What do I need to start airbrushing? is the most frequent question I get. So here’s a guide, in case you have the same question.
Investing in the right hardware is crucial to ensure a satisfying airbrush experience. Not only in terms of what to buy, but also, what you don’t have to buy. Because the truth is you need much less than you probably think to be well on your way to airbrush.
In this article, we’ll guide you through the essential hardware you’ll need to get started with airbrushing miniatures.
Essential Hardware to Start Airbrushing Miniatures
Let’s start with the basics here, assuming you want the strict minimum. This is not a bad way at all to get started in fact, as the upfront cost is already very steep.
Buy the strict minimum, and then add tools and gadgets as you go.
At the heart of your airbrushing setup is the airbrush itself. There are a plethora of options available, and luckily we’ve covered many of them on this very blog. From the easiest ones to use, to the best models to get started, the choice is yours.
Unlike the airbrush, a compressor is much more standard. Get a basic one, it does everything and will last you close to a lifetime.
The hose connects your airbrush with your compressor. Lots of airbrush options include one, as do complete kits. Make sure you get a nylon one, not a vinyl one.
Alright, those were sort of the easy and obvious ones. And you can usually get all three as a complete one-stop click, ensuring they fit together.
I’m putting paints here because it’s as much something you need to buy as something you don’t need to buy.
You don’t need special paint by any means; the paints you use on your miniatures, regardless of the brand, do the job. However, it’s a lot easier to start with fresh pots rather than old ones that have been opened for a while.
So maybe buy one or two colors that you want to try with, in your regular preferred brand.
Acrylic paints need to be thinned before airbrushing to achieve the right consistency. There are once again plenty of options to chose from here, which we covered before.
Tap water alone is not great for this and you will most likely have a horrible time.
You’re also going to need some sort of solution to clean your airbrush. Again plenty of options available. If you want, glass cleaner like Windex does both thinning and cleaning, and does not cost a lot.
Again, just using water will not do for this. Of all the places to cut corners, this ain’t it.
You want a face cover of some sort. Even if acrylic paint is not toxic per say, anything vaporized through the airbrush that you breathe in is not part of a balanced diet, so get a mask.
Depending on the thinner and cleaner you chose, you’ll want something more potent with a filter.
Just your regular paper towels, I prefer the half-sized sheets because of size. I have not had much success with the heavy duty ones (they’re usually blue), they seem less absorbant which is what you want them for to begin with.
Additional Airbrushing Supplies
When it comes down to brass tacks, the above really is all you need. But as you start airbrushing, you’ll likely want a few extra pieces of hardware to make your experience easier.
Clear Plastic Cups
Moved this from the essential to the additional list and back multiple times because when you’re starting out, it’s pretty much the best thing ever.
Mixing your paint in these instead of directly in the airbrush has a ton of advantages. Namely, you see what you’re doing better, and won’t clog your airbrush so much – the most common mistake of new users. And they won’t break the bank.
If I didn’t say it a hundred times, I never said it: this is the best money you’ll spend on airbrush supplies ever.
All the fittings you’ll need to swap compressors, hoses and airbrushes around. So whenever you impulse buy an airbrush at 2 a.m. you can use it as soon as you receive it because you have the proper fittings.
By no means necessary, but again, just nice to have. It’s not only great at cleaning up quickly, but I’m assuming paint and thinner absorbed by your skin are not a viable skincare routine.
I used the cheapest transparent ones for years, but lately these black ones are my go to as they look nicer for streaming and tutorials.
If your painting room is bigger than a closet and has a window, it is not essential for most miniature painters. However, this is a must for enamel paints, and if you are more into the spray gun and terrain type of airbrushing.
The pre made versions of this are usually costly, and I would wait for deals to purchase one. If you are into DIY, they are relatively easy to make yourself with a bathroom fan.
This is very situational, as masking is not a mandatory part of airbrushing. But if you want to do things like split schemes or patterns, it’s worth buying good tape instead of the generic wall paint kinds. I’ve used that for years before having decent tape, and what a game changer it was.
Miniature Holders and Stands
Again, more of a situational item, but having a stand, either clamps or a rotating platform are great and almost mandatory if you are using enamels and inks to paint, as those take longer to dry.
These are usually included with the spray booths, so bonus twofer!
Remember to practice and experiment before you buy everything, it’s easy to get carried away thinking of what you need when you start airbrushing. Start with the essentials, and if you struggle or feel stuck without a specific tool, then go for it.