How to Get Smooth and Thin Airbrushed Coatings: Perfect Results, No Worries!

Basecoating problems

How to Get Smooth and Thin Airbrushed Coatings for a Flawless Finish

Recently, I discovered the magic of airbrushing and how it allows you to achieve amazingly smooth, thin, and consistent color when painting your miniatures that are near impossible to actually get when only using traditional brushes.

I’ll walk you through everything you need to know about airbrushing coatings from choosing the right paint formulas and airbrush gear to techniques to get your learning how to airbrush better, blending and special effects. By the end, you’ll have some rough idea where to get started learning to how to make  gallery-worthy results right at home.

Looking for the perfect Airbrush? Look no further, read here for our full overview on The Best Airbrush for Miniatures

Airbrush Factor 2

How to Get Smooth and Thin Airbrushed Coatings: Perfect Paints

When it comes to achieving that ultra smooth painted finish, it all starts with using the right paints formulated specifically for airbrush application. Here are the key characteristics you want to look for:

Thin, Sprayable Consistency

Your paint should have the consistency of skim milk or thinner. This allows it to atomize and spray evenly through the airbrush without clumps or drying too quickly.

Finely Ground Pigments

Make sure your paint uses finely ground pigments which won’t get clogged in the delicate airbrush tip while spraying.

Anti-Clog and Flow Improving Additives

Specialized airbrush acrylics contain ingredients to improve flow and reduce chances of a clogging tip. This makes your job much easier!

Airbrush Ready Formulas

Look for paints specially designed for airbrushes. While regular acrylics can work, airbrush paints give significantly better, predictable results.

Read our full guide here for the Best Paint Sets for Miniatures

Some of my go-to brands are Createx Colors, Com-Art Colours, and Liquitex Professional acrylic inks. Make sure you have the right thinners and cleaners as well.

Grex Airbrush

How to Get Smooth and Thin Airbrushed Coatings: Gearing Up

While technique goes a long way, having quality gear makes achieving smooth coatings much easier. Here’s what I recommend:

Dual-Action Gravity Feed Airbrush

Look for a gravity feed dual-action airbrush which gives you control over both air flow and paint flow for precise applications. Iwata, Badger, and Paasche make excellent models.

Quiet Compressor with Tank and Moisture Trap

Your air supply should provide constant, pulsation-free airflow between 30-50 psi. Compressors with tanks built-in moisture traps give the best performance.

Quick Disconnects

Upgrade to quick disconnect fittings for fast and easy cleaning without unscrewing the air hoses each time. It’s worth the small initial investment.

Cleaning Pot and Storage Case

Get a specialized cleaning pot to flush paint out of your airbrush without making a mess. And protect your investment with a padded storage case.

Airbrush SM

Preparing Your Paint Surface

To help paint stick flawlessly, always properly prepare your surface:

  1. Clean the surface of any debris, dust, or oils
  2. Create some texture through light sanding for paint to grip
  3. Prime using an airbrush primer suitable for your surface type
  4. Allow primers to fully cure before painting

Read our full guide here on How to Prep Models for Airbrushing

This gives your paint an ideal foundation so it goes on smoothly.


How to Get Smooth and Thin Airbrushed Coatings: Thinning Your Paint

Getting your paint to just the right consistency is key. Here are my best tips

  1. For airbrush acrylics, aim for a thin, milk-like consistency
  2. Liquitex inks do not require thinning
  3. For heavy-bodied paints, thin with distilled water, airbrush thinner, or flow improver
  4. Test spray on paper – adjust mix until it sprays evenly without drying tip
  5. Use paint strainers to catch any clumps

Remember – too thick, and you’ll get splattering. Too thin, you lose control. Find that sweet spot!

Still not sure on how to thin your paints? No dramas, read here for a full guide on How To Thin Your Paints for Miniatures


How to Get Smooth and Thin Airbrushed Coatings: Choosing the Right Nozzle Size

Airbrushes come with interchangeable needles and nozzles. The size you choose impacts control vs coverage:

Larger diameters (.35mm+) provide more paint flow for broad coverage
Finer tips (.15 to .2mm) allow for more precision work

For smooth coatings, I recommend sticking to 0.15 to 0.2mm tip sizes. This gives you a balance of control and spray area. Adjust pressure as needed.

Space Marine Warhammer 40k

Achieving Perfectly Smooth Blends

Here is my step-by-step process for flawless airbrushed blends every time

  1. Lightly mist base color as an initial coat
  2. Build up opacity concentrating on the most lit areas
  3. Soften and create shadows by spraying transparent layers at edges
  4. Add bold contrast with darker Accent Colors in shadowed sections
  5. Re-spray mid tones over darks to soften blend
  6. Create hot spots and highlights by spraying light mixes strategically
  7. Use fine tip nozzle and lower pressures for details and precision effects

Be Patient! Slowly building up transparent layers creates the smoothest, most professional blends. Let sections dry properly between coats.


How to Get Smooth and Thin Airbrushed Coatings: Special Effects

The magic truly comes alive when you incorporate special effect airbrush paints:

Metallics: For gleaming chrome or gold, layer Silverball or Goldfinger paints over Black basecoats. Add transparent colors on top to tint metals.

Pearlescents: For ethereal, mystic finishes try translucent pearls like Electric Blue, Red Pearl, and Solar Yellow airbrushed over light primers.

Iridescence: Psychedelic ColorShift paints create rainbow brilliance that changes color as you view from different angles!

Spectra: These create intense fluorescent glows under UV blacklights. Spray over lighter primers for maximum intensity!

The possibilities with specialty paints are endless. Explore premixed colors or mix your own custom tones.

Read a full guide here on How To Paint Metallics on Miniatures

Warhammer 40k Space marine

Clear Coating for Protection

Shield your artwork and miniatures by applying an final clear coat:

  1. Use airbrush compatible clear coats only
  2. Allow paint to cure 24 hours before clearing
  3. Mist on medium wet coats from a distance of 6 inches
  4. For outdoor pieces, use UV resistant clear sprays

This seals and protects paint while adding a uniform glossy, satin or matte finish.


Advanced Techniques: Stencils, Frisket Masking and Candy Colors

Take your airbrushing to the next level with these advanced methods:

Stencils: Cut custom shapes from cardstock. Hold stencil over surface and spray over it for pattern effects.

Frisket Masking: Use masking fluid or low-tack tapes to cover areas you don’t want painted. Remove when done.

Candy Colors: Transparent, colored “dyes” layered over chrome creates transparent tinted metal effects.

The possibilities are endless! Learn all you can about the versatile world of airbrush painting for truly limitless applications.

Maintaining Your Airbrush Perfectly

With proper care and cleaning, your airbrush will last for years. Here are my best tips:

  1. Always spray cleaning solution through airbrush before paint dries
  2. Disassemble and manually clean hard to reach areas frequently
  3. Use specialized airbrush cleaners only
  4. Lubricate needles periodically for smooth action
  5. Store upright and covered in case when not in use
  6. Follow manufacturer guidelines for maintenance

Well maintained equipment applies paint more evenly so don’t neglect caring for your tools!

Want some more information on how to clean your airbrush? Read our full guide on Airbrush Maintenance for Miniatures

Conclusion: Achieving Smooth Perfection

As you can see, airbrushing opens up an entirely new world of color effects unlike any other painting method. While it takes practice to master, the ability to achieve ultra smooth, consistent, blended finishes makes it well worth learning.

I hope you found these tips and recommendations helpful. Let me know if you have any other questions in the comments – I’m always happy to help a fellow warhammer enthusiast take their miniature painting to the next level! Happy airbrushing!

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