Archive for the ‘Tutorials’ Category

Hello everyone,

This is a post I’ve been thinking about for some time.  Two things have prompted me into action.  The first one is recently I’ve had a few people actually send me questions that more or less fall into this category.   I thought I could help a little by just putting down a few ideas on getting started rather than answering all the questions individually.  That way there will be something to refer to in the future.  I’ve also made a shopping list PDF that you can download at the end of the article.

The second reason is how much positive feedback I’ve had from my How to buy an Airbrush setup post.  When I wrote that I never thought it would have gotten as much air time as it has.  It seems some people thought my ideas were helpful.  Maybe my ideas on painting area setup will be too.

So I’ve actually been on a pretty hardcore (coffee fuelled) modelling bender for the last few weeks.  The fruits of which you’re seeing now, plus a few others to come.  I actually finished off what I was working on a few weeks ago now and its given me pause to consider what I’d like to work on.  I’ve still got plenty of World Eaters to paint, plus another project I’m going to start in the not too distant future which I haven’t announced yet.  However in the mean time, before getting back into painting, I thought I’d share some of my thoughts on setting up a painting area.

This post is mainly aimed at the beginner, so its a very basic guide.  Getting into this hobby can be initially quite overwhelming.  There are the rules to get your head around, all of the amazingly detailed models available and of course seeing the exceptionally aspirational painting that accompany those models can be quite daunting.  Especially after you have your first  go at painting one yourself.  Finally, some of the starter kits and painting area accessories commonly available are not, in my opinion, very good.

So I’ll break the areas that I think need attention down into four categories.

1.  Painting space

2.  Painting space setup

3.  Painting Accessories

4.  Paints, Brushes and extras

So lets begin with the first area, the painting space.  The most important aspect to your painting space is it needs to be permanent.  It doesn’t have to be big, expensive or even new.  Just somewhere that you don’t have to pack up and pull down every time you paint.  Mine is actually in my garage!  A space of 1200mm x 600mm is more than enough.  In Australia you can buy this desk for $78.  I actually saw a desk at K-Mart the other day for $29! How the hell they do that is anyones guess.

Officeworks desk

This desk will be more than adequate for your needs and won’t take up a lot of space either.  What it does mean though is that you can have your painting space set up and projects laid out.  You’ll know that if the urge to paint comes along, you can just sit down and get stuck into it.  No sitting down at the dining room or coffee table, setting up, getting disturbed etc.

Forget those portable painting stations that sit in your lap.  Not only are they a woefully  inadequate in terms of workspace, but they also promote terrible ergonomics.  Seriously, they’re crap.

Next up is Painting Space Setup.  This is the area where I see most guys come unstuck.  What to have besides paint and brushes at their table.  The first thing you must get (besides a permanent space) is a lamp.  I can not emphasise this enough.  Get a lamp, and one with a daylight globe.  Having proper task lighting is absolutely critical.  Not only does it mean that you can paint day or night.  There are also a few other reasons that this can not be over looked.  The first (and most important) is your eyesight.  Painting models in sub-optimal lighting will ruin your eyesight, and by the time your in the late 30’s you’ll be in serious trouble.  Thats not cool.  Even if you paint in broad daylight next to a window in your bedroom, you’re damaging your eyes.  Count on it.  If you really doubt what I’m saying, speak to an optometrist.

The other reason a lamp with a daylight globe is necessary is colour perception.  Colour and how we perceive it is a massive topic that is far outside the scope of this post.  All you really need to know is that the globe you put into your lamp need to be daylight globes (5000k) and ideally from a non incandescent source.  This just means that the globes don’t get hot when you use them, thus drying your paint prematurely.   Don’t use fluorescent lamps or straight warm or cool house globes.  They’ll severely distort the look of the colours you’re putting on the model.    There are several specific types of lamps now made for hobbyist, some using LED as the light source and have built in magnifiers.

Desk lamp 1This one commonly available from modelling stores for around $60.  I personally do not like them as I find the magnifier difficult and impractical plus they get in my painting space because of their size and lack of adjustably.    I use on my table three (3) commonly available desk lamps that I buy from a large retail hardware chain here in Australia.  I use three for several reasons. First is to get enough task light for my subject, and the second is contrast.  By having light coming from three different directions, I avoid shadows and ‘flat’ areas in my lighting.

Daylight lamp Lamp 2

This is the lamp and globe I use.  The lamps cost about $20 each and the globes are about $5 each.  So I have three set up, one in the centre, one on the top left and right hand side of the painting area.

Next up is a cutting matt.  There are many different types available now, I get mine from a craft store, its A3 in size and  cost about $20.  These just proved a nice surface to cut on so you don’t damage the desk or the blade you’re cutting with.

cutting mattThe final item you need is a storage container.  I use Sistema 7 litre storage containers.  Get one or two of these so that between painting sessions your models wont get dust on them etc.  Sounds finicky but is well worth it.  Sometimes I may not paint for a month or two.  Think about how dusty your house gets if you don’t clean it regularly.  Well, that dust will end up on your models if you don’t protect them.  We recently had some summer bush fires about 100km from where I live.  The amount of airborne particles increased dramatically.  If I didn’t keep my unpainted models in an airtight container that ash would have settled on them.  These are about $15 each.

7L Sistema container

Now lets move onto Painting Accessories.  This is basically two organisational aids.  The first is a paint carousel.  Now, there are many paint organisers on the market.  Most not commercially available are the tier variety, or paint stadium as I like to call them.  The reason I don’t like these is that they take up too much space compared to the amount of paint they hold.  They take up valuable real estate on your desk.  This is the one I use.  It holds 80 paints and is very economical.  It costs about $70.  It’s also capable of storing many different brands of paint too.  I got mine from here

Carrousel paint holder

The other item I have on my desk is this rotary tray.  For basically the same reason as the paint carousel, except this is where I keep my brushes, clippers, knives, tweezers etc.  I got it from the same place.  It costs about $30.

