Easy Light Box

Easy light box tutorial will cover using the common house hold widow as a light box to help you draw your design. Light boxes are used to help you trace designs and are just one of the many artist tools available to those who are drawing challenged. Written by Don Johnson and brought to you by Airbrush Technique Magazine.Here’s a little trick for those of you who lack in the drawing skills department that won’t cost you a thing. As you progress with your airbrushing skills and knowledge I think you’ll find your drawing skills become sharper, it’s just a matter of repetition and practice. Until you gain confidence with your ability to draw here is an easy solution for you to come up with your design out line from which to airbrush the design.

Won’t you know it soon as I get the camera out to take these two pictures a cloud rolls in, just my luck I guess. This works much better on a window where the sunlight is better than that when I took the pictures below but it will show you enough to be able to use this technique.

picture to be traced

Find a sunny window in your house to which to attach your image as I have pictured above.


tracing the picture

Tape a piece of tracing paper over your design and simply trace the out line of your design. The window and sunlight act as a simple light box allowing you to better see your image to trace it. Simple, easy stuff and I hope it helps you with your next airbrush project.

Cleaning A Gravity Feed Airbrush

Cleaning a gravity feed airbrush tutorial walks you thru the best way to clean your airbrush after every use.

Having an enjoyable airbrushing experience will greatly depend on how effectively you clean your airbrush. Now don’t get excited its very simple and easy and not very time consuming. This is just one of the articles here at How To Airbrush covering cleaning your airbrush. Written by Don Johnson and brought to you by Airbrush Technique Magazine.

Having an enjoyable airbrushing experience will greatly depend on how effectively you clean your airbrush . Now don’t get excited its very simple and easy and not very time consuming.

Simple rule to follow is if you use solvent base paints use solvent base cleaner . If you use water based paints use anyone of the following: warm water, commercial airbrush cleaner. Use some common sense here DO NOT soak your airbrush in any of these more than over night. With window cleaner use only to clean your airbrush while you are using it, don’t soak your airbrush in it for any length of time. An example of while you are using it would be a gravity feed airbrush between color changes. Put a little window cleaner (non amonia type) in the color cup to wash out old color and than move on to the next color. With a bottom feed airbrush have a fast blast bottle full of windex or airbrush cleaning solution reduced with water 50/50 and between color changes spray it through your airbrush to clean out the old color and than move on to your next color.

Some handy cleaning tools to have are a tip cleaning kit and or a airbrush cleaning kit. These you can buy at most art supply, airbrush supply shops, they are fairly inexpensive.

Ultrasonic cleaning machines such as dentists use are pretty handy for soaking and cleaning your brush. Believe you can pick these up starting at about $20.00.

Personally I clean my brushes like the examples pictured below . Over the past 12 years of airbrushing I have found this cleaning system to work best. You do not have to completely disassemble your airbrush ever time you use it and want to clean it. About once per month I take my airbrush completely apart and soak it overnight in commercial airbrush cleaner . After soaking your airbrush over night use small brushes (Airbrushers Brushes) to clean all of the parts, oil it ( using Medea Super Lube ) and put it back together.


cleaning airbrush 1


cleaning airbrush 2


cleaning airbrush 3


cleaning airbrush 4


cleaning airbrush 5

Cleaning Your Airbrush

Cleaning your airbrush tutorial will cover cleaning your airbrush quickly and easily after every use. Having a fun, relaxing experience during your airbrush projects it’s essential you keep your airbrush clean so that it will function properly. Here in this how-to article I’ll show the technique’s I use to clean my airbrushes. Written by Don Johnson and brought to you by Airbrush Technique Magazine.

In this little example I will show you how I have been cleaning my bottom feed airbrush for years and hope you find it as useful as I have. This by the way is the only way I clean my airbrush regularly I might take my airbrush completely apart once a month if that.

Owning, working in a airbrush T Shirt shop in a Mall setting for years this is the best way I found to clean my airbrushes everyday.

What you will need for this:

Plastic bottle like pictured below with a York top, these you can purchase at just about any art or craft store.

A spay off can, waste basket (some where to spray the cleaning fluid) in this example I use my spray off area built into my easel. (For plans on building your own easel for under $100.00 check our

And of course a bottom feed airbrush such as Grex XBi,  Passche VL, Iwata BCS eclipse.

* Your favorite cleaning solution

This works equal as well with solvent based paint as it does water based paints.



