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Airbrushes and compressors


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So been looking in to getting an air-brush setup, and just wondering if anyone has familiarity with the brush and compressor I'm looking at getting. For a brush I've been looking at a Patriot 105 since it looks to be a fairly versatile brush and if I get something finer in the future it is still an excellent brush for base coats.

For a compressor I've been looking at a Paasche D3000R. From what I can gather I just need to add a water trap to it, but the more I research into this compressor the more I find people saying its too under powered. Noise is a big factor for any compressor I'm looking into since I do live in an apartment so I don't want to annoy the hell out of other tenants, or destroy my own hearing while working with it. The other option I've seen is an ultra-quiet compressor from Home Depot, which is a monster compared to the Paasche. Then again unless I can find a good Canadian supplier, the shop compressors cost just as much as a hobby one.

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There's a good video on the War Gamers Consortium or maybe Voices of Mars (formerly a live feed) where the guy discusses several airbrushes and compressors. He informs us that paying extra for a supposedly quieter compressor is a bit of a waste, as the standard ones aren't even that loud, and they only run when they need to refill their air. His has a leak somewhere in the hose, so it has to refill every so often, whether he's using it or not, and it doesn't wake him. He compared the sound of the regular ones to the sound of a refrigerator kicking on. He even holds it up for us to hear. His suggestion was to put the extra $ towards a better airbrush, preferably gravity feed, as it uses up less paint. I'll see if I can find it to post for ya.

Edited by i_was_like_you
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The Patriot brush is considered a great "entry" airbrush. It is "relatively" inexpensive. I am just getting into airbrushing. I was getting one for my hirst arts molds and got a 350 (very inexpensive) but designed to put down a lot of paint. Not exactly mini material. I then picked up a 105 for painting minis, since I had the compressor. I ended up with a generic TCP style compressor WITH airtank. If you can afford it, get one with an air tank. Then your compressor isn't running ALL the time.

As i was like you said, War Gamers Consortium has some good videos. Here is the playlist: http://www.youtube.com/user/WGConsortium/videos?view=46&tag_id=UChB9tRBzwbR35OBP2e9HhKw.3.wgc-airbrushing

I'd start out with the introduction. It really tells you a LOT of good things about airbrushing.

One other caveat. ALL airbrushes and compressors (in this range) have unique fittings. So, a Patriot (Badger) airbrush will not have the right connectors to connect to a Paasche compressor. You will need some fittings. What I am personally trying to do, is get a quick disconnect that fits the airbrush, and one that fits the line, and that can interface together. That is kind of the best of both worlds. I am hoping that I get my fittings today... but I am not holding my breath. TCP Global is painfully slow at shipping.

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You want the short version or the long one?

Short version: you want a gravity-feed (important!), dual-action airbrush, manufacturer and model are secondary to these two factors. You can even buy a nameless Chinese one and when you grasp the basics (and are confident you can repeatedly strip/clean an airbrush without risking a $200 tool) you can just throw it away and get a good one.

If you want the long version, I can paste you some good advice, but it *is* long ;)

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You want the short version or the long one?

Short version: you want a gravity-feed (important!), dual-action airbrush, manufacturer and model are secondary to these two factors. You can even buy a nameless Chinese one and when you grasp the basics (and are confident you can repeatedly strip/clean an airbrush without risking a $200 tool) you can just throw it away and get a good one.

If you want the long version, I can paste you some good advice, but it *is* long ;)

I have time.

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I have a TCP-T20 and a Patriot 105 with the fine tip. You can get this set up for under $200 and is a great starter set up. The patriot is an awesome workhorse brush. I use it on everything now. The compressor has a tank, hose, moisture trap, and regulator for about $115.

I would look on Amazon.com or webairbrushes.com Chung (WGC) has a code here to. CONSORTIUM for %40 off I think.

Good luck mang!

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Yeah I've been looking through stuff. Just hard to tell if hoses are included, and what hoses I'd need to get things to connect. Need to check the prices on the Aspire Pro at Michaels locally to see if waiting for a 50% week is cheaper than ordering online. Yay international shipping fees. webairbrushes likely has the lowest price for a patriot, but their is also a 15 day delay on shipping. Currently the site isn't giving me prices for shipping with the just the brush, but I'm expecting at worst it'll cost the same as anywhere else.

