How To Prep Miniatures For Airbrushing: Simple Steps to Smooth Uneven Surfaces

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How To Prep Miniatures For Airbrushing: Simple, Powerful Steps For A Better Airbrush

As a passionate miniatures hobbyist and expert painter with over 20 years of experience, I want to provide the most thorough guide possible on properly preparing your miniatures for airbrushing. Our team at Warhammer Universe also has an informative YouTube channel with tutorials if you want to learn more. This article will cover everything you need – from choosing the right airbrush and accessories, to handling, cleaning, troubleshooting, and doing essential exercises to hone your skills before tackling miniatures airbrushing.

Looking for a new Airbrush? Read here for The Best Airbrushes for Painting Miniatures


Choosing an Airbrush for Miniatures Painting

The best airbrush for painting miniatures is a gravity-feed dual action airbrush. Models like the IWATA HP-CS or Badger Patriot 105 have nozzle sizes of 0.3mm or larger, making them ideal for spraying standard hobby paints. Their interchangeable needle and nozzle components also allow you to customize spray patterns.

I recommend getting a compressor with moisture protection to provide clean, consistent air flow. You’ll also need accessories like airbrush thinner and cleaner, plus pipe brushes and a cleaning pot. Quality accessories are worth the investment for ease of use and reliability.


Handling Your Airbrush Properly

Having difficulties handling your Airbrush? No problem! Read up here for Beginner Tips for Airbrushing Miniatures 

Before painting, familiarize yourself with the components and practice assembling/disassembling for cleaning. The nozzle and needle form the paint spray cone when air flows through the gap. The lever controls air & paint flow – push down for air, pull back for paint. Always trigger air first to avoid clogs!

Proper technique is to press lever down, pull back, press forward to stop paint flow, then release air. This prevents paint build up. Practice with water before paint to get the lever motion right.

Wet Palette Space Marine

How To Prep Miniatures For Airbrushing: Achieving the Right Paint Consistency

For quality results, you’ll need to thin your paints properly. An Airbrush Thinner to paint ratio of 1:1 or 1:2 is a good starting point. Adjust as needed based on nozzle size, distance, pressure etc. Properly thinned paint should spray evenly without splattering or dripping. Always test spray consistency on paper before applying to models.

Dialing in the Right Pressure

The correct pressure is critical for correct Airbrushing. Read here to find out What PSI To use for Airbrushing Miniatures

For priming, aim for 20-30 PSI air pressure. Lower risk of blowing detail off intricate miniatures. If spraying large models, vehicles, or terrain pieces, go up to 35 PSI for increased coverage area.

I use the “skin dimple” method – air should lightly dent skin without distorting shape. Provides a simple visual benchmark without checking gauges.


Applying Primer with an Airbrush

With models secured and spray consistency dialed in, you’re ready to coat:

  1. Position airbrush 6-12 inches away at start
  2. Press lever down for air flow first
  3. Pull back to release primer
  4. Use sweeping side to side motions over the model
  5. Pulse the lever rapidly to prevent pooled primer
  6. Rotate model to coat all sides
  7. Let dry fully before additional handling

It takes some practice to get perfect, smooth coverage without missing spots or applying excess. Be patient, check results, and adjust your technique until the priming process becomes second nature.


Preparing Your Workspace

Looking for an in-depth overview to everything Airbrushes? Click here for the Guide to Airbrushing Miniatures

Carefully set up your painting area before priming:

  1. Secure miniatures on handles to keep them stationary
  2. Use a spray booth or ventilate the room to avoid inhaling overspray
  3. Cover surrounding surfaces with paper/cardboard to catch errant primer
  4. Have cleaning pot, thinner, and pipe brushes ready for fast clearing of tip clogs

This prep protects your models, your airbrush, and your own health. It only takes a few extra minutes but makes a huge difference!


Thinning Primers for Airbrushing

Always thin down primers before pouring them into your airbrush paint cup. I recommend Vallejo or Badger primers as they easily mix with water or airbrush thinner.

Aim for a whole milk consistency – flows smoothly but still has some body. Too thin and it splatters. Too thick causes drips and uneven coverage. Getting the viscosity right is critical for clog-resistance and optimal spraying results.

Products brush miniature

How To Prep Miniatures For Airbrushing: Keeping Your Airbrush Clean

Frequent cleaning prevents clogging and maintains smooth performance. Options include needle wiping, cup rinses, air circulation cleaning, and disassembly for deep mechanical cleaning.

I recommend cleaning often enough for proper functioning, but not excessively. Save your thorough cleaning for major color changes. For small touch ups, a quick wipe or short flush is usually sufficient.

Cleaning can be tricky and if done incorrectly can damage your Airbrush. Read our full guide here for Airbrush Maintenance and Cleaning

Troubleshooting Common Airbrush Issues

Clogging – Try releasing short bursts at high pressure to clear. If needed, do cup rinses, air circulation cleaning, or disassemble for mechanical cleaning.

No flow – Check compressor first. Then disassemble & reassemble in case of internal misalignment.

Distorted cone – Bent needle or damaged nozzle. Replace affected parts so spray is even.

Warhammer 40k Space Marine

Essential Airbrushing Exercises

Before tackling miniatures, practice controlling your airbrush flow and spray patterns:

  1. Dots – Make grids of dots in different sizes.
  2. Lines – Practice varying line widths, both straight and curved.
  3. Gradients – Create smooth transitions from opaque to transparent.

These will build critical technique and precision. Once comfortable, move on to bigger scale painting like scenery and terrain pieces before miniatures.

We reccomend this Youtube Video for Airbrushing Exercises for Beginners


Top Tips for Preparing Miniatures

To start, use an airbrush for basic tasks like:

  • Priming
  • Basecoating
  • Glazing
  • Varnishing

Then, as your expertise develops try more advanced techniques:

  • Zenithal highlighting
  • Angled spraying
  • Masking
  • Non-metallic metals

Proper thinning and precise control are key for quality results without losing detail. Be patient, experiment in steps, and don’t rush the learning process. With practice, you’ll be making blended, dynamic pieces that bring your miniatures to life!

Let me know if you have any other questions about prepping miniatures for airbrushing in the comments. I’m always happy to help fellow hobbyists level up their painting game!

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