Rotary Tray

Finally its Paints, Brushes and extras.  We’ll start with paints.  I use the Citadel range.  I’ve been using the Citadel range of paints for close to 20yrs.  Until they changed their range recently, I would never have swapped.  However I’m not completely happy with some aspects of the new range, so I may change in the future.  So, what to buy?  To start off with all you need to do is buy a neutral red, blue and yellow, plus a black and white.  You may also want to get a bone colour, brown and finally a cool and warm grey.  The last three suggestions are actually difficult to mix, so its easier to just buy them.  Get a light and dark metallic silver and gold too.  Finally, get a red, blue, yellow, black and brown ink (Siena).

Brushes.  You can spend a fortune in this area.  I do not claim to be an expert on brushes either (or anything else for that matter!)  However I know what I like brush wise.  I like to get Winson & Newton Water Colour Sceptor 101 Brushes  What I like about them is they’re readily available and good value.  I typically use a #0, #1 & #3.  Looking after brushes is very important.  This is especially true when using acrylics.  At the beginning of every paint session make sure you have fresh water for washing your brushes out with.  Also, if you’re going to be using one colour for a prolonged period, wash it out very regularly.  Brushes work on capillary action.   Make sure paint doesn’t dry around the region when the ferrule and brush meet.  This will spell disaster for the brush.  So keep it clean and free from dried paint building up and your brushes will last you a long time.

I also like to buy some super cheap brushes that you get in the $1 shop.  I like to get them for just random jobs like putting PVA glue onto a base or whatever.  It means that my good painting brushes only get used to paint with and not trashed.


Winsor & Newton Sceptre Water Colour Brushes. They have a distinctive red handle

Extras.  Here is a short list of other things I think everyone who’s starting out should get their hands on.  The first item is some stackable storage containers.  I use these to keep basing materials in.  I don’t buy basing kits, I just make my own.  Far more interesting and cost effective.  So one container I keep sand in, the other some kitty litter, the other some random model bits and the last one bits of cork, skulls, slate and whatever.  I pick these up from an automotive store for about $2 each.  Very handy

Stack Containers

Painting palettes.  I get these from the $1 store (while I get my cheap brushes).  They’re $1 each and much cheaper than the brand name option.  Get a couple, they come in handy.

Paint Palette

Last but not least, a hobby knife with a #11 blade, some good quality side cutters, a small pot of PVA glue and some tubes of Super Glue.  I actually get these from the $1 store too.  The clippers are meant for ladies manicures and the hobby knife is located generally not too far from the cheap brushes and palettes.  Again, don’t buy the Brand name option.  

Well, thats it folks.  I know getting into this hobby can be daunting.  There are so many things to think about, however having a permeant work space with good lighting is essential.  I can not overstate how important a good task like is.  Then just get a few basics that will serve you for years to come.  Now, this shopping list runs about about $440-ish.  However remember, these are largely one off purchases.  So don’t get overwhelmed by it.

If you like this hobby, these items will be used countless times and the cost will pale into insignificance compared to the value they’ll bring.  Plus, they are a solid foundation for expanding what you may want to get in the future.  Like an Air Brush

If you’d like to download the list as a PDF, click here

I hope this beginners guide to setting up has helped.  If you have any questions, please post them in the comments section and I’ll be happy to respond to them.

Thanks for dropping in


A few weeks ago over Easter I had a few of my Wargaming mates over for a couple of days of hardcore man dollie action, drinking beer and BBQ’s. For those of you who follow my FB page you may remember me commenting on what a superb miniature Inquisitor Hector Rex is. I’ve had this guy in my collection for some time as I’ve always wanted to paint him simply because its an amazing sculpt. If you haven’t seen it close up, do yourself a favour and find one, he’s pretty amazing.

Well, while I had some of my friends over we were taking about models we’d like to paint etc and I mentioned how I’d really like to do a diorama that features Inquisitor Rex fighting the FW greater Daemon of Khorne. I can’t say for certain, but it actually looks like the minis were sculpted to be positioned with one another.

This is the model incase you are not familiar with it


Anyway, amazingly one of my friends mentions to me that he has one, that’s been assembled and under coated but he doesn’t intend on ever painting it so he asked me if I’d like to have it, for FREE! I was pretty overwhelmed by his generosity and after being assured by him that he didn’t want anything for it other than me doing a kick ass paint job in it, I accepted. So he brought it round the next day and I could see that I had a big job ahead if me getting it disassembled and cleaned up ready to be painted.

Now, the model wasn’t particularly well put together and never having had seen one before unassembled I wasn’t sure where it came apart. It had also lots and lots of green stuff in the joints too that was going to have to be removed.

Not having removed paint from resin models ever I had to do some research on what methods to use etc, as I didn’t want to damage the resin. There seemed to be two schools of thought on the subject.

1. Simply green commercial floor cleaner
2. Dettol

Now being a fairly practical guy that’s prone to taking the path of least resistance I took the dettol option. I brought the biggest one I could find in the super market, for 750ml it cost me $10. I later found out that simply green is $20 for the smallest quantity I could find which was 5L.

Here’s the stuff.


So I rushed it home, got a 10L bucket poured my Dettol in along with some water 20/80 dropped the blood thirster in and sat back….

I came back about 3 hrs later and pulled out a random part and with my trusty tooth brush began scrubbing. Much to my surprise the paint had turned into this oily solution that was extremely hard to get off not only my brush, but my hands and worst of all, the model. I could see that it was working but it was not coming off at all. I even tried using a detergent and warm water, but still no dice. So far Blood Thirster 1. John 0.

