Hey everyone! If you didn’t catch my last post I’ll introduce myself again. My name is Aidan and I run Eastgate Painting Studio (linked at the bottom of the blog, if you want to check out my work) and I’m a new Guest Blogger on the Bitz Box Blog.
Seeing as most of the work that I’ll be talking about involves the use of an airbrush I thought it’d be great to start with a series of blog posts covering the basics-
What exactly do I need to start?
How to get the best from your Equipment
Tips and Tricks to save time and effort!
So, strap yourself in for the next few blog posts and welcome to Airbrush 101.
What exactly do I need to start?
My next three posts will talk about the equipment you’ll need to get started. Now I won’t be actually recommending products (Shock! Horror!) as there are hundreds of excellent threads out there on forums of the Internet which do exactly that, but I will be giving you a good foundation on which you can navigate the hundreds of possibilities available to you.
There are three major things you need when it comes to airbrushing – clean air, paint and an airbrush. Some of these are more important than the others, and there are several ways of approaching each. We’ll start with clean air.
Much like real life, Air is really important. The cleaner the better – what’s the point in spending £2-3 for 12ml of paint (which has had years of design and development poured into it) to then contaminate it with dirty water and oil from your air supply? Exactly.
The pressure at which the air leaves your supply is also really important. This is measured in pounds per square inch, or psi, and generally you want to be spraying at around 30-35 psi and dropping down to between 18-25 psi for finer detail. For our purposes the amount of air the compressor pushes (measured in cubic feet per minute) isn’t all that important, but those specs might be something you see. We’ll talk about why air pressure is important when I talk about Airbrushes and Paint, but as long as you keep in mind that you’ll need a minimum output of 35psi, you’ll be golden.
When it comes to your Air Supply (which is the most important step of the process, for me) you have a three choices.
- Canned Air:
Personally I would stay away from canned air wherever possible – Your pressure is always changing, starting high and as the can gets empty getting lower and lower. When you’re paying for every cc of air you tend not to clean properly (I have never, ever, ever seen a clean airbrush that has been run on canned air, like ever) and you can’t really adjust the spraying pressure too well.
The advantage is that in the short term, it’s much cheaper to run your AB on canned air – but after a couple of dozen cans you could have just bought a compressor and had a way easier time.
- Air Compressor:
Now when I say a compressor, what I actually mean is a compressor with a tank. You can get a plain compressor which will continually chug out air, but your psi will vary with each stroke of the engine and that’s no good. The best situation is your engine working really hard for a short period of time, then having a nice long break (kind of like interval training on an exercise machine) to recover – this is where the tank comes into play. The engine charges the tank up with compressed air, which a valve gradually lets out at your required psi – and when the tank gets down to half full, the engine kicks into gear and charges it again.
Because we’re dealing with engines (the part of the compressor that drives the air) we have to talk about a couple of things – noise and oil. The moving parts in an engine need to be lubricated, and most often that is with oil. This poses a problem because occasionally the oil can get into the airline and ruin (and I mean really ruin) your paint job. It doesn’t happen often, but if you’re dealing with a cherished model or an expensive commission, once is more than enough. We can deal with this issue really easily by adding a filter, either at the compressor end before we attach air line, or in line next to the airbrush itself.
You also need to keep the oil topped up and occasionally changed but no more than a couple of times a year. You can get lovely expensive oil free compressors but they seem to be a false economy to me, both in terms of actual cash and time.
The noise issue is more esoteric – how much noise is too much noise? I run a workshop style compressor, designed to run power tools as well as put down paint onto large panels – it runs really loud, but I live in a 1920’s brick semi-detached house, so the noise from my compressor doesn’t really travel that much. I also don’t tend to paint after 10pm – but consider your own circumstances – will you have neighbours banging on the door if you make a racket after 8? Do you live above a family with a small child, or only paint in the small hours of the night? All of these things can effect the compressor you buy – but of course you pay a massive premium for ‘silent’ compressors.
Finally you’ll wanna make sure you have enough space for your new compressor – some are designed to fit on a tabletop, some would fill a room, do you need to move the compressor around or is it gonna have its own designated area where it doesn’t move from?
- Some insane hillbilly creation:
I’ve heard of people pumping up car tyres and then using them to run their Airbrushes – to me this sounds like the worst of canned air with none of the convenience, but if you literally have no money (and a car tyre hanging around, of course) then it could just work for you!
So the key questions to ask when looking to buy a compressor are as follows:
- How much money do I want to spend?
- How much maintenance do I want to be tied into?
- How much noise is too much noise?
- How much space do I have available?
Once you have answered these questions (for real, go grab a pen and paper) you will have a much better idea of what is right for you, and you can make a better decision when it comes to your compressor.
Next time on Airbrush 101 we will cover the actual Airbrush itself – how it works, the three main types of airbrush, and how to make your decision.
Thanks for reading,