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April 24, 2023
Airbrushing vs. Hand Brushing Models

hand brush vs airbrush

Airbrushing vs. brushing miniatures by hand — which one is the best technique? The reality is that both techniques have their advantages and can play a role in your model painting. Many model collectors and painters only choose to use paint brushes because of the control and precision they offer. While airbrushing takes a little longer to master, it does speed up the painting process and gives a seamless finish to projects. 

If you're painting your first model, there are some essential guidelines to know before you start. Let's look at the advantages of hand brushing and airbrushing models and the supplies you will need.

Hand Brushing vs. Airbrushing

In airbrushing, you use a small hand-held tool to paint the surface of your model. An airbrush connects to an air compressor that atomizes the paint into tiny parts. Breaking the paint down makes for a well-blended finish on your model. You can control the amount of air and paint sprayed through the trigger on the airbrush. While an airbrush gives you a seamless finish, the final results also depend on your experience with an airbrush. The more you practice using it, the better you become. 

Brushing a miniature model by hand is popular because it allows you to use several blending techniques to get your desired finish. Over time and with consistent practice, you will develop your painting skills to make it easier to use different brushes. Achieving a flawless finish that doesn't leave brush strokes on the surface of your model will require practice and precision. Once you have mastered using a paintbrush, it gives you greater control over your painting process. 

Supplies Needed

Before you get started with either technique, you'll need some essential equipment and supplies. There are different tools required for airbrushing vs. brushing miniatures, and your budget may help determine your chosen method. 

Airbrushing Supplies

For airbrushing, you will need the following supplies:

  • Airbrush: Your airbrush is the most crucial piece of equipment, so consider investing in the best quality one that your budget allows. Various airbrushes are available — side-fed, gravity-fed, syphon-fed, dual-action and pistol trigger. The most popular types for miniature model painting are gravity-fed, where the paint cup sits on top of the airbrush, and dual-action which allows you to control the air and paint supply independently.
  • Air compressor: This equipment will provide the air supply for your painting.
  • Needle and nozzle: You can buy these parts separately from your airbrush. Just like paint brushes have different sizes, consider the size of your needle and nozzle to help you get the best results. 
  • Pressure regulator: This part allows you to control the air pressure and the paint supply
  • Airbrush paint: Acrylic paint is the paint of choice for airbrushing. You can use any acrylic paint as long as it is thin enough. 

Hand Brushing Supplies

Hand brushing requires fewer supplies. You'll need the following:

  • Brushes: Invest in various paint brushes for mixed finishes and techniques. You'll use different paint brushes for base coating, washing and dry brushing your models. 
  • Painting palette: A palette will be handy when you need to thin and mix paint.
  • Plastic lid: If you don't have a palette, use a lid or plastic container to mix your paint. 

Advantages of Airbrushing

An airbrush is an excellent investment for a smooth finish on your models. While it may take some time to master, you'll have the experience to create great results with consistent practice. Other reasons to choose an airbrush include:

apply even, thin coats of paint
  • Smooth, even coats: An airbrush allows you to apply even, thin coats of paint to your model. Smooth coats will enable you to blend your transitions in color to create a realistic finish. 
  • Faster painting: When you use an airbrush, you can paint more quickly. 
  • Better blending: The layers of paint are thin when airbrushing, making it easier to layer and blend colors over each other. 
  • Finer special effects: An airbrush lets you get those special effects on your miniature. You can even use stencils to achieve unique patterns and effects. 
  • Cover large areas: With an airbrush, you can paint larger areas more efficiently compared to painting by hand.

Advantages of Hand Brushing

Many model painters begin with a paintbrush, which may be the tool they choose to stick with for all their projects. Benefits of painting your model by hand include:

  • Less expensive: Good quality paintbrushes can last years with proper care. A paintbrush is a cheaper alternative compared to the upkeep of an airbrush. 
  • More straightforward to use: You'll still need to practice to create special effects and superb finishes on your model, but a paintbrush makes mastering these techniques easier. Hand brushing gives you greater control over the small details. 
  • Less maintenance: Keep your brushes in excellent condition by simply cleaning them in soap and warm water. Airbrushes can clog over time and require you to dissemble for routine maintenance. 
  • Greater control: The great thing about paintbrushes is that they let you get into those hard-to-reach areas on your miniature. You can carefully paint the smallest parts for a precise finish.
  • More versatile: Paintbrushes let you achieve a variety of designs and blends. You can blend your paint to achieve your desired finish. 

Brushing vs. Airbrushing Models — Which Is Better?

Hand brushing and airbrushing both have their advantages. Many model painters use both techniques to achieve their desired results. It's wise to have a set of various paintbrushes and an airbrush when working on a project. You can start painting with an airbrush to cover large areas and easily layer and blend your paint. Then, finish your miniature using a paintbrush to paint the finer details. 

There are certain areas of a model that an airbrush cannot reach, such as the inside of a cockpit, so you'll need a paintbrush to create specific finishes, such as dry-brushing and washes. If you are on a budget, start with paintbrushes. You can paint various models and practice your painting techniques, then add an airbrush to your toolkit at a later date.

Purchase paint supplies at Auto World Store

Shop Online at Auto World Store for Your Paint Supplies

A lot of time and effort goes into painting your models. Whether you choose to hand brush or use an airbrush, you want the best results for your miniature. At Auto World Store, we carry model painting supplies to help you get the perfect finish. We have a wide selection of diecast vehicles, model kits, slot cars and race sets to add to your collection. Shop online today!