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Airbrushing Techniques


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I've recently acquired an airbrush setup, and have started to play with it. There's already a good thread in "The toolshed" on choosing and buying an airbrush and compressor. There's also a ton of material online on the basics of airbrushing. Most are geared toward 2D art or miscellaneous model and figure painting. I'm working my way through these. But I'm looking for recommendations for sites and videos that are train specific, and maybe even N-scale specific.

 

Things I'm interested in mainly, are:

 

1. Rolling stock painting techniques - masking, marking, layering etc.

2. Weathering, trains and buildings 

3. Scenery painting.

4. Anything else that I may not be aware of.

 

Thanks. If anyone is interested I'll post links to the videos that I've found most useful, so far.

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Below are the best of the videos that I'm finding. You need to copy/past the addresses. 

 

Loco shell prepping and spraying

 

Loco painting: Masking and spraying. Excellent step by step, video of a complex multi-layer loco shell spray.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=5-VqIkRqEfk

 

This one is much more basic, but it gives are great description of how to prep a loco shell, before painting

www.youtube.com/watch?v=I7sGcfOc_70

 

This one shows the process of making curved and complex masking.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=Asc_gQPqXJY

 

This is really a continuation of the video above. It covers decal placement

www.youtube.com/watch?v=yPkQZL_isVY

 

Not really a video, but a series of stills showing the steps in spraying a loco with a complex curved paint layer.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=hWwh22OjPJQ

 

Timelapse video of a loco spray with awful club music.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=yuNUGPko8AE&t=51s

Edited by gavino200
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Excellent video on applying primer. Just a few of the tips and tricks in this video.

 

1. Use flow enhancer for regular paint. Never thinner

2. Used thinner for surface primer.

3. Two coats of primar. The second MUCH more thinned out than the first. You're going for the nooks and crannies that didn't get covered with the first coat.

4. Completely break down the airbrush anytime it touches primer.

5. He uses a shot glass of something similar to Lysol to steep the parts in overnight. Looks like everything just fits. Saves solvent.

6. He leaves the needle cap off and uses a toothbrush to keep prevent clogging during use.

 

 

 

This video explains the difference between flow enhancer and retarder, which where a bit confused in the first video. It also explains the use of water with flow enhancer which was shown but not explained in the first video. In a nutshell you use mostly water with a tiny drop of enhancer. From a modeling point of view, I think flow enhancer is the more important of the two. Retardant appears to be more important for fine art projects, but it can help with decreasing nozzle clogging.

 

 

 

Edited by gavino200
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I know know what happens if you mistakenly buy solvent based paint instead of latex paint, then add flow enhancer and water to the cup. Let's just say I no longer fear "someday" badly clogging my airbrush. It was gunked up solid, and took a while to get it clear, but all's well again. 

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1 hour ago, cteno4 said:

Always use the sniff test! Usually can whiff the difference! 

 

Jeff

 

I totally didn’t notice. I can’t smell a thing in my giant respirator mask.

 

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Clear coating 

 

Two excellent videos on applying clear coat.  The first deals with gloss finish. The second with matt and satin finish.

 

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aQuY0sDlPoU

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NRkCgqRPzgw&t=398s

 

 

Basic technique give for creating a "satin" finish.

Mix 80% gloss with 20% matt coat

20%  airbrush medium (thinner?)

a drop of retardant

Low flow

 

then a thick coat

Spray it wet, just like with gloss coat.

 

 

 

This video deals specifically with using Tamiya Flat clear coat. It's good. He's vague about the mix ration but clears it up in the comments. 3 parts Tamiya thinner to 1 part Tamiya flat clear coat.

 

 

 

The "key" to matt and gloss.

 

One of the drawbacks to being a novice is that when experts teach technique, they often refer to "too much" paint or "too heavy" a coat. This isn't really helpful, as one of the main things a novice wants to know is "how much is too much".

 

For matt, each coat needs to be thin and light. How thin? 3:1 thinner to coating product. How light? The coat should never be so much as to have a "wet" appearance when applied. If you have that wet appearance on application you will almost certainly have a residue when it dries.

 

So gloss should be be applied to look wet on application.

Matt should NEVER look wet on application.

Edited by gavino200
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Regarding the "Satin" clear coat in the above video. If you are using Tamiya clear coat you'll need a slightly different mix ratio of gloss and matt. I used the ratio ins the video and the result was just less than pure gloss. I added matt to the mixture bit by bit until I got an acceptable satin finish.

 

What worked was 4 pipettes gloss to 3 pipettes matt

I'm fairly happy with my satin finish but you could probably go even a little more in the matt direction. Also, I got a better finish with mid flow/mid range than low flow/close range as suggested in the video.

