Enter keywords or a search phrase below:

My airbrushing experience as a newbie

11 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    February, 2015
  • From: Wisconsin
My airbrushing experience as a newbie
Posted by Airborne_Trooper11B on Friday, September 21, 2018 2:24 AM

So I've been modeling WWII aircraft for nearly 20 years and for nearly 20 years, I've come up with every reason I could think of, not to take on airbrushing. For what it's worth, I've gotten quite good at making rattle cans and gooey testors paint work for me. But finally after accepting the reality that you're quite limited in capabilties without an airbrush, I took the plunge and got one. Air compresser with tank made by Master that came with an airbrush. Enough for me, to start out.  

First thing I'll say is that even with all the great advice, tutorials and guides, it's still like stepping into an abyss. You just don't know what you don't know; good or bad until you get one in hand and start trying it out. Having said that, as my wife can attest, I don't do anything unless I dive in, head first with the most half-***ed plan ever, that I've convinced myself is wholesale strategy. 

This for once actually worked out in my favor. I was working on a B-17 until my 4 year  old son and 2 year old daughter got their grubby hands on it and flung it across the room trying to make it fly. So what started as a model that had pain staking detail on the interior, turned into a very large painting mule for me. Here's where it got interesting.

First time out, everything went wrong. Got air, but no paint, clogging, erractic pulses of paint, splattering, more clogging, spills, you name it, it went wrong. It was so bad, I didn't even know what advice I needed, to try and get things sorted out. I convicned myself that my $20 airbursh was the culprit, didn't go all the way Iwata but went with the NEO for Iwata just to see if there was an actual difference. (Still waiting for it to arrive). In the meantime I figured, the one I have now, will be in the trash soon, so might as well stop being timid and just work out these issues, even if I end up just breaking it. So I took it a came with extra needles and I remembered I changed them around thinking it might fix my problems. So then I realized between the .2 and .5 needles I may have mixed them up. Hard to tell just by eye balling it. So I did a process of elemination. I knew a .2 would "fit" everything sized at .5 but not the other way around. Sure enough, that whole time I had a .2 needle, going though a .5 fluid nozzle and a .5 nozzle cap....And didn't realize that Vallejo "Model Color" as opposed to Vallejo "Model Air" needs to be thinned down ALOT....especially when you're giving that thick paint all the room in the world to constantly clog a $20 airbrush, through mix-matched needles and caps.

That's when all the lightbulbs went off and finally had my a-ha moment. I put it back together the right way and BAM. Paint! Actual airbrush paint was finally coming out the way I saw it effortlessly do in numerous tutorial videos. From there, I taught myself how to thin paints, keep your nozzle from clogging, mixing, how to clean your needle when it's clogged and more. Once I had all that figured out, I finally got a chance to really start practing different techniques: pre shading, post shading, black shading, layering. Now I'm just obsessed with airbrushing the most random pieces of scrapped models I have lying around. The B-17 is now a faded very light intermediate blue, as it's my practice run for my CorsAir paint scheme. 

Anyway, I learned a few things. First- I CAN'T BELEIVE I WAITED THIS LONG TO AIRBRUSH!! More importantly though, this business about cheap airbrushes vs. expensive ones. I think it's like anything. Your tools are only as good as your skill. I play guitar and I tell people all the time: A $2,000 Stratocaster is not going to make you all a sudden play like Jimi Hendrix. 2,000 hours of practice will get you on that road. I've read every bad review imaginable about this Master airbrush and after really, really working with it and learning the ins and outs of an airbrush, I honestly don't see what all the hate is about. Perhaps that's just me still being new and not knowing what I don't know, but when I get my NEO, I'll know more on what really counts between "cheap" and "expensive". Right now, I'm having way too much fun, shading and weathering random pieces of styrene wing halves. 

So my advice to other NOOBs: Have a battleplan. It'll certainly save a lot of headaches and time (and money). But if you're stubborn like me, dive in and let the steep learning curve take you to hell in back. It'll force you to learn things you'd likely convince yourself wasn't important. 


  • Member since
    July, 2004
  • From: Sunny So. Cal... The OC
Posted by stikpusher on Friday, September 21, 2018 3:19 AM

Very well put. Learn the basics and then build your skill level. Even once your new fancier airbrush arrives, there will be a new learning curve. You will need to develop new muscle memory for your new toy.


