger pieces like terrain or tanks. You can get some awesome stencils to do airbrush effect, or put numbers on tanks. It can be a good way to get easy wins for your new hobby tool! There are huge numbers of stencils available, but they aren’t always cheap – take a look at this selection at Dark Sphere. Do you need stencils? No. But they can help achieve specific effects easily – I’m looking at some of the hex stencils for basing my infinity squads, for example. If you are struggling to get real use out of your airbrush, these may be just what you need. Flame effects? Dragon scales? Diamonds on Harlequin vehicles? All easier with stencils and some practice.
There are lots of options to mask bits of a model you DON’T want to spray. There are various paint on masking liquids that dry and let you peel off for precise work. Tamiya do ranges of masking tape in loads of different widths, and if you are happy to cut stuff to size, you can pick up masking tape direct cheap from DIY stores. Don’t forget the easy option of blu-tac as a quick flexible option!
EDIT – one suggestion for something is magic putty! Not as sticky as blu-tac and and not as easy to pick up, but naturally goes into great curves and shapes for spraying camo patterns.
Clips, Pegs, Stands
To spray stuff well, you’ll need to hold them. Wooden pegs, cheap plastic clips (like washing line clothes pegs) or surgical scissors can all work, as can rotating Tamiya stands. You’ll need something to get the best coverage on your minis! This is larger a matter of individual taste, how heavy the minis you are painting are, and how far you want you hand to be from the paint! This really doesn’t need to be dear – most booths come with a small rotating stand that might do the trick for you. One useful trick to hold small items like shoulder pads in place on the booth is to use cheap double sided sticky tape.
Mixing pots (EDIT – a great new suggestion)
Airbrushes, especially gravity fed ones, use tiny amounts of paint. Its really useful to be able to mix up and store larger amounts sometimes. There are lots of options – cheap plastic shot glasses, cheap dropper bottles, or jello shot glasses – the latter come with lids so are better for storing paint than normal shot glasses, and are really wide which can be useful for brush work for touch ups. Any of these will work, and really aren’t too dear!
Fluid Retarder/Slow Dry (EDIT – oops, missed this!)
Not as essential for airbrushing as thinners and cleaners, but its often really useful to use a fluid retarder in your mix. Why? Well it stops the fluid getting grainy over the course of a longer session as it dries (particularly true with Tamiya acrylics, apparently), and it means the paint in your brush stays wet longer, which is a godsend for cleaning it out! It also means you are a heck of a lot less likely to get clogging too! Its not essential, but a good bonus item to look into!