Pictured below: With the bottle filled with your favorite cleaning solution insert the top of the York top into that part of your airbrush where the paint bottle, color cup inserts, attaches.

airbrush cleaning solution



Pictured below: With the air turned on to your airbrush and with the airbrush pointed toward your spay off area depress the trigger and squeeze the plastic bottle forcing clean solution into the airbrush.

cleaning airbrush 1


Pictured below: With the air turned on to your airbrush and with the airbrush pointed toward your spay off area depress the trigger and squeeze the plastic bottle forcing clean solution into the airbrush.

cleaning airbrush 2



Pictured below: After you have sprayed a few minutes unscrew the chucking nut allowing you to pull the needle out.

cleaning airbrush three


Pictured below: Pull the needle out and carefully wipe it off making sure there is no paint left on the needle.

cleaning airbrush 4


Pictured below: With the needle in a safe place we will now repeat the York top cleaning but this time we will insert the York top into where your needle inserts into your airbrush as I’m pointing to below.

cleaning your airbrush 6


Pictured below: Again spray off your cleaning solution into the spray off area as we did before only this time forcing cleaning solution down into the the back of the airbrush. This will clean out the entire inside of your airbrush.

cleaning airbrush 7


Pictured below: After spraying for a few seconds insert the needle back into the airbrush pull it back out, check it for paint, no paint you are good to go the airbrush is clean. I hope you found this helpful and believe if you follow these simple cleaning instructions you’ll find cleaning your airbrush is really very easy.

cleaning your airbrush 8


One more little tip is when I’m done for the night and the airbrush is clean as instructed above I insert the needle but do not all the way leaving it just short of seating in the tip. This way when you start airbrushing next time first thing you will do is pull the needle to check it, insert it all the way back in, tighten the chucking nut, put back handle back on and spray away with an airbrush that functions properly. This just becomes habit after awhile and insures you have a nice clean needle, airbrush to start your day.

Buffing Small Objects

Buffing Small Objects

Buffing small objects tutorial covers one way I’ve found very effective to buff and polish small objects. It goes without saying you should always turn out nicely buffed and polished commissioned work be it a panel, helmet, bike, car or truck. So with this article I’ll show you one solution I’ve found for buffing small objects., Don Johnson, airbrush artist

With the economy being what it is and work even harder to come by it’s even more important you turn out work with a shine that impress’s everyone who views it. When it comes to smaller objects like fenders, helmets, peanut tanks having to use a full size buffer can be very trying to say the least, a bit of over kill you might say.

small buffer one

The solution for buffing small objects I’ve found is the Astro Pneumatic Polishing Kit with Air Buffer, Model# 3050. You can purchase the kit from $60.00 to $89.00 depending on how much shopping around you do. This has turned out to be one of the handiest tools in my shop not only for buffing, polishing but also sanding small objects.


small buffer set
small buffer one

Product Description
Kit Includes ; Pistol grip dual action sander / polisher tool – 2800 – 13,000RPM 3″ backup pad 1 – 1 / 2″ velcro holder 1 – 1 / 2″ sanding pad 3″ polishing foam pad (2) 3″ 400 grit sanding discs (2) 3″ 600 grit sanding discs (2) 3″ 1000 grit sanding discs (10) 1 – 1 / 2″ 2000 grit sanding discs Spanner wrench

Now this is air driven and I use a Husky five horse thirty gallon compressor to power it but you could most likely get away with a smaller compressor or find a small electric buffer than will do the same as this. Before going to this small buffer which is three inches in diameter I used a DeWalt full size buffer on helmets, fenders, tanks. It took two people using the DeWalt to buff and polish, one to run the Dewalt and one to hold the object being buffed. Ever seen a helmet or tank fly a crossed the room, not a pretty site. Needless to say it was a huge pain in the butt. Using the three inch buffer it’s a one man operation and much easier well worth the money spent to buy the small buffer. I used to dread having to get the DeWalt out now with this smaller buffer it’s pretty painless and a lot less hassle.


small buffer

To control the speed of the buffer I use a regulator in line on the air hose, it provides infinite control pretty much with easy adjustment on the fly.


buffing pads

The kit comes with a foam polishing pad which works ok but I’ve opted to buy a 3M three inch disc and compound, polishing pads which work much better. The disc is about $20.00 and pads $12.00 each per pack of two.


buffing compounds

The actual buffing, polishing process is the same as if you where using a full size buffer. Wet sand with 1200, 1500, 2000 sand paper in that order bring careful not to sand thru any edges like around vents if it’s a helmet. The 3M Perfect It foam pad system with the Rubbing and Compounding I think work better than any other system on the market. But one of each of the rubbing and polishing compounds and doing helmets, small objects it will last you for years.

Shop around to find which small buffer, polisher best suites your needs and budget and I’ll think you’ll find it’s a great investment.


Airbrush tutorial covers basic airbrush information dealing with airbrushes made by the leading airbrush manufactures Badger, Paasche, Iwata, Grex, Harder Steenbeck and more. This is a very quick overview of the different types of airbrushes just to get you familiar with whats available, Don Johnson, airbrudshgallery.com.

Airbrushes can be either internal or external mix, single action or double (dual) action.


EXTERNAL MIX – Combine air and paint after they exit the tip of the airbrush. Paint volume is controlled by a knob on the airbrush.

INTERNAL MIX – Combine air and paint inside the airbrush (tip actually).

ACTION – How the trigger is used to control the airbrush functions which affect the spray pattern of the airbrush.