F is for FIRE, That burns down the whole town!

U is for URANIUM... BOMBS!

N is for NO SURVIVORS...

       - Plankton



  • Member since
    August, 2012
  • From: Parker City, IN.
Posted by Rambo on Friday, September 21, 2018 3:39 AM
I started with a harbor freight ab then upgraded to a iwata neo after a couple of years with that it took a nose dive onto the tile floor in the bathroom I was rinsing out a empty Tamiya bottle forget why I had the ab with me. So I upgraded again to a Iwata eclipse I wish I would of just bought it first. Don't get me wrong the neo is a great cheaper brush to practice with probably the best in it's price range.


  • Member since
    May, 2016
Posted by Hobbie on Friday, September 21, 2018 4:17 AM

I started with a Revell beginner kit ; it was simple, three gears, you pushed and the paint came out. The little compressor was horrible of course. I learned the basics with it, manage to make some decent shading work, it never broke. One solid year later, needing something more refined for panel lines and preshading, I upgraded without busting the bank to a Fengda airbrush and compressor. Whole different world, first time I had to change needles, but it went smoothly. Not top of the line, but it works fine for me. Maybe an Evolution will come one day but hey... if it ain't broke, don't fix it!


I always took good care of the revell by cleaning it thorougly between color switch : cleaner, absorbing paper and q-tips. First fill the paint recipient, let the cleaner work for a good minute, empty it, fill it again, spray it out, then clean the inside and nozzle with q-tips soaked in cleaner. Tip given by a client at the local shop when I bought my first one, a little time consuming but works like a charm.


Funnily enough, a few weeks ago, I took the revell out to spray Mr. Surfacer, fearing to damage my "good one" ; it wasn't working, the air was spraying non-stop! I don't understand as it just sat in its box for a year or so...


I too understood the magic you can achieve with an airbrush and basic techniques, I wish I had learned the craft sooner! Now I just have to complete one model right Dead keep your oldies handy, the more you practice the better, just like the instrument (fellow guitar player ;) ) and it's always better to try out techniques before working on your project (I sinned too much by impatience)

Arguing with an engineer is like wrestling with a pig in the mud : after a while, you realize the pig likes it.

  • Member since
    March, 2007
  • From: Northeast WA State
Posted by armornut on Friday, September 21, 2018 6:04 AM

   Your not alone in your struggles Trooper, even today after many years of "practicing" with an A/B sometimes the stars just don't align for me.

    As yourself stated if your gonna do it go all in and hit the learning curve head on, the frustrations can be many but the rewards are unspeakably cool. You may remember all the issues you had painting one kit and have it loiter on the shelf mocking you....and right next to it will be your victory lap, and that'll keep ya pushing your skills. Good luck, have fun and keep rocking.

we're modelers it's what we do

  • Member since
    January, 2013
Posted by BlackSheepTwoOneFour on Friday, September 21, 2018 9:09 AM

I, too started out with a Paashe single action airbrush - minus an air compressor my grandmother gave me as a birthday present going back to the early 80s. It wasn't until 3-4 years ago I finally bought myself an air compressor. So, yeah that airbrush sat in that original box untouched for 20 plus years. I researched and learned what's the best paint to thinner ratio using acrylic paints. When I gained enough confidence plus a little bit experimenting, I was ready to buy my first dual action airbrush - a NEO Iwata at Hobby lobby with 40$ coupon. That airbrush still sits in the orginal box brand new and untouched once more. These days my building days have been far and very few in between for the last couple years. 

I'm a firm believer in being your own teacher figuring out what works, what doesn't in this hobby.

  • Member since
    June, 2014
Posted by bluenote on Friday, September 21, 2018 9:32 AM

I had a pretty similar experience.  I started with a Badger 350, and had nothing but problems.  I switched to rattle cans, and it was okay, but i hated the mess and fumes and lack of control. I then bought a Iwata CR and had some problems but it was better.  Now, I have very few problems and really enjoy airbrushing!