Edited by gavino200
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"Lightproofing" plastic structures with an airbrush.

 

I'm talking about a building (Tomytec in this case) that you want to illuminated with interior LEDs. For most structures if you don't pain the interior the whole structure glows. What I have always used is the thickest black paint that my local art store carries, followed by the thickest white paint to make the interior reflective and natural looking. To do this by hand is extremely tedious. 

 

I've wanted to do this with an airbrush for a while but I couldn't figure out how to mask the painted surfaces of the building. If you just use masking tape then the window frame interiors get painted and it looks bad. I came up with a solution today. I'm sure I just "re-invented the wheel" and came up myself with something common. I used a product called "Magic modelling clay" - a cheap kid's arts'n'crafts clay that we have in the house. But I'd imagine any kind of clay would work. 

 

Just apply the clay to the painted surface in windowed areas. Push the clay into the windows. It actually helps if you allow the clay to pouch in a bit. Then mask off the non-window parts. 

 

It's much simpler than hand painting. This way I can set up, sort of a production line and do a bunch at once. I also realized it's easy to remove the window "glass" plastic on the Tomytec models to make this possible. 

 

Will add more pictures later

 

EyX0tIs.jpg

 

 

For the black layer I used Vallejo black primer. One coat "force dried" with air from the airbrush, followed by a second coat. Then left to cure for 24 hours.

 

a5RqBRI.jpg

 

 

.And a coat of white Vallejo primer. (In the case below, there are two coats, but since then I've just used one, as it's not important for the inside to be super white)

 

 

GvkEz6f.jpg

 

 

The method work well. However tiny windows, such as the tiny slat windows on the Pachinko building above can be a bit problematic. A small amount of clay/paint. Is left behind to obstruct them. Fortunately it's not difficult to clear them. I tried a few different methods. The easiest, quickest and best method is to use a the sides of a pointy forceps (tweezers) to loosen the obstruction. The brush with a new toothbrush in much the same manner that you clean your teeth. 

 

 

0hQjdhu.jpg?1

 

 

I'm happy with the result. This is just a test here. The structure isn't glued and the joints aren't lightproofed. I actually planning on using colored lights for at least the main hall of the Pachinko Parlor. Also the LEDs are deliberately brighter than they need to be.

 

udKWj84.jpg

 

d7UQORZ.jpg

 

This is the clay product I used. I used it just because I had it in the house. But as I look at it more it may be ideal for this. It's a mass market product for kids so it's cheap. It's formulated to stay clumped but not stick to hands (in this case model structures). And it's non-toxic in case you eat some by accident (j/k). I bought some more today and found that it comes in small individual pacts too, which would be ideal for this kind of work. The regular stuff stays fresh indefinitely though, if you wrap it up well. I'm only tried the non-colored/white kind. I don't know if the colored variety would leave pigment behind. I doubt it but don't feel like taking the chance

 

 

u0CrXGO.jpg

 

 

Another useful product. I've taken to using E6000 glue for putting structures together. The drying time give a few minutes to get parts in place but is quite fast. It dries quite strong, but is weak enough that the structure can be easily reopened later if necessary. And it's easy to completely remove with no damage to the structure. I just found that it's sold also in white and black colors. Both are quite opaque and are ideal for lightproofing corners and joints. Sort of a "two birds with one stone" thing.

 

kW2PXEt.jpg?1

Edited by gavino200
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Buying an airbrush setup

 

I thought I'd add this to keep everything together/linked. There's already a thread in "The Toolshed" that has all the discussion and information to get started. That thread is linked below.

 

I just want to add my perspective in brief. I was quite afraid of messing with an airbrush. It seemed very complicated. Also, it looks hard and I imagined I would just end up ruining a lot of models. However, with YouTube tutorials and practice I progressed quite well. And I haven't ruined anything yet. Also, the airbrush is more natural to use than I thought. I was up an running with less practice than I expected.

 

My main point here is about which airbrush to choose. I wanted to start with the most basic and progress. So I bought a two very simple Harbor freight brushes. I still haven't used them but I think they'll be handy for big jobs like layout painting. After watching a bunch of YouTube videos I had a hunch that I'd be able to handle what is basically the standard type of airbrush - a gravity fed, double action airbrush. Also, a lot of videos recommended the Iwata Neo as a good beginner airbrush. So I bought one. I'm glad I did. It's simple, easy to use, and easy to clean. To anyone thinking of starting, I'd say go ahead. And just go straight to something like this. I just love it, and I doubt that I'll ever need anything fancier.

 

Also below is the compressor I use. Recommended by Jeff. Thanks! Its easy to use cheap and quiet. Technically it can be used for other things too, but I don't have any other uses for it yet. 

