Best Beginner Airbrush for Miniatures and Wargames Models – 2019

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Best Beginner Airbrush for Miniatures & Wargames Models
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Before you read this If you alreday know you are looking for high-end airbrush, be sure to check out our Top 10 Airbrushes for Miniatures & Wargames Models Post.

Looking for Best Beginner Airbrush for Miniatures can be quite daunting. There are so many guides online and contrasting opinions that it took me 6 months of research before I dove in. What I have found since is that I didn’t need to spend all this time. In the end, my beginner kit was much simpler and much cheaper than I expected, or in some cases was lead to believe. So I’d like to share with you below what a beginner kit consists of. The best part is, it’s not going to cost hundreds for you to get started. It’s not actually that expensive at all.

I will stress that this guide is not for everyone and if you are happy with a normal brush, then fine, stick with it. But please consider that there are other benefits to Airbrushing than improving how your mini’s look. Because that’s not always the case. As there is an insurmountable number of cases where an airbrush will not automatically improve the way your mini’s look.

Notice: This article uses affiliate links

Best Beginner Airbrush for Miniatures –  The Benefits

It’s likely you already know this, but there were a few reasons I wanted to get an airbrush, and many more advantages I’ve found since.

  • You can primer your models all year round
    • This is the primary benefit, especially for those in cold climates, with rattle-cans you will find inconsistent results depending on the outside temperature and humidity. In some cases, you simply cannot prime your minis as the air properties will have too much of an impact on the drying of a spray can, your primer coat could be ruined.
  • You can primer your models in a greater variety of colours
    • Ok, I’ve not done an exhaustve comparison here, I’m really just directly comparing Games Workshop’s Spray Primer range to something Like Vallejo’s Airbrush Primer range where the colour availability is much greater. But I know many of you will use Rustoleum or other sprays where I have no idea of the number of colours available.
  • It’s much cheaper to prime your mini’s
    • Yes, the initial outlay for an Airbrush is more than several primer cans, but you will make that back in your first bottle of airbrush primer. I have primed over 100 models using a 60ml bottle of Vallejo Black Surface Primer (73.602) which cost £5.99 and I still have half the bottle left. In fact, I’m still using the same bottle I bought at the same time as the airbrush. Although to be fair, I have bought other bottles too, but still, 100+ models in half a bottle of Primer is damn impressive.If you want to work out the value of getting an airbrush now vs more cans, just ask, do you think you will be painting more than 100 standard miniatures in your future? If so, get an airbrush now.
  • You can see how much primer you have left
    • If you’ve been modelling for a while you have surely had a situation where you are trying everything to get those last few dregs out of a can to finish that last model you are priming and nothing works. You’ve either ended up with a half primed model or the primer has dried funny in your incessant twisting and shaking as you spray. With airbrush primer, you can see how much is in your bottle before you start, and if it runs out halfway through, just come back later when you get more.
  • You can primer your models indoors
    • The same is true with cans I suppose, but the smell is enough to put most people off using them indoors. Beyond that, the width of overspray on a can is the second thing that would put you off. With an airbrush, it’s a very direct, small light spray. so long as you have a decent sized box, you can use your airbrush at your desk.
  • It will greatly speed up your army painting
    • Once you have primers out of the way, you can buy Airbrush Paints. Games Workshop now does a pre-thinned range of Citadel airbrush paints. which is fine for the convenience, but you can easily thin any of the existing Citadel range with something like Car Screenwash or Distilled Water. This is much easier too if you have already transferred your Games Workshop Paints to Dropper Bottles. Now you can Prime and base a Squad or whole army in minutes as opposed to hours, so if you’re wanting to get your models built and painted for a tabletop battle ASAP, there is no easier way.
  • You will have much smoother base coats than with a brush
    • I may be wrong here, There may be some master painters out there who are able to paint incredibly smooth base coats without any brush strokes visible. Just look at Games Workshop’s own Duncan Rhodes and his tutorials. But I can’t match this. After years of painting, my base coats are still quite terrible. I don’t accept this about myself and consider myself a poor painter until I can master this basic technique, But I saw an Immediate and impressive boost in my finished model quality when I started using an Airbrush. I’ve added comparison pictures below.
  • You can create some incredible effects.
    • The easiest and most common effect is Zenithal Shading, this is where you base the model in 1 colour, then from above at a 45-degree angle spray the model with a lighter colour to show how it would be lighter in the areas as the sun hits it.  But beyond this, you can also mask off your model with putty and paint other colours on different areas. you can easily do Object Sourced Lighting (OSL) to show the glow off lights and weapons. A bit of masking tape will give you stripes, Blu tack will give you some cool camo effects and get some sequin waste to do some incredible colour patterns,
  • Airbrush paint is thinner than spray
    • Or perhaps I was always too heavy handed with my spray cans. But I have found significantly less detail loss since switching to an Airbrush. The primer is like a thin coat of dust across the model surface. Less than dust even, but that’s probably just because I need to clean my house more.

