Took me a little longer to get part 2 out, but here it is. So last we left off, I had a botched priming job I had cleaned up, not much time, and a desire to never have to deal with that again.
I had been googling for some tips after the bad primer, and happened across the Tabletop Minions youtube channel (link to the right, or bottom if you’re on mobile). That’s also where I picked up the tip about using an Ultrasonic Cleaner to hasten stripping time (in part 1).
In one of the Tabletop Minions videos, Atom Smasher talks about priming with an airbrush. He apparently lives in a similar climate to mine, and has run into a lot of botched primer jobs due to humidity. It rains a lot in Portland, Oregon and summers can sometimes have humidity as well. Not like the Eastern/Southern U.S., but I’m guessing enough to randomly play havoc with priming. In the video, Atom mentions that he was able to avoid spray-can priming mishaps by switching to priming with an airbrush. Tada!
Thanks for reading this blog post! All done folks! Goodbye!
Haha, you know I’m more wordy than that, so keep reading, if you dare.
First off, I was totally intimidated by an airbrush. My little brother used one in art class, but I never had any experience with them. I’ve heard they are expensive, require maintenance/clean-up, well-ventilated area, and that air compressors can be noisy. Yes, yes, yes, and yes.
But if anything could prevent me from losing precious hours on randomly botched priming jobs, it was worth looking into. So I researched and listened to podcasts, and gathered as much information into my little brain as I could.
“Say Hello to My Little Friend!”
After deciding to bite the bullet (an expensive one), I ordered the Iwata HP-CS Eclipse. This is my first airbrush, so I can’t say it’s any better or worse than other brushes. I also ordered a quick disconnect, an Iwata Medea Ninja compressor, a spray out pot, airbrush cleaner, and some airbrush paints (Vallejo and Badger). We’re talking around $350 for the whole works. Ebaying some old minis helped to offset that, but still “ouch”.
I had to wait the longest for the airbrush to arrive, but that gave me plenty of time to get my team of Blood Bowl Dwarves all prepped.
Once everything arrived, I watched some more videos to make sure I had everything in order and an idea of what I was doing. There was good video that I should have linked, but basically the guy takes apart the whole Iwata Eclipse to clean it, and that was really helpful to watch. I also asked my little brother some questions about his experience.
Then one fateful day, after the toddler was out shopping with my Wife, I rushed to the garage!
I spotted a good corner where I could put an old table, chair, close to a window so that I could get some light. Laid out some plastic, setup an old box to catch any back spray. Made some test sheets to try out drawing lines and circles. Gathered all the minis. Dragged out another lamp, to get more light, and I was ready to rock and roll.
Since I would like to paint while the toddler was napping, I first tested out the noise level of the compressor. It’s definitely noticeable in the garage. Going back into the house, you couldn’t really hear it too much. So at least that is good. I had contemplated spraying in the house, in the “study: at one point, but the noise of the compressor and some of the fumes/cleanup, makes me think the garage is the best place. Our study has carpet, so spilling any paint there would not be a good idea at all.
I drew some lines on the test paper and some circles. Hooked up the airbrush, filled the top with some paint, turned the compressor on and tried out tracing the lines on the test paper. First off I noticed that the airbrush ‘line’ is thicker than what I thought. I had some small wish that I could maybe ‘completely an airbrush a miniature, when I get really good’. I quickly crossed off that daydream when I saw how the airbrush really works. Perhaps with a smaller point or something, I don’t know. The only thing I could possibly imagine now, is maybe base coloring some areas, but we’ll see.
After I got comfortable with it, which really didn’t take too long, I called my son to snap a video that I could share with my brother. I figured I would share one of those here, for anyone who wants to see.
“Surprise! You’re on Candid Camera!”
Not much to say here, except you will notice the compressor noise. I talk pretty quietly, and am wearing a dust mask, so I think it sounds slightly louder in the video. Supposedly there might be quieter compressors on the market. but I don’t have anything to compare to.
