Alans Boatyard

Airbrush & Painting Information


Why use an Airbrush.


There are a number of reasons for airbrushing instead of using a brush.


(1). The main one being paint thickness, ONE coat of brushed paint can be equivalent to SIX coats of airbrushed paint.

So using an airbrush keeps fine detail visible and reduces the loss of sharpness on small items caused by internal corners and edging filling in with paint.

(2). Because the individual paint layers are very thin, the item can be properly primed, under coated & top coated without getting a very thick paint finish.

(3). A lot of modern hobby paints are designed to touch dry very quickly so increasing the risk of an uneven surface due to being able to see brush marks.

Airbrushing gives an even coat easily and by using paint designed for use in an airbrush it touch dries quickly so adding more coats can be done quicker.

The problem with brush painting can be that although the paint ‘touch dries’ very quickly it needs to be left a long time to fully harden before another coat can be applied, as brushing second coat can lift or wrinkle the partly dried paint underneath.

(4). Although aerosol cans of spray paint is used extensively in model boat painting it has the problem of having a high pressure spray which goes everywhere, gives a thicker coat, used in the wrong environment can dry before it touches the surface, resulting in a very rough finish (dry bits of paint looking like very fine sand) & can get expensive, where an airbrush pressure is a lot lower and gives less over spray & over a period of time saves cost.


Air Supply.

Although cans of pressurized air are available they do not give consistent results as pressure alters as it is used & are expensive.

The use of a compressor is the best way of working, having used the small non-reservoir models, which work well, but as the air supply tends to pulse (this can be eliminated by altering the set up) & have a low output volume, I have compressors with reservoirs.

I had thoughts of using compressed air for other tools, so have a more substantial unit, which I use in my Workshop (ok it is the shed), the only problem is it is a bit noisy for working indoors, so also have a small compressor which I use in my work room in the house.

Airbrush Compressor
The ‘Airbrush Compressor AS186’ which I use in my workroom, it is very quite & small, I have altered the layout of the gauge area a little to make it easier to see to see as I normally have it set up in the corner of a set of shelves.

Some things to consider.


Built in Reservoir with compressor automatically turning on & off to control reservoir pressure.

Reservoir pressure above 30 PSI. As normal airbrush working pressure is normally not above 30 PSI.

If possible, Non-oil type, these are more maintenance free and lighter to carry.

If being used in doors running noise can be a problem, but there are very quite units available.




There are two main types of airbrush working system – single action & dual action, both are OK for our normal modelling requirements but a dual action has advantages.


There are also two types of paint delivery systems.

Gravity Feed– the paint just flows (drops) into the airbrush by gravity, this system normally only uses the small cups.

Suction Feed – the paint is pulled into the airbrush by the action of the air flowing through the airbrush which causes a change in pressure, resulting in the paint being sucked into the airflow, this type of airbrush can work with cups & jars.

Single Action Airbrush
Single Action Airbrush – this has a single button, (normally moving up & down) which controls the airflow, with paint quantity being pre-set BEFORE spraying. Only airflow is adjustable while airbrush is operating. The one shown is my ‘Badger 200’ Suction Feed, Single Action, It can use either a jar or cup.
Double Action Airbrush
Dual Action Airbrush – normally only has a single button (like the single action airbrush), but the button can be moved in two directions (up & down for airflow & back & too for paint volume) so both the airflow and paint quantity is controllable while the airbrush is spraying, this means it is possible to vary the paint coverage as the brush is being used rather than having to stop and adjust. This is my ‘AB-182’ Suction Feed, Dual Action, again able to be used with either a jar or cup.
Gravity Feed Airbrush

This is my favourite airbrush the ‘Harder & Steenbeck ULTRA’, which is a Gravity Feed, Dual Action, seen here with an Inline Filter added (not supplied with airbrush) & the bulk of my spray work is carried out using this, although it only uses a cup, I do not find this a problem, because as I now mainly use Acrylic paints which dry very quickly I need to regularly clean the airbrush while I am spraying.

The AB-182, being used for spraying large areas like the hull.

Inline Filter - even if the compressor has a filter it is a good idea to have a filter/water trap as close as possible to the airbrush, either on the air hose or directly on the airbrush (be careful of adding bulk and weight to the actual airbrush).

As well as trapping any bits in the air it also stops water which is condensation caused by the warm air from the compressor (the compressor gets warm just by the way it works) cooling down as it travels along the hose.

If you only want a single airbrush If possible, go for an airbrush that can take both jars & cups.

The jars are ideal for larger areas of work & the cup is great for just using very small amounts of paint as paint can be wasted with the jar, due to paint left in the jar & supply tube, with the cup the paint goes directly from it into the airbrush.

The size of the NEEDLE & NOZZLE has an effect on the paint flow and thickness.

Three common sizes are 0.3 mm, 0.5 mm & 0.8 mm.

Most airbrush thickness paint will work with sizes of 0.3 & 0.5, but for large areas, using thinned standard (brush) paint 0.8 is very useful.



The paint I originally used on Far Saltire is the Revell ‘Airbrush Email Color’ paint, which is supplied at the correct consistence for airbrush work so only needs stirring.

The problem is that it was discontinued & has been replace by the Revell ‘Aqua Color’, a brush paint that has its own thinners for airbrushing, which although is available in the same colours, needs thinning before use which I found slightly altered the colour, this presented a real problem with the ‘Farstad Red’ as I need to match the colour already on the model.

I have been fortunate in finding a few bottles of the same red of ‘Airbrush Email Color’ so have enough to complete the model.

I have been doing a lot of research to find a new airbrush ready paint, that will cover the colours I will need for both ‘Grampian Pride & Far Stream’ the main problem has been the ‘Farstad Red’.

Vallejo Paint

Eventually I found, Vellejo ‘Model Air’ Acrylic paint, made by - ‘Acrylicos Vallejo S.L. in Spain.


They have a very wide range of colours, in both airbrush & brush painting types & very importantly a good colour range of primers, varnishes & other specialised paint additives which can be used to alter the way the paint works.

Their web site has a lot of useful information; colour charts etc, (in English) and is stocked by a good number of model supply outlets in the UK & Worldwide.

There is a lot about the Vallejo paint system I like, but far too much to write about, as of 2012, I have been using the Vallejo paint on ‘Far Saltire’, alongside the Revel Airbrush Red, & am happy with the results.

The one thing with a lot of the modern ‘Airbrush Paints’ is because they dry quickly it can clock the airbrush so you do need to get into a routine of cleaning the airbrush between refills of paint, by using a small amount of airbrush cleaner or thinners.


There is a wide range of Airbrush (& brush) paint available, mainly now Acrylic based, just be careful as not all Acrylics are the same formula, & there can be quite a reaction if you use the wrong thinner, as it can cause the paint to THICKEN, so I always use the thinner the paint manufacturer has for their paint.


Also there can be adverse reactions when different paint are used on top of one another so always do a test before mixing different paint types.


I have a number of useful links on my | LINKS PAGE |

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