  • Member since
    July, 2004
  • From: Sunny So. Cal... The OC
Posted by stikpusher on Friday, September 21, 2018 5:52 PM

I used a Badger 350 for well over 20 years. I bought a compressor early on. I used the snot out of the 350 and mastered it as best I could. Panel lines, pre shading, post shading, etc., there was little that I did not try or do with it. It is a great beginners airbrush in my experience. But after 20+ years it was worn out. I then picked up a second hand single action internal mix Chandler & Thayer off eBay for a great price to continue my path. Later I was gifted a used Master Double Action with compressor after the owner passed and his daughter thought I would make good use of it. And I have. Learning to use a double action was one of those proverbial double edged swords. Most recently I was gifted a couple of used Double Action Badgers. Cue new learning curve to master these new tools. Our AMPS Chapter has a Grex airbrush that was gifted by a LHS to pass around amongst the members to try out. Some guys loved it, some did not. But what works for one, does not work for another.  I’ve been airbrushing for well over 30 years now and I’m sure there is still plenty more for me to learn out there. 

Im no guitar player, but I suppose I could compare it to pistol shooting. 30 years ago, I had no training or skill in that area. Now I consider myself pretty good. Part is the training, part is the practice, and part is the tool itself. It is not about snobbery of caliber or pistol type, it is about fast accurate shot placement. If it does not properly fit your hand, and you do not have the basics down of grip, breathing, trigger squeeze, sight alignment/picture, etc. even the fanciest competition pistol won’t hit anything reliably. 


F is for FIRE, That burns down the whole town!

U is for URANIUM... BOMBS!

N is for NO SURVIVORS...

       - Plankton



  • Member since
    July, 2018
Posted by Tickmagnet on Saturday, October 27, 2018 9:06 AM

I just took the airbrush plunge a few months ago. I just got a cheap point zero that came with three air brushes and a compressor. It is working just fine for me right now and I am learning a lot, thanks to practice and helpful information from this forum and youtube. I still have much more to learn but I'm glad I went the cheaper route to start. Most of my problem at this point is my habit of putting paint on to thick and sometimes spraying to far away from the model. But, I'm working on it.

  • Member since
    July, 2014
Posted by Bakster on Saturday, October 27, 2018 10:28 AM

Howdy, Kilroy. I just want to say that you wrote an awesome post. It should be the poster child for everyone looking to jump into airbrushing. It is nicely written and chronicled. 

I first jumped into ABing in the early 80s using a Badger 200. Let me tell you... I pulled out a lot of hair back then. Dry tip, clogging, spitting, and dust drove me up the wall. I became very adept at stripping paint. That's all I ever did. Good thing models were cheap back then. It didn't help that the brush at that time used a very fickle o-ring and a waxed tip. Both had failed me often, and always ruinng the paint finish. I didn't have internet to help me out either. Those were the early days of it where general consumption hadn't hit.

I eventually stopped building and picked up the hobby again a few years back. I started with that same brush and all of the same problems haunted me. I just could understand it. Other people were being successful. Why can't I? As a last ditch move I went out and purchased a Badger 150. (Updated. It is a Model 155). Well, it was a lot better. But, I still had a menacing splatter. Ugh. Patrick found my crying for help post, and help that he did. In the end we found that my new Badger had a bent needle tip. Paint was building up at the tip and then flinging off. Once when I got a new needle...holy smoke. This brush sprays like a dream. For the first time I was able to start focusing on the actual build, and far less time on paint issues. I can confidently go to the spray booth knowing that the job will be done. 

I took that old Badger 200 and tossed into the garbage with much glee. I should have taken a hammer to it. It would have felt better.



  • Member since
    July, 2014
Posted by Bakster on Saturday, October 27, 2018 11:02 AM

Sorry, typo. The correct model that I purchased is Badgers 155 Anthem. 


  • Member since
    November, 2008
  • From: Central Florida
Posted by plasticjunkie on Saturday, October 27, 2018 3:52 PM

Well folks there’s nothing wrong with a Neo gravity fed ab. I’ve been using one and love how it perfoms.

You also started with acrylics and they are a PITA to ab specially Vallejo. I got my first Badger ab back in the 1970s and it pays to start off with a decent tool. I still have it and it’s still in service.

You will be amazed how easy enamels spray compared to acrylics. Glad you have things under control.




Too many models to build, not enough time in a lifetime!!


Our community is FREE to join. To participate you must either login or register for an account.


By signing up you may also receive reader surveys and occasional special offers. We do not sell, rent or trade our email lists. View our Privacy Policy.