If you’re a tabletop gamer or a miniature painter, you’ve probably considered trying airbrushing. After all, who doesn’t want to achieve that super smooth, flawless paint job? But is airbrushing really as easy as it looks? Here’s the deal: Airbrushing miniatures can be a difficult task to learn, but with practice it is possible to become a master of the art.
In this article, I will explore some of the reasons why airbrushing miniatures is hard to learn and offer some tips for overcoming these difficulties. So, if you’re interested in learning more about airbrushing miniatures, keep reading!
Why Airbrushing Miniatures is Hard
There are a few reasons why airbrushing miniatures is hard to learn. First of all, it’s very easy to make mistakes when you’re first starting out. It’s also easy to become overwhelmed by all of the different techniques and products that are available. And lastly, it can be difficult to find someone who is willing to teach you how to use an airbrush properly.
These days, there are plenty of helpful resources available online (like this post!) that can help you avoid making common mistakes when learning how to airbrush miniatures. There are also tons of different products on the market, which can make it tough to know where to start or what you even need in order to get started.
And as far as finding someone who can teach you how to use an airbrush properly…well, that can be tricky. But don’t worry! If you can’t find anyone in person to help you out, there are plenty of helpful YouTube tutorials available that can walk you through the basics step-by-step.
Tips for Learning How to Airbrush Miniatures
Although airbrushing miniatures is not an easy task, there are definitely some things that you can do to make the learning process a bit easier on yourself. Here are a few tips:
Start with simple projects
When you’re first starting out, it’s best to keep your projects fairly simple. That way, if (when) you make a mistake, it won’t be as big of a deal or as noticeable as it would be on a more complex project.
Use good airbrush equipment
If you’re serious about learning how to airbrush miniatures, you’re going to need to invest in some good quality equipment. Cheap airbrushes will just end up costing you more in the long run, e.g., they clog easily, or have fragile parts, so it’s worth it to save up and buy something that’s high quality and will last you a long time.
Get a good quality double action airbrush like my first airbrush, the Badger Patriot 105 (see the full review of this bulletproof airbrush). The right airbrush is the one you use a lot and feel comfortable holding for long periods of time.
It’s not always about the features, the appearance, or even the airbrush gun material. Your air brush should be so familiar to you that you don’t have to think about it when you’re using it.
Take your time
Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will your skills with an airbrush! It’s important to be patient and take your time when learning how to use an airbrush so that you don’t get too frustrated or overwhelmed.
Try different airbrush techniques
One of the best ways to learn how to airbrush miniatures is by trying out different techniques and seeing what works best for you. There are tons of different airbrush techniques that can be used for painting miniatures, so don’t be afraid to experiment until you find something that you’re comfortable with.
Of course, simple techniques such as painting large surfaces will give you a solid grasp of how the airbrush works. Your learning curve should be steady in your airbrushing journey.
Practice makes perfect
Similar to experimenting with different miniature painting techniques, the only way that you’re going learn how to use an airbrush properly is by practicing! So set aside some time each week (or each day, if you’re feeling ambitious) to paint some test models or play around with different techniques until you feel confident enough to tackle a more complicated project.
You’ll only get a basic understanding of the brush with a little practice. If you want to gather a general idea of more complicated techniques, such as the use of masking tape to create straight lines without overspray, or using an airbrush to add detail to your miniatures, then you’ll have to invest some time in practicing those techniques specifically. (Hint: For the latter, using low pressure spraying with a steady hand and a gravity feed airbrush will help a lot).
Paint a lot of models
This goes along with getting practice, as above. The more models you paint, the better you’ll get at painting them quickly and efficiently. And as your skills improve, you’ll be able to take on bigger and more complicated projects. Spend time understanding the different surfaces you’re able to work on with the fine mist created by the airbrush.
Learn to use low air pressure
One of the most important things that you need to learn when airbrushing miniatures is how to use low air pressure. This will help you avoid making mistakes, e.g., over-spraying or creating a messy paint job. For starters, try to keep your air pressure below 25-30 PSI, irrespective of your airbrush model and nozzle size. You may need to thin your paints further to use these lower air pressures.
Keep your airbrush clean
If you want your airbrush to work properly (and who doesn’t?), you need to make sure that you keep it clean. Cleaning your airbrush is actually pretty simple. You can do so by spraying some cleaner through it to remove any paint buildup. Do this regularly after each painting session.
For a deeper cleaning, learn how to disassemble your airbrush and then wash all of the parts with soapy water. You can use an ultrasonic cleaner to speed up the process. Ultrasonic cleaners are affordable! Then, make sure that you dry everything off completely before reassembling your airbrush.
Thin your airbrush paints
Here is an article about how to thin your paints for airbrushing miniatures. Keeping your paints thin enough to airbrush at low air pressure (under 30 PSI) is one of the most important things you need to do if you want to avoid making mistakes and prevent the nozzle from clogging up…a very annoying, albeit common issue. Thicker paint has sunk many an aspiring airbrush users.
