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Airbrushing poppers made easy
Posted 13 December 2004 - 12:19 AM
At the request of a couple members for a little “how to” on doing airbrush work on poppers I’m putting this up for a basic how to for anyone interested in buying a airbrush set up and a few tips and trick for doing popper paint work. I have not done a “ton” of poppers by any means, but I have been doing airbrush work for people as a side hobby for the last five or six years and will share some of the airbrushing techniques and advise that I have learned over the years.
Lets start with the most obvious thing you will need for this, the airbrush. There are a few options out there in the way of an airbrush with the first and most economical type being the single action airbrush. This is the basic “starter” style of airbrush that is found in most department stores in the modeling section and the most widely available brand being the one made by Testers. The bases of a single action airbrush is a simple “one motion” (hence single action) button on the top of the airbrush that controls both the air and paint flow at the same time using the same motion. In other words you push the button down and air & paint are both sprayed at the same rate and time.
These single action airbrushes are all that you will need for doing something such as a two tone popper that has a solid color top that fades into a solid color underbelly.
The single action airbrush such as the testors brand will run you about $30-35 depending where you buy them.
Next option is the dual action airbrush. These airbrushes are the ones that will give you a little more free reign for doing more detailed work. They are still controlled with one button on the top of the airbrush but that button works in two separate motions. Pushing the button down controls how much air is coming out of the nozzle and pulling the button back will determine how much paint flow is coming out of the nozzle. Personally I prefer this dual action style myself as it allows the user more precise control of the paint work and will handle more detailed jobs than the single action. Prices for these start around $55-60.
The one I use is made by a company called Iwata and is the “Revolution” model and costs $75.
Next you will need a compressor. A simple 1/8th HP compressor that you can purchase at any local hobby shop will suffice for doing popper bodies as you will be painting a very small object and not using a lot of air. Since I do other airbrush work that requires a bigger source of air I will show you the set up I have as its really not all together that much more expensive.
The 1/8th HP compressor will run you around $50-55 at most hobby or craft stores.
The set up I use is a 1HP 3 gallon Craftsman compressor that is capable of producing 120PSI. I paid $100 for this compressor and then added a external filter/water trap to keep moisture and dirt out of the airbrush for another $25. It also has a regulator on the output line and for popper use I usually set the PSI between 25-35psi depending on the type of paint I am using.
So spending on how much you want to spend you can get away with spending as little as $85 for the single action airbrush 1/8th HP compressor set up that will handle most anything you want to do with a popper, or you can go with a bit more elaborate set up such as I have done and be ready to handle any fine detail work you might want to try for around $225 for the dual action airbrush and larger compressor with filter/water trap set up.
1hp 3 gallon compressor
Filter/water trap inline
So now that you know what your choices are for the equipment to spray with and you get your new airbrush set up and ready to paint your probably wondering what type of paint to use. There are a ton of brands out there that will work for painting poppers and honestly any type of model or hobby grade paint will work, but I have found a paint that I feel is the easiest spraying and most durable for the life of the popper. The paint I use now is made by a company called Pactra and is intended for use on the Lexan bodies of RC cars. The reason I like this paint is the fact that its designed for Lexan use makes it a flexible paint so it tends to be more durable than the normal paints used for plastic models. It runs about $2.75 a jar but you will get a lot of use out of the 1oz of paint since the poppers are so small.
--- Tips for airbrushing ---
First thing I will tell you and this is THE most important part of any good painters paint job as well as extending the life of the airbrush. Keep the airbrush clean! I completely disassemble and soak all the small parts of my airbrush in thinner each time before I use it, then I run some thinner through it and wipe the cup out between each color change.
One of the first questions most people ask me is “how do you spray such a small line with your airbrush?” The answer to that is to use the smallest tip that’s available for your airbrush as well as only pulling the trigger back just enough to start to get the paint to spray. You can push the air flow button down to get a good deal of air coming out but don’t use any more paint flow than you think you need and then move the airbrush at a steady speed across the body of the popper. If you move to slow while painting you will be left with “blotchy” looking paint work, try to move at a decent speed and keep the motion continuous to have a nice smooth transition in color.
Always try to paint the lighter colors first. It is much easier to cover a light color with a dark color than visa versa. In other words if the popper I’m painting is to have a white belly and a green back I will paint the entire body white first, then go back over it with the green on the back and fade that down into the white on the side.