SINGLE ACTION – Pushing down on the trigger gives you both paint and air. To stop paint being applied (flowing) just let up on the trigger. Amount of paint applied is controlled by a separate knob (pictured below). Single action airbrushs operates much the same as a can of spray paint but with the added ability of being able to adjust the amount of paint applied and the air pressure. To control the amount of paint the single action will apply when you push down on the trigger you would adjust the paint volume adjustment knob. Turning the knob clock wise decreases paint flow and turning it counter clockwise increases paint flow. Which means during the painting process to adjust paint flow you must stop and adjust the paint volume knob to increase or decrease paint flow. Very slow process painting anything in this manner, very limiting.

The air hose would just screw onto the post marked air hose connection in the picture below. The other end of the air hose screws onto the compressor.


single action airbrush



Pushing down on the trigger gives you air, pulling back on the trigger gives you paint. The amount of air used should be controlled at your compressor setting not by feathering the amount of pressure you apply by pressing down on the trigger. Amount of paint applied is determined by how far back you pull the trigger.( pictured below) This gives you ability to paint non stop and increase or decrease paint flow simply by how much you pull the trigger back or push it forward. Giving you much more control during the painting process than the single action airbrush. Double action or dual action is great for applications where constant adjustments of spray widths and volume are required. The spray pattern as with a single action airbrush is determined by how far from the painting surface you are. The closer you are the smaller the spray pattern the further away you are from the painting surface the larger the spray pattern will be.


double action airbrush
double action airbrush


Airbrush Styles

Weather it be dual action or single action there are three different style airbrushes available. Gravity feed, siphon feed and side feed.Gravity feed – The most detail oriented airbrush style available. As the paint is stored directly above the airbrush and it is gravity that draws the paint to the needle / tip makes this style airbrush the most consistent and responsive style airbrush. Nozzle size range from 0.10 to 0.35 mm

Siphon Feed – The advantage of this style airbrush is the ability to use many different size color cups and bottles and to change colors quickly. Nozzle sizes range from 0.1 to 0.5mm

Side Feed– The advantage of this style airbrush is the color cup attacked to the side will rotate 360 degrees giving you the ability to work at just about and angle or even over head. Nozzle sizes range from 0.10 to 0.35mm

Airbrush Won’t Spray Paint

Airbrush won’t spray paint tutorial covers the most common problem using water based paint and an easy solution to keep if from happening.

I’m at least twelve years removed from doing T Shirts full time, using water based textile colors a lot. While preparing to shoot a video on airbrushing bubble letters to include in our airbrush magazine I soon remembered what a pain using water based textile colors can be sometimes. Below is how I went about making using water based textile colors a lot more enjoyable.

If you are using water based textile paint and are having trouble with your airbrush either not spraying paint or paint skipping this is a leading cause of both. After you open a new jar of textile colors it allows air inside the container which after it sits for a while will dry paint on the inside walls of the container. This dried paint will end up in the paint you are spraying as soon as you go to use it causing you all sorts of frustration.

Why bring this up? I airbrushed T Shirts for years full time as I said but had forgotten all about this situation that can be very frustrating if you are unaware of what’s happening.

The solution is really very simple although many think it to time consuming to bother with, strain your paint. Very simple easy way to help ensure that paint you’ve had sitting around is not the cause of a very frustrating session with your airbrush.

Below are pictures of the different colors of airbrush textile paint I strained while shooting the bubble letter video which clearly shows had I not strained the paint I would have had a very hard time using my airbrush with that paint. All that dried paint I strained out would have gone into my airbrush and created a condition where the airbrush won’t spray paint or would skip.


dried airbrush paint


airbrush paint strainer


airbrush paint 3


airbrush paint 4

Pictured above is the type of paper paint filter I used. These can be purchased fairly inexpensively at just about any retail out let that sells paint. If you can not secure this type of filter a small section of woman’s stocking will also work.

Airbrush Video – Fixing A Bent Airbrush Needle

Quick Fix For A Bent Airbrush Needle

In this airbrush video I’ll show you a quick fix for a bent airbrush needle. This should at least allow you to finish the airbrush project you are working on while waiting for a new needle to arrive. It happens to everyone who airbrushes, you drop your airbrush and bend the tip of the needle. Or bend it in some other type accident. It happens to us all sooner or later so don’t feel alone when it happens to you. It’s always good to have spare parts for your airbrush but budgets being what they are these days that’s not always possible. Bend the needle and you should get a new one ASP but hopefully this will keep you airbrushing for awhile.  Hope you find this helpful and hope you don’t need to use this quick fix any time soon, Don Johnson airbrush artist




Airbrush Trigger Installation

 Airbrush Tigger Installation

Airbrush trigger installation tutorial covers installing the airbrush trigger on the most common type of airbrushes, double action. After taking your airbrush apart for cleaning getting this type of airbrush trigger can be a little tricky to get back in in this article we’ll show you how it’s done. Don Johnson, airbrushgallery.com  Sponsored by Airbrush Technique Magazine.

