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The Airbrush - How To Use And Maintain It. - Materials & Tools. - More Practical Help - Your Model Railway Club
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 Posted: Mon Jan 31st, 2011 03:20 pm
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Gwent Rail
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Due to unforeseen circumstances, my January project had to be put on hold. It had been arranged for Perry to do one in February on scratch-building, but after requests from members for information on air brushing perry suggested he put his project back until march if someone would step up and take air brushing.

Ralph (Fishplate 42) has agreed to do so. His project follows - Over to you Ralph. :thumbs

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 Posted: Mon Jan 31st, 2011 04:50 pm
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Fishplate42
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Thanks Jeff,

February is Airbrushing Month!

So if you have got an airbrush sitting there waiting to be used, dust it off and pull up a chair! If you are already familiar with airbrushing I hope some of the things I have learnt over the years will help you too. If you have anything to add, please join in. I do not regards myself as THE expert on the subject, just somebody who has been using the things for over thirty years and willing to pass on what knowledge I have.

As it is still 31th January here in the UK I will not post anything tonight as I am still preparing my first post. If you want to play along with my first example go and find something that is representing steel. I am going to use a Ratio Iron Mink but a plate girder bridge or road vehicle will do just as well.

I will talk about all the basic stuff as well. Just post what you want to know here and I will try to help between progressing the projects.

Now just to give you a taster here is a picture from our own collection for you all to ponder...



...'til the morrow :cool: 


Ralph ;-)



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It will be finished one day...

http://ralphsmodelrailway.blogspot.co.uk/
http://ralphsworkshop.blogspot.co.uk/
http://www.my-modelrailway.co.uk
http://www.my-meccano.co.uk

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 Posted: Mon Jan 31st, 2011 06:03 pm
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Robert
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Before any questions are asked on here, and there are going to be many, I think it might be wise to separate your tuition thread from the questions thread as we have done before. With the questions and answers together this thread could spread to many pages with a lot of the posts confusing the issue. If you have no objection that is what I am going to do.


All questions and comments on this tuition subject to be posted in the question and comment topic.



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Barchester
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 Posted: Mon Jan 31st, 2011 06:19 pm
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Fishplate42
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Thanks Bob, that sounds like a very good idea to me.

Ralph ;-)



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It will be finished one day...

http://ralphsmodelrailway.blogspot.co.uk/
http://ralphsworkshop.blogspot.co.uk/
http://www.my-modelrailway.co.uk
http://www.my-meccano.co.uk

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 Posted: Tue Feb 1st, 2011 01:36 pm
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Fishplate42
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Let’s talk about airbrushes and airbrushing

An airbrush is only one tool in a whole selection of tools we have available to us as modellers. There is no mystique to it nor does it have magical powers to turn a bad model into a good one. In fact, the converse is probably nearer the truth. Its fine spray will apply a very thin coat of paint which is more likely to emphasise any blemishes or less than perfect joint.
It should be used in conjunction with other methods of applying paint as it is far from being an all-rounder when it comes to applying finish. There are plenty of examples when this is true, not least of all when it comes to weathering effects. This may sound like a strange statement when you often here its virtues being celebrated in this area. Manufactures will give a perfectly good model a quick, unconsidered spray of rust colour and classify it as being weathered. A good example of this can be seen on this Bachman On30 tipper wagon. Note how the arms of the tipper have masked the body during the casual application creating shadow lines on the bodywork.



Reference to the prototype is essential. Looking at the world around you and a study the mundane and minute detail will pay off. The art of getting a model to look right is to make sure the technique used to achieve that effect is not obvious. This applies to all methods not just airbrushing. Most effects are produced by using a combination of techniques. To replicate an area of severe rust similar to that on the container pictured in the initial post, can be replicated in model form using several techniques applied in progressive stages. Only part of the process involves the use of an airbrush.