 

LEIZJ3a.jpg?2

 

8IrCPFb.jpg?2

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by gavino200
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The little senco is a nice multi purpose one but really quiet and small footprint and easy to lug around. I got it for the basement workshop use as I got tired of taking the 5 gal air can out to be filled by the big compressor in the garage (Murphy made it usually run empty if really cold outside or right in the middle of using air). I had to use it last month when the big compressor finally died (those times I left it on whenit got really cold finally burned enough of the motor coils to kill it...) to do brad and pin nailing with great results. You are not going to drive a framing nailer but fine for some brad and pin nailing. We will have Gavin nailing his phalanges to something eventually wirh a pin nailer (just kidding you would need to be an idiot to do this)!

 

cheers

 

jeff

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Methods for holding small parts during painting

 

The video below is nice as it brings together pretty much all the common methods used for holding parts during airbrushing. He mentions using plasticene but warns that it leaves an oily residue behind. I discovered you can avoid that problem by using adhesive putty instead of plasticine. I started researching this again as I ran into a new problem. All these methods rely on holding the item by "a part that id not being painted". Ah, but sometimes every surface of an item needs to be painted. What then?

 

My jerry rigged solution is to use the crocodile clips as they give the strongest grip with the smallest footprint. Then paint in two coats using a different grip point for each coat. Working well so far.

 

XRtNedf.jpg

 

 

 

Edited by gavino200
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these guys are nice for smaller bits that the toothed alligator clips may be too big or rough on

 

https://www.amazon.com/Toothless-Alligator-Copper-Plated-Microscopic/dp/B0187MIUU4/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1544067967&sr=8-3&keywords=micro+alligator+clips

 

you can sand them down to points if you want on the belt sander.

 

they use to be 20 for $4 at radioshack but now they are gone they are much more expensive!

 

these guys are also cheap at your dollar store and good for more delicate bits as gentle hold. you can also file the tips to different needs. just epoxy a stick on

 

https://www.ebay.com/itm/U-pick-45mm-Silver-Metal-Alligator-Prong-Hair-Clip-Craft-Wedding-Party-F108/320902121440?hash=item4ab741c7e0%3Am%3Amcq3hAs_UWV6gTbOdSphnUg&LH_BIN=1

 

https://www.ebay.com/itm/10pcs-Blank-Metal-Double-Prong-Alligator-Clips-Hair-Bow-Accessories-DIY-45mm/123507853662?hash=item1cc1a4495e%3Ag%3AypsAAOSwEOJcBEEt&LH_BIN=1

 

also the alligator clips are great for soldering. you just connect the alligator clip to a 6" piece of 12g solid core wire (ie hunk out of some romex house wire). then you can insert the other end in a hunk of plywood you drilled a bunch of holes in just the size of the wire. you can then set up a few of them and bend them around as needed to do hold wires while soldering. you can buy contraptions like this for $20 or build your own for a few bucks thats actually more versatile.

 

cheers

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5 minutes ago, cteno4 said:

these guys are nice for smaller bits that the toothed alligator clips may be too big or rough on

 

https://www.amazon.com/Toothless-Alligator-Copper-Plated-Microscopic/dp/B0187MIUU4/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1544067967&sr=8-3&keywords=micro+alligator+clips

 

you can sand them down to points if you want on the belt sander.

 

they use to be 20 for $4 at radioshack but now they are gone they are much more expensive!

 

these guys are also cheap at your dollar store and good for more delicate bits as gentle hold. you can also file the tips to different needs. just epoxy a stick on

 

https://www.ebay.com/itm/U-pick-45mm-Silver-Metal-Alligator-Prong-Hair-Clip-Craft-Wedding-Party-F108/320902121440?hash=item4ab741c7e0%3Am%3Amcq3hAs_UWV6gTbOdSphnUg&LH_BIN=1

 

https://www.ebay.com/itm/10pcs-Blank-Metal-Double-Prong-Alligator-Clips-Hair-Bow-Accessories-DIY-45mm/123507853662?hash=item1cc1a4495e%3Ag%3AypsAAOSwEOJcBEEt&LH_BIN=1

 

also the alligator clips are great for soldering. you just connect the alligator clip to a 6" piece of 12g solid core wire (ie hunk out of some romex house wire). then you can insert the other end in a hunk of plywood you drilled a bunch of holes in just the size of the wire. you can then set up a few of them and bend them around as needed to do hold wires while soldering. you can buy contraptions like this for $20 or build your own for a few bucks thats actually more versatile.

 

cheers

 

Ah, yes. I already have a bunch of those little clips. Your recommendation. Haven't had a chance to use them yet. But they'll on hand for when I need them.