As picture below shows when installing the trigger back into your airbrush (Iwata) hold the trigger (main lever) so that the two posts at the bottom of the trigger (main lever) face the front and back of the airbrush. Insert the trigger (main lever) down into the long opening in the top of your airbrush. Now turn the trigger (main lever) 90 degrees so the posts at the bottom of the trigger (main lever) are now facing the sides of the airbrush. Lower the trigger inserting the posts into the slot inside your airbrush. With this done now tilt the front of the airbrush slightly down ward install the auxiliary lever so that the arch in that lever faces the back of the airbrush see picture #2. To insert the auxiliary lever you must also turn this side ways to get it down into the airbrush than turn it 90 degree’s so it ends up as pictured in #2.


installing airbrush trigger 1


installing airbrush trigger 2

Airbrush Problems And Solutions

Airbrush problems and solutions tutorial covers common airbrush problems and solutions and was written with the help of the members of the magazine support forum, airbrushtechnique.com. In this article we’ll cover some common problems you might experience while using your airbrush and solutions to those problems. Sponsored by Airbrush Technique Magazine.


airbrush problems and solutions
Iwata BCS airbrush


Thanks to all the subscribers to Airbrush Technique Magazine and members of Airbrush Technique airbrush forum  for helping out with this project by submitting problems and solutions to be published here.


Submitted by Chuck Newberry, Texas, USA:
Problem: I have a suction type airbrush and am not getting paint out of the nozzle…I use the bottles that came with the brush…I am getting air, just no paint.
Solution: Check to make sure the vent hole in the lid is open, also make sure the pickup tube is not clogged or sitting flat on the bottom of the jar. Remove the lid and attach it back to the airbrush, stick the suction tube in a container of water and see if it sprays water. If it does then either the vent hole is plugged or the tube is sitting on the bottom of the jar. If it wont spray water, check the tube for a blockage, or the inlet for the tube into the bottom of the airbrush. Once these are clean you should be able to spray with ease. Also make sure your needle is sliding back and forth and not slipping in the needle lock nut.


Submitted by Phil Revollo, Florida, USA:
Problem: No paint is coming out of my airbrush, I have gravity and bottom feed airbrush gun and I also notice bubbles in my bottle and cup.
Solution: Check Fluid nozzle, needle or nozzle cap. When any of these are clog you will get back feed back into cup or bottle.


Submitted by Chuck Newberry, Texas, USAProblem: I use water based paints and the paint is drying on the needle tip is there anything I do to stop this?
Solution: Not really “tip dry” is one of the down falls of water based paints. I use my thumb and finger to “pick” the paint off the needle. I also keep a small artist brush in a small container of water and will clean the needle with this followed by blowing the excess water off the tip. Water based paints are getting better all the time there are now paints out there that will greatly reduce tip dry but it is still there and a problem we as artists have to deal with. Once you get used to cleaning the tip, it will be second nature and you won’t even notice it happening.


Submitted by Chuck Newberry, Texas, US
Problem: When I push down on the lever to get air to come out of my airbrush, I’m getting paint also….why is this happening??
Solution: Your needle is not seating all the way into the airbrush. Loosen the chucking nut of the needle and see if it will go in further. If it doesn’t the tip is dirty and needs cleaning, clean the tip and reinstall the needle it should work fine.


Submitted by Al Marye
Problem: When shooting urethane white it seems like I get a lot of spitting is there a cure for this.
Solution: None that I have found but what will help is over reducing, starting with 50/50 paint and reducer. Another thing I do is use slow reducer no matter what the ambient temperature, and of course keep the air on all the time. White spits worse than any other color.


Submitted by Chuck Newberry, Texas, USA
Problem: I have heard of lubing my airbrush, how and what do I use?
Solution: Most lube the needle, and use spray gun lube. The lube can be purchased from most any paint distributor. When lubing the needle just put a bit on the needle then reinsert it. What you are doing is lubing the packing inside the gun.


Submitted by Chuck Newberry, Texas, USA
Problem: After I get done painting how do I clean my gun?
Solution: The cleaning process is the same for water based and solvent based paints. You want to run the cleaner through the airbrush and back flush it.(to back flush, place your finger over the tip of the airbrush with the needle pulled back a bit so it doesn’t go through you finger, and push on the trigger.) Be careful doing this as the fluid will shoot back out of the cup or out of the pickup tube. Repeat this until it shoots clean, then run some fresh cleaner through it until dry, pull the needle and apply a small amount of lube and reinstall the needle.


Submitted by Chuck Newberry, Texas, USA
Problem: My air cap leaks air…I think it is tight any fixes for this?
Solution: After removing the needle, remove the air cap. Take a very small amount of bees wax.(Use a toilet bowl wax ring, it will last forever and only cost a couple of dollars) and apply this to the threads. It will seal the threads from air leaking this can be done on any air leaks you may have.


Submitted by: Al Marye
Problem: How can I tell how the pearl I’m shooting will look in the sunlight when its raining outside?
Solution: I use a sunlamp (like what farmers use for chickens) I picked up at tractor supply. It’s not as good as real sunshine but it will give you a general idea and is a whole lot cheaper than the light 3M sells.


Submitted by John Avila
Problem: I notice every time I press trigger down for air only on my bottle feed airbrush; I get tiny micro spider lines. This does this when I do not pull back for paint. I tried some lines and shading even cleaned my air brush again and it still does this.
Solution: 1. By simply removing your needle and gently cleaning it removing all all paint and possibly dried paint near needle tip will fix problem, the needle was not totally seated. 2. Replace your fluid nozzle. It may have split where needle seats.