To get a even more reflective "fish scale" look on a minnow popper buy some flake dust available in the paint section of most hobby shops and mix a pinch of the flake in with some clear coat. Shake the jar with clear and flake up very well to mix them together and spray the entire popper body with the clear and flake mix. Use the largest tip you can get for spraying the flake to prevent your nozzle from getting clogged by the flake.
--- Painting spots or scales ---
The most common thing to do on a popper for detail is to paint spots on a frog popper or scales on a minnow popper. To achieve this there are two ways to go about it. First you can paint the body two different colors (usually dark color on top and lighter color on bottom) and then move on to the spots. To get a frog type spot that is say a white circle with a black center just use your smallest tip for the airbrush and lightly spray a white circle with the tip of the airbrush about 1 inch away from the popper in a circular motion until the white fills in the spot. Then after that has had a minute to dry clean the brush by running some thinner through it and very lightly spray just the center of the white spot with a touch of black, again holding the airbrush about 1 inch from the popper. When doing spots this way set the regulator(if so equipped) to no more than 15psi. If you run a higher psi than this when holding the brush only an inch from the surface to be painted then you run the risk of blowing the paint around on the body with too much pressure.
The next way to do spots and probably the easiest is a way that I came up with that is much simpler to do. To do this method you will need to go to the hardware store and buy a roll of foam kitchen drawer liner (the kind that has the little block pattern design) for about $3.00 for a 4ft roll.
Drawer liner for spot pattern
Simply paint the body as normal the two tone color(lets use a frog popper again) with a light green back faded to a white underbelly. Then once the main colors have dried cut out a small piece of the drawer liner that is the width of the popper body and about 6 inches in length. Wrap the draw liner over the top of the popper and pinch it together with your thumb and index finger under the body. Then fill you airbrush with a shade deeper green or black and spray the popper body now covered by the drawer liner. The paint you just sprayed with only reach the open blocks in the design and you will now have a evenly spaced spotted back on your popper.
Using the drawer liner
This also works on minnow patterns buy spraying silver over the drawer liner on a minnow painted body to give it that fish scale look.
Airbrushing can become as addictive as fly tying or rod building, it not only help you to have an impressive looking realistic popper but it is also a hobby of its very own that lets you get out your "creative side" just as normal tying does. Theres no end to what you can do once you learn to use a airbrush properly.
This final picture is of a side job i did with my airbrush/compressor set up for a guy that wanted me to airbrush a "Grim Reaper" on the side of his 1/10th scale RC truck that he races.
So pick up a airbrush and let your imagination be your only limit to what you can do.
Posted 13 December 2004 - 08:41 AM
I dusted off the airbrush last week.
Some really helpful tips. I like the draw liner trick.
IT'S SANTA SWAP SEASON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Posted 13 December 2004 - 11:07 AM
Thanks! I can't wait to read it completely!!
You da man!!
Posted 13 December 2004 - 11:47 AM
Check out my blog at www.thejgrdispatch.com
“Never confuse movement with action.” Ernest Hemingway
"The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time." Jack London
"If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn't sit for a month." Theodore Roosevelt
"Live every week like it's Shark Week." Tracy Morgan
Posted 13 December 2004 - 02:33 PM
How good do you think those 'canned air' kits will do?
Posted 13 December 2004 - 03:04 PM
If i'm not mistaken the cans cost about $8-10 a can so buy the time you have used 4-5 cans you could have bought yourself a small 1/8 hp compressor.
The other drawback to canned air is that you can not run a inline regulator on the airbrush so you wont be able to control the PSI to the airbrush. Not a huge factor in paint a plain two tone color body but if you want to do smaller spots and detail work then it wont handle that very well.
Its worth a try if you already have the canned air set up and if it dosent work the way you like then check into one of the small compressors. If your just looking for a basic two tone paint job on the poppers then it might work decent for you if you dont want to invest in a compressor right off the bat.
Posted 13 December 2004 - 10:48 PM
Posted 13 December 2004 - 10:53 PM
let me know what you are looking for and i'll help ya out
Posted 14 December 2004 - 08:07 AM
I definitely want to give this a try... Thanks for your help!
Posted 16 December 2004 - 09:24 AM
Posted 08 January 2005 - 07:05 PM
Posted 08 January 2005 - 11:37 PM
Posted 08 January 2005 - 11:39 PM