Right now I'm looking at $150 for TC-20T and $250 for an Aspire. Probably go with the TC-20T unless I can get an Aspire locally for $200, which is unlikely since I feel like the price is about the same as webairbrush.

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I purchased the patriot 105 and paasche D3000R and have been very happy with both of them. I am also new to airbrushing and have been using them for a few months now. I have found the patriot good for priming base coating, shading, and have just begun to do a little detail work but I think this may be a bit limited at least with the patriot.

Oh and with the models I stated they are completely compatible with the stock parts from badger and paasche.

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Badger made the Krome specifically with miniatures in mind. The new Minitaire paints look really good to. I'm at about 500 paints as it is so any more and the wife might just take me for a drive out to the desert. :P

If you take a look online you can find a fine tip upgrade for the Patriot.

Have you used the badger needle kits? I see there is a 0.3 mm and 0.4 mm for patriot. I was thinking of getting the 0.3.

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post the long version.


*Profanity warning, forum will probably censor it but still*

Instead of using Gesso (**** the ****) or canned spray primer, I decided to mix some of my own primer and shoot it through my airbrush. Why in the world would I want to make my own primer when I could just buy some krylon for $3? There are a few reasons:

-Greater control. With canned spray primer it's shake and pray. It's hard to control the amount of paint that comes out and it's consistency. Variances between cans can sometimes ruin minis. White spray primer is especially guilty of these flaws.

-Ultra thin layers. Like good painting, with priming you want to use extremely thin layers. Canned primer can be extremely hard to control in this regard. With an airbrush you have a fine control over the amount of primer being sprayed.

-Using the materials I used, you can obtain a grey that is closer to white then most canned primers.

So let's get started:



-Good beer

-Mr. Surfacer 1200

-Mr. Color leveling thinner

Mr. Surfacer is a brush on liquid putty used for filling gaps and comes in various degrees of grittiness (500, 1000 and 1200). 500 is usually brushed on large gaps and then sanded down, while 1000 and 1200 are used to fill small gaps or scratches. 1200 is also fine enough to be shot through an airbrush, if properly thinned.

There are two ways you can thin Mr Surfacer. The first is using generic Lacquer thinner with a few drops of paint retardant (Mr Retarder). The other is to use Mr Color Leveling Thinner, which is their lacquer thinner (Mr Color Thinner) with their retarder.

Why the retarder? Because the liquid putty dries incredibly fast, and can dry mid air when being sprayed. This can cause spider webbing on the model, which looks horrible. The retarder prevents this.

(A note of availability. Mr Color products are becoming really hard to find in the US because of the cost of importing. Most places don't have Mr Retarder these days).

Make a mix of 30:70 Mr Surfacers 1200 and Mr Color Leveling Thinner. Thin milk is what you're aiming for. Do a test spray. Wear your damned respirator, this **** is dangerous to breath in.



Tomorrow: More beer and paint plans.

Wow this took way too long to write up. I'm going to post this in multiple places so a bunch more people see it.


Imagine this scenario. You wake up after a drunken night of slinging dice at your local hobby store. Glancing over, you look in horror as you realize at some point you thought it would be a good idea to buy 12 boxes of space marines. The store has no return policy. You need to get these painted fast! Because, uh, that's what you do.

Here's another. You just finished building your Baneblade and you realize in horror you have to base-coat the entire thing by hand.

How about the prices of gloss and flat spray varnish? Criminal isn't it. If only there was a cheap way to protect your minis...

All of these problems, and many more, can be solved with an airbrush.

Of course, buying an airbrush, let alone using one can be more problematic, especially with all the different kinds you can get and all the different techniques involved in using one. Each kind has a specific purpose, and each one has strengths and flaws.

While I'm not an expert, I have done a good bit of research on airbrushes and have used them for various tasks. While I'm still learning all I can about it, I figure what I've learned up until now will help some of you out. So let's do this.

There are a few things you need when using an airbrush, along with a few optional things. These are, in no particular order:

-A compressed air source.

-An airbrush with something to hold paint in



-A mask so you're not breathing in fumes

Optionally, you'll also want:

-a spray booth to suck up fumes

-a rotating base that can hold models and pieces so there is less direct contact

Let's break it down:

A Compressed Air Source

There are two sources of compressed air you can use. A can of compressed air and an air compressor. With that being said, you should never used cans of compressed air to airbrush with. Airbrushes need constant air pressure to paint properly, and cans of compressed air cannot deliver the consistency needed.

