How to Airbrush Miniatures?

Airbrushing miniatures is a skill that can significantly enhance the quality and efficiency of painting your models. Here's a comprehensive guide on how to airbrush miniatures, covering everything from the equipment you need to the techniques for achieving great results.

If you are an airbrush beginner, this article will definitely suit you and tell you all the information you need to start with airbrush miniature.

Airbrush Equipment Preparation

Best Starter Airbrush for Miniatures

The first thing you will need is the airbrush. Airbrush sizes on the market are divided by nozzle diameter. To airbrush miniature, the suggested nozzle diameter is about 0.15-0.2mm since it gives you better control over the spray range when spraying details on your miniature. And dual-action airbrush will allow you better control of the air and paint flow separately, giving you better precision.

Fengda Airbrush Gun with 0,2 mm Nozzle (BD-180)

If you need an airbrush for other purpose such as nail art, tattoo and so on, you can choose an airbrush with 0.2-0.3mm nozzle which will suit most applications.

Airbrush kit with 0,2mm and 0,3mm and 0,5mm Nozzle (ABPST01)

Suggested Airbrush Compressor for Beginner

A compressor with an air tank is highly recommended for beginners. This type of compressor stores compressed air in a tank, allowing for a consistent air supply when the airbrush is used. This consistency helps prevent pulsation and provides a smoother airflow, making it easier to achieve even paint applications.

The tank also means the compressor will run less frequently, reducing wear and extending its lifespan. Additionally, it operates more quietly than tankless models, which is a significant advantage if you work in a shared space or prefer a quieter working environment.

Fengda Airbrush mini compressor with air tank AS-186(FD-186)

Airbrush Mini Compressor with Air Tank (AS-186)

Paints and Thinners

Airbrush-specific paints are available, but you can also thin regular acrylic paints for airbrushing. A general rule is to thin the paint to the consistency of skim milk. You can use commercial airbrush thinners or a homemade mix of water, flow improver, and drying retarder.

Timbertech Acrylic Paint-12 Colors(30ML)

Basic Techniques: How to Use an Airbrush for Miniatures?

Step1: Preparation

Set up your airbrush and reserve the right space for your work. A well-ventilated area or a spray booth would be preferred. In addition, have good lighting to clearly see your work.

As we mentioned earlier above, airbrush paint needs to be thinner than the paint you would use with a brush. Use a specific airbrush thinner or a homemade mixture (like water with a few drops of flow improver). The consistency should be similar to milk. To avoid clogging, strain your paint through a fine mesh or a nylon stocking. Then pour the paint into the fluid cup.

After all these preparations, you will be able to start your miniature airbrushing work.

Step2: Practice

Hold the airbrush like a pen, about 6 inches from the model. Practice on a piece of paper or an old model to get a feel for the airbrush. To use a dual-action airbrush gun, press down for airflow and pull back for paint release.

Tips: Use the airbrush to apply shadows and highlights by varying the angle and distance of the airbrush from the model. Dark colors for shadows should be applied from below, and light colors for highlights should be applied from above.

Step3: Priming

Priming your miniature creates a surface that paint can adhere to more easily. Black, gray, or white primers can be used depending on the final colors you plan to apply.

Step4: Base Coating

After priming, apply your base colors. Start with the airbrush off to the side of the miniature, press down for air, and pull back for paint, moving the brush across the model. This technique helps avoid splotches and ensures an even coat.

Step5: Shading and Highlighting

Airbrushing is excellent for creating smooth gradients and shadows. For shading, aim the airbrush at the areas you want to darken, using a slightly darker color than the base coat. For highlighting, use a lighter color and focus on the areas that would naturally catch the light.

Step6: Detailing

While airbrushing is not typically used for fine details, it can lay down a fantastic foundation for them. After base coating, shading, and highlighting with the airbrush, switch to traditional brushes for the finer details.

Airbrushing of course can achieve incredibly fine details, but it typically requires skill and practice to master.

Cleaning and Maintenance

For beginners, there are a few points to pay attention to after using the airbrush:

Post-Use Cleaning

Always clean your airbrush thoroughly after each use. Flush it with cleaner, then disassemble and soak the parts in isopropyl alcohol if necessary. Regular maintenance prevents clogging and ensures smooth operation. Especially pay special attention to areas that come into contact with the paint.

Deep Cleaning

Periodically, you'll want to perform a deep clean. This involves completely disassembling the airbrush and cleaning each part individually. Be cautious with the needle as it's delicate and can easily bend.

    Additional Tips


    Before working on your miniatures, practice on a spare piece or paper to get a feel for the airbrush's operation and paint flow. It helps you gauge the right paint-to-thinner ratio and ensures that your paint flows smoothly without clogging the airbrush.

    Air Pressure

    Adjust the compressor's air pressure based on the task. Lower pressure for fine details and higher for base coats and priming.


    Always work in a well-ventilated area and consider wearing a mask to avoid inhaling paint particles.

    Work in Layers

    Build up your colors gradually by applying thin layers of paint. This allows you to control the opacity and depth of color, resulting in smoother transitions and richer tones.

    Masking Techniques

    Use masking tape, frisket film, or stencil masks to protect areas you don't want to paint and to create crisp edges and patterns.

    Experiment with Angles and Direction

    Varying the angle and direction of your airbrush can create interesting textures and effects. Experiment with different angles to achieve the desired look.

      What Are Some Common Mistakes to Avoid When Airbrushing Miniatures?

      When airbrushing miniatures, achieving a flawless finish requires not only skill and practice but also an awareness of common pitfalls. Here are some of the most frequent mistakes to avoid:

      1. Incorrect Paint Thickness

      Too Thick: If the paint is too thick, it can clog the airbrush, leading to inconsistent spray patterns or no paint flow at all.
      Too Thin: Overly thinned paint can run or pool on the miniature, obscuring details and resulting in an uneven finish.

      2. Inadequate Airbrush Cleaning

      Not Cleaning Between Colors: Failing to clean the airbrush when switