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This may end up being a question that is all about preference. But I would like to know people's opinions on whether airbrushing or brush painting a ship is best. 


I would like to know what you think the pros and cons of airbrush vs brush painting (hulls, fittings etc). I have both options available to me. I have a very nice paasche airbursh as well as high end Winsor and Newton brushes. Currently I am working on the Rattlesnake by Model Shipways. I am leaning towards brush painting but I am concerned about brush strokes, especially on the large hull.


What is your opinion and why?

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You can't go wrong either way. Only use Tamiya tape or frog tape.


I use thinned Valejo with some retarder with good quality brushes. No brush strokes, even when painting very large surfaces. It does take a dozen coats, 15 min between coats for proper coverage.

I have a garage turned into a shipyard but I mostly paint in the dining room table as there is no dust and it is always warm. I decided against an airbrush because of the need to buy the equipment, clean the airbrush, learn to set it up and use, mask the area and always paint in the garage.

I thought of going airbrush but I got an 1 inch brush so painting large surfaces is now not an issue. For my use it does not worth the trouble. I also enjoy hand brushing!

Hand brushing with the modern paints is entirely feasible. Airbrushing can have fantastic results. 


If you don't mind the chemicals, long waiting times to cure and generally bigger mess, enamels with a hand brush can be great. I am not using it any more though, acrylics are just too easy.


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  • 4 weeks later...

Airbrushes are the best way to go for the "wide open spaces," even assuming you are an experienced hand-painter, because building up coverage goes much faster, as does drying time overall. There's usually no problem in returning to cover a light patch along the way with an air brush or to go continuously "round and round" a hull until the job is done, all at one go.  With bristle brushes, you have to wait for the coat to dry completely before going over it with another brushed coat or you risk brush strokes, "curtains," "drips," and "sags." To do a brush job properly, the paint must be conditioned to the point where several, if not many, coats will be required to finally get enough paint on the piece and in a manner which avoids application defects. And, while less of a problem on the small areas of a model than on full sized jobs, the risk of "holidays" (missed or thinly covered areas) is far less with a spray rig.  On the other hand, masking is a more exacting and time consuming exercise for air brushing because, while the tendency for paint to flow under the tape is much less with the air brush, the slightest flaw in the masking process is almost certain to cause an overspray near the masked interface that will have to be repaired.


Brushing generally requires masking as well (use 3M "fine line" tape) if one wants a perfect edge, and more time and coats, besides a greater knowledge (acquired through trial and error, usually) of proper "conditioning" (thinning and adding driers or retarders to the coatings.)

Sometimes, there are places that simply can't be, or don't warrant, the complication of masking, and that is where free-hand brushing, which really separates the men from the boys, comes into its own.


The coating type also enters into the equation. Acrylics can be more difficult to condition for spraying than oil-based enamels. (Use denatured alcohol as a thinner or Flood's Flotrol, depending upon what solvent is compatible.) Thinning acrylics with water is a bad option because it takes water a long time to dry and when applied without out an oil or shellac sealer, will often raise the grain of the wood when applied. Oil based coatings, applied properly and competently will always yield a better looking, and often easier to apply, final finish, but I think it's easier for an inexperienced painter to get a moderately acceptable finish with acrylics on their first try than with oil based paints. As with all things, experience begins when you start.


The accomplished painter choses his weapons from the entire spectrum of tools available to suit both his personal preferences and the circumstances of the job.

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