Air supply
As well as an airbrush you will need an air supply, a hose and some paint. The air supply can be supplied with compressed air (or other gases) in cans, or cylinders, an inflated tyre on a wheel or a compressor. For the occasional user air cans are a simple solution but will work out very expensive over time. The use of gas cylinders is not advised these days. 30 years ago nobody gave a second thought to using carbon dioxide cylinders as a propellant. I have used the car wheel and tyre but it is not the most convenient method.
For the serious modeller the compressor has to be the best option. There are plenty of them around these days ranging in size and price. Cheaper compressors can be noisy and a diaphragm compressor will supply a pulsed flow of air that can become a problem when attempting fine work. However the used of a large capacity moisture trap will to some extent reduce this affect. The size of compressor does not matter so long as it can be regulated. When air is compressed it will have a tendency to produce droplets of water. The amount produced will vary depending on the humidity. However small you do not want drops of water travelling along the hose, into the airbrush to be deposited on the model like a paint ball gun splat! This is rectified by fitting a moisture trap either at the outflow of the compressor or fitted inline along the hose.

 
This Silent compressor is made by Bambi. The one shown was sold under Axminster's own brand.
It will supply plenty of air for airbrushing and also has enough capacity to power small air tools such
as air headless pinners, small bard nailers and staplers. It is fitted wit a tank pressure gauge, line
pressure gauge and a moisture trap. The best thing about it is that it makes no more noise that a
refrigerator!


I have gone for the ultra quiet low volume compressor. This has a limited flow rate (more than adequate for an airbrush) and can be used to power small air tools as a bonus. Although expensive initially the benefits are worth every penny. Whatever compressor you decide to use you must be able to regulate the airflow to between 20 and 40psi ( 1.4 and 2.8 BAR). Most of the small compressors have a maximum output of 80psi (5.6BAR) and the larger one much higher. If you have any specific questions regarding air supply please post them in the Questions and Comments post HERE and I will try to answer them.

Paint thinning
An airbrush will spray any liquid that can be thinned to the correct consistency. The trick is getting this consistency just right. Rule of thumb statements don’t really work here as different colours, makes and types of paint vary immensely. What you are looking for is a consistency of thin cream or thick milk. A consistency that will drop off the mixing sick as rapid drops rather than just run off (too thin) or have to be encouraged to drip (too thick). The only way to learn is to try. Have a go at spraying some card or an old scrap model to evaluate the flow you are achieving.

Cleaning
Never leave paint in the airbrush. Between bouts of spraying always remove the paint feed and spray the residue paint onto a piece of absorbent paper towel. Spray through a small amount of thinner to remove the residue paint that is still sticking to the internals of the gun. For internal mix airbrushes, if you have some kind of needle lock, release it to allow the paint-free needle to engage fully with the nozzle.
After a painting session always remove the nozzle and needle for cleaning and inspection before reassembling back into a clean body ready for next time.
So go and dig out your airbrush, find something to practise on and have a go. In my next post (in a couple of days time) I will show you how to get a nice even coat of paint on the Iron Mink I referred to in the initial post. I will try and cover as much of the basics as I can over the next few weeks but please don’t be afraid to ask for specific advice or just general information. I will try and answer as much as I can in the Questions and comments post HERE

Ralph ;-)

 
 
 
 



____________________
It will be finished one day...

http://ralphsmodelrailway.blogspot.co.uk/
http://ralphsworkshop.blogspot.co.uk/
http://www.my-modelrailway.co.uk
http://www.my-meccano.co.uk

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 Posted: Thu Feb 3rd, 2011 10:18 am
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Fishplate42
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Airbrushing – Let’s paint
Preparation is the key to a good finish. No matter how dirty or grimy you want your finished model; care should be taken to remove any manufacturing defects such as flash or air holes as well as ensuring that everything is a nice snug fit, no amount of painting will hide these defects. In reality the painting process will emphasise them. Once you are happy the surface is as good as you can get it, the next stage is to clean it. This means not only removing the dust and dirt but also the remains of any unwanted chemicals or grease left over from the manufacture or assembly processes.
Clean the surface
How much cleaning is required really depends on the materials used and how ‘dirty’ they are. An etched brass kit that has been soldiered together may have flux residue hiding in the corners even if it was wiped off at the time of assembly. Residue can be cleaned off mechanically with a glass fibre brush and then given a blast of air to remove any stray fibres. Similar treatment can be give to white metal parts as well.
 
