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I have been painting models with rattle-can sprays for years. I want to get an air brush, but, have never used one and do not know how to keep it clean. Is there anyone on our forum within a 1 hr and 15 minute drive of Baltimore, Maryland who would be willing to meet with me in person and show what I need to know? I have my Covid 19 vaccinations. I will gladly compensate you for your time and effort. If so, my E-Mail address is in my forum profile. Thank you all in advance for any consideration given me.

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Just a idea, but when I purchased a Badger airbrush years ago, they had really well written instructions with the brush. It explained everything, but the thing I remember most was how they mentioned using water and newspaper to get an idea of how the brush worked. You filled the airbrush with water and sprayed the newspaper to get a feel for how much “paint” the brush would put out at different settings and pressures. It did give me a good idea of what I could do with the brush.

After that, there is quite a bit of trial and error before arriving at a point where you are comfortable with the results…


@Randy Harrison, cleaning an airbrush will most certainly require knowing what type of paint you've sprayed; i.e., some paints use lacquer thinner, others use acetone, and others use water to spray through the gun after you are done spraying the paint, and disassemble the airbrush to clean further.  And how to disassemble the airbrush will depend on the specific brand and model.

Also, and I'm far from being an expert, my recent experience is that it's very desirable to have a test "mule" available to practice on to see what dilution and PSI work best for the particular paint being applied to achieve a desired finish.  That's also the time to test how the paint is being applied; i.e., how light a coat is being applied and the time between coats.

Also, the mule helps test how to mask the model since most paint jobs require at least two colors.  The same goes for using the mule to test decal application and finish clear coat application.

In other words, unless you are being taught by someone who will demonstrate spraying a model that's the same as your anticipated project, I'm not sure how much directly transferable information you will acquire.

Not trying to discourage you from working with someone; but, there are limits to how much such assistance can help when it comes to a specific project.

In my own case, I've found it useful to ask here from experienced painters using the same paint I'm using for their advice on paint thinning and PSI, as well as application techniques that can be effectively expressed via email.

Good luck.

Last edited by Pingman

I had done a brief explanation of the parts and materials necessary to use an airbrush on this forum. Unfortunately after many years the threads are either locked or deleted.  Attempts to create a post using my images from another website, that is probably not approved, has not worked.  Best of luck with you air brush questions.

Last edited by Mike CT
@Mallard4468 posted:

If you're a member of NMRA, the local chapter might be able to point you toward someone.  Another option might be to inquire at a local train club.

Still another option is to contact groups representing other branches of hobbies using airbrush painting/weathering.  Examples include static model groups like Military (tanks, vehicles, etc.), Ships, Cars/Trucks, Airplanes, Dioramas, etc..  A full-lines hobby shop can be a great place to connect with representatives of these groups.  A phone call is often all that's needed.  These well as their own group of inspiring periodicals/magazines...often have excellent articles/tips/tutorials on the use of an airbrush for finishing the models....with absolutely INCREDIBLE results, I might add.

The REALLY professional airbrush artists can be found in places like customizing paint shops for the 1:1   Some of these folks are able to create an airbrushed portrait that will defy distinction from an actual high quality photograph of the same subject.

Also, since you appear to be in a major metro area, I'd be willing to bet there are model contests, shows, meets, weekend markets, etc., that cater to them, just as we tend to seek out in this hobby of ours.  They sometimes offer clinics on topics of major airbrushing! part of these get togethers.  After all, there's really not a lot of difference between painting one of the models of those hobby groups and painting one of our "choo-choo's".

And, who knows?....You might find more than airbrush help!, a whole new additional hobby interest!

I offer this suggestion because it's part of the info we offered at our own LHS while I was employed there for 20+ years.  I recall we also had either a Badger or Paasche representative scheduled (by our Static Models manager) once come in to answer questions...basic or expert...and put on a demo.   But, that was many, many moons ago...perhaps they don't offer that special assistance anymore.



Last edited by dkdkrd

You can do this on your own, and have fun doing it.  Practice on cheap models to give away to kids.

Spray and pray worked for me.  Seriously, try practicing with Tamiya laquer.  Water soluble and can also be thinned with rubbing alcohol.  I like it because it drys in less than 2 minutes.  Try low pressure and 50/50 mix.  Play with both.

After that try enamel with thinner.  Much messier clean up with enamel.  Acrylic you can let sour parts soak in hot water.  Make sure you buy a double action.  Start single mode, but in time you will want double.  Trust me.

If your main concern is cleaning I keep a bottle of windshield washer/water mix for water based paints and lacquer thinner for lacquer paint, When I'm done spraying I run the cleaner through the airbrush until it sprays clear. Sometimes you can just pull the needle and wipe it off.. When these don't work anymore I pull the needle and nozzle and clean them in a jewelry cleaning machine. If your airbrush came with a manual it should show you how to disassemble/reassemble CAREFULLY the airbrush

I have used my Paasche airbrush over 1,000 times easy. I take it apart every time, and clean everything in lacquer thinner. Works like it’s new to this day. I highly recommend taking everything apart as a clean airbrush gives you much better results, and it is very consistent every time You use it. Hope this helps.


I am not an expert in using an airbrush but, it is nothing to be intimidated by.

I have two of the Badger brushes, both single action brushes and they do all l need them to do for painting models.

I have a booklet from Badger Airbrush that gives the basics. Try contacting them to get their book, if it isn't available contact me at my email in my profile and I can scan it and send to you.

Badger has been easy to deal with and they have a great selection of paint colors for the hobby, be it railroad colors or military, even some automotive.

Take a look at their website to see what is available, I think you will learn much there.


