Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Airbursh workshop weekend: taking it up to 11

Over the course of this weekend I partook in an Airbrush Workshop organized by our local pro-painter Scar's Miniature Madness. The subject of the workshop was infantry and we were asked to bring three Primaris Space Marines, one preferably with a plasma gun. At last I had an excuse to apply glue to Imperial side of the Dark Imperium sprues, Me being me, I brought five Primaris Marines all holding a plasma gun. I also decided to go for a quick practice round at home, painting (basic layers on) five Bolter wielding Primaris marines.

After these modern art master pieces I packed up and went home, there was nothing left for me to learn...

The workshop was held in a local community center. We (the seventeen attendants) had to bring our own compressor, airbrush, a 0 and 1 brush and assorted materials. Sponsors of the workshop AK, Fallout Hobbies and Scenery Workshop provided gloss and mat coats, black and white paint, a brush for use with pin washing and even more assorted materials. To my great relief the day did not start out with a lecture on the finer points of compressor pressure. Mine is set high and I use a secondary wheel to regulate it from my pistol, but mostly I prefer rather higher pressures than the average tutorial advises (especially to blast metallics at unsuspecting models). One point of contention was the general state of cleanliness of my airbrush...

My ultra-unclean airbrush resting in its very own Pit of Nurgle.
I actually do clean the needle, nozzle and interior but my attitude towards the cup is 'everything goes it'll eventually come of in an acetone bath'. I should add 'cleaning the damn thing more thoroughly' to my to-do list. On a related note, a friend recently pointed out that my wet palette looked like 'the pit of Nurgle', he obviously had not seen my airbrush spray pot. After a demo on proper airbrush usage, removing blockage, thinning paints, spiderwebs and speckles (and which end should face your model) we went on to practice round one. We started out with painting a sheet black and then drawing white figure eights on it. Basic airbrush control. This was followed with a demonstration and explanation of 'theatrical light'.

Black, white, a very thin coat of Bloody Red, more white and Light Red. 
At the most basic level painting is about contrast. More contrast makes it easier for the viewer to distinguish details. This is rather important for 28mm models as they are rather small. By playing with shadows and light (dark and light variants of a color) you can make details on a model stand out. The go-to method you see on the internet (right after applying lots of washes) is zenithal lighting. You basically assume the sun shines down from above on all sides and light hits a model at a 45 degree angle. Or for us lazy people, you hold the airbrush above your black coated miniature and hit it with white while holding the pistol at a 45 degree angle from the model. This is nice, but it can be too subtle for 28mm models. Instead we were introduced to theatrical lighting. This is almost the same as zentihal. We still hit the model with white from above but we use the airbrush as a spotlight to accentuate interesting areas like knees, the face, the top of backpacks etc. The more exaggerated, the better. Yes, I forgot to take pictures of the process, I'll try to do a serious tutorial on it later on. Anyway after spotlighting with white you thin down the actual color you want to apply (VMC Bloody Red in my case) and spray it on lightly. The effect is an instantly interesting looking miniature.

The Primaris Marines get a bit of a rest after their pin wash.
We ended day one applying a gloss coat to the models to prepare them for pin washing. A pin wash is a wash made from oil paint thinned with white spirit (odorless if you have any love for yourself) applied over a gloss coated model. Oil paints are naturally greasy and a gloss coat makes a model smooth. A pin wash gives you quick and amazing results without staining raised surfaces like a acrylic wash (for instance Citadel Shade washes). To achieve this you need a gloss coat first. I've tried a lot of gloss coats over the years, recently settling on an airbrush ready pot by Vallejo. Trouble is that most of them are too thick and they obscure fine details. This course introduced me to Alclad II Aqua Gloss (ALC-600) and I'm sold. It dries quickly and thin; Amazing stuff. After applying the gloss coat and the pin wash the day was through and we all went home.

Decals added, time for a mat coat.
Day two started out with a demo on how to clean up the pin wash (don't use regular q-tips, they leave hair on your model, use the slightly more expensive sponge like ones you find in any make-up section instead). We also learned how to apply decals. It features most of the steps listed here with the addition of Micro Sol to shape the decal to the surface (and I have to give credit to commentator Mcmattila here, who already pointed this out to me in the post linked above). We finished this stage by mat coating the models using another product I never heard of called AK Ultra Varnish Matte. Its quite thin and also airbrush ready. This will make my life a lot easier than Vallejo Polyurethane Matt Varnish did (it's also easier to type ;) ).

One model was finished at the end of the weekend, although I do need to add a number to his knee.
The final leg of the day consisted of a series of demonstrations. We were shown how to paint light effects (OSL) around (and on) a plasma gun. How to paint power weapons using masking tape. Painting heat effects on a barrel. To my surprise heat effects where created using colored metallics instead of washes. A colored metallic gives almost the same effect and requires only one layer, saving a lot of time. The final tutorial concerned painting faces. I will have to put this in practice later. I finished up the day edge highlighing one of my five Primaris Marines. Unfortunately I did not bring a daylight lamp so the nice orange looking highlights (under a yellow light) turn out to be rather white in actual light... I'll have to do a bit of a touch-up while finishing his four co-workers.

For comparison all these marines are painted bloody red. The ones on the left using the new technique the ones on the right sprayed with Burnt Umber,  50/50 Burnt Umber/Bloody Red, Bloody Red, Agrax wash. 
So was a two day workshop worth the time and expense? Short answer: definitively! First off hanging around with a large group of miniature painters for two days is worth it on its own (a lot of laughs where shared). Second I found out that I (once again) switched up my airbrush needles which explained some odd behavior from my airbrush as of late (don't tell this to anyone and help me hope I won't do this again*). Third: I learned a lot. I may have applied decals, painted plasma OSL effects and painted heat effects, screwed around with zenithal lighting, etc before, but I learned new ways to do it. Besides having an expert look at you while you're working and giving feedback is an invaluable way to expand your knowledge (there's a reason the world is full of teachers). Aside from Peter (aka Scar) himself there were a few other talented painters following the workshop. It gave me a chance to look at their work and ask questions (and hopefully grasp some answers). I learned about new paints and tools and picked up new tricks. The only downside is the shopping cart(s) I had to fill to order new paints and tools (ah who am I kidding, I love getting more hobby stuff and one of the sponsors bribed me with a discount code). If you have the opportunity to follow a workshop in your area I would most definitely consider it.

* I will.

Meanwhile back home in the Biostrip-20 tub...
We'll be repainted in the new style.


  1. Exciting stuff! I really need to get going with airbrushing. Well, any painting really, it has been a particularly slow year.

    1. Airbrushing is wonderful (once you get past the clogged airbrush). As to painting, never worry it's a hobby so you should never feel pressure to do anything (is the advice I've stolen from someone else last year ;).

  2. The new Ravens look great! Learning new things is always rewarding, and if you can skip some of the trial and error by having an experienced guy teach you it's even better!

    I'm hoping to get into airbrushing eventually, but currently my apartment doesn't really allow it. Some day though..

    Thanks for the shoutout!

    1. Cheers! Airbrushing takes a bit of practice, but it is a very nice tool to have while painting.