Plastic kits may well have mould release residue on some parts as well as grease from fingerprints that can affect any parts regardless of material make up. A wash with white spirit will remove any grease. Again this can be blown dry with compressed air. If you are using an oil based primer coat then this will be good enough. For acrylic paints you do not want to risk any contamination so I would recommend a wash and scrub up in warm soapy water.
Some modellers use ultrasonic cleaning baths to clean their models. I do own one of these but I have never found it necessary to use it for this purpose. You can buy a small one (intended for cleaning Jewellery for under £20.00 if you look around the High Street). I use mine for cleaning running wheels and gears and it does a fine job of that.
Prime/undercoat
Once the surface is clean it is advisable to unify it by giving it a coat light coloured matt paint. In the case of metal parts this can be a metal primer, which will prepare the surface ready to accept the finish paint. For plastic models a simple matt paint will do. Use a colour that will not fight with the colour being applied as a topcoat. I will normally use a light or medium grey. Darker colours can be used if the finished colour is very dark but if you prime a model in the traditional red-oxide colour and attempt to pain it white you are asking for trouble!
The primer/undercoat will also highlight imperfections in the surface providing an opportunity to rectify the problem prior to final painting.

Mixing the paint
For small jobs the paint can be mixed on a pallet and loaded into the cup using a paintbrush. Airbrushing is very economical as far as paint use is concerned. For larger jobs the paint can be mixed in the feed jars. Never mix the paint in the paint cup, as you can’t get to the paint in the feed pipe so this will be an unknown consistency. Also avoid using a paintbrush to mix paint. Not only is this detrimental to the paintbrush you are likely to contaminate the paint either with residue trapped in the paint brush or worse; loose paintbrush hairs!
The paint should be fairly runny the consistency of thick milk, if that makes any sense. It needs to be much thinner that you may expect. I can’t really tell you any more; you will need to try it for yourself. But if in doubt err on the thin side as it is easy to add a bit more paint and it will not block the airbrush.
 
At Last – let’s paint! - A few rules to start with.
Air first, paint second. On a double action airbrush that means press down first and pull back for paint. The further you pull back the more paint will be supplied to the nozzle. Most of the time for coverage you will be pulling the trigger all the way back. I will talk more about technique as the month goes on but for now lets just get some paint flowing.
For a single action airbrush press the air button and wind the needle adjuster back until the paint starts to flow and then stop. It is impractical to wind the needle in every time you release the air on this type of airbrush but be aware that the first thing to exit the nozzle is going to be a blob of paint when you press the air button again.
Start and finish, off the target area. Start the paint flowing and then move the airbrush across the area to be painted and off the other side. Make as many passes as required and then don’t stop spraying until you are off the area again. This will avoid any residue paint being deposited in the finished area and also prevent build up of paint where you have stopped moving to return in the opposite direction.

Move your whole arm. Move the gun across the work at the same angle of attack through out each stroke, these means moving the whole arm not just swivelling the wrist. If you hold the arm still and just swivel the wrist you will produce a dumbbell spray pattern that has much heavier coverage in the middle than at the ends.

Maintain distance and flow. This is something that you will need to practise. Once you have made a few passes over a piece of card or an old model, you will discover there is an optimum distance/flow-rate that will give a fine smooth coverage. This will be a light mist-coat. By building these mist coats up you will achieve a solid colour that is very thin and even. Maintaining a similar distance from the surface being sprayed and an even amount of paint flow throughout will greatly improve the quality of finish.
 
Rules are made to be broken

The set of basic rules above should be used to gain experience and will render a good result. Once you understand what is going on, and get the feel for the airbrush, the rules can be broken to take advantage of the resultant effect.
 
Rust

Another rule I am about to break is the one about always finishing a model to a fine clean finish before weathering it. This is fine if you just want to add muck and dirt to a finish but what about the damage caused by neglect? You can’t progressively make a nice looking plastic model decay like the real thing made of steel. A few rust streaks are one thing but when the rust has really taken hold, the surface of the subject is removed and eventually holed. the paint is peeled or bubbled and the surface texture is changed or removed. In this case we need to start from the inside and work out.
 