I have only worked with airbrushes themselves a few times but I have worked with full size sprayers used in car painting and 'airless' sprayers, and what I found mirrors what others have said. There are people on here who are likely experts, but here is my thoughts to get you started:

-Buy a good quality compressor, cheap compressors seem like a bargain but they aren't, my experience is that the cheap compressors end up causing more problems then they are worth (as always, others may have found cheaper ones that work great).

-Likewise with the airbrush. There are cheap knockoff airbrushes that look the same as Paasche and Badger but take it from me, they aren't worth it IMO, it is the internal components that make a difference and the cheap ones quite frankly are crap.

-Take the time to learn how to take the airbrush apart, do it dry when you get it, to where you can do it easily. Among other things you will see pretty easily where the problem areas are with them. 

-One of the things I can't emphasize enough, and that is that you need to clean the unit thoroughly after ever use. Some might argue, but simply blowing water/soap (water based paint) or lacquer ,acetone, etc after use is not enough, found that out the hard way. It is why I recommend learning how to take it apart, there are parts inside that can accumulate paint and cause it to fail, the needle valve and even some of the components that help it maintain steady pressure. It actually isn't that hard. With full size spray guns every one in a while I would take them apart and soak the components in solvent, it saved me a lot of grief as well as routine cleaning

-The biggest key using sprayers is to learn the paint you are using and how much it needs to be thinned, and that varies with every paint. Paint manufacturers and the airbrush makers often have recommended ratios but those aren't always optimal.

Best way to test that is the spray scrap material that if not the same as the model you are painting, at least is close in texture. Experiment with the ratio's and note what the ratio you find works best. I also will add that before spraying a model, spray the paint thinned the way you noted on a piece of scrap and see if it looks good, sometimes paints change their formula and what worked may not, not to mention that room conditions might affect it, too.

It sounds a lot worse than it is IME, and really I agree with others the way you really learn is to do it. scrap cars or cars from the scrap bin at train shows can be pretty good mules to play around with or things like the casting sprues from kits and the like you might have laying around.

@Jeff78rr posted:

I have used my Paasche airbrush over 1,000 times easy. I take it apart every time, and clean everything in lacquer thinner. Works like it’s new to this day. I highly recommend taking everything apart as a clean airbrush gives you much better results, and it is very consistent every time You use it. Hope this helps.

I agree!

I have no idea what Alan Rails problem is, but, the Paasche model H is easy to use and to take apart and clean! Been using it for almost 50 years now!!!

Randy, Don't let AlanRail or anyone else scare you away! It is so easy a caveman can do it!😉

I'm sorry that I don't live closer so I could show you how easy it is and how much better your paint jobs would look!!!

Last edited by Big Jim

Badger hasn't made anything decent in years. They don't even bother answering emails, so don't bother wasting your time with anything of theirs. Paasche and Iwata make some good stuff, and if you're doing professional work, it's worth it. But for the hobbyist, the $15 ones at Harbor Freight work great. And if it stops working, buy another. Only problem is it takes forever to cover large scenery items. For rolling stock, I generally shoot Tru-Color. Covers well, available in almost any color you could want to match prototypes, doesn't need thinning, and dries fast. For scenery and other items, I run with a 50/50 mix of liquid acrylic paint and water.

@AlanRail posted:


I hate them! I use one, can never clean it well enough, so I then toss it out and buy a new one.

Tried expensive ones, mid-range ones and real cheap ones. Same result.

For me they never work twice.

The next time you toss one, toss it my way! 😉

Yeah, I couldn't figure that either, and the comment that Badger doesn't make a decent airbrush, I have two. One is from way before acrylics became popular, I purchased the second when the solvent based paints were going away. Both actually work fine with the acrylic paint Badger sells now. I have recently ordered paint and their cleaner from Badger and when I thought it was taking longer than I thought it should, an email sent to them was answered in two days and my order was delivered within a week. I would have no problem buying another Badger airbrush, I am not an expert, and I only use single action airbrushes, but they do all I need. I really like the cleaner that they sell, it clears my airbrush very well. When I am done painting I will flush the brush with distilled water and follow that with their cleaner and I have not had a problem.

I have a used scalpel from a friend’s dad who is a retired brain surgeon. I’m very sure the scalpel is crap because when I preformed my first brain surgery, the patient died… like I said, it was a terrible scalpel.

If anyone thinks that the airbrush is holding back your talents, especially from anyone on this forum, you are dreadfully mistaken.

I have and use Badgers, not only because they fit my needs, but they also are made in the USA, which according to some people that is important. The Badger Airbrushes I have are very simple to clean, an important feature, that will provide years of trouble-free operation. My experience with Badgers customer service is just as good as Scott Mann from Sunset/3rd Rail, which is saying a lot. Actually, I have not needed airbrush service, but when ordering parts like additional needles, the Badger help has been top notch.

Now, will my models notice that the paint was applied from a Badger vs. Iwata or Harbor Freight? I don’t think so, I could be wrong... but I'm not.

The points stated above regarding practice and cleaning, are spot on.

Airbrush Collection

Don’t clean your airbrush and you should expect to get poor performance. Keep it clean and at least you have a fighting chance to make a good coat. It won’t make you a better air brusher, but you will not be hobbled by dirt or old paint build up.



Images (1)
  • Airbrush Collection

Randy Go for it.  I have the PAASCHE "H" for a few years now. Highly recommended and really easy to take apart and clean. I do so after each days work.

s for instruction check out You-Tube there are plenty of tutorials.


#1 I highly recommend going to a swap meet and getting a few older Junker HO cars to practice on

#2 when airbrushing keep a  piece of clean white paper on hand to check the paint flow, better to test here than on your model

Hope this helps

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