So I put my thinking cap on and did some research. Found out some interesting things. Firstly, the main ingredient in Dettol is a substance called chloroxylenol and that several of the other ingredients in Dettol are not insoluble in water. This is why when you add water to Dettol it goes a white coloured and milky. The other thing I found is that Dettol contains isopropanol. To cut a very long story short, isopropanol will actually dissolve many forms of plastic, but I suspect that because its in such a small quantity it only removes the paint, not dissolve the resin. But I’m not a chemist so I can’t say conclusively. I also can not say conclusively if it is the active ingredient in Dettol that actually stripped the paint, but do know after doing my research that if I use alcohol I’ll be able to remove the oily residue.

Enter diggers metholated spirits


This stuff worked a treat on getting the oily residue off and had the greater daemon clean in no time. I couldn’t believe how clean it all came up.  All I used the metho for was simply rinsing off the model.  I didn’t actually soak the parts in metho, just used it to “wash” the parts.  Overall I’m pretty pleased with the results. As an added benefit the green stuff weakened after being soaked in the Dettol and the model came apart very easily. I still hand to do a fair bit of gentle scraping etc to get the last fragments off, but everything came apart really easily and it now looks like this


Great success!

So it turns out there were one or two pieces missing but nothing too dramatic. I plan on remaking these then begin reassembling the blood thirster and get him ready to paint. It’s going to look amazing.

Got a few interesting projects in the pipe line ATM and I can’t wait to get them started but unfortunately I’ve got Uni so that’s where my focus had to be for most of the time. I’ve also had a few people ask me about the battle report I promised. Well, the battle did happen, but due to having my judgement impaired from a little too much alcohol no photos got taken. However come June/July the bunker will be back open for business and I’m sure you’ll see plenty of hardcore man dollie action coming at you!

Until then,

Thanks for dropping in

John Sutton, Brisbane, Qld

So ever since I did the post on How to paint World Eater Space Marines I have a lot of positive feed back, in fact its been a very popular post.  One question that I’ve continually had was “how did you paint the face?” So I thought I’d do a quick tutorial on how to paint faces to a good table top standard.  Believe it or not, its not that hard and with a little patience and practice you’ll dramatically improve the presentiment of any miniature where flesh tones are present.

So lets take a look at the process.


Step 1.

For the tutorial I’ll be using the old Citadel range of paints.  I do like the new range, however I’m buying to replace them with the new ones as I go so I’ve still got a fair few of the old range on hand.  But if you use the Citadel conversion chart if you don’t have any of the old paints you should be golden.

The paints & materials I’ve used are

  • Abaddon Black – Undercoat and detail
  • Tallarn Flesh – Base coat and component for highlights
  • Dwarf Flesh – For highlighting
  • Red Gore – A component colour for the lips
  • Ogryn Flesh – Base coat wash
  • Devlen Mud – Shading
  • White Scar – Eyes etc
  • W & N No 1 Brush
  • Marines Head – I like mounting pieces on tooth pics for ease of handling


Step 2.  Undercoat

I’ve used Abaddon Black applied with an Air Brush, or use a spray can.  This is important and many of the small details on the face can be erased or compromised if you don’t apply the paint thinly enough.  I’m not saying it can’t be done with a brush, but it just makes your job harder if you do.


Step 3.  Base coat

Again I’ve applied Tallarn Flesh with an air brush for the same reason that I applied Abaddon Black with an air brush, so as not to compromise any of the fine detail on the face.


Step 4.  Wash

Using my W & N no 1 brush I applied a liberal amount of wash.  Don’t be scared to do this as you’ll find that when the medium dries (evaporates) all that will be left is the pigment in the recesses.  You want that to create definition.
How to paint Space Marine Faces 5

Step 5.  Re-apply the base coat

This is where you need to be mindful of a few things.  The first one is paint viscosity, and the second one is your brush condition.  Let me explain.  Where a lot of people fall down when painting flesh is that the paint has already started to dry when its being applied.  This makes the paint lumpy and has an inconsistent appearance in its application.  In some climates where the air is dry (< 30% humidity) you may need to use a wet pallet.  Or just do what I do and take a blob of paint out of the bottle (I live in a humid climate), put it on my pallet and mix in a bit of paint thinner.  This is really important, especially for skin tones, the reason is that our skin is sort of translucent and when we paint it to re-create that effect, we need to simulate this and the best way to do that is to make the paint thin.  I’ll get into more detail on this later, but for now, just make sure that your paint it thinned down a little so it flows better.

The second point you need to be aware of is your brush condition.  There are two aspects of this, the first is that your brush is set up to facilitate capillary action, and the second one is that the tip of the brush is the right shape.  Many painters don’t use their brush the way its meant to be used, and that is having a nice amount of paint on the whole brush (bristles) and then shape the brush tip so that it makes a nice fine point for painting.  A lot of guys I see dip the tip of their brush in the paint and use only that part.  This seriously limits the full capability of the brush and you are doing yourself a big disservice.  To help your brush facilitate capillary action, just make sure that before you dip it in paint (thinned down I hope) that you first dip your paint brush in some clean paint thinners first.  Remove the excess with a tissue or something then dip the paint brush in your thinned paint, using the same tissue shape the bristles so that you have a nice point.

You can now pick out the raised areas of the face with the Tallarn Flesh.  Before you do this take a few moments to consider where you’d like the paint to go by studying the face and its contours.  By having a plan of where you’d like the paint to do will dramatically improve your results.


Step 6.  First Highlight

Mixing about 70% Tallarn Flesh with 30% Dwarf Flesh, begin highlighting the areas of the face that would naturally catch the light.  So areas like the ears, nose, chin, cheeks, brow.  Again, make sure you follow the points I make in Step 5 about paint viscosity and having your brush set up properly.  Paint viscosity is important for the next three stages.  As I mentioned before, skin is sort of translucent, so when you paint flesh tones, try and make your paint go on in very thin layers so that the edge of each layer of paint isn’t too contrasted against the previous one, and allows its colour to be blended with the previous colour that was applied.