I did mention earlier that an Iron Mink would be used here as an example. This one has been built to the kit instructions with no effort to correct or improve the detail. It is simply being used to demonstrate the technique. I will be using the ‘salt’ technique that has been mentioned earlier. This is a good example where the airbrush is only being used to apply flat colour. First it will apply a base rust colour and then, after the salt has been applied, as a mask, the original finish colour will be applied. Subsequent weathering will be applied without the use of an airbrush. I have chosen this technique as an example mainly to dispel the idea that the airbrush is the ultimate tool. It is not. But it will apply a very flat thin coat of paint something that will enhance the look of this technique at this scale.
 
It looks like it is all words today – All pictures next time.
 
In the meantime get those airbrushes out and get practising the techniques described above. If you have any problems questions post them HERE.
 
Ralph ;-)
     
 
 
 
 
    
 
 



____________________
It will be finished one day...

http://ralphsmodelrailway.blogspot.co.uk/
http://ralphsworkshop.blogspot.co.uk/
http://www.my-modelrailway.co.uk
http://www.my-meccano.co.uk

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 Posted: Sat Feb 19th, 2011 04:06 pm
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Fishplate42
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At last we are back home after covering 2000 miles in nine days! I know that won’t seem much to you professional drivers out there but considering Sue and I will usually only do 8-10,000 miles a year, it seemed never-ending…

I managed to spend a few hours in the workshop this afternoon and get some paint flowing but first let’s look at sorting out somewhere to do the spraying. The first thing to note is that airbrushing involves much less over-spray than would result from using a spray can. Used correctly, most of your paint will end up on the model. There will be some airborne particles and a simple mask will protect you from those, should you find them irritating.


A cardboard box makes a good spray booth...


After taping up the flaps, cut along the line to produce a cheap spray booth

A simple airbrushing booth can be made from a large cardboard box. I have used this method for over 30 years and so long as you are working in a ventilated space with plenty of air flow you should have no problems. If you are short of the ‘perfect’ space then I can strongly recommend one of the collapsible, portable spray booths fitted with a filter and extraction system. There are plenty of retailers selling similar units and they are usually sold with a free turntable and extra filters at the shows. The going ‘street’ price seems to be about £70.00, an investment I am pleased I made. The turntable is a bit of a gimmick as far as I am concerned, as I prefer to present the model to the airbrush keeping the spray perpendicular to the surface being covered.


Extractor type booth - folded


Extractor type booth - open. It is a good idea to line the sides and bottom of the booth with stiff paper to make cleaning up easier


Line the booth with paper to make clean up easier

The underside or inside of most models is usually a good location to fix some kind of handle. This can be stuck on or fixed with double sided tape or even Velcro. There are also specially made sprung holders – like reverse action tongs – that can be fitted inside a hollow body. However I prefer to us a magnetic stick. This is made from a scrap of wood with a small rare-earth magnet let into each end. The bottom of the model has a small piece of ferrous metal attached to it; a washer is ideal. The stick is attached to the model and used as a handle it can then be placed on a base to let it dry. Here I am using a piece of steel but a tobacco tin or even the metal lid of a jar will do.


A magnet fitted into each end of a scrap of wood will make a handle


A washer is glued to the bottom of the wagon


Ready for sparying

Once the model is held firm and ready to be airbrushed the first thing to do is to mix the paint. Whatever type of paint you are using it will need thinning. There are some pre mixed paints out there. Although I have not had any experience of them I suspect, with the passing of time, these will also need thinning. This is easily done in an artists mixing pallet. First, thoroughly mix the paint in the tin. This is probably the most important part of the whole process. Make sure there are no lumps in the paint and any oil is thoroughly mixed. The end of a paintbrush is my preferred implement for this job. The hairy end of the brush is used to add the thinners, mix the paint and load the paint cup. Don’t over fill the cup. A small amount will go a very long way. Light application is the way to go. The picture showing the wagon being painted shows the result of three passes. Thepenultimate picture shows the result. This is the base colour of the rust and there will be several coats applied over this so it needs to be very thin, as can be seen from the finished picture. Remember this is a 4mm scale (OO) wagon.


