Airbrushing craft paints

Craft paints (Apple Barrel, Delta Creamacoat and others)  are a bit of a red-headed step child (my apologies to any red-headed step children) of the model and miniature world. Some painters hate them, while others adore them. Personally, I simply see them as another tool in the box. Are they perfect? No. But they do have a lot going for them.

Their first advantage is cost. Usually under $2 for a couple of ounces is pretty cheap by anyone’s standards, especially when compared to Vallejo, Tamiya or Games Workshop.  They are also far more available then usual  modeling paints. While all craft stores stock at lease one brand (and usually many more), even Wal-Mart and Target stock some, meaning the vast majority of the American population can get their hands on them pretty easily.  There is also a huge color selection. Although not usually matched to any other manufacture’s colors, it’s pretty easy to eyeball a suitable match.

For me, their biggest handicap has always been airbrushing them. They’re so thick (and ‘soft’)that I could never get them to spray right.

Until I was perusing the Starshipmodeler forums and saw a post by Mr. Kenny Haverly and his mix for airbushing craft paints.  After some email correspondence, Mr. Haverly was gracious enough to share his recipe here.

Here’s my recipe for using Liquitex stuff to airbrush craft paint.  It is the best recipe and possibly most economical when you consider opacity, price of the medium and Flow Aid:

For airbrushing paint:
24 parts Liquitex airbrush medium
11 parts Liquitex flow Aid
11 parts Water
7 parts paint (bear in mind it’s thick, making the ratio so skewed in the favor of medium and solvent).  It airbrushes best at around 20 psi.  But, if your brush can shoot them, you can get fine lines at around 13-to-15 psi if you increase the medium a bit in the mixture.

I want to re-emphasize what I have said before; you must strain the paint before shooting.  That’s a lot of what you are paying for with any high-end paint – finely processed pigments.  Stockings kind of work but you will lose a lot of solvent and medium in the process.  The best are the strainer funnels available from Micro-Mark.  I use them to strain everything I shoot – Tamiya, Vallejo or Apple Barrel – with the exception being clearcoats and metallics.

For airbrushing Liquitex matte:

Same as above EXCEPT instead of 7 parts paint you have 14 parts Liquitex Matte Varnish

Some other notes:

Delta Ceramcoat matte can be airbrushed right out of the bottle and gives a dead, flat coat.  I discovered this by accident a few weeks ago.  Best of all, it is easy to clean.  I was using an Iwata HP-CH at 20-to-22 psi.

After seeing his work, I’m a believer.

This is just the ticket for larger miniatures, or you’re painting a large army; craft paint sure beats the $4+ per 1/2 oz price of those ‘name brands’.

And here is a link to Mr. Haverly’s photobucket page here, of which Mr. Haverly has this to say:

All of the models on my photobucket page, starting with 2006 are airbrushed using the things – which is every one I’ve taken a merit or bronze on at WF.  I also use Vallejo and Tamiya alongside them about as much as the cheap stuff.  Put another way, I don’t think about brand anymore, just color or sheen.

Photos aren’t the best but I point it out so people know how good they look and that they’re indistinguishable from the good stuff.


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About greatersarcasmo

Father. Husband. Model builder, miniature painter, TV watcher and book reader

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