Submitted by John Avila
Problem: All of a sudden my airbrush trigger has play in it. It doesn’t want to return to trigger off and spits paint. What broke?
Solution: A lot of times its how you clean your airbrush after using. Did you use a Cotton Swab?? Do you really clean your airbrush or just give it a quick spray of cleaner and put it up?? Many times a micro film of paint or a piece of cotton can get lodged in the fluid nozzle causing the fluid needle not to seat perfect. Take off outer air cap and fluid nozzle and soak it and gently blow it out. If unable to clean it purchase new fluid nozzle.


Submitted by John Avila
Problem: Do you always just replace fluid nozzle, or do you replace fluid needle and fluid nozzle together as a set?
Solution: When you have to replace a fluid nozzle because of wear examine the fluid needle for wear also. If there is a slight shiny spot on the needle replace it too. This way you have new fluid nozzle and needle with a perfect fit. An old worn needle may cause an irregular spray pattern.


Submitted by John Avila
Problem: My airbrush was working fine. I pressed down the trigger and it just does nothing. So I try again and just a puff of air. My regulator said I got 30 pounds. I tried again and a slight puff then nothing.
Solution: Sometimes the valve assembly where hose connects is defective, or a small o-ring and spring in side assembly just wears out. This can be fixed by just replacing the valve assembly. You must take off air hose, and remove fluid needle and trigger to safely replace this item. After replacing valve very careful reinstall trigger and needle. If airbrush is brand new notify store where you purchased it and get it fixed. This is a very rare type of problem.


Submitted by Joyce Boston
Problem: What’s wrong with my airbrush? It is spraying a double line and splatters after only a few seconds of use.
Solution: Always drain the compressor. I was not aware that a compressor was to be drained often. After trying all the trouble shooting methods and sending my airbrush back to manufacturer I found the problem was lots of water build up inside the compressor.


Submitted by Dave Schmidt
As far as worn needles are concerned they can be used until they are too short for the culet to grab them and with this method it will take a looooong time to do that. Make a strop. A strop is a leather strap that barbers used to use to put his final edge on straight razors. To build, go to a shoe repair place and get 2 pieces of “sole leather” about 2″ wide and 8″ long. Shape a piece of 1/4″ luan plywood to the 2×8 dimension and leave enough sticking out on the length to have a handle. Glue the leather to the plywood. Then get some diamond polishing compound or jewelers rouge, (these can be had at Home Depot under the Ryobi name) and lightly rub the polish into the leather on one side only. Use just a little ……..enough to cover the entire side but not build up a thick layer. To use draw the tapered area of the needle down the polish side of the strop, and rotate the needle between your fingers while drawing. About 20 times will do the trick. Then burnish clean on the clean leather side. Again about 20 strokes and rotate the needle. Wipe the needle with a clean cotton rag, lube and replace. This method will polish the needle to a mirror finish and keep it in very good shape. Do this about once a month. It also cuts down on tip dry drastically, as there is a smooth slick surface and not much for the paint to stick to.


Submitted by Brian Fuelleman
If you have paint coming out in the trigger area, it is probably your needle packing/bearing, it either needs to be adjusted or replaced. The needle passes through this packing/bearing before it goes through the reservoir or the area where the paint is pulled in on a siphon feed airbrush. This is problem is often caused by people forcing a dirty needle back through the packing, and over time, just the normal wear and tear of daily use will take it’s tole. I have had many students tell me about having their airbrush so dirty that they had to use pliers to pull the needle out to clean or inspect it. That paint or material that is dried on the needle acts like a rasp, and just tears away the inside of the needle packing, and that lets paint pass backwards down the needle and into the trigger area of your airbrush. This is not only a nuisance because of the mess it makes, but it can also be an expensive mistake, you can destroy the packing, do permanent damage to the needle itself, and you can get paint down into the air valve assembly, The cost of replacing all those individual things is about the same cost as buying a new Paasche VL. So the answer is, when you have brush that has dried paint in it, fill the reservoir with solvent if it is a gravity feed, if it is a siphon feed, you may find that filling a fast cap bottle with the proper solvent, then prop the airbrush upside down so that the solvent is constantly flooding the needle. If this doesn’t work, you can remove the front end of the airbrush, including the nozzle, and then pull the needle out the front of the brush. This is not a good habit for everyday cleaning, but if you have an emergency, it lets you get the needle out without trashing the packing. NEVER submerge the whole airbrush in liquids or solvents; you contaminate areas of the airbrush that were never designed to have exposure to that kind of thing. NEVER use ammonia or ammonia based products, avoid cleaners like 409, Fantastic, etc., the detergents can do severe damage to the seals and packing, and they can leave residue that will contaminate your artwork. NEVER use abrasives (Sandpaper, cleansers, etc.) on your airbrush, the body of your airbrush is probably made of brass, which is fairly soft, and is coated with chrome. The chrome is only as stable as the brass that it is covering, so when you use something that can scratch, ding, dent, etc., the brass, you are distorting or scraping away the chrome, which exposes the brass, and leads to an early death for your airbrush. Try to avoid “Polishing” your needle with anything if you can avoid it. Your needle and nozzle were designed to fit together, when you change the contour of the needle, which you do every time you “polish”, sand, etc., you make the needle so it won’t fit in the brush the same way, you alter the way it seats in the nozzle, and the way it will spray. For most people, learning how to airbrush is “fun” enough without having another variable thrown into the mix. Keeping your airbrush clean, both inside and out, will let you operate for a lot longer, with an airbrush that is a whole lot more predictable, and it will save you a nice chunk of money too!