Best Beginner Airbrush for Miniatures –  The Kit

So, what do you need to get started? I’ve listed all the necessary kit elements below.

1. An Airbrush Kit

Which Normally consists of;

1a.  A Compressor

Click the links below to view Airbrush Compressors

AmazonClick Here
eBay – UKClick Here
eBay – USClick Here
eBay – AustraliaClick Here
eBay – CanadaClick Here

Your beginner kit will consist of A Compressor and an Airbrush. There are many airbrush compressors out there to choose from and if you are looking for the best model, I’m sorry to say getting the best compressor is a waste of time. Especially if you are a beginner. It’s a simple bit of kit, it sucks in air and stores it. As you press the nozzle on your airbrush it releases the compressed air. Like I said, It’s a simple bit of kit.

But the one you want should look like the one in the image below.

Best Beginner Airbrush for Miniatures and Models

Don’t worry too much about the model number or anything, just get anything that looks like this.

Click the links below to view Airbrush Compressors

AmazonClick Here
eBay – UKClick Here
eBay – USClick Here
eBay – AustraliaClick Here
eBay – CanadaClick Here

The key thing to take away from this is that it has the compressor element (the silver bit on top) and a tank. (the black bit on the bottom). This is where I made a mistake, You can get them without a tank and that’s what I got because I was trying to save a few quid. Don’t get me wrong mine works and it’s fine but without the tank to store your compressed air, The airbrush compresses as it sprays. meaning it is noisy. I also get a sharp blast of air at the start then the pressure drops and doesn’t quite stay consistent. Also, it builds up moisture and it sprays that from time to time ruining my paint job. With a tank, you get a more consistent spray and it doesn’t run the compressor the whole time so it’s a bit less of an annoying noise as you use it. You can save a few quid getting one without a tank, but for the extra few quid/bucks/dolla yo, you’ll regret not getting a tank.

Once you have a compressor you can attach any airbrush and this should last you a good number of years. AS for when you would upgrade to more pro kit; don’t worry, you’ll know when you’re ready.

But whatever you do, just don’t buy something like this;

Can Powered, No, just no!

If you’re buying can’s of air then why not just buy can’s of paint, also, you’re buying AIR!

Best Beginner Airbrush for Miniatures and Models

A handheld model

This is ok I guess, but I think these are more for painting nails, I know I said that an air compressor is a simple bit of kit, but it’s not this simple. I suppose the question you want to ask here is how long do you want the kit to last? This looks like it would overheat in 5 minutes and be dead in 7. I’ve never tried one, I won’t try one, and for the difference in price between this and a normal compressor I certainly won’t recommend one, even to try.

Best Beginner Airbrush for Miniatures and Models

1.b An Airbrush

The best thing is, using the links above you’ll find a myriad of listings for which come with Airbrushes bundled in. Cool! In regard to which ones you get, again for a beginner, it really doesn’t matter. So don’t go searching for the best or most appropriate ones. If you really want to be particular, then get a kit that has a gravity fed airbrush. (in the photo below it’s the one on the right). For miniature painting, this is the most common type you will use. The syphon fed (one on the left in the below pic) is overkill, as you will be filling those bottles with more paint than you need to spray 20 models before it even sucks. Gravity fed is nice and simple you just put a few drops of thinned or pre-thinned paint in the top and spray. Just be sure to keep it upright, and don’t shake it as you spray. Yep, I made both of those mistakes. You can also find some that have a paint well attached to the side of an airbrush. That is what I have and it’s like a gravity fed brush but not as convenient as you need to put more paint in before it sprays. I use it mainly for Primering and Base Coating, not for detail work.

Click the links below to view Airbrush Compressors

AmazonClick Here
eBay – UKClick Here
eBay – USClick Here
eBay – AustraliaClick Here
eBay – CanadaClick Here
Best Beginner Airbrush for Miniatures and Models
Left = Siphon fed, Right = Gravity fed

the reason I’m saying it doesn’t matter is that these are your first Airbrushes. They aren’t £160 Iwata Eclipses (Expensive high-end airbrush). You are likely going to destroy them. I’m sorry to say but unless your friend has an airbrush and can directly instruct you through the correct maintenance process, they are going to get clogged with paint, damaged, parts lost, the seals will get worn away and they will be wrecked. Would you rather learn airbrush maintenance on something that cost £160 or £6? Practise on a few el-cheapos before you step up the pro league, especially if you are just dipping your toe in the water. You don’t even know yet if airbrushing is right for you.

