SPONSORED POST: Painting Miniatures with an Airbrush

23 October 2020
With The Airbrush Company

                  Model by Monkeys With Fire (MWF)

Model by Monkeys With Fire (MWF)

Painting Miniatures with an Airbrush

In our earlier guides we looked at the Advantages of Airbrushing and then Choosing the right Airbrush, but what next? Where do you go from here?

The Airbrush Company has put together this guide to help you with the basics on preparing and airbrushing miniatures.


Paint Consistency

We mentioned paint consistency in our first article Advantages of Airbrushing so we just want to reiterate how important this step is when airbrushing. Experiment with the viscosity by thinning the paint. Airbrushes with finer nozzles such as 0.2mm or below will require thinner/finer pigmented paint. Airbrushes with larger nozzles can cope with thicker/heavier pigmented paint.


Air Pressure

Another foundation of airbrushing basics is the air pressure you run your airbrush at. For miniatures you’ll want to spray at around 12 to 18 PSI (pounds per square inch) for pre-thinned paint. Thicker paint will most likely require more pressure. Always experiment with your preferred pressure for your paint mix, atomisation and desired control over speed of working.

Tip: Set the pressure and read the gauge with the airbrush trigger depressed to know the pressure you will be working at.

Practice Lessons


Before you start working on your model, it’s a really good idea to master the basic exercises such as dots, spiders, fine lines and dagger strokes. You should also know how your spray pattern changes when you change the distance to the substrate, move your hand quickly or slowly and vary the amount of paint or air.

Tip: Before you start airbrushing, experiment with the distance between your airbrush and the model. If you are too close the paint will appear very wet and will spread/run when it lands on the model. If you’re too far away, the paint will atomise before reaching the model and you may see tiny dots appear in the finish resulting in a grainy feel on the surface.


Plastic models are usually covered in a releasing agent to help them slide out of the mould when they were initially made. They will also have a small amount of oil from your skin and hands. These can affect the overall painted finish, causing the paint to chip or flake away. Wash the model with a degreaser (soap) in lukewarm water to remove all oils. Rinse well before letting it dry.

It’s a good idea to fix your model to some sort of stand to avoid touching it again during the painting process. An old pot of paint or a champagne cork with a chunk of blue tack on works well. Turntables are great as they allow you to paint even coats of paint all around the model without touching it. Fix your model in place with blue tack, tape or double-sided adhesive.

Model by Monkeys With Fire (MWF)

Model by Monkeys With Fire (MWF)

We asked Monkeys With Fire (MWF) to share an insight into his airbrush journey and give some tips he’s found to help…..

“Over the past few months, viewers to the channel have joined me on a journey, as I have begun to learn airbrushing for miniatures. Here are a few things that I have discovered along the way.

Airbrushing is ALL about pressure, distance, dilution, and trigger control. Once you fully understand the intricacies of this interconnected relationship, you can put aside the technical aspects of the process and concentrate on the creativity.

Do not become reliant on dilution recipes. Viscosity of paint varies from colour to colour, brand to brand, and type of paint used – primers, base paints, layer paints, inks etc. Experiment with the dilution until you find what is required for the specific task ahead. Do not dilute your paints directly within the airbrush cup. You will be unable to accurately gauge the consistency of the dilution. Instead, use the plastic shell of an old blister pack, pouring the paint into the cup once the desired dilution has been achieved.

Prime like a pro! Initially, focus on priming miniatures and get good at it. This is a great opportunity to practice trigger control; laying down thin even coats and targeting individual sections, without the fear of ruining the miniature. Practice Zenithal Priming – applying black, grey, and white primers to create a gradient effect from shadows to highlighted upper areas. This practice will also increase your understanding of Value across the miniature and can save you many hours of future work.”

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Monkeys With Fire (MWF) is a Twitch creative channel that broadcasts miniature painting, tabletop gaming, live interviews, and hobby related content, weeknights Monday, Wednesday, Friday from 19:00 GMT. 



Previously we touched on why priming is important, but with so many colours of primer available, what should you go for?

If the final colouring of your model will be dark, then it’s best to use a black/dark coloured primer. This will also reduce the overall number of base coats needed. In contrary, if the final colouring of your model will be bright (yellow, bright blue etc.), white primer will give the best result. For all other coloured base coats, grey primer is often the best to use.

Model by Monkeys With Fire (MWF)

Zenithal Priming

Zenithal priming consists of 3 coloured primers; black, grey and white. An airbrush is perfect for this method because it will allow you to control the amount of paint coming out and ensure (if not applied too heavy) that the detail of the model is not lost. The idea is that you build up the primers from dark to light, creating a gradient effect from the darkest shadows to the lightest areas where the light is hitting the model. The dark paint will naturally settle into the shadowed areas of the model and the white paint will naturally fall on the places where the highlights should be.

Tip: Imagine a light source hitting your model from one angle (for Zenithal priming the light would usually come from above, hitting the top of the model at its highest/lightest point). Shine a real light directly over the model to see this effect in action.

Always clean your airbrush in-between, especially if going from dark to light colours!



Masking is used to block paint from areas where you don't want it to go, especially when airbrushing due to the amount of overspray it can create. It is also used for camouflage, lettering and many other techniques for modelling.

Masking film sticks well to the surface but is very low tack and can be removed without disturbing any of the underlying paint. It has maximum stretch for irregular shaped surfaces. https://airbrushes.com/advanced_search_result.php?keywords=ultra+mask

Liquid mask is excellent for better visibility when working on all types of finishes and mediums. I find it is easy to apply and peels off easily in one piece. https://airbrushes.com/index.php?cPath=400_4_429_379_481

Fine line tape (and masking tape) is extremely easy to curve and allows for the finest of details. Blue tack (or Wilder Takk) is a sturdy temporary adhesive that is great for masking off areas for painting. https://airbrushes.com/index.php?cPath=400_404_183_235

Paint Application

Once the primer has completely dried and any areas of the model where you don’t want the paint to land is masked off, you are now ready to start applying the base coat/filters. If you have used the Zenithal priming technique, by adding a glaze, filter or transparent coat over the top, you can see the Zenithal highlights and lowlights showing through. 

Do not try to achieve the desired colour/finish in one pass, instead build up the colour in light and even layers. The paint should land almost dry as the paint is atomised/mixed with air, if it’s landing wet, it’s likely you’re pulling back on that trigger too hard. Never pull the trigger back to its maximum as this will be very hard to control. Remember, when airbrushing, less is more!

Start by spraying the corners and edges, then move onto the larger surfaces. This will avoid paint building up in the detailed areas, corners and crevices.

Tip: Do not make your first attempts on a complex or expensive model. It’s always best to try it initially on old models and practice pieces.

Don’t forget to clean your airbrush thoroughly after each painting session! Check out our Cleaning and Maintenance guides here.

Model by Monkeys With Fire (MWF)


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