Airbrush Test Models

Hello all,

It wasn’t a particularly productive week, but I’ve taken a short break from painting tanks to play around with my airbrush a bit more.  First up, I am working on a 5-man Ultramarine tactical squad:


I decided to start with these guys for a couple of reasons.  Most importantly tactical marines have a lot of details but are the same color across the majority of the model.  That means a lot of surface to cover in one color, and a lot of details that need to be highlighted in the same colors.  Covering all of that surface smoothly and quickly is one major advantage to the air brush.  I started with un-primed models and primed them in black with the airbrush before mounting the backpacks.  With the airbrush I’m using a water based acrylic gesso as a primer so I don’t have to wait so long for it to dry.  Each model received two coats of primer to make sure I had a solid foundation and hadn’t missed any spots.  Next I gave them a base coat of Ultramarine Blue (Delta Ceramacoat.)  I’ve mixed the paint a little too thin so it took two coats to cover, then I applied a third over that to start creating some of the highlights.  Then I added two coats of a 70-30 (ish) mix of Ultramarine Blue and a sky blue, and finally a coat of 50-50 Ultramarine Blue and sky blue.  This has created a nice gradation from the black/near black recesses to the lighter blue across the top surfaces.  It’s hard to say how much time I spent painting vs. mixing paint.  I also re-painted the first one twice before finding a mix I was happy with.

The reason I chose Ultramarines over another chapter is that I have been painting my Rebel Grots with blue robes so the techniques and paint mixes I used for the marines can be directly reapplied.  I have 20 conscripts that will need to be painted soon and I plan to add more infantry in the not-too-distant future, so being able to base coat and partially highlight them quickly will be very helpful.  I used one of my conscripts as a test model to develop a process:

IMG_7477Unlike the marines, this guy was already glued to his base so I left him on it while painting.  I primed him black then gave him two coats of Ultramarine and one coat of the lighter Ultramarine/sky blue mix.  Then I airbrushed the base a muddy brown followed by a lighter sandy brown.  Then I picked out the slab with a light brownish grey.  I also used a little of the light brownish grey to highlight the sandy portions a little.  Then I used the black primer to clean up the edges of the base.  This is the same process I used to paint the base shown in my Rubble Base Tutorial.  If you look at the paint pot this guy is stuck to you can see how little overspray I had with that final black coat.  I thinned out a little of the base color I use for my grots and used the airbrush to pick out his face and arms.  I did this guy in about 30 minutes but I spent almost as much time cleaning out the airbrush as I did painting, and I spent some of that time waiting for paint to dry between coats.  Painting a whole squad would optimize the cleaning time and eliminate waiting for coats to dry.  I am looking forward to trying this on the rest of the unit to see how long it takes.

Overall, I am happy with the progress I’m making with the airbrush.  Although I would hardly be proud to call my test grot a finished model I do think it passes for a low table-ready quality.  I would be very happy to get a squad from bare plastic to this level in about an hour.  All that’s left is to pick out the details, highlight the skin and other details, then a wash and I think it would be finished.

So far I’ve been very happy with my airbrush.  I think it’s a fantastic tool for model painting!  How many of you have given the airbrush a try?  How did it work for you?


I've been playing Warhammer 40k since 1991. You'd think I would have learned something by now!

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  • Looks good!

    I keep finding excuses to not airbrush and none of them are great honestly. I really need to give it a go. I still have that one you lent me too so I really have no excuses.

    • To tell you the truth, I really didn’t like the one I loaned you as much as the one I’m using. It felt more fiddly. Maybe some time soon you can just come to my place for an evening of painting.

  • I think the airbrush is one of those tools that should always be in the painters arsenal, whether or not it is your primary tool. Just the ability to lay down a nice even base coat is spectacular.

    As time goes on, and I slowly improve my skills, I’m seeing the airbrush as more and more a primary tool. It’s ability to do “pre-work” which shines through till the end of the model can’t be discounted.

    I think the biggest lesson (and one I am still learning), is just the right way to thin paints.

    Ultramarines are looking good so far. I love the blue cloak on the rebel grot..but I just like your rebel grots period, so I’m probably biased :).

    • Thanks. I was a little worried about the blue being two bright at first but after adding the skin and base toned it down a bit.

      I agree on the air brush being almost a must have. I put off getting one for years and now I’m so glad I finally made the leap! As a time saver for simple base coating it is well worth the money. I am looking forward to playing with some of the more specialized techniques like salt weathering.

      Thinning the paint correctly is critical. I’m still fighting with that too as the balance is a little different with each paint. But once I get the right balance it’s like night and day.

  • Novus

    An airbrush opens up soooo many more options for painting stuff! I LOVE mine. The other thing I’ve just discovered are the Vellojo Model Air paints. Give them a shot. I only bought the black and white to try them but so far the white has REALLY impressed me. No mixing and great coverage. Anyone used the Badger Minitaire? Are they any good?

    • Novus

      Oh. And I know it’s early, but you’re looking good with your technique! Well done!

      • Thanks! I have a lot to learn but I’m happy with the progress I’m making. It really does open up a lot of options.

        I’ve seen the Model Air paints but I haven’t picked any up yet. Do they correspond to standard colors in the Vallejo range? I might try their metallics first as I have a feeling that they’re trickier to thin than some of the other paints.

        • Novus

          No idea about the correspondence. I just wanted to try them out, hence buying only black and white, and I was very impressed. I’m soooooo sick of thinning paint for my SOTAR. It always requires many-many-many super thinned coats when I use standard paint. The Vellejo stuff was stunningly well made. Two or three coats max is all you’ll need. Again, super impressed.

          • I ask because I like to have the same colors available for airbrush and standard brush so that I can mix techniques. I found a pamphlet on their site that shows the correlations. The Game Air colors all correspond to a Game Color with the same name. Model Air isn’t an exact fit to the Game series, but I didn’t see anything about whether it matches the Model Color series but since the Game series is matched I’d guess the Model series is too.

            Anyway, sounds like good stuff. I’ll try it out some time soon!

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