Submitted by Brian Fuelleman
Problem: Color change procedure, especially if you are going from a dark colored paint to a light colored paint.
Solution: Dump your existing paint from your brush or bottle. Wipe the cup or bottle out with a paper towel, then rinse and dump until your cup looks clean, then loosen the chucking nut on your brush, and pull the needle back and tighten the chucking nut back up. Now place a finger over the tip of the airbrush and push the trigger down so that you get air forcing it’s way back through the nozzle and paint passage, and into the reservoir (cup/bottle), this is called back flushing, it will remove a whole bunch of that contaminating paint, you may need to do this step a couple of times, but it will speed things up quite a bit. Once the solvent in the reservoir stays clean, loosen the chucking nut, and pump the needle in and out a bit, watch the solvent to see if it clouds up with color, that color is the paint that is caked up against the lead opening in the needle packing/bearing. Dump out the contaminated solvent and repeat the process until the solvent stays clean, then spray the clean solvent out like you normally would. If you are using water based paints, plain water will probably work just fine, if not, you can try airbrush cleaners or denatured alcohol to break down any remaining paint. Clean out the needle cap and the front surface of the nozzle cap and you should be ready to go. Always test your new paint on a test surface before you apply it to your finished surface. This same routine is what you would use if you get bubbling in your reservoir. When that happens, it is usually a build up of junk in the nozzle cap. That gunk keeps the air from going through its normal path, so it finds the next easiest route of escape, which is back through the paint passage and out of the reservoir.


Submitted by Brian Fuelleman
Problem: It seems like I am always fighting the water buildup with my compressor, I drain it regularly, but I still get water coming through the line. What Gives?
Solution: Your compressor and motor superheat the air being pulled through, so the water in the air stays as a vapor, the compressor trap only lets water out in it’s liquid form, water traps are made to trap water in it’s liquid form too, so the solution is to give the air a chance to cool down so that the water goes from being a vapor back to a liquid where it can be trapped. The cheapest and easiest way to do this is to add 50′ of hose between your compressor and your work area, and add a water trap at the airbrush end of the long hose, even if the compressor is sitting next to you (which isn’t really good for your compressor), that distance of hose acts like the radiator in your car, the distance or length gives the air a chance to cool down, and that lets the water vapor turn back into liquid again so that your water traps can catch it. Having your compressor close to where you work will heat up the area, and it also means that the compressor and motor are pulling in the contaminated air from your spraying, so moving the compressor away will help your compressor live longer, and help you eliminate the water problem.


Submitted by Brian Fuelleman
Problem: I’m having the same problem with paint oozing out of the trigger on my gravity feed brush.
Solution: You can try a couple of things, if the paint is coming past the needle, but only in a certain area, then either the needle is damaged, or the packing needs to be adjusted or replaced. One of the many problems with people “Fine Tuning” or “Tweaking” their airbrushes is that they change the dimensions of the pieces involved; the most delicate of these is the needle and the nozzle. If you “polish”, sand, etc., your needle, and you don’t do it perfectly round, or for the entire length, then you change how it interacts with the nozzle, while the needle may be fine in one area, it ends up with a gap between it and the packing/bearing it is sliding through, and that lets paint come past the needle when the trigger is pulled back to the right spot(s). If you force a crusty or bent needle back through the packing/bearing, it usually damages the packing on it’s way through, this too can let paint go past, but that usually means that you will have paint coming back all the time you are painting. By your description, it sounds like the needle is damaged or defective, try replacing it. If it still leaks, then you can try tightening the packing down, but only do this a tiny bit at a time, and try the needle with each adjustment. Too tight, and the needle will be a fight to use, too loose, and you will have leaking all the time. If you have a needle that is crusty with paint, fill the reservoir with the proper solvent, and let your airbrush soak overnight, then GENTLY try removing the needle through the back of the airbrush, if it is still a fight, then remove the front end of the airbrush and take the needle out that way, let the needle soak in the solvent again, use as gentle a brush or cloth as you have and remove the paint. Put the front end of the airbrush back on, then, when your needle is clean or replaced; install it like you normally would. Using a drop of Aero lube or other airbrush lubricant applied to the needle may help you avoid this problem in the future. If your needle gets severely bent, remove the needle cap and nozzle cap, and then the nozzle, and pull the needle out the front of your airbrush, then carefully replace the parts, get a new needle and install it like you normally would. Mild bends can usually be cured for needles, but sharp kinks will never work right again. While you can use sandpaper, sharpening stones, leather stropps, etc, the reality is that the nozzle and needle are shaped to match together, once you alter the shape of one, it will never fit right again with the other. Good cleaning, maintenance and care are the best way to have a fine working instrument that will give you years of pleasure.