There are a few things you need to look into when choosing a compressor, the most important being compatibility with your airbrush of choice. Usually airbrush manufacturers also sell compressors, so if you stick with the same brands you'll be fine. You can use different brands of airbrushes on different brands of compressors, but they'll most likely need some sort of adapter.

The second most important thing to look into is how much PSI the compressor can deliver. Most airbrushes need between 10-20 PSI to paint properly, depending on what type of job you're trying to do and the paint you're using. Make sure your airbrush can deliver that much (And try to read some reviews as some compressors don't tell the truth).

Next, a good compressor should come with a moisture trap and a pressure regulator. Moisture traps prevent water from the air getting in the line and ruining your spray, while pressure regulators allow you to adjust the amount of air pressure going through your brush.

Optionally, you'll want to see if your compressor of choice has an air tank attached. This will prevent the compressor from having to run all the time, but it will increase the price of the compressor fast.

You'll also want to see if the compressor has an on off switch or if it simply powers down by unplugging it.

An Airbrush

The most important decision. These range in price from super cheap $15 single action jobs to $500+ professional tools. How much you want to spend is entirely dependent on what you need your airbrush to do and how reliable you want it, and price does tend to be a good indicator of quality.

There are many types of airbrushes that do all sorts of things. Let's define some terms.

Airbrush vs Spray Gun

Both essentially do the same thing, but each one has it's specific purposes. Spray guns are best for doing broad strokes and laying paint down over a large area, and most have trouble doing detail work. Airbrushes are better for detail work but can also lay down paint over a large area. If all you want to do is lay down a base-coat on some figs or a tank, a spray gun will work fine. If you see yourself attempting detail work with your brush, you'll want an airbrush.

Single Action vs. Dual Action

There are two types of airbrushes; single action and dual action. Cheaper airbrushes tend to be single action while better ones are dual. What is the difference?

Single Action: Single action brushes are much like spray cans. You press the button and paint is expelled out at a fixed amount. Some allow this to be slightly adjusted, but for the most part you won't have control over how much paint is coming out, much like a spray can. This is fine for doing base-coats but if you want more then you'll need a dual action. Most spray guns are single action.

Dual Action: These airbrushes tend to be more expensive, but they have finer control over how the paint comes out. Dual action works by having two actions on the trigger. Pressing in allows air to come out of the brush, and pulling back expels paint. The further you pull back, the more paint comes out. This allows a super fine level of control and allows you to pull off come crazy awesome tricks. Depending on how good your airbrush is, you could hard line tanks with it. If you see yourself doing any sort of detail work with a brush, get a dual action.

Gravity Fed Vs Bottom Fed

This is how the paint is fed into the airbrush for mixing.

Bottom Fed


Air pressure is used to siphon paint up a tube and into the airbrush. The advantages of this is it allows you to use external jars which can hold a lot of paint and be changed quickly. The disadvantage is it requires more air pressure then gravity fed brushes and is harder to maintain a fine mist. If you see yourself changing paint colors often or wanting to do a large number of models in one go, get a bottom fed airbrush.

Gravity Fed


Gravity is used to feed paint into the airbrush. This requires less air pressure then bottom fed brushes, and thus allows a finer spray for more detail. However, most gravity fed brushes have a built in paint canister, which means you won't be able to swap out containers to change colors fast and you won't be able to hold a large amount of paint in it. If detail is what you want though, gravity fed is the way to go.

Internal Mix vs External Mix

Where the air and paint mix.

Internal Mix


The air and paint are mixed in the tip of the brush, which creates a finer atomized "mist" of paint.

External Mix


The Air in an external mix leaves the brush before coming in contact with the paint and can create a course stippled effect. Most cheaper airbrushes are external mix. They should be avoided if you are looking for fine detail work.

So let's recap. If you just want a cheap airbrush for base-coats, a single action, bottom fed external mix airbrush is fine. If you want a bit more control, then a dual action, internal mix brush is what you want.