Using the end of a paitbrush for mixing the paint


...and the other end for thinning


loading the paint cup - not too much. This is enough to paint our wagon!


Four light passes to get this far


The paint is almost dry already (a couple of minutes later) you can see the wet edge on the corner


When you have replaced the lid on the tin, turn it upside down to allow the paint to make an airtight seal

Now the model is left to dry overnight and I will show you what happens next tomorrow. In the meantime get those airbrushes out and get practising!If you have any problems questions post them HERE.

Ralph ;-)



____________________
It will be finished one day...

http://ralphsmodelrailway.blogspot.co.uk/
http://ralphsworkshop.blogspot.co.uk/
http://www.my-modelrailway.co.uk
http://www.my-meccano.co.uk

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 Posted: Thu Feb 24th, 2011 12:00 pm
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Fishplate42
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Salt masking

Now our wagon has a dry coat of rust coloured paint the fun begins. The idea is to mask off areas of the rust colour before spraying the final colour. Using conventional masking techniques will result in a hard line between colours and add no texture. When rust forms under a painted surface it creates blistering and flaking of the paint. This effect can be reproduced using salt as a mask. There are several ways of doing this and they all produce differing effects, heavy applications for peeling rust or light application representing fine rusting. The basic idea is to hold the salt in place while you are airbrushing and then allow it to be easily removed. Without damaging the paint surface underneath. This is not the end of it; in fact this is just the start as what this technique produces is the blank canvas onto which the weathering is applied using a variety of methods.


Rock Salt


Table Salt

Salt

Although I am using salt here, it is possible to use other materials such as teabag leaves, fine ground pepper or a combination of all three. Here I am working in 4mm scale (OO) and salt gives me the result I am looking for on the sides of the Iron Mink. One thing to be careful with here is that you only apply this technique to the van body. The doors on this model are wood and although the fixing will rust the wood will not! I prefer to use ground rock salt for this sort of work as table salt has a smoother texture.


Mixing the salt with the meths...


...and applying it with a brush

The conventional way to apply the salt is with water that has a small amount of detergent added such as washing up liquid. Be careful here and only buy the very cheap brands. The more expensive brands usually contain additives that will keep your hands soft but may also react with the paint finish. For speed I am using metholated spirits (Meths), which works well and does not ‘stick’ the salt to the model so hard.


Airbrushing the colour coat over the dry salt


The salt is removed with a stiff brush


Just how much you leave behind is up to you. Here there are still a few large pieces around the rivets to be picked off with a knife

How to...

Wet the salt with the meths and apply it to the model in the areas where you want the rust to show through. Allow the meths to evaporate (at this stage the salt will have become opaque white) and the salt will be stuck to the model. Now airbrush the model again, this time using the required colour of finish. Make light passes and slowly building up the opacity. You may find the process will dislodge the odd piece of salt but this will not matter. When the paint has dried, the salt can be removed with a stiff brush, used gently. Any large stubborn pieces can be picked off with a knife. Smaller pieces can be left to represent bubbling and peeling paint. Make all the brush strokes in a downward direction so any marking or slight scratching of the paint can be interpreted as natural weathering. That is as far as it goes with the airbrush. The canvas is there ready for the application of other weathering techniques to finish the job. I will cover this in another thread if you are interested… Let me know.
 
If you have any questions post them HERE. Next time I will talk about other forms of masking...

Ralph ;-)




____________________
It will be finished one day...

http://ralphsmodelrailway.blogspot.co.uk/
http://ralphsworkshop.blogspot.co.uk/
http://www.my-modelrailway.co.uk
http://www.my-meccano.co.uk

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 Posted: Tue Mar 1st, 2011 08:39 am
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Robert
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Because the airbrush topic is so comprehensive and ongoing I am going to change the title of this thread to "The Airbrush - How To Use And Maintain" and then I can start the March Project.



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 Posted: Thu Mar 3rd, 2011 08:21 am
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Robert
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I have copied and pasted this post for Ralph because he accidentally posted it in the wrong place.