Airbrush Paint For Models

Airbrush paint for models tutorial covers information on the many different types of paints used to airbrush models, advantages and disadvantages of using each.. Written by Ken Synder brought to you by Airbrush Technique Magazine

Greetings fellow Airheads! I am going to be going over model paints as a foundation and build on it a bit. Model builders tend to be an odd lot, we will experiment like crazy, trying to figure out other ways of doing things, and we will search for cheaper things, neat tools, and bits of whatever to spruce up a model. Yet, oddly enough, we tend to not be terribly imaginative about our paints. So, I intend to break out of this mold, and mess with new paints. These experiments, I will leave for other articles. For this article, I am going to approach paints from the traditional model builders’ standpoint.

One advantage that all “model paints” have is that their pigments match paints that are used to paint the real thing that you are trying to model. By this I mean, if you want to build a model of a Russian tank from the cold war, you can get the correct color of green to do this. You don’t have to mix various colors to try to match the correct color.

I classify model paints into three categories. The first is “oil based” (or enamel). The second is “water based” (or acrylic). These names aren’t entirely accurate, but that really isn’t important, it’s mainly to keep things organized. The third category I’ll “specialty”, this is a weak name for everything else, and those that I haven’t messed with yet.

For oil based, there are a number of common manufacturers,..]Testors (Model Master) Great for MS595 colors for military stuff. They do have colors other than the MS colors also. They cover some foreign military colors, and a few other things, but they mainly aim for the military builders. Fairly easy to airbrush when thinned and brush straight out of the bottle. Disadvantage is limited variety of Gloss colors, and they all seem to serve specific purposes, like “Blue Angel Blue”, very handy if you are building a Blue Angel airplane, not so handy if you really wanted something a little brighter and more vibrant. MS595 (aka Mil-Std-595 ) is a US Military Specification for color. You can purchase a copy, (Come to think of it, I need to purchase another copy, some thieving magpie nicked my last copy from work), it was about $25 back in the 80’s. It is page after page of little 1″x1/2″ stickers of colors with a number below them. It is a 5 digit number and appears as FS12345. The first digit will be a 1, 3, or 5. 1 means Gloss, 3 means semi-gloss and 5 means flat. The next number indicates the primary color red, blue, yellow, and misc….if I remember correctly they go a little further with brown, green, etc….not that those are “Primary” colors, remember we are dealing with the military, not artists..LOL! The next three numbers are pretty random, it doesn’t go darker to lighter, or anything handy like that….I think its just a number they decide to apply, again, remember the source. Also, the spec does not have the “pet names” for the colors. Certain colors are used a lot for camouflage on US military vehicles, and they have widely accepted names such as, Gunship Gray, Armor Sand, Light Ghost Gray, Aircraft Gray, Sea Blue, Forest Green, etc. So, when building US military kits you may need to get reference material to figure out what colors you should be painting your subject. The MS colors have also been adopted by many NATO countries too.

Testors (Boyd) Brought to you by the same guys as the Model Master stuff, expect similar quality. Great gloss colors for the car guys. Even have things like Ford engine blue. Limited color selection overall…I build a lot of European race cars ( F1 and LeMans ) , the Boyds leans towards hot-rodder. Also, seeming to be harder to find of late, might have been discontinued.


Testor Model Masters Paint

Figure 1-From Left to Right; Testor’s Model Master, Testor’s Boyd, Two versions of Humbrol, Floquil.


model race car

Figure 2-This model was finished with a combination of Testor’s Model Masterand Boyd paints.


Humbrol Model Paint : Very nice paint, brushes very well. I think they are from England, and are tricky to find in the states. Lots-o-colors! The little tin they come in is a little inconvenient. This is because there is a little lip that makes it very difficult to get any quantity of paint out, without making a mess. Another thing about Humbrol is that some of there paints, the color of the lid is the color and there is no name, just a Humbrol reference color. Other tins have the name and color on a sticker in the lid, which likes to fall of, leaving you with no clue what’s inside, unless you had opened it earlier, and spilled down the side. This can be really frustrating. Another thing, and I’ll put this one down to conspiracy theories, : , is that some model manufacturers will use Humbrol color numbers in their instructions, for paint schemes. This is really fun! Since the Humbrol numbers have no rhyme or reason, you have no clue what color to paint things unless you; A) buy Humbrol paints, or B) get reference books and pictures. I generally go for B, since it is sometimes hard to find Humbrol paints.