How to paint Space Marine Faces 7

Step 7.  Second Highlight

Mixing about 30% Tallarn Flesh with 70% Dwarf Flesh, begin refining the highlighting of the previous areas of the face that you worked on in Step 6. Again, make sure you follow the points I make in Step 5 about paint viscosity and having your brush set up properly.


Step 8.  Final Highlight

With straight Dwarf Flesh go and pick out the final areas where you want attention to be drawn to.  Tip of the nose, ears, brow and top of the cheeks.

How to paint Space Marine Faces 9

Step 9.  Lips

With a a mixture of about 60% Tallarn Flesh, and 40% Red Gore, apply a small amount to the lower lip.  This is very subtle but crucial to achieving a more realistic effect.


Step 10.  Eye Shading

Place a small amount of Devlan Mud in each of the eye areas and a small amount under the bottom lip.  Again a subtle but crucial step.


Step 11.  Pick out Details

Paint the actual eyes black in readiness for the white to be applied, paint around the collar, neck brace etc and the small stud on his forehead.  Highlight the collar etc as you would normally.

Step 12.  Finished

Paint in the eyes with white, followed by a small dot of back.  This may take several attempts to get right.  Pick out the service stud with your choice of silver and finish up any other details you’d like attention paid to.

So there you have it.  It’s doubtful that you’ll win a Golden Daemon trophy with this scheme, but it will with any luck improve the quality of your table top miniatures.

A few points to remember about painting flesh.  The first is no matter what tone of flesh you are wanting to achieve, always start with a warm flesh tone.  For example, if you look at the picture below of my Iron Hands Librarian, you’ll see he’s quite pale.  I still used Tallarn Flesh as the base colour, I just used a mixture of grey and bone to dull down the warmth of Tallarn Flesh.  This is a convention to be mindful of when painting flesh tones.  It seems that our eye is programmed to see flesh tones in a certain way and we accept simulations of flesh tones better when they have a warm base to start with.

Iron Hands Librarian

Thats me for now.  Hope you’ve found this helpful, and until next time chat later.

John Sutton, Brisbane, Qld

Hello everyone!

Its been a while since my last post as I’ve been busy with study, life and just well, I needed to take a bit of a break to recharge my painting mojo…  it came back pretty strong on Wednesday morning and I cracked open the bunker and went on a mini painting bender and smashed out two test models for my up and coming 30k World Eaters.  This is something that I’ve been thinking of for quite some time however for some reason I couldn’t decide in my mind exactly what I wanted to do in terms of how I was going to paint them.  I had a few different ideas for the white actually, and I was torn as to which method I’d ultimately use.

So I just decided to paint one model with each method and compare and contrast the results.  So sit back and I’ll take you though what I did and how I did it blow-by-blow.  Hope you enjoy it.  By the way, if you follow my Facebook page you’ll already have seen the end results, and if you don’t follow my Facebook page, go do it now….  I was actually so pleased with how both models turned out that I posted the pictures up on my Facebook page to show them off.

So here we go….

Let me begin by giving you some idea on where my head was at before I commenced painting these two models.  White is a tricky (tint, its not a colour) to paint and the colour that is under it has a very strong influence on how we perceive it.  The look that I want to achieve with my World Eaters is one that gives the viewer the impression that they have been in, or are in combat.  So lots of grime, dints, dust and grittiness.  However I don’t want them to look like they’ve just been thrown in a washing machine with a couple of bricks either.  Lets face it, Marines would get shot at a lot, firstly because they are generally numerically inferior to their opponent and secondly, it would take a lot of fire power to drop an Astartes.  Achieving this balance is a major technical and aesthetic challenge with white.

This is why I’ve gone for experimenting with two different base colours for the models.  One has a very light grey base colour, and the other has a very light brown base colour.  The light grey model ultimately had its panel lines cut it with a black oil wash, while the light brown model had its panel lines cut in with a dark brown oil wash.  So lets take a look at the stages and I’ll walk you through it.

As some of you who’ve followed my painting updates perviously will know, I’m really big on preparation and batch painting.  I like to create a system and document it when I paint an army so that if and when I revisit it I can reproduce it, and also its a devision of labor idea, where I attempt the use my time when painting an army as economically as possible.  However I like to keep in mind the end result and in painting models fast, I don’t like to compromise the finish either…  So I spend a bit of time preparing models before painting them, so that when I paint I can achieve a standard which I consider slightly above table top standard for my rank and file models.

How to paint World Eater Space Marines 1

So here we have stage one.  The body of the marine built, with its head, arms, backpack, shoulder armour and weapons attached or mounted on tooth picks which are held in place with polystyrene foam.  When I say mounted on what I mean is for items like the arms, backpack, head and weapon I actually drill a 2mm hole in them and just force the tooth pick into the hole.  This saves time glueing them onto the tooth pick and if I bump them and they fall off, I can just re-attach them.  Everything is cleaned up, barrels are drilled and the paint is ready.  I’ve got a clear picture in my mind of what I want the finished model to look like.

How to paint World Eater Space Marines 2

Black undercoat.  Nothing really revolutionary here. How to paint World Eater Space Marines 3

Once the black undercoat is applied I take the pieces that will be getting different treatments and fix them to separate foam plinths.  Here the bolters have been painted with Citadel Leadbelcher.    How to paint World Eater Space Marines 4

Just like the bolters I’ve segregated the shoulder armour and back packs.  One thing that isn’t shown in this picture is that they were actually all aligned to face the same direction they would when on the marine.  This will assist later when it comes time to shading them.  The base for the blue is Citadel Kantor Blue.  Once that had dried, I gave each piece a small highlight with Citadel  Caledor Sky, and then finally a even smaller highlight with 70% Caledor Sky and 30% White Scar.
How to paint World Eater Space Marines 5

The first marine is given his black undercoat a base coat of Citadel Dawnstone.  I didn’t go over board with coverage, as I want the black to remain in recesses etc to add to the  pre-shading of the white when it eventually goes over the top.  How to paint World Eater Space Marines 6

As per the stage above except with Citadel Baneblade Brown.How to paint World Eater Space Marines 7

The first coat of white.  I created a mix of 90% Citadel White Scar and 10% Citadel Dawnstone.  This stage you want to make sure that you apply the colour with a “top down” notion in mind.  Remember that most of the time the source or light (the sun) is above the marine, so we expect to see shadows in areas where shadows would normally be created in natural light.  So lightly dust this mixture on ensuring that you keep the model pointing up as you are painting it.  Don’t go over the top either, just like the Dawnstone, you want to make sure that the coverage isn’t complete, you want some Dawnstone, and if you’ve done the job right, some of the black to still be showing through.

