Monday, October 27, 2014

Airbrush Class Review

Sunday I went up to the Secret Weapon Miniatures' headquarters and attended an airbrush training class with Mister Justin himself. This was a rare treat as he's become a very busy man these days. There were 14 of us in the class and it was a very hands-on class. Besides being a rather noisy situation due to all the compressors (especially 1 very loud shop-style compressor), it was a pretty nice environment to work in for the task at hand. I got a solid 4 hours worth of time directly working with my airbrush and many times got to ask Justin questions to help debug problems, get advice and generally improve my confidence in using the airbrush.

This GW Ogre Bull model pictured here is my output from the class. Not particularly amazing except for the fact that all of that work was done entirely with an airbrush. I did some masking obviously to prevent overspray on key areas, but I didn't do anything with a brush. He's clearly not going to win any awards, but I'm somewhat shocked at what I did pull off on what is a relatively small model for my skill levels. Up close (and from other angles) you can totally find several small spatters and "spider webs" where the paint got away from me, but that's all part of the learning process. I focused on just using the airbrush to re-do problem areas rather than just give up. I will admit that at one point I nearly said "screw it", but rather than surrender, I took a moment to pause and look at what my peers were doing which helped me feel like I wasn't the only one feeling frustrated. As one other classmate said aptly, "this is a great opportunity to get a month's worth of mistakes done in a single day and get help rather than getting frustrated".

So what did I learn?
  • Practice with coloring books. They are cheap and provide a great canvas to just fool around on and not stress about "ruining" it.
  • Everything you can do with an airbrush, you can do with a brush. This might seem obvious, but keeping this in mind, the airbrush should be thought of as a time-saving tool. If the work is getting too difficult to accomplish with an airbrush, switch to a traditional brush.
  • Models are just 2D surfaces mapped onto a 3D object. It's a matter of painting each of the 2D canvases on that 3D model. With that in mind though...
  • Everything is a sphere. Muscles, faces, and so on are basically constructed of lots of spheres and each one needs highlighting and shading appropriately so that they make visual sense on the model.
  • Use a sculpting tool to gently push in the edges of painters tape when masking helps improve the accuracy of the masking effort. This works particularly well on areas where the edge of that tape can be pushed into a crease.
  • There's no one answer to any airbrush problem. For example, if the paint seems too thin and is spiderwebbing, one option is to dial back the max paint on the airbrush, leave the pressure the same, and work in shorter bursts. This leads me to a very important point I learned...
  • Unlike the brush where much of the learning is by "feel" and "intuition", the airbrush requires a fair amount more disciplined practice. It is important to actually understand all of the factors in play such as viscosity, air pressure and such. This requires measured experimentation to work through as much as getting a familiar feel for it.
Some other quick notes from the class:
P3 paints and Daler Rowney Inks are both liquid pigments and thus work great in the airbrush. I'd never thought to run inks through the airbrush, but it does work great.
91% isopropyl alcohol for cleaning.
Thin with water only.
Don't use the reservoir cup. I was amused that Justin never used a reservoir cup on his airbrushes. Just dumped paint directly into the top with the cup off. Makes sense in hindsight since the cups are generally way larger than needed for small work.
0.2 needle for detail work. 0.5 for general work.
Get some airbrush lube. I desperately need to do this after (at the end of the class) doing a complete strip-down of my Infinity.
Justin has lots of hilarious stories about great painters doing amusing things. A couple times I was paralyzed with laughter.

Also got to see the SW warehouse and production areas which was a fun bonus. Ok, enough typing. It's time to get paint on a model while I'm riding a wave of motivation.

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