The mini looks kind of wet in the video, like I’m glopping on the paint. It looked more dry to me, outside of the video, and turned out just fine. It was hard to see how much of the mini was getting covered, and I might have primed with just a little too much paint (Badger airbrush – brown primer here), though the minis really did turn out perfect. No loss in detail, no graininess, just a really nice, flat, even, smooth, thin coat of paint. It did take me awhile to get the whole team done, and I’m not sure if that’s just me, or normal with an airbrush. (Update: mainly me, nowadays I can likely prime a mini in 2 minutes) I also wasn’t sure if I was getting the whole mini covered, so I spent extra time trying to get into the harder to reach places. Checking them the next day, everything was covered just fine.
As I mentioned, I wore a dust mask, like one might wear for sanding. That seemed to be just fine, and in the garage I had enough ventilation. I might have opened a side window just to make sure. I didn’t find any residual paint dust in the garage, like I did with the spray can primer. All in all clean-up of the area, was next to nil. Cleaning the airbrush does require you to take it apart. I sprayed some of the airbrush cleaner through the airbrush (into the spray pot) before taking it apart. This is the one part where I wished I had a good air filter mask. The cleaner smells pretty strong. I have one of those on order for next time. Also, I definitely wouldn’t want to spray that cleaner anywhere in the house, because of those fumes. (Update: might have been that way at the start, but don’t really notice the smell of the cleaner so much anymore)
Taking a tip from Tabletop Minions again, I took apart the airbrush, rinsed the paint cup with some distilled water, placed it in the ultrasonic cleaner bath, added some cleaner and distilled water. Set it to hum along. A few cycles, and I took everything out, and looking good. I am planning on picking up a new ultrasonic cleaning bath, as I used the same one I used to strip minis, and it looks a little nasty after the paint stripping. (Update: Yep, definitely ordered a second, cleaner ultrasonic bath that I use just for the airbrush now) It’s probably fine, but I don’t want to take any chance on residue being in there. I’ll end up with one bath for airbrush cleaning and one of paint stripping. No worries.
“Would you care for a chocolate Dwarf, sir?”
Unfortunately, that’s the only recent pic I have of these guys, but you get the idea. Like I said, the airbrush primer turned out nice. Best primer coverage I have ever got.
I was hoping the brown primer was going to be a little more red in color, but it’s definitely a solid brown. I’ve only been using white primer for the last 20 some years, so I have to wrap my head around how to paint colors on top of that. It should be fine, but next time I will likely prime white. I also meant to do some Zenithal highlight painting, but I didn’t get around to it. If I do, I’ll have to snap some video/pics for the blog.
Is it worth it? Would you do it again? It was a big chunk of money, but I’m amassing a good amount of new Blood Bowl minis. That means lots and lots of priming. Thinking back to setting up for spray can priming in the garage or trying to do it outside (less cleanup, but weather is a bigger factor)…makes me develop a nervous twitch. If one out of three of those priming sessions ends up botched…I’d go mental (moreso than now). So yea, with the work I have yet to do, and the relative ease of airbrush priming, I think it will pay off in the long run. Well, not monetarily, as spray can primers are only about $10 per can. In the amount of time it saves me, it’s totally worth it, as I don’t have much to spend these days.
I can’t think of much else that I haven’t covered. Definitely invest in the spray pot and the quick disconnect. Airbrush wise, I’ve heard Badger is good too. The Iwata seems great to me. You need to make sure to get a gravity feed brush (cup on top). Compressor wise, something a little quieter would be nice, but I guess this one is a little less maintenance. I don’t know if there is anything that is super quiet though, so the one I have is fine.
Here’s a shot of the airbrush inside the package. Note, I did remove some foam at the end of the “T” section, so that I don’t have to remove the Quick Disconnect piece to put the airbrush back in the box.
Let me know if this entry was useful to anyone looking to venture into the “scary” (it’s not scary at all!) realm of airbrushes. I’ll try to answer any questions posted in the comments. Till next time!