Once that was done, I gave the model a very light coat of just straight White Scar to make the raised areas really pop.  You need to be very delicate with the paint application at this stage otherwise you run the risk of making the white too bright and ruining the effect you were trying to achieve by using the black and grey undercoat.
How to paint World Eater Space Marines 8

As above except with Citadel Baneblade brown.How to paint World Eater Space Marines 9

I then added chipping with a small sponge, painted in the detail and gave the models a coat of gloss varnish in preparation for oil washes.  How to paint World Eater Space Marines 10

I really like this picture for many reasons.  Mainly because it clearly demonstrates the distinct difference between the brown and grey undercoat.  I deliberately chose to use brown and black oil paint respectively on each model to further accentuate the undercoat colour coming through the white and thus further emphasise the two “looks” I was going for.  I actually think the one on the right would be a great base for a Death Guard….

Once i’d finished painting the bases, finishing up the detail etc, I gave each part a good coat of matt varnish, assembled each marine, hit it with some weathering powders and then gave it another hit with matt varnish.  Below are the pictures of the finished models.




I’m really please with the results and very really anxious to get started on the army proper now.  I’ve decided to go with the grey undercoat after all that as I think it give a more authentic white and is in line with how I’d imagine the XII Legion to look.

What are your thoughts?

Thanks for dropping in, comments as always are very welcome.

John Sutton, Brisbane, Qld

How to buy an Airbrush setup

Posted: February 9, 2013 in Airbrush setup

So I had quite a busy week last week at work and didn’t really have any time to do anything other than wake up, eat breakfast, work, go home, eat dinner sleep repeat.  It was a really good week though, I like being busy and I got some amazing results, however it didn’t leave much time for hobby… which blows, hard.  It did however allow me to reflect on a few aspects of the hobby that I’ve been wanting to discuss for some time, however have been too busy doing my Realm of Battle Cityscape Board to have any time to write some posts about it.  So after a seriously busy week at work I’ve decided to take the weekend off head over the Stradbroke Island to get my chilax on, recuperate and enjoy the remaining warm weather before Autumn arrives shortly.

This is the view from the place I’m staying at…  perfect northerly view over the Pacific Ocean…


Over the past few weeks I’ve had quite a few questions on Airbrush set up, what one to buy, where to buy it, what else you’ll need and so on.  The amount of confusion on this topic was made even more apparent to me when I did an Airbrushing tutorial at the ADFWGA Championships in 2012 to raise funds for Legacy.  Many, if not all of the participants were very keen to learn about how to use an Airbrush, however I realised that more time needed to be spent discussing the considerations when investing in an Airbrush to make a positive advance in your hobby results.  There seems to be lots of good, and not so good ideas out there on what is a sound way forward on this topic.  As always with these things too, its the questions not asked which are often the most important so I want to look at a few of these too.

My aim with this post isn’t to impart practical skills for using an Airbrush, perhaps that will be a post for another day.  My aim with this post is to help you to choose and set up as best as possible Airbrush kit that you can use and maintain for many years and bring your hobby result to new, higher standards.  This post is aimed more for hobbiest who have not yet bought an Airbrush, or for someone who has, but is still getting mediocre results from using it due to not understanding how to set it up properly.

Because of my background, I’m a big believer in quality training.  It’s where everything should start.  It ensures that you don’t develop poor habits or beliefs and also puts your learning curve on a steeper gradient as (hopefully) the person(s) delivering the training have already made lots of mistakes or are drawing their training on people who have already made lots of mistakes and can give you best practice, or as a minimum, a solid foundation for you to build your own experience base.   You can put the finest instruments in the world in the hands of someone who’s had no training and the results will be a botch, however you can put poor to average instruments in the hands of a competent well trained professional and that person will produce a masterpiece, or at the minimum a result well above the standards of most.   So before you do anything, get some training on how to Air Brush.

When I was in high school, my school offered to seniors one afternoon a week where you could go to a tertiary learning institution (community college, TAFE) and do short courses on basically anything you like.  Not being terribly interested in school, rather than further my academic credentials I decided to further my hobby skills.  So I did a 6 week Airbrushing course.  It was the best thing I ever did for my hobby and the skills I learnt from that course have served me very well over the years.  The great thing about these courses is that you get good quality instruction, all the materials, including the Airbrush are supplied and the training consists of theory, that is then put into perspective through practical application.  I can’t remember how much it cost, but it was less than $200 and gave me a solid foundation that I have built on considerably since then.  I would strongly urge you to consider some form of recognised formal training (YouTube doesn’t count!) on Airbrushing before embarking on purchasing one for your own use.

So now you’ve done that, the next thing to do is delve into the confusing world of buying your first set up.  To break things down a little more, I’ll discuss the five components of what you need to have a quality, thorough set up at home.  I would urge you to consider acquiring all of these components, not just the last two.  Those five components are:

  1. Painting Area
  2. Maintenance Supplies
  3. Painting & Mixing Accessories
  4. Compressor
  5. Airbrush

So let’s look at each component in more detail.