I know some people disagree with buying a cheap kit (video below is an example of this) but you’re buying this kit mainly just for the compressor anyway. You will eventually want a better airbrush, but don’t start at the top. start at the bottom and work your way up. With good care, these beginner airbrushes can last a good while. I’ve had mine for over 2 years and they’re used often. I even used it yesterday.

FYI, if you find airbrushing is not for you, just make sure you keep the box it came in and stick it back on eBay for someone else to use. Then it’s cost you next to nothing to give it a go.

2. Some Airbrush Primer

Several Companies do Airbrush primer. As a preference, I like to use Acrylic Primers because they’re easier to work with, they don’t need to be thinned with anything alcohol based, they are easier to clean and you can strip your minis back to bare plastic too If you are unhappy with the output. Which is exactly why I used the Deathwing model in this Stripping miniatures guide. For the beginner Acrylic Primers are perfect.

There are 2 main Primer Brands I recommend;

The first is Vallejo. they have a huge primer range, they are pre-thinned and will spray immediately from the bottle after a good shake. The bottles come in various colours and sizes. 17ml. 60ml and 200ml. Which is great when you are starting out as you can practise with the little bottles to see if you like it before you shell out on a big bottle. As I said above, I’m still using a 60ml bottle I bought back when I first got my airbrush.

Click the links below to view Vallejo Airbrush Primer

AmazonClick Here
eBay – UKClick Here
eBay – USClick Here
eBay – AustraliaClick Here
eBay – CanadaClick Here
Best Beginner Airbrush for Miniatures and Models

The other brand I recommend and my personal favourite is the lesser known Stynylrez Easy App Surface Primer. Once again this is pre-thinned and comes in a variety of colours and sizes. But I prefer the finish this gives over the Vallejo and the Grey (which is my preference in most cases) is more of a 50% grey (estimate) than Vallejo’s more 25% grey (estimate) which may as well be called Dark White. But this is harder to come by (in the UK at least) and is a bit more expensive. But If more people buy this though they’ll start making more, so if you want to support me in any way, please try some.

Click the links below to view Stynylrez Airbrush Primer

AmazonClick Here
eBay – UKClick Here
eBay – USClick Here
eBay – AustraliaClick Here
eBay – CanadaClick Here
Best Beginner Airbrush for Miniatures and Models

That’s It

Yeah, that’s all you need. £85 for an airbrush and about £8 – £12 for some airbrush primer. Your existing paints will work through your airbrush when they are easily thinned but this is literally everything you need to get started.

Yes, there’s loads of other airbrush stuff, and you can add other things as you go. But this the just the start of your airbrushing journey and this is all you need. 2 things, which is really just the compressor with airbrushes bundled in and some paint, that’s the lot.

If you want to have a look at the rest of the kit you will want to get alongside your airbrush, have a look at our guide to Essential Airbrush Accessories.

Essential Airbrush Accessories - Featured

Best Beginner Airbrush for Miniatures –  How to Airbrush

When you get your airbrush kit it’s really simple to assemble, just connect one end of your hose to the obvious outlet on the compressor, connect the other end to the obvious inlet on your airbrush. Plug it in and turn it on.

Turn the dial on top until the pressure gauge reads somewhere between 20-25psi (about 1-1.5 bar). If your paint is a bit thicker you can up it to 30-35psi (about 2-2.5bar)

Pour some water into the cup.

Airbrushes are normally dual action, even these cheapo ones, Press down for air, pull back for paint. the further you push down, the more air comes out, the further you pull back the more paint comes out. Switching up a variety of these actions will give different results, so spray at some paper first. You’ll probably do what I did, just push the hammer all the way down to get all the air coming out, then slowly pull back to release the paint (or water in this case). This is fine, you’ll get better control in time. But this pretty much works for me, even now.

The reason you put water in is to get used to the action and get an idea of how to control it. when you’re ready. Pour or spray the water out and put some drops of paint in. Then spray that. Try it on an old sprue first. Just put some backing down first so you don’t spray your whole desk. A big box will do.

When you are done, clean it, Spray lots of water through it to clean out the inside, If you have some, spray some thinned down IPA through it which you may have bought already after following this paint stripping guide. A ratio of 1:10 IPA to Water will suffice. If you don’t have this, water will do for now. Put a couple of drops of water in the cup, press your finger over the end (where the paint comes out) and slowly push down and pull back the hammer. This will push the air and paint back up through the brush. don’t do it too hard or it will fly out and cover you and your desk, it should just blow bubbles of pain in the water. repeat these steps until it’s running clear both ways.