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Choice of Primer Color

 

I'll add to this post as I learn more. From the videos I've watched, it seemed that primer color variation was for achieving fancy tricks, but giving a bit of "shine through" for effect. So I own and use three colors of primer. Black, grey, and white.

 

fB3J2gr.jpg

 

I see now that I had vastly underestimated the importance of primer color. Mostly I've used black as a base layer for "light proofing" buildings that will be illuminated with LEDs. I've used the grey and white interchangeably. Anything white I sprayed with grey. Anything grey sprayed with white. So I could see easily what had been painted.

 

However, this weekend I tried to paint some small pieces bright orange - over a grey prime coat. Even though the grey was light, it showed through after multiple layers of orange, preventing a nice pure orange color. In the end I had to spray a coat of white and then a final coat of orange to get an even orange.

 

Basically a bright color is almost like a layer of color tint that give a hue to white. 

 

Likewise, the shine through of white primer is much more powerful than I thought. I tried to paint silver over white today. Even with two coats, there's still shine though. It's not to bad so I'll accept it. But grey primer would have been a much better choice.

 

iQkGEdT.jpg

Edited by gavino200
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gavino200

I used my airbrush today for the first time in more than a year. I've forgotten a lot but it's coming back to me. I'm working with a problem that's new to me. I need to paint a few items using color-matched latex paint from a local paint store. I've never painted before with anything but paint designed specifically for airbrushing. 

 

The latex paint is quite thick and goopy. It needs to be watered down. But how much? That's the question. I experimented a bit randomly painting some foamboard a concrete gray. I had to mix the paint a few times for this. And I was just eyeballing and adjusting until I got flow so it was far from scientific. This didn't matter much for the foamboard. It's pretty basic - I've usually done this sort of thing with a brush, but it was an opportunity to experiment before I use the same paint on structure. This needs a second coat anyway. I do some better experimentation before the second coat. 

 

So I think I'll make up a few different dilution levels and paint some scraps of styrene. This big tub of paint is almost a lifetime supply so I don't need to be stingy. I'd like to get an optimal balance before painting structures. 

 

A second problem that's new to me is the logistics of painting a large area with an airbrush. It's a little difficult to know when your're finished. The newly applied paint looks a slightly different shade. It's easy to keep going in circles. I need to find a method. Maybe something based on doing smaller sectors, on at a time. 

 

I initially thought this would be a perfect job for my bottom loading cheapie harbor freight airbrush, which I'd never used. It's supposed to be ideal for jobs like this as you don't have to incessantly fill the reservoir. But I couldn't work out how to get it to function. So I switched to my trusty Neo. I love that thing. 

 

qxUq9h1.jpg

 

3SdwX7o.jpg

 

miM3L9e.jpg

 

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gavino200

Yikes! Holy rolling foamboard! I should have expected this really, but I didn't. The surface of this stuff is basically paper. I have it pressed down now under some boxes, hoping it will flatten out. 

 

But I know people use foamboard painted with latex paint on their layouts. I guess they must all be applying it using a brush without dilution. I haven't  heard of this before and I've asked quite a few people how they make their roads. 

 

If it doesn't flatten out, I'll just start again with a new piece. Lesson learned. 

 

4clkk4j.jpg

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nope i would say it would just warp unless affixed to something else. acrylic paint contracts a tiny bit when it cures and thus will bow it up like this. we even had it happen on our layout modules on JRM 2.0 layout when we put down a base coat of exterior latex (its even more contracting to suck down over surfaces), it puckered the modules 2-3mm. banging on it with a rubber mallet and weighting it down for a while got rid of most of it.

 

ive painted even 1/2 ply with latex and had it warp the ply, again its the contraction of the paint and not the moisture as the moisture causes the wood fiber to swell, not contract so if the water were causing the warping it would warp convexly on the painted side.

 

try weighting it down awhile, but i expect it wont stay flat as the foam is not the most stiff of stuff, its the two same layers on each side that gives it the stiffness, but now the sides are not the same...

 

painting the back side might also suck it down.

 

i learned when we moved from relatively stable and lower humidity in norther cal to the dc swamp to dry winters to store my foamboard in a flat stack in a big bag sealed up so humidity stays relatively stable (house is pretty humidity controlled some but gets a winder swing down). larger pieces left out in the house usually eventuall get a small warp, ones left in the garage usually end up really puckering eventually!

 

jeff

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gavino200
3 minutes ago, cteno4 said:

 

painting the back side might also suck it down.

 

 

It's weighted down right now. If that doesn't work I'll try painting the back. If none of this works I'll look for a different material. 

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