Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Airbrushing: Brush review

As promised, here is the next instalment on my gear write up for a basic airbrushing setup.

As I've mentioned before, I did a lot of leg work before deciding finally on what I purchased.  My brush (BD130k), I decided was the one for me for a couple of reasons.  After watching a video from a youtube channel which I'm an avid fan of - BuyPainted- I picked the basic model described in the video. Mainly as I knew I wasn't going to be outputting pro-painted miniatures straight away, and decided it was best to learn with a basic brush, and upgrade later if I decided I was going to stick with airbrushing.  The real deal closer on this brush however, is the spare parts.  It comes with three needle/nozzle combinations, which I thought for the price, and for a starter was really great to be able to have the choice/adaptability whilst learning.  It also comes with an air hose, which some brushes don't leaving unsuspecting hobbyists needing to make another order for the kit to be usable.

The only real issue I've experienced so far is minor, so I won't break down different aspects of the brush as I did with the compressor.  When disassembling the brush for a first clean, I was a little too thorough, and removed part of the trigger guide which is exceptionally tricky to get back in.  This is all shown in the hardware diagram which comes with the brush, so it was easy to find out where it when, but my big hands versus the small piece in it's small location made for a bit of a nightmare!

As I said above, I've really not had many issues at all with the brush, it's a solid piece of hardware, so instead, I'll go through some essentials associated with the brush specifically.

Cleaning - There are two aspects to this, the first of which is cleaning the reservoir between paints.  This involves simply pouring out any excess paint into the cleaning pot, and cranking the psi to around 50 to blow through one cupful of clean water, and at least one cupful of windowlene, using an old brush to remove any dried paint as necessary.
The second aspect is a full clean.  In order to do this after a session, I run through the steps above, and unscrew the back of the brush, as well as the needle holder (sorry I'm not sure what it's called, but it controls how far the needle moves when the lever is pulled back) and pulling the needle out.
Be careful doing this, as the point of the needle is of course very fine, an d any bends/damage can render it useless.  I use methylated spirits to wipe any dried paint etc off the needle, as well as off the outside of the airbrush where I've spilled anything.  The nozzle also needs to be treated in this way in order to help prevent blockages.
After removing the nozzle, I run pipe cleaners through the front of the brush so that they appear in the reservoir area in order to remove any solid bits of paint.
That's pretty much it, it's a simple process and is relatively quick to do at the end of a session.  The lengthiest part is probably blowing water/windowlene into the cleaning pot

Blockages - These are unfortunately relatively common from what I have read as well as being unavoidable.
During my first session, I was hitting stages where I would have to pull pretty far back on the paint lever in order to get any paint flow at all.  Usually you would see a steady gradient of paint flow as you pull back on the nozzle.  If this happens like it did to me, it's likely that you have a blockage.  Whilst irritating, and time consuming, the process to fix this is simply the first stage of cleaning, combined with the pipe cleaner through the nozzle trick.  The really frustrating thing is when you have a specific mix of paint which you are using, as it has to be tipped out to clean the brush.

Thinning - I read in a few places that Windex (Windowlene in the UK) is fine for diluting paints to airbrush.  Whilst I've found this to be true, I have ordered a Vallejo thinner to do it "properly". The main reason for this is that the thinner is made to be used roughly 50:50 with the paint, where as windowlene works best 50:50 with water, and then added to paint as needed, I've had to add nearly 75:25 with paint previously so result vary wildly depending on paint quality (as I've previously mentioned).
In short, Windowlene is absolutely fine to use, and has been recommended by a few pros (on youtube) but it depends how much work you want to put into using it. It's also a good substitute to clean the brush with instead of buying airbrush cleaner.

PSI - This is a bit of a tricky one I've found, and I'm still not100% sure what I'm doing with it.  The basics however, are that the thinner the line/the closer you want to get to the miniature, the lower the psi you will need to use (around 10-15 is what I've found to be good for 'detail'). For base coating & holding the brush a fair distance away for large areas of colour, increase the psi to around 30-40.  I hate to be a cop out here, but there are some really great youtube videos which cover this kind of thing, where I wouldn't really be able to provide a great deal more information.

PTFE Tape - I had a few worries when I first started brushing as the compressor would come one very quickly when I wasn't even using the brush.  After speaking to the shop, they recommended my applying PTFE tape to the joins at either side of the air hose.  Doing so was simple, and googling simply 'PTFE' brings up a very good tutorial video on how to apply to joins.  The compressor stays on for a heck of a lot longer before kicking in now, all at the low cost of around £1.50 (inc delivery) for the tape, and ten minutes tops to fit it.

I'm very please with my choice of brush, and I think it's a fantastic choice for a beginner, or if you just want to test out if you want to continue with airbrushing.  If you get good results & want to upgrade then I'm sure you will notice the difference with a branded brush, but for someone with my level of skills & experience this one is great.

Thanks for stopping by


  1. An excellent read as always.

    How much space does all the gear take up? Any chance of a photo of everything when you next have it out?

  2. Thanks chap, I just hope it is useful.

    I'll try and get a pic put up at some point, but the compressor takes less space than a KR case sittin on the 'hinge' side and the brush sits in the cleaning pot holder, which is roughly the size of a big (novelty big) mug if that makes sense?