Saturday, March 1, 2014

Why airbrushing and White Russians are related.

  I thought about that title over the last two days quite a bit.  There were a lot of options.

  1.  How to Airbrush - Or - Why I drank six white russians last night.

  2.  Airbrushing Basics 101.  Give up.

  3.  Ratios are fun, but my brush still looks like it's throwing up.

  4.  Why Airbrushing is so expensive.  Because I'd throw it all away if I hadn't dropped 200$ on it.

  Long story short, my wife bought me an Iwata Neo Airbrush.  It's legit.  60$ Dual Action name-brand airbrush.  This one comes with a .35mm needle and seems to do good.  I had it sitting on my desk for a month, and finally got an air supply for it.  I yanked my air bubble out of the garage, built an assembly for it that included a gauge, and on/off, a regulator, and a quick disconnect. The thing still has to function for airing up a tire in an emergency, but my regulator and airbrush hose assembly comes off at the disconnect and that's that.  Maybe 30$ in the air setup, except I already had the tank.  You can get a bubble at walmart for 30$ though, so yeah.  Cheaper than a generator.  I work at an industrial plant that runs a million valves off of air pressure, so it's nothing to take the tank in Friday morning and fill it up before I head home.


    So that's exciting.  The other thing that happened is that I bought a bunch of trollbloods.

 I think I've posted the list already in a post or two ago.  The Trollblood battlebox (which I had no intention of ever buying) is in there, but I got most of the lot for 200$, so I can't complain.  Two axers and/or two impalers ain't alway a bad thing either.  

  This was pretty much perfect timing.  After the trollbloods showed up, I focused on getting the air supply going, and then spent the next two days being mad at myself.  See, there's a billion airbrushing tutorials out there, articles, videos, and it's still frustrating.  The first problems I had were:

  What air pressure do I want the tank at?  I can put air out at 80psi.  That's way too much.  I'm sitting right about 22psi right now, and that seems pretty nice.

  How do I mix the paint?  Do I mix it in the bowl?  Do I mix it in a jar and use a dropper to get it out and into the brush?  My first thought was little mouthwash cups, but that was really difficult to mix in, and I ended up spending 88 cents at Walmart to grab measuring spoons, using the teaspoon one to mix paint in and pour it into the brush.  That worked a lot better, but it didn't store the paint at all, which turned out to be a consideration because when I finally had a successful mix, I wanted to keep it.

  Actually getting paint out of the brush.  This was, hands down, the most frustrating part.  I could get the paint out, but it either splattered, gummed up the brush, or dried and stuck completely.  A lot of time, I could get the perfect spray for a split second if I pulled the trigger all the way to the back, and shoved it forward.  That was splotchy, and terrible.  I tried mixing all kinds of ratios.  1:1 water/paint, 2:1 water/paint, 1:2 water/paint, 3:1, 1:3, anything.  I bought isopropyl alcohol to start with, then read that Vallejo does NOT mix with alcohol, so I used distilled water.

  About this time, I grabbed a bottle of Kahlua, and whipped-cream flavored vodka.  My word, so good.  I got the ratios perfect here:

  1/4 shot of Kahlua
  1/4 shot of Vodka
  Cup of milk.  
  Tiny bit of creamer.  If you like creamer in your coffee, you'll like it in your White Russian.  It's like alcoholic cold espresso.  So good.  The 1/4 goes up and down depending on the evening.  I don't like to get drunk, but I do enjoy a White Russian.  

  So, painting.  Distilled water was doing better, but I was getting frustrated with the inconsistency of the paint.  I couldn't just keep it flowing.  So I grabbed Vallejo specific thinner medium and tried that.  Still no success.  I saw several figures saying 1:3 thinner/paint was the way to go, and simply wasn't working.  I finally gave up, dumped water into the brush bowl to spray through the gun and clean it out and-

  Bam.  Worked perfectly for like, two seconds.  Very wet, but the airbrush had perfect pattern, coverage, sprayed efficiently, and was the perfect color until it ran out (Which it did very quickly.)

  So I finished my White Russian and tried it again, but working backwards.  Instead of looking for a ratio, I mixed my paint to the color preferred, and then thinned it waaay down to just a few steps from a wash.  It sprayed decent, but would splatter very quickly, and the moisture would build up in the nozzle very quickly and start dripping wash everywhere.  So I added more paint.  A few more trials, and I ended up with a substance a hair thicker than milk.  

  Perfect.  I made this breakthrough probably about 10 last night, and sprayed a few Fenns and called it a night on that high note.

  All the spray tests...

  The other thing I had to figure out was storing this paint.  I finally grabbed some airtight pots from Hobby Lobby.

  That's been working great.  I poured some in this afternoon and tackled my basepaints.  It's all working good.  I'm excited.

  So that's my airbrushing experience.  I'm getting to wear the trigger is working instinctively for me now, to where if I need a bigger or smaller spray pattern I'm adjusting on the fly instead of trying to think about it.

  If you've noticed, I'm working with black a lot.  That's because I finally decided on a color scheme for my Trolls.  I'm going to do mostly black, with blue highlights.  I'm starting my base paints with a dark dark dark grey (Think shades of lego that Batman will willingly work with), and going from there.  Base painting is so easy with the brush.  I've enjoyed it. 

   This axer is my test model. The black is done, but the armor and tartan hasn't been finished.  I'm doing the St. Andrews tartan, if you're up for a google search.  I need to highlight the armor yet and do the pattern, and highlight the browns on the leather, but this will be the general idea.  I like it.

  My mountain king!  I'm really excited about this.  I really wanted this model, and I got a crazy good deal on it.  My goal is to win a painting competition this year with him, so I'll be putting a lot of time into this guy, which means that I'll be doing him after most of my other stuff so that I'll have a decent grip on my trollblood scheme.

  A lot of my trolls came painted.  Janissa, pGrim, the Earthborn, Slag, Winter and Pyre.  I'll probably paint the Earthborn again, but the others don't bother me too much.  I might change Janissa's skin color but meh.

  Right now I'm basing most of my infantry units.  In fact, I'm waiting for the glue to dry.


    These are for my fell caller, Champions, and some other stuff.  There's treebark in there, ballast and insulation foam, oh, and gravel from the driveway.  That's one godsend from the airbrush, is that I can prime the foam without sealing it first with glue and hoping that's enough.  

  Most of these bases are designed specifically for the model that belongs to it, so some of the rocks and whatnot are in specific locations to support the model.  

  Then I built a few more.  I used Corkboard instead, and cut it at an angle underneath to give it that slant.

  I'll prime this stuff next, and finish priming my Champions, Kithkar, Fenn UA and my Slag troll.  My goal is to have a based army to take gaming next weekend.  Painted would be nice, but just based would be quite the accomplishment.

  That's all I've got today!  Enjoy the last weeks of winter, folks.


  1. Finding the right mixture for airbrushing is a pain, but once you get a feel for it, you can find it again and again. That milk consistency is what everyone talks about, but it's hard to understand until you see it in person.

    I'm glad you had success, and I look forward to seeing your award winning Mountain King!

  2. It was very much a pain. You're right, now that I've done it, it's nothing to mix up a new batch, no sweat. The weirdest question I had was "What does milk actually look like?" I almost bought a batch of Vallejo Air just to compare consistency, but finally got it to work.

    Me too! I'm pretty excited with how the Earthborn turned out, and my Stormtroll is coming along fine. I hope to start the Mt. King in the near future. The base needs done first I think though.