The Painting Area  

Ideally this should be a permanent place where you can paint.  Why?  Well Airbrushing is a very equipment intensive aspect to our hobby and all the items you need to use take up space.  A small table will do the job, and it needs to have good natural or artificial light with a window close by.  A very important feature of any quality Airbrush set up is a spray booth.  The two main reasons why you should have a spray booth is to stop overspray going everywhere, and to assist in removing airborne paint particles from the immediate vicinity of the subject (the thing you are painting)  The one I use has an extraction fan with a flexible hose that I have ducted out a window.  It also has a series of filters that prevent paint particles clogging up the extraction fan.  It also has a small turntable which allows me to put my subject on and move it about without having to touch it.  As you can see from the picture, my area isn’t big and doesn’t take up a lot of room, and nor should it, but it is functional.  I’ve got my spray booth, an area above it to keep useful items, a turn table and a clear space off to one side to set my subject down before and after its been painted.


This is the spray booth I use, depending on where you get it, it’ll cost around $200 – $250  There are others on the market too which are collapsable so if you can’t set it up in a permanent location it can be moved and packed up.  The key point is that its a suitable workspace for Airbrushing that safely and effectively removes overspray.  The other good aspect to using a spray booth is that other members of the household (specifically the Trouble & Strife) will like it as it makes a dramatic improvement on how much overspray ends up where it shouldn’t.

Maintenance Supplies

This is one area of using an Airbrush that I see most new users run into problems.  Like any instrument, be it a car, a bike, a piano or fishing rod, if you don’t maintain it properly it will let you down no matter how well made it is.   Below is a list of items you’ll need to properly maintain your new Airbrush.  Before I go on, I’m a big fan of automotive stores, they contain all manner of useful stuff we can use, so if I put AMS after an item, that means I buy it from there (its generally WAY cheaper too than from a specialty hobby supplier).

  • Brake fluid in a tightly sealed lunch box sized container – Brake fluid is an interesting substance, it will remove paint, however it wont damage or degrade rubber.  This is very important for an Airbrush as within all Airbrushes are very small rubber seals that once damaged or broken will seriously degrade its performance.  When I want to thoroughly clean my Airbrush after a big painting session, I strip it down (including the nozzle) and place all the parts that came into contact with paint into the brake fluid bath.  I’ll leave it there for a few hours and then remove it, and with the items listed below (tooth picks, cotton tips, toilet paper, tooth brush, and specific Airbrush cleaning brushes) I’ll clean excess paint from the Airbrush. I get my brake fluid from an AMS.
  • Tooth Picks – I use these to get into all the fine areas where paint accumulates on an Airbrush.  You can use metal picks etc (such as dental tools) however I’ve found that the hard metal picks available tend to damage or scratch the fine internal details of an Airbrush.  Wooden tooth picks are the go, plus they have tonnes of other uses in our hobby too, such as mounting fine parts for, you guessed it, painting.
  • Cotton Tips –  Again, good for getting into hard to reach places that you don’t want to scratch or damage.
  • Toilet Paper – for wiping off parts and cleaning up minor spills.
  • Airbrush cleaning brushes – They look like very fine pipe cleaners, a good set has about five different sizes and will last for the life of the Airbrush.


  • Table top cleaning station – This is basically an empty glass jar with a lid on it that you can put the end of the Airbrush into and use it to “blow out” colours between colour changes.  This keeps the Airbrush clean during a painting session.  Make sure there is no paint, or fragments of dried paint whatsoever in the Airbrush between colours.  Dried fragments of paint are the single biggest cause of poor performance with an Airbrush.


  • Wash bottles – I use three.  One filled with demineralised water, the other filled with Tamiya X-20-A thinner and the other filled with Artists Turpentine.  You can buy wash bottles from Airbrush suppliers but they are as dear as poison, so I get mine from Tattoo suppliers, much cheaper.  I use wash bottles as opposed to just regular bottles as you can control how much fluid comes out with more accuracy from a wash bottle (requires pressure rather than gravity to get the fluid out)  I use the demineralised water between paint colours to get all the paint out, then give it a quick blow out with the Tamiya thinners in the table top cleaning station before moving onto my next colour.  I also quickly get a tooth pick or cotton tip and remove any paint build up from the nozzle protector.


  • Disposable rubber gloves – A must for any hobbiest.  You don’t want half the stuff we use getting on your hands and absorbing into your skin.  You also don’t want to get paint on your hands either as you may transfer it onto the subject.
  • Quick release coupler – Although not technically a maintenance tool, it assists tremendously in helping to keep your set up working well.  What it basically enables you to do is remove your Airbrush from the air source without breaking the airtight seal.  Its a miniature Nitto fitting if you’re familiar with them.  Why is this helpful?  When you want to clean the Airbrush, you can just disconnect it, disassemble it, put it in the cleaning bath and not worry about air escaping from the hose, or breaking the air tight seal you created when you fitted the airbrush to the hose in the first place.  If you buy them from the specialty hobby store, expect to pay about $40+, but from the AMS they go for less than $10.  Not essential, but very convenient to have.


  • Airbrush holder – Some airbrush compressors come with these, however I like to have a purpose built one on my desk so I can keep my air brush in it when not in use.  Again, from the specialty hobby supply shop expect around $40, from the AMS, $15…


  • Airbrush lubricant – Used on a regular basis to keep your Airbrush needle and trigger from sticking or binding, contains no petroleum or silicone additives and can be used on all parts of the airbrush. It will not affect or react with any water-based, lacquer-based, or enamel-based paints.  Very useful and often overlooked.   Again dear as posion from the hobby shop, cheap as from the AMS.

Painting & Mixing Accessories

Again this is an often overlooked area of owning an Airbrush, but one of those things that will make life so much easier and results so much better.  Having a few of these inexpensive items will make such a massive difference to your experience and results with your Airbrush.

