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Sunday, April 8, 2012

Painting in the rain

As I stood in the garage prepping the airbrush for another session last week, I was watching what had to be one of the blackest cloud cells move over the house that I’ve seen in a while. Those of you who are not in Seattle (the majority, I’d have to assume) probably think it rains here all the time. That’s good. That’s precisely what we want you to think. But what the world calls constant rain is actually more like persistent overcast with occasional drizzle. But these clouds looked like they were going to deliver. But 30 minutes later the cell had moved on, with barely a drop of rain to show for it. Such is springtime in the Northwest.

But at least it heralded a fairly satisfying painting session. I find painting to be one of the more difficult aspects of modelling to master. It constantly seems that I’m having strange obstacles thrown into my way (bad paint, malfunctioning airbrush). But the key to consistent airbrushing is learning how to properly thin the paint. For the longest time, I was having real problems with the process until a friend at IPMS (Andrew Birkbeck, who contributed a 1:72 armor article to this site last year) came over one day and showed me how he does the thinning.

It was truly like the light had come on. Not that getting the ideal mix of paint and thinner was or is easy, but at least now I understand the process and have a target to shoot for. I was making all sorts of errors: trying to shoot unthinned paint, returning leftover thinned paint to containers, holding the brush too far – and on occasion, too close – to the subject. Since my compressor does not have a pressure valve, I’m a bit limited on how much detail work I can do. I’m much better at blasting a masked area rather than trying to do mottling or exhaust shading. And I have an exasperating tendency to thin the paint too much, and get lousy coverage and an occasional run. But my average is getting better.

I mention this because this was a day where the pieces fell in place. Most painting was seemingly effortless, and even when I was confronted with an issue, I was able to find a fix on the fly and finish the job. I put an RLM76 coat on three of the Me-262 project’s subjects (P-1099, 262B, and the 3-seater). I painted the IJN Grey coat on the Kayaba Katsuodori. Finally, I shot a Dark Earth topcoat on the Vickers Wellesley.

The IJN Grey started out a bit too thin, but I added some more paint and remixed it while in the Iwata’s attached paint cup and was able to recover. So that was lucky. Too bad the Mega Millions drawing wasn’t today.


  1. interesting thoughts - although does he do his thinning? didn't actually say. I have a technique of putting a small amount of paint into the airbrush cup with a brush direct from the tin/bottle (after stirring) then mixing a small amount of thinners in, again with a brush, until I've got a milky consistency. Then I'll shoot it on an old model until I've got a decent flow. Often wonder how others do it...

  2. ..err..that should read " how does he do his thinning.."

  3. Falke: Andrew uses the conventional technique - after much stirring and shaking, add paint into a separate bottle and then add thinner until you reach the target consistency. I use something closer to your technique since I have an Iwata with an attached gravity fed paint cup. Plus I always use lacquer thinner, and stir with round toothpicks.