Masking with masking tape
 
 

The real skill in producing a good finish is not in the airbrushing, that is easily mastered, it is in the masking. We have already looked at one form of masking when we used salt to allow a base colour to show through the final paint. I used that example to get away from the stereotypical perception of using conventional materials.
Masking can be achieved in may ways using all sorts of materials but one of the first things to spring to mind when considering masking may well be Masking tape. A reasonable assumption and not completely out of the arena but it is not ideal for masking small items such as models. Masking tape is intended for use in the full size worlds of car body finishing and general decorating. Used straight from the roll it is also a bit on the sticky side. The low tack versions are better but even these can be a bit aggressive. It is all a matter of scale. The insignificant thickness of the crinkled paper and glue in the real word become monstrous in the model world.


Pull the tape through your fingers to reduce the tack

That is not to say that masking tape is totally useless, its not. I will use it but it needs a bit of work first. Also I will usually only use it as a secondary mask. This is because the edge it will produce is not as crisp and clean as I would like.
Spray direction is important when using any mask but it is probably more so with masking tape. Always spray over the tape and not into it as this can cause the paint to bleed under the tape and it will form a hard ridge against it that will not only create a ridge in the paint but will bond the paint to the edge of the masking tape. This will make it harder to remove the tape without damaging the edge of the paint line.

Getting a good edge

Once the first colour has been applied let it dry completely before attempting to stick any kind of masking material to it. If this means leaving it until the next day then do so. You can not rush a good finish.
Line out the area to be masked with lining tape. This can either be a commercial product or it can be cut from the roll of conventional masking tape as follows.

 
Cut thins strips of tape to use as lining

Most of us have a piece of glass we use as a reference plate to build models on. If you haven’t then now is the time to get one! In the old days this meant appealing to the local glass merchant for an off-cut and then if you had the nerve to ask him to polish the edges. More often than not I would just tape the edges with masking tape. Today it is much easier to get hold of small pieces of toughened and polished edges as all the big DIY stores sell small glass shelves normally in the bathroom accessories section. I have even seen them in the local 99p shop! Use this to lay a length of making tape on that has first been pulled through the thumb and index finger to weaken the grab of the adhesive. Then stretch it and lay it onto the glass. Allow it to sit for a few minutes to rest (this is beginning to sound like a Delia Smith recipe). Use a steel rule and a sharp knife to trim the edge of the making tape off and throw this away. Now cut thin strips (1 or 2mm wide) from the remaining tape and throw the final piece away that contains the other original outer edge of the roll.


Here small pieces of tape are fitted between the hinges...


... and then the lining is added

Use these thin strips to line out the area to be masked making sure the live edge (this is the edge of the masked area that will be in contact with the paint) is down flat with no gaps underneath that paint will be able to track. The area inside the outline can be covered with a piece of tissue and held in place with masking tape. You could just cover the area with masking tape without the tissue but this means more tape to pull off and more chance of damaging the surface.

 

Once the area to be painted has been masked, airbrush it as soon as possible. Two things can happen if you leave it too long. First the masking tape might start to release and let paint bleed under it. Or the opposite can happen and the tape becomes hard to remove.

Spray direction

No matter what form of masking you are using, always spray over it on to the surface to be painted. This is done at a fairly low angle for the bulk of the coverage and a steeper angle at the edge of the mask. The aim is to hit the surface area to be painted without piling the paint up against the mask edge. Now leave the paint to dry for a while and remove the masking. First the infill and then peal the lining off by pulling the tape back against itself and very slightly into the masked area. This should produce a nice clean edge.



Fine cut Masking tape

I have very recently come across a very fine micro masking tape sold by Jammydog. They supply direct via their ebay shop or you can buy it in several model shops. They have a website and they provide a very quick service. I must say at this point that I have no affiliation with this company other than being a happy customer.

There are all sorts of low tack tapes around in all sorts of widths. The best bet is to try some and see which ones suit you.
Now you can go away and have a play, post some of your results and let us know if you have anything to add HERE . Meanwhile The Boss has said that I can continue this thread for a bit longer so I will go off and write the next part about other forms of masking.

Ralph ;-)



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Barchester
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