Paints and Propellant/thinner

The big question a lot of people have is what kind of paint you have to use with an airbrush. The good news is that you can use any paint you want with it. The bad news is each paint, nay, each brand of paint, has it's own way of having to be handled and mixed in an airbrush. First, let's go over thinning your paint for airbrush use.

There are three things you want to happen when you spray paint through an airbrush. The first is that the paint goes through it without clogging it up. The second is that paint sprays finely without spattering. The third is that the paint dries quickly without leaving the model wet for an extended period of time.

Thick paint can clog an airbrush, so you have to thin it. How much depends on what type of paint you're using, but you want your paint to be pretty thin. Thinner then 2% milk is a good guideline, along with the rule that paint that's too thin is better then paint that's too thick.

In order to get a quick drying time, you need to use a different thinner other then water. Water cannot be misted properly by an airbrush and can cause the paint to spatter, as well as increasing the drying time, allowing paint to pool up in recesses. What you need is an alcohol based thinner. While what the best airbrush thinner is will be debated until the end of time by nerds, there are distinctly three different choices you have.

Expensive: Hobby specific airbrush thinners, like Tamiya Acrylic Thinner. Expensive like all hobby specific products, but a lot of modelers swear by the stuff.

Cheap: Isopropyl Alcohol 91% to 99%. Available at any local drug store. Fairly cheap. Make sure you get a grade that's at least 91%, as anything lower will have too much water in it to be useful.

Super Cheap: Windex. Seriously. While I haven't tried it myself, A lot of people swear by this stuff. Apparently the blue tint doesn't affect the color of the paint at all. I'm a bit suspicious but at that price you can't really go wrong.

As far as your paint selection goes, for the most part any acrylic paint can go through an airbrush, even metallics. Which paint you use will determine how much you have to thin it. I'll give a brief rundown of paints I have experience with:

Citadel Paints: These are perfectly fine to be airbrushed with. My paint to thinner ratio for these is about 50:50. Foundation paints are another story however. Since the concentration of pigments is far higher, the paint to thinner ration needs to be somewhere between 30:70 and 40:60. I've come to the conclusion that unless I cannot come up with a perfect color match, I will not use foundation paints in my airbrush.

Tamiya Acrylics: These paints are far thinner then GW paints and can be mixed from 60:40 to 70:30.

Testors and Model Masters Acrylics: 60:40 is a good ratio for these but testors is a horrible company that is responsible for the decline in model building in America so don't use them.

A word on masks and safety in general

If you're using an airbrush to spray paint, you should wear a mask. End of story. Even painting acrylics can damage your system over time if continuously inhaling the alcohol and paint. Especially if you plan on spray priming. That **** will kill your lungs.

On why you might want a spray booth

If your paint area gets no ventilation, you might want to get a spray booth.

Spray booths are basically boxes with fans attached that suck out paint fumes to the outside. You can build one for fairly cheap or you can spend a ton of money on a professional one. If you live with others who are not as enthusiastic about your painting, this will help keep the complaints low.

Airbrush basics

So now that you have your airbrush and compressor set up, how do you use it?

While this is all dependent on the type of airbrush you got, there are a few basic guidelines.

Practice with the airbrush for a bit before you lay down a spray on some minis. This will show you what it's capable of and allow you to get used to it. Keep making adjustments to it to learn where the sweet spot is.

When you spray, always start with just air, then slowly pull back the trigger. Don't pull the trigger on the minis. Instead start elsewhere and move to the mini once you're satisfied that the paint isn't going to splatter. Keep the airbrush moving to avoid the paint pooling. When you're done, don't stop the air while still pointed at the mini, as this may cause the paint to spatter. Pull away from it and then let go of the trigger.

Cleaning your airbrush

Every single time you're done spraying a color, you need to give your airbrush a quick rinse. Use Isopropyl alcohol, lacquer thinner or Acetone. Once you run that through, run some clear water through it.

At the end of every painting session you should be pulling your airbrush apart to give the internals a quick clean. White the needle down with Isopropyl alcohol, lacquer thinner or acetone. Soak the tip in a small pool of the same. Give it a good wipe down. re-assemble and check everything. A well maintained airbrush will last years. A poorly maintained one will last days.

Buying Suggestions

Brands to avoid

Testors, Aztek

Brands to look into

Paasche, Iwata, Badgar

I have three options for you guys.

