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Greetings world! Today’s post is about building Gundam Model Kits, also known as Gunpla. This post specifically is covering my life lessons while airbrushing.

Last year (2013) I won two out of three categories at the GBWC Qualifier Tournament at Seattle’s Sakura Con.  Both winning entries were airbrushed quite extensively. From that time until now I have developed a MUCH better workspace and I would like to show it off. You will also find links to purchase all of the equipment from the same buyer’s I use. Amazon Prime has been very important and I highly recommend it for your modeling needs!

Let’s begin with the essentials. Airbrush and Compressor.

AIRBRUSH For Gunpla, ONLY use gravity fed, dual-action airbrushes
1. Iwata Eclipse HP-CS 0.35 mm
This is a terrific airbrush for making tiny lines. Iwata makes terrific equipment and it is much more consistent and easy to take apart than the cheap one I am about to list. This airbrush is perfect for doing your primary coat or detail work.

2. Image Dual Action Air Brush 0.3 mm
This airbrush has a smaller needle, but it does NOT excel at detail work. It is harder to clean but it is very useful if you are going back and forth between shadows and your primary color. I will keep a dark shadow color in this airbrush and my primary color in the Eclipse.

Suggestion: buy extra needles and at least one extra nozzle for the Iwata airbrush. If you are new, you are going to mess these bits up. Also buy some official airbrush lubricant, it’s very important.

COMPRESSOR & COMPONENTS:
I originally bought the Iwata Silver Jet because it was the same brand as my airbrush and it looked great. THIS WAS A MISTAKE.
DO NOT BUY A HOBBY COMPRESSOR
The majority of them do not include a tank and they really can’t shoot out enough air to keep a consistent stream of 15-30 psi. I also like being able to BLAST my airbrush clean if I want to.

Senco 1 HP 1 Gallon Compressor
A hardware compressor will do everything you want and BETTER for hobby uses. You can use a giant compressor like you would find in a wood shop or garage but that is not practical for a apartment like mine. The benefit of having a connected tank is that your compressor stores up the air and then delivers it more consistently to your airbrush than a hobby compressor with not tank. A hobby compressor can leave you with spotty lines instead of smooth consistent lines. You can also spray air up to 125 psi out of your airbrush with a real compressor. Example: my Iwata compressor shot out a max of 40 psi and consistently blew about 18 psi. Most people will describe that 15-30 psi is your ideal range.
I bought the smallest compressor Lowe’s had and I found it to be too noisy for my apartment at 10pm or later. In store I also tried out one of the pancake styled compressors and it was WAY louder.
This Senco model is tiny, doesn’t make too much sound (if it’s too much sound you can build a box lined with foam to reduce the noise but make sure the heat can escape), and outputs the perfect amount of air for my uses. I can blast 100 psi out of my airbrush, but the cup only empties at around 75-80 psi which does a great job of cleaning my needle off. At $120 it costs LESS THAN ALMOST ALL HOBBY COMPRESSORS.

Hoses Etc:
at Harbor Freight I found a 6′ airbrush hose with 1/8″ ends for $7. I bought a kit at Lowe’s that included a regular plastic airbrush hose with 1/4″ ends and some extra pieces including different connectors for $16.
Moisture Trap + Regulator:
This little guy is PERFECT for the airbrush holder that I will link after it. This will mount to your table and right under your airbrush holder. The great thing about this gadget is that you can quickly see what your pressure is and dial it down from your work station. For me this means I don’t have to bend over between cleanings and squint at the tiny dial.
If you have a compressor in your garage you can run the hose all the way to your work station and into this regulator where you can change the pressure to fit your modeling needs. A terrific perk of that idea is that you won’t hear the noise/vibration and you won’t wake your family up!

Airbrush Holder:
This little guy is perfect. I don’t have any use for the yellow arms, and I wouldn’t recommend them since they move around, but the black cones are perfect for resting either of my airbrushes. This also is the perfect mount for the regulator and moisture trap listed above.

Iwata Cleaning Station:
You do NOT have to buy this. I bought it as my original stand, but really if you buy the stand above, you can just cut a hole in the side of a soda bottle and empty your airbrush into that. However, the nice thing about this is that you can spray out all your extra, not have to smell it, and not clog the spray booth with extra particles. It is also a great place to sit your airbrush.

SPRAY BOOTH:
Ladies and Gentleman, I present you the BEST PURCHASE I HAVE MADE FOR AIRBRUSHING!!!! Originally I just pointed a fan so that it sucked my extra spray away from my station and blew it into my room. This is not good. You get headaches from breathing in the fumes and the rubbing alcohol. Did this lead to any respiratory problems? Not yet…but I am happy to say I have QUIT!

One of the other problems with building Gunpla is that you want to prime and clear coat your work. If it’s raining outside, forget it. Is it humid where you live? Forget it. The best part of this spray booth is that I can work inside my climate controlled apartment and blow all the fumes out a window. You take the vacuum looking attachment, stick it in your cracked window and I put a towel in the other half of the window gap. Your AC or heat won’t escape and you feel perfectly comfortable indoors. Even after using spray paint primer and Testors DullCote my roommates could not smell anything while  standing in the same space as me.

When the filter is dirty you just toss it in the wash and let it air dry.

One suggestion I have is that I used masking tape and paper towels to line the bottom and sides of the spray booth so when it gets dirty I can just remove that. I also bought a small fluorescent fixture to sit at the top lip of the booth for lighting. In the future I want to get something that sits behind me head…I’m sure that will warrant a future post.

TIPS AND SUGGESTIONS:
1. CLEAN YOUR AIRBRUSH a LOT.
This is a VIDEO made by the US Iwata MASTER technician explaining how to clean your airbrush perfectly. Watch it. This will 100% transform how you airbrush. Keep your trashed needles because they will clean your nozzle for you. Buy those tiny dental scrubbers, they are amazing.

Wash down the tip of your airbrush frequently using a paint brush and some rubbing alcohol to keep your detail lines working.

2. Finally, buy some cheap 1/144 kits around the $10 mark and start practicing your airbrush skills. I have learned to prime, paint a dark color along the outside of all edges and then use your primary color in the middle and work towards the edge. This way you don’t need to panel line and it looks amazing. There are plenty of youtube videos on how to do this.

3. I prime and top coat with a enamel based product. Rubbing alcohol is my way of cleaning things off and it is pretty hard for rubbing alcohol to work through that stuff. For primer I use the cheapest white can of spray matte spray paint from walmart. It costs approximately $0.79 a can. REMEMBER: priming is only meant to be a LIGHT MIST. It should make your kit look dusty. You do NOT want your entire kit to be the color of the primer.

I used to work with Vallejo primer and top coats, but if you touch your model with rubbing alcohol, it will RIP through all your hard work…

4. For top coats I use testors dull cote because the matte will blow your mind.

5. I HAVE NOT DONE THIS: but I have been told that you should gloss in between your work. For example: colors > gloss > panel line > gloss > decal > Final top coat.

Gloss is a smooth finish which makes it shiny. This will help with decals etc. Matte looks the way it does because it is a uneven finish. This is NOT what you want to attach your decals in.

Anyway, this was a book. Hopefully it will help someone in the future

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