Next, grab that piece of paper that came in the case with the airbrush, most of the writing is in Chinese or Chinglish (that sounded way more racist than it was meant to, but my spellcheck agrees that its a word). But the picture should show you the parts. You want to take your airbrush apart and understand how to strip it down. There are guides online that will help. Just try to follow the instructions and learn what you can remove vs what you should remove before you start. Or you will do what I did and send a tiny spring flying across the room never to be seen again….. and that’s the story of how I ruined my first airbrush within an hour of owning it.

Best Beginner Airbrush for Miniatures –  Results

Below I have added some pictures of my models before and after I got my Airbrush. In most cases these models have been painted days apart with my brushed models being used as my colour scheme tests and my airbrushed models being the final result. can you see the difference in quality?

This is my practice Dark Angels Space Marine against the Airbrushed version, Fair I used different colours but we are comparing the paint consistency on the armour here. as you can see the airbrushed model looks much smoother with no brush marks

This is my Space Wolf colour test versus an airbrushed version. I also airbrushed the face with Bugmans glow before I washed it with Reikland Fleshshade.

Best Beginner Airbrush for Miniatures and Models

Below, I have compared my Primaris marines I’m using for a future blog post, The ultramarine was base-coated with a brush and the shading is glazed on (It’s in progress). This took about 3 hours and about 4 thin coats of blue over a grey primer.

Best Beginner Airbrush for Miniatures and Models

Here is my new Dark Angels colour scheme. Compared to the Ultramarine above you can see the quality level. Ignore the backpack, I got some excess glue on it. You can see the difference an airbrush makes. This took less than half an hour including priming and recess washing some areas with Agrax Earthsahde. It was painted over a black primer. The base was also painted with an Airbrush using Liberator Gold and washed with Reikland Fleshshade.

Best Beginner Airbrush for Miniatures and Models

On the back you get a better view of the Zenithal shading, this was 3 colours. The Vallejo Black Primer, Vallejo German Cam Dark green with a Luftwaffe Cam Green highlight.

Best Beginner Airbrush for Miniatures and Models
Best Beginner Airbrush for Miniatures and Models

The side profile really shows off the Zenithal effect with the shoulder pad. The front and top are in a light green with the rear underneath in a solid black.

Some of you may recognise this guy below from my guide on stripping paint off miniatures, He seemed the perfect model to test out some flesh paint on and the image below shows how much I screwed this up originally. Again about an hour and 3 layers of paint + a wash for the standard brush.

Best Beginner Airbrush for Miniatures and Models
Best Beginner Airbrush for Miniatures and Models

This took less than 10 minutes to airbrush after priming with the Stynylrez grey surface primer. A layer of Rhinox Hide, then Bugman’s Glow from above. a quick top-level highlight of Palid Wych Flesh before lightly washing with Reikland Fleshshade. it’s obviously too Pink still but for a practice, it’s definitely very smooth. I can easily add another layer or two of Palid Wych Flesh before I start to properly shade and glaze in the skin tones. But as you can see all the detail is crisp.

Best Beginner Airbrush for Miniatures and Models

The back shot shows the Zenithal effect again where the inner arch of the back and under the arms is more Rhinox Hide as it is in shadow.

Best Beginner Airbrush for Miniatures –  TLDR

You may have skimmed the article above so here’s the summary,

You don’t need a top quality compressor or airbrush to get started, just grab an airbrush set which has a compressor and tank from the links below. get one that comes with an airbrush or two. Then get  some primer and you’re good to go. You can get the benefits immediately by saving money on spray cans and airbrush priming your models. Then to save time. lay down some basecoats and shading by thinning your existing paint so it has similar properties to milk.

Airbrush Kit

Airbrush Primer

Vallejo Surface Primer

Stynylrez Syrface Primer

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Best Beginner Airbrush for Miniatures and Models
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Best Beginner Airbrush for Miniatures and Models
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Looking for Best Beginner Airbrush for Miniatures can be quite daunting, What I have found since is that I didn't need to spend all this time. In the end, my beginner kit was much simpler and much cheaper than I expected.
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1 Comment

  1. I really don’t understand why this article hasn’t been commented yet. Great job, very useful. I’ve been thinking about adquiring an airbrush and a compressor, and this is an incredibly good guide (as usual in this website). It Will help me a lot when I finally decide to buy It. Congratulations, thank you very much and greetings from Spain

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