El Cheapo: Harbor Freight Airbrush and compressor kit. Super cheap airbrush, but it's an internal mix so at least you have that. Compressor is kinda under powered and the airbrush tends to break down after a while, but it's cheap.

Not so El Cheapo: Iwata Silver Jet Studio Compressor and Iwata Eclipse Airbrush Kit (HB-BCS). Iwata airbrushes are really good and highly recommended.

Insane: Iwata Custom Micron CM-C Plus. One of the ultimate detail brushes.

That's it for the helpful posts. My advice is:

- get a cheap airbrush, you WILL strip it repeatedly until you learn how not to clog it and you don't want to risk a good Badger

- a good compressor is a godsend. Get one with a tank (or make one), it does wonders for pressure. Especially if your compressor is more powerful - in my experience the optimal airbrush pressure for miniatures is 15-20 psi, if you have more you can just switch off the compressor and wait for it to drop (no I don't use teflon tape :P)

- also needed: airbrush cleaning brushes & fluid, cleaning station (make one from a jar & paper filter, the point is you DON'T want to spray thinner all over your workplace), airbrush stand (again, one wire coathanger & a pair of pliers and you're set), a spiral hose with a quick release plug (this is a wonder when you need to clean the airbrush; also, you don't have a hose lying everywhere on the floor & getting dirty). If you're airbrushing parts and not assembled & based minis (which you can doubletape/blu-tac onto a flat surface) you also want a stand with crocodile clips to hold the parts.

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Great advice from Pierzasty! Pay attention to it! :) The only bit I will not agree 100% is about buying a cheap airbrush first, unless you know you are prone to break things... :) go for a good airbrush instead.

I bought my first airbrush a few months ago and haven't looked back: Badger Khrome for $129 at Secret Weapon Miniatures.

Awesome airbrush for miniature painting, gravity fed, dual action, .21mm needle. On top of that, awesome customer service from both SWM and Badger. Can't recommend it enough.

I bought 2 extra needles since people told me it was too easy to bend it, but I disassemble everything at the end of each painting session for cleaning and I am glad to say I am still using the original needle. I did watch all kinds of youtube videos I could find to try to learn how to do it properly and you MUST LEARN how to disassemble it and clean it BEFORE putting any paint in it... very important!


Have fun!

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Well, if I bought a $100 airbrush first, it'd probably still lie on my shelf, as I'd be afraid of breasking some delicate part :v besides, now I will know what I want, which features I want to improve from the lowest standard and which are OK for my needs, and all I wasted is $15 :P

(also: shut up I didn't have money for that Sotar sale :( )

And for those who are still on the fence: if you're playing boardgames with minis (lots of identical ones) or Warmachine or something similar (color-themed armies), you want an airbrush. Yes, there are colored primers, but they're too expensive once you buy several cans. Also, horrible propellant/thinner, you can't adjust the flow/color, forget about shading details with them. And painting a dragon(or Nekima)-sized model fully with a brush can go to hell.

Also, if you have simple color schemes, airbrushing can reduce the painting time/effort so much that it feels like cheating *grin* you have to know when to use it though, I've seen an airbrush paintjob that turned me off Guild aesthetics entirely.

Edited by Pierzasty
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Ive just ordered an airbrush thanks to this post :P im really looking forward to trying it out. What paints would you guys recomemd or do people prefer to mix/make there own?

I was looking at getting some of the mr. Surfacer/thinners as the results are really nice judging by the picture. But that stuff is really expensive. Does anyone have any recomendations or suggestions for alternatives?

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Depends how detailed you want to go :) for basecoats, terrain painting & large area shading just get an airbrush thinner and an airbrush cleaning agent (trust me, you want this one). Get some little plastic containers (pill blisters are awesome, for larger quantities of paint I use blisters from "eyeball" marshmallows) and mix your own paint, the thinner flows a bit better than water. Airbrush behaves differently than a brush, so you want thinner paint. Even thinner. Yes, more than that. You want your paint slightly runny and almost unusable if you applied it by brush. That's something you need to figure out by experience.

If you don't want the mixing work, Vallejo Air is a good airbrush line (it has awesome metallics that people buy to brush on, much better than the Game/Model Color lines). Badger has released the Minitaire line of paints which are cheaper and supposedly good, but I can't buy it in Poland so I know nothing about them first-hand.