You can thin your paints with a few drops of water, but many people prefer to use a thinner specifically designed for airbrush paints. This is because it evaporates quickly and doesn’t leave behind any residue.
There are a few different brands of airbrush thinner on the market, so experiment until you find one that you like. I personally prefer to use Vallejo Airbrush Thinner because it works well and is very inexpensive.
Be prepared for trial-and-error
As with anything new that you’re learning, there will undoubtedly be some trial-and-error involved in learning how to airbrush miniatures successfully. Just remember that everyone makes mistakes and that even the most experienced painters had to start somewhere!
Common Mistakes When Learning How to Airbrush Miniatures
Now that I’ve gone over some tips for learning how to airbrush miniatures, let’s take a look at some of the most common mistakes that people make when they start airbrushing. Avoiding these mistakes will help you create cleaner and more professional looking paint jobs (and you’ll be less frustrated!).
Not thinning the paint properly
One of the most common mistakes that people make when airbrushing miniatures is not thinning their paint properly. This usually leads to a messy and/or uneven paint job.
To avoid this, you need to learn how to properly thin your paints. This will vary depending on the type of paint you’re using, but as a general rule of thumb, you want your paint to be thin enough that it flows easily through the airbrush nozzle without clogging it up.
Not cleaning the airbrush regularly
In my experience with airbrushing miniatures, the hardest thing I’ve had to learn was how often to clean my airbrush. I would either forget to clean it altogether, which led to clogging, or I would over-clean it and end up wasting a lot of time. Cleaning your airbrush regularly is important to prevent paint buildup and clogging, but you don’t need to go crazy with it.
Not using an air compressor with an air regulator
If you’re serious about airbrushing miniatures (or anything else for that matter), you need to use an air compressor with an air regulator. This will allow you to control the air flow and pressure, which is essential for achieving consistent results.
Ignoring moisture build up in the air hose
Air condenses when it’s compressed, squeezing out humidified air, which means that moisture can build up in the air hose over time. This condensation leads to droplets of water shooting through your airbrush at unexpected times, which can ruin your paint job. You’ll know this is happening when your “airbrush spits” instead of sprays.
To avoid this, you’ll want to spray less frequently (not really a good option), or use a moisture trap or air tank. Both of the latter components in your airbrush setup will help collect or reduce the risk of condensation invading your air line.
Not wearing protective gear
I think this is relative to your personal hobby space, as some people have good ventilation or risk tolerance for the airbrush overspray. However, I’ll note that although almost all acrylic hobby-grade paints are non-toxic that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take precautions. I would recommend, at a minimum, wearing a dust mask to avoid inhaling any particles.
Using old or dirty paint
I’m sure we’ve all heard the saying “a painter is only as good as his brushes.” The same goes for airbrushing miniatures; you’re only as good as the paint you’re using. If you use old, dried out, or otherwise poor quality paint, it will show in your finished work. Paint flow will be poor and unpredictable.
To avoid this, make sure to invest in high-quality airbrush or hobby paints and take care of them properly. You can see my recommended airbrush paints. Store your paints in a cool, dry place and make sure the lids are on tight to prevent them from drying out.
Inconsistent air flow or pressure
If you’re having trouble getting a consistent paint job, it could be because your air flow or pressure is inconsistent. This usually happens because the air compressor isn’t set to the correct pressure, or there’s something wrong with the airbrush itself.
To fix this, first check that your air compressor is set to the correct pressure. If it is, then the problem is likely with your airbrush. Check the nozzle and needle to make sure they’re not clogged, and that the parts are all tightened properly.
If you’re still having trouble, it’s best to ask the airbrush community or watch YouTube videos on how to troubleshoot your particular airbrush model. This video is one of my favorites for general airbrush use for painting miniatures.
Are You an Aspiring Airbrush Artist?
Even if you don’t paint miniatures, airbrushes are still an incredibly versatile tool that can be used for all sorts of different art projects. If you’re thinking about trying your hand at airbrushing, I encourage you to do some research and practice before diving in headfirst. With a little bit of effort, you’ll be surprised at how quickly you can learn this fascinating technique!
Creating Great Airbrush Art is More Than the Tool
Airbrushing is an incredibly rewarding hobby, but it’s important to remember that the airbrush is just a tool. The true artist is the one who wields it. So, don’t get discouraged if your first few attempts aren’t perfect. Airbrushing is a skill that takes time and practice to master.
All in all, yes—airbrushing miniatures is an intimidating task at first glance for someone who has never used an airbrush before (like myself once upon a time).
However, with time, practice, and patience—it is something that anyone can learn how to do! Airbrushing is not difficult to start using at all.
For more details about how to use an airbrush for painting miniatures, check out this full airbrush guide. It’s a great resource for just starting out or as a refresher about the power of using an airbrush.
Overall, I hope you found this article helpful!
If you’re looking for more information, or want to share ideas and feedback, I’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment below. 😀