Wednesday 6 November 2013

Sprue Cutters Union #16: Brush Up

This week's topic for the Sprue Cutters Union is one that I personally associate with a lot of frustration. At least, it used to be.

- What is your preferred airbrush/paint brush manufacturer? -

When I came back to this hobby after a 10 year absence, I knew I wanted to do at least ONE thing a little more "professional" than I used to as a teen : no more amateuristic brushpainting. I know there are modellers out there that can do anything with a brush, but *I* cannot.

So, the decision was made to look into airbrushes. I decided to start cheap, just in case I would turn out to hate it and not use it after a few times. I started with a Revell airbrush, with a little blue compressor. The compressor has 3 settings, but you have no clue at which PSI it's running and there is no moisture trap.

Right from the start, I both hated and loved it. When I got it working, the paintjob was smoooooth, so much better than even the best brushpainting I had ever done and exactly the reason why I wanted an airbrush in the first place. BUT, I had to fight for every inch of paint I sprayed. I took it apart hundreds of time, cleaning needle and nozzle and paintcup until I ran through a 200ml bottle of airbrush cleaner in a very short time.

(You can read up on all my trials and tribulations by reading posts with the label Airbrush)

It took me over a year to make up my mind to buy a new one, mainly because the pricetag of an airbrush + compressor (easily around €250-€300) was upsetting. Why? Because I kept doubting if it was just a bad airbrush, something I did wrong or if I just lacked the skill or finesse to work with it.
In retrospect, I shouldn't have doubted so long and just bought a damn new one.

Shortly after making this decision, I happened to find an interesting lot on Kapaza (a local website, like Ebay) : a compressor, an Aztek airbrush and a few models. I really wanted just the compressor, but I ended up buying the entire lot for about €200, which was the price I had grudgingly settled on for a new compressor. The only risk was that the 2nd hand (but unused) tools wouldn't be working flawlessly anymore.

I had never heard of Aztek as an airbrush manufacturer, and I did find a LOT of bad reviews - mainly about breakage of internal components. I just took a leap of faith. As I bought the whole lot, I got the brush itself rather cheap and with my new compressor, if the Aztek was junk, it would only require another €100 or so for a Badger Velocity, which comes highly recommended.

Since then, I have logged a couple of hours with this new airbrush and it's enough to give me a decent impression and how it compares to my first one.

I *LOVE* how much more control it gives me. Much easier to use than the Revell, more trigger control over the amount of paint and - most importantly - no blockages, no issues whatsoever. It does feel a little toy-like and the trigger is very loose, but I'm getting used to it and am a lot less anxious to start an airbrushing session, whereas the Revell used to have me stressed out even before I started painting. I really like the side-feed, even though I had doubts first, but it acts as a gravity feed anyway and the removable paintcups make colour-switches a lot easier than before. I also like the whole multiple nozzle idea, even though I've only used 2 of them so far.

So, while I'm certain there are Revell airbrushes out there doing wondrous things, my cheap one was a dud. My next choice would have been Badger, but circumstances landed me with this Aztek and - for the time being - I'm a happy modeller. I still use the Revell, but only for Alclad varnishes, limiting my Aztek to acrylics only.

I'll keep this short. I try to reduce the need for paintbrushes to a minimum. No matter what I do, I cannot get rid of brushstrokes. Diluting the paint tends to level it out more evenly, but is also more likely to pull it into small nooks through capillary action.
I have no idea which brand of brushes I use. I have blue ones and red ones :-). If I ever need to know more about what brand and what material to buy, I will consult my brother-in-law, who's an expert miniature painter.

The airbrush seems to be the preferred tool of most modellers. Read their stories here :


  1. Glad to see you're on the right track with that Aztek now. Airbrushes can be complicated enough as it is, let alone getting one as maintenance happy as that Revell! Good post

  2. Hey buddy. It's posts like this that encourage me to consider an airbrush, but I'm guessing the 'brush stroke' issues experienced by scale model builders are in large part to so with the large flat areas that appear on most scale model builds. Good post.