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Alright, continuing with the questions...managed to get a good price on a decent quality Badger airbrush. Looking into compressors, but I'm not even sure where to really start on comparing them. If I want to be able to do something more detailed than base coating, what are the stats I'm looking for?

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  • 4 weeks later...

So my TCP order finally shipped. Ended up going with a Patriot-Arrow (I like the smaller cup design of it) and just the generic tank with compressor. Not a lot of options for Air-brush paint locally. Basically either Spectra-tex from Michaels, or Vallejo Model air from one of the hobby shops. Have a thing of Model air white sitting on my shelf and I'll pick up a few more colors when an order comes in. Excited to finally mess around with this thing and finally get some paint on my Khador.

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It seemed forever for my TC20 to ship too. I have the one with the tank, probably the same thing. Be careful, they scoot. I had mine on my counter, and it took a tumble. Thankfully, it still seems to work fine.

I've been getting Createx from Hobby Lobby lately. I thought about Spectra-tex from Michaels. If you get their app on your phone, you can go in and get the paints at 40% off. So far, I like the Wicked Color line from Createx I've heard a lot of good about Model air, though. I just figured I would go with a bunch of "inexpensive" paint, and then fill in the gaps with Model air.

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Having only just gone through making the leap to airbrushing and fumbling my way through my advice would be, as Pierzasty, has said start with cheap no-name'd e-bay/Chinese. You will make mistakes with the cleaning/dilution and get clogging, leaks and problems and that's a whole less scary on something that costs buttons than a couple of hundred.

Secondly paint thinning. I got this advice from watching a couple of videos from the guy from Badger airbrushes and good sense when you think of it and that's don't use alcohol. I'd even say steer clear of using water. Why, I hear you ask? Well if you've ever tried wet blending then swore a lot at your models because it wasn't working you'll know that acrylic paints dry really quickly. When you're constantly blowing air over/through the paint it dries even faster and if you substitute water with alcohol, which evaporates quicker, then you're drying faster still. Paint drying in your tip will cause clogs, on your needle and in the brush it'll cause leaks and it'll make what's already a difficult learning process even harder.

Badger-guy (Ken Schlotfeldt) also doesn't recommend Windex. Reason being is an ammonia based cleaner and while it may have the desired effect of slowing the dry time it's because it's attacking the paint. Acrylic paints are a ground pigment suspended in an acrylic polymer so when you introduce a cleaning agent that attacks that polymer it won't cure as well or, in plain English, the paint wont bond as well and is more prone to rub off. Again making things more difficult while you learn.

For thinning I went for a bottle of airbrush medium from Golden so your thinning which, I'm lead to believe at least, has a retarder agent in it as well as thinning with the polymer medium so you're not weakening your paint. For cleaning I picked up an Iwata branded bottle of cleaner. I did try other things but they were never quite as successful. It was about £5 but hardly used any of it since I'm using the airbrush medium as I'm getting very little tip-dry so can just shoot water through the majority of the time.

In short, Airbrush medium + an airbrush cleaning solution really made things easier for me. There's so many different opinions out there it maybe a YMMV things but I'd say if you've made a big investment in a brush and compressor it's only a little more for these two things and you're ride will be smother and more enjoyable.

Have fun =D

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Unfortunately they don't seem to do it here in the UK =( The Golden medium was about £8 for a fairly big bottle and I've hardly dented it so I think it'll last years and in the same store they had, if I'm remembering right, a Liquitex brand one too. Since switching to using the medium I've not had any issues forcing me to strip the brush down and only took the needle out for a quick wipe once to cure a very slight air bleed.

Saying that I've not shot red through it again yet. All my reads seem to clog like a bitch. I didn't buy any special paints, being using Vallejo VGC + VMC for years so using those so it might be that. Army Painter were claiming to have finer pigment in their Warpaints so in theory they should airbrush better than most but yet to hear an airbrush review of them.

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I tried some non-airbrush paints, and quickly bought some airbrush paints. It was just 1 less variable to play with. Interesting about the reds. I have shot some reds, and it acted... strangely. A little bubbling at the tip. At the time, I was painting a heart red for my engagement photo-session. It was not a big deal. Not 100% sure about how it will be on an actual mini.

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