Floquil Model Paint : Nice paint, but they are geared to the model railroad, so you get things like caboose red, AT&SF Blue..etc. I think they are also all flat colors. Not so handy if you need to put on water slide decals, I’ll get into that in another article though. Others:There are some other brands out there that are very esoteric for certain niches, Luftwaffe, Formula One etc. hard to find and disappear quickly too! I will cover a couple examples, but not dwell on them. Aeromaster was a wonderful paint that was geared to WWII Luftwaffe builders. Key word is “was”, they unfortunately stopped producing the paint. MisterKit is a new one to me, they also seem to cater to Luftwaffe colors. Finisher’s is a paint company the is devoted to covering F1 colors. I have not shot the paint yet, I have heard they are very good. But if you want the correct shade of blue to due a 1978 Tyrell, or are trying to capture the subtle changes in the red that Ferrari has used over the years…….these are the guys.

model paints

Figure 3-Some of the Esoteric Paints that ‘might’ be available, from left to right; Aeromaster, Misterkit, and Finishers. Thinning : For all of these I use lacquer thinner. All of them are a pain to thin just right. Batch to batch variation is common, different colors behave differently, weather plays a part too…no quick answer, I always have a piece of a junk model or styrene to test before I shoot the model.Now to the “water based”….

Tamiya and Gunze Sanyo (Also marketed as Mr. Color) Both behave pretty much the same. I thin them both with Gunze’s Mr. Thinner. There are a couple issues with these paints. They aren’t as durable as the “oil based” stuff. They are a little healthier than the “oil based”, but they are not “Non Toxic”. A couple advantages. They have an ability to, what I call, “Re-Activate”….if I get a fingerprint or a little dry spray, I have found that I can spray pure Mr. Thinner over the area and get it to flow again and smooth out. This can be done even after it has dried for weeks. Also, if you really screw up, Windex takes the stuff right off. Very handy for beginners. The “oil based” stuff is a pain to strip. Finally, the flats come out kinda’ semi-gloss, which means you can put decals on without the decal silvering. (Note to self, start a topic on decals in the modeling section)

model paints 2

Figure 4-From left to right; Tamiya, Gunze Sanyo, Mr. Color, Polly S and Polly S


model airplane

Figure 5-This kit was finished with a combination of Tamiya and Gunze paints.


Polly S These are water thinned paints, pretty wide variety of colors, haven’t used them much, they’re a little hard to find. They strip with rubbing alcohol. They have some cool weathering colors like, mud, dirt, grease, oily grime, etcTestor Acrylic : Never used the stuff, the bottles look like Testors Model Master line and I’d be afraid I’d grab one thinking it was the other, put the wrong thinner in and really have a mess. It could be the greatest stuff in the world though.Now ‘specialty’ paints: ALCLAD II THIS STUFF IS THE BOMB for simulating bare metal finishes…bare metal finishes were the bane of modelers until this stuff came out. There was nothing that had the right balance of realistic look/mask ability/durability/coverage. The ALCLAD is not hard to use, but it is tedious and expensive, but it works and that is what counts! You need an impeccable base coat of a solid gloss color. Black seems to work the best. Then you put two, what I call, dust coats of this airbrush miracle paint on and you have a beautiful metallic finish that looks like it was machined from a block of metal. What’s more, you can mask it. They have about a dozen or so colors, like Chrome, Polished Aluminum, Light Aluminum, Dark Aluminum, Duralem, Pale Gold, Burnt Metal, White Aluminum, Copper…etc. This is great for pulling off a bare metal aircraft, with a multi-metallic shade, that gives the kit realism and depth.


Alclad 2 model paint paint

Figure 6-A variety of Alclad II metal finishes.


model airplane painted

Figure 7-This kit was finished with 4 different colors of Alclad II

Oil Paints (The stuff for canvas, that gets thinned with linseed oil) I will use these for figures and have know guys to use them on armor to create realistic weathering and shading. However, I have yet to run into anyone who has had much luck thinning them and running it through an airbrush.Anything else:As I said most model builders pride themselves with being experimenters and scroungers, but for some reason we tend to go to the hobby shop for our paints, so things like Createx, House of Kolor, all these names that airbrush artists know so well and do miraculous things with are really basically unknowns to us. I am very guilty here, I have built models for 33 years, and it wasn’t until about a year ago that I started trying to find “other things” to put in my airbrush.


Createx paint

Figure 8-Unknown territory for most model builders.

I use all of the above stuff with no real preference. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, but it with depend on the subject and colors available etc. Another thing common to most of the paints marketed to modelers; they are not airbrush ready (Alclad II is an exception). This is because you need to do a bit of brush work too. Most of the paints do well as both an airbrush medium and a brush paint. However, it is inevitable that some will do one better than the other.Bottom line, when you paint a model, the goal is to produce a finish, by any means necessary, which makes the model look real. The quick test is if you were to take a picture, with the right background and surroundings, would the image be difficult to tell from a picture of the real thing? There is a catch though, the paint is not the only thing involved in creating this illusion. You have very tiny surface details on the model, sometimes no larger than a hair, which can be obscured by too much paint. Additionally, beyond the primary color(s), you will probably have at least two layers of clear. These are a clear gloss before the decals, and a final clear (flat, semi, or gloss depending on the subject) over the decals. Sometimes this final clear can be omitted (future article). Thus the catch is, the paint has to gone on as thin as possible and still cover.