  • The most IMPORTANT thing you need – A quality spray mask – I can not over emphasise how important it is to use a spray mask when using an Airbrush, if you are going to use an Airbrush, use a Spray Mask.  Acrylic paint is a polymer, which we call plastic.  When acrylic paint vapour is inhaled, it sticks to the bronchus of your upper respiratory system.  Once its there, its there for life.  This is not good.  Don’t buy the cheap and nasty spray mask, get one that is specifically for spraying acrylic paints.  I buy mine from a hardware store as they are better quality and you guessed it, less expensive than the hobby store.  The good ones have a life span, make sure you keep track of how often its used and replace it when necessary.  
  • Acrylic thinners – There is a lot written about this topic.  Some good, some seriously bad.  Lets address the seriously bad advice first.  Use Windex (window cleaner).  This does have its merits, however, window cleaner contains ammonia.  When ammonia vapour is inhaled it can cause very nasty respiratory infections.  Ammonia is a very caustic and hazardous.  Just don’t use it, and anyone who says to use it to thin your paint doesn’t know their ass from their elbow when it comes to Airbrushing so politely excuse yourself from the conversation.  A good thinner for paint basically should achieve two roles.  The first is to ideally diffuse the medium that the pigment is suspended in (water or a water like substance in the case of most acrylics) thus increasing the ratio of medium to pigment.  A good substance to use for this is alcohol (not the drinking type). The reason, as opposed to using water to thin paint, is quite a technical one.  Very basically though, a water molecule is quite an open one, and alcohol molecules are able to slip between them, what this effectively does is reduce the paint’s viscosity (making it more “runny”), but proportionally does not reduce the amount of pigment density, therefore creating better and more consistent coverage when applied from an airbrush.  Basically, just use alcohol to thin your paints.  The next role a good thinner does is reduce the surface tension of the paint.  Why is this important?  Again, its a very technical answer, but it comes down to making the paint more wet, or slippery, thus helping it move through the Airbrush and coat the subject.  An example of a wetting agent is detergent.  Think about when you wash your hair with shampoo, versus just putting water on it from under a tap.  The detergent in your shampoo helps the water become more slippery and move around more, better covering your hair.  Same with paint.  So using just rubbing alcohol (often recommended on the interwebs) isn’t the whole answer, it needs a wetting agent.  So you can make your own paint thinner using alcohol and a very small amount of detergent (less than a drop) or you can just buy Tamiya A-20-X thinner.  I just just buy the stuff.  Heaps easier….
  • Pipettes – I buy them in a box of 1,000.  They are 3.5ml in size, disposable and very, very convenient.  Great for taking paint out of a paint pot and mixing it with thinners.  Will stop you pouring the paint into a mixing jar, which in turn minimises waste and keeps your paint pots clean.  They are also good for moving the thinned paint from the mixing jar into the airbrush in precise no mess amounts.
  • Mixing Jars – I get them in boxes of 200, they are made of glass, 30ml in size, have plastic lids and are great.  So useful around the painting bunker.  When bought in these quantities, they cost less than .40c and they are indispensable.  They can also be washed after they’ve been used too.  Awesome stuff.  By having air tight lids too, you can keep mixed paint for long periods of time as well.  I buy them from commercial packaging suppliers, CosPac is an example of just such a company here in Australia.


  • Wash bottles – previously mentioned.


This is actually a very simple aspect to buying an Airbrush.  Buy one that has these components.  1.  Holding Tank, 2. Regulator, 1/8″ outlet valve.  Most modern Airbrush compressors have all these features plus a few more and also basically run silent.  Some compressors even come with a hose and an airbrush all in one box.  Good stuff.  Great for beginners.  The first airbrush compressor I used was actually a shop compressor, it did the job very well and was very inexpensive (compared to an airbrush specific one) and had the dual use of being able to power air tools (which is handy for me).  Today I use an Airbrush specific air compressor, it has two air outlets (I use two Airbrushes), a holding tank and a regulator with inbuilt moisture trap (its very humid where I live). Expect to pay upwards of $200 for one with the three features I’ve mentioned.  Mine was closer to $400, however this is once piece of kit that isn’t to be scrimped on.  Buy quality and take care of it, and it should last well over a decade (or more)  you can buy ones that have all the features that I mentioned but don’t have a holding tank.  I would strongly recommend just saving a bit more and delaying your purchase until you have the means to get one with a holding tank.  Long term (remember their lifespan?) its a much better way to go, and you will not outgrow it, you will outgrow a compressor without a hold tank.

This is the Compressor I use now….



This is the final consideration that needs to be made when getting your set up, and in my opinion for the new Airbrusher, the easiest.  There are a few considerations that we need to take into account when deciding what type of Airbrush to buy that will best suit our needs.  A few questions to ask yourself are: What is my subject matter? What is my skill level? What is my budget? How serious am I about my hobby?  What sort of results do I want to achieve?  What sort of results am I capable of achieving?

Let me run you through a quick scenario to help me illustrate a point that many hobbiest overlook (as far as I can see anyway).  Think back to when you bought your first car.  Unless you were fortunate enough, most of us got a car that was cheap (most likely second hand) and had a few miles on it.  It may have even had a scratch or two.  Was it our dream car?  Doubt it.  Was it a high performance car?  Very unlikely.  Even if budget wasn’t the most important consideration, getting say a BMW M3 as your first car probably wouldn’t have been a wise decision.  Why?  Well, when you first get your car license you don’t have much driving experience and the likelihood of being involved in a minor fender bender was high, even if you managed to avoid it, you might scuff the wheels parking it, or not knowing about car maintenance, not properly appreciate what it takes maintenance-wise to own a car like that.  In addition, your skill at driving a car would have been well below the performance threshold of such a car, so you could never come close to unlocking its potential, and besides, apart from being seen in a car like that, it just wouldn’t have been a smart idea to have such a car.

So why go and buy a $200 – $300 Airbrush as your first Airbrush?  This is one area of getting an Airbrush that really frustrates me.  I see guys go and buy an Airbrush that costs even over $100 because it can do such and such, yet in reality, very few people have the skills initially to actually use the features of these airbrushes.  Let me explain.

