Finding the right product to thin your airbrush paint can be quite frustrating. Save money and make it your own with a DIY airbrush thinner.
Thinning paint for your airbrush correctly is one of the hardest thing to learn when you’re starting out. It doesn’t help that there are a handful of products to chose from to do it, each producing different results.
Commercial airbrush thinner is a good starting point, because it’s a product made specially for the task at hand. It does come with some significant downsides.
Most paint brands offer their own airbrush thinner. Most of them work great, but cost a lot for the quantity you end up needing. Generic brands offer an alternative to save cost, but nothing comparable to what you can achieve with a little DIY airbrush thinner.
Doing it yourself not only brings down the cost a lot, it also allows you to customize your thinner to your likings.
How to Make your Own Airbrush Thinner
Commercial airbrush thinner is always medium, retarder and water in some proportion or the other.
So to make our own, we just need these three components, and a secret ingredient: love. Just kidding, you can hate this process, it will work anyway.
I suggest you start with a small batch; test it; make a new batch with some tweaking, and so on, until you are happy with the mix you have. Then make it in large quantity.
Always start your mix new, don’t add stuff to a previous mix. This way you never have to worry about getting back to the same result.
Here’s the recipe I liked best when I was making my own. It’s 6 parts:
All these products are available from more generic brand for large quantity at an affordable price.
Retarder is pretty much an anti-drying agent. It’s sometimes called flow improver, paint retarder or flow retarder. While it helps a lot, too much of it in your mix will stop the paint from drying quickly on your models.
Medium is standard paint medium. Products labelled as Airbrush Medium are often either thinner with another name, or worse, regular medium with water in it.
Water is just standard tap water. It’s where you really save money because you end up paying for the water content with the commercial airbrush thinners.
Storing & Using your Homemade Airbrush Thinner
You also want some sort of container that makes your concoction easy to use. I like making a big batch that’s easy to pour, and have a handier and smaller version that I use, and refill from my big batch.
Container wise, you can use anything that’s air tight, because alcohol his overall quick to evaporate, something you don’t want in a big batch that can sit in the container for a while.
Your handy version, the one you use to pour in your airbrush, is a matter of personal preference. I like the ones with a long nose, they feel more precise overall.
Once you find one you like, get two of them so you can use the second one for your airbrush cleaner.