Airbrushes were originally used to touch up photos, then they were used to create art (late 60’s early 70’s), both of these tasks require tremendous amounts of skill from the user, and amazingly precise engineering in terms of the Airbrush.  Skill takes training and time to develop and precise engineering costs money to produce.

As modellers, the subjects that most of us want to paint, and the effects that we want to achieve with a sound level of competency, doesn’t take tremendous amounts of skill, or amazingly precise engineering.  Furthermore, I guarantee you that you will trash your first Airbrush through misuse.  You’ll drop it (minor fender bender) you’ll bend the needle tip (scuff the rims) leave dried paint in it (forget to service it, or get the wrong type of service) or a hundred other reasons why you’ll just ruin it and have to go buy a new one.  Guaranteed.  Also as I mentioned, you won’t, when you first begin, have the skills to realise a lot of the performance potential of the $100 – $300 Airbrushes, nor do you need to.  Let’s face it, you won’t be painting the eye lens of a space marine with an Airbrush, even if you had the skill.

So all you need to get when you buy an Airbrush is a two stage, gravity fed Airbrush with removable nozzle and needle, ideally with a 1/8″ thread to attach a bradded hose (with quick release coupler). There are many, many on the market now that fit this description and with the type of models we paint they are ideally suited.  The ones I use, I get from, you guessed it a AMS and cost around $50, in fact, they are currently on special and are selling for $38.  They come with 3 needles, and corresponding nozzles, and that same AMS sells all of the items that I’ve mentioned in this post.  The quality of these Airbrushes is extraordinarily high, however they just don’t have a fancy brand name on them (but look surprisingly similar…).  When cared for properly too, they will last years and years.  So don’t blow your budget on paying top dollar for an Airbrush that just doesn’t suit what we are doing, save your money and get the items mentioned in points 1, 2 and 3 of this post.  That is where the results will be created, having the right accessories, coupled with the right training.  So many hobbiest neglect getting all of the accessories and just rush out and buy an Airbrush and compressor and wonder why they get frustrated.  It doesn’t need to be like that.

The Airbrush I use these days…


So to wrap up this post, before you go out and buy an Airbrush set up, get some training first.  I’m not talking about watching a few YouTube videos that some random has put up, I’m talking about accredited training from a recognised training establishment.   Its the solid foundation you need to set yourself up for success when using an Airbrush.  Next, get the right equipment.  Make sure you have an extractor (spray booth) and spray mask when painting, use the right thinners, not the cheap ones, and have the right maintenance tools to keep the airbrush clean and running smoothly.  Finally, once you have all these things squared away, get a good compressor with all the features, and finally, choose an Airbrush.  It doesn’t need to be expensive to get good results, especially for what we do.

I hope you’ve gotten something from this post, and congratulations if you’ve gotten this far, my word count says I’m up to 4,077 words… nice.

If you have any questions or queries, post them as a comments and I’ll be sure to answer them as best I can.

Until next time, thanks for stopping in

John Sutton, Brisbane, Qld

Ok, third post for the day look out!

Again, this is a very quick one to show you some pics of my completed squadron of Iron Hands Landspeeders.  I decided to do a video diary of this build for something different.  I’ve posted the last two tutorials on this pages YouTube channel if you’d like to have a look at them.  I fully magnetised these kits so that they can be put together in various configurations.  I’m a big fan of this now as its difficult to predict what will be a good or bad configuration until you’ve had a few opportunities to pay test them.  Also with all the kits now being plastic its pretty easy to do.

Ok, enough rant

Here are the pics

Thanks for look, comments welcome


So this is just a very quick post to let everyone know that I’ve just uploaded part 6 of my Landspeeder tutorial onto ThePaintingBunkers YouTube channel.  This part deals with painting and weathering the interior.  I’m just in the process of finishing part 7, decals.  I hope you enjoy.


On a completely different topic I have always wanted to attend Adepticon held each year in Chicago.  I’ve been giving it a lot of thought how awesome it would be to go, and even more awesome to go with a bunch of other guys (or gals) who are into the hobby.  The big hurdle for most people (including myself) is the cost involved.  However in a previous life I knew a lot of people in the travel industry (one of the largest travel agencies in the world, Flight Centre) So I got back in touch with a them to talk about what we could do if there were enough people who’d be keen on coming.  So I put up a small question on my  Facebook page to judge what the level of interest is from other enthusiasts that visit my blog.  Keep in mind that the even isn’t until mid April 2013 so if you do want to go, and all the stars align putting a little cash aside each week would mean that it could happen.

So please take a few moments to let me know what your level of interest would be to attend Adepticon in 2013.  This is really for Australians, but if this gets off the ground it’d be awesome to meet some of you guys in the States.

Ok, thanks for checking it out, hope you like the tutorial!

Comments always welcome


So yesterday I had the bright idea to do a video post for a change… 12hrs later I had over an hr of edited footage and only half a clue on how to actually post it… so at about 1am this morning I gave up and went to bed… close to an answer but my caffeine addled, sleep deprived brain couldn’t quite put the last few pieces together… until now!

So I’ve now created a YouTube channel called… you guess it ThePaintingBunker 

This idea came from 3 Land Speeders I brought last week when I won Armies on Parade.  I thought that making a set of tutorials on everything from preparation, magnetisation, sub-assemblies, preparing for undercoating, undercoating, decals, weathering and other topics could be covered with this build and may help some modellers out there navigate their way through these process a bit more successfully.

So I spent most of last night stumbling through the editing process and trying to upload these first 5 tutorials.  It was an interesting experience.   Because I don’t have a self hosted site, to see the tutorial you’ll just have to go to my YouTube Channel and watch them from there, if I get enough views and positive feedback on the video and feel that its worth the expense to self host, I’ll make the upgrade then so you’ll be able to watch them from my page. I hope you enjoy the tutorials I have made and find it helpful.  I’m just going through uploading the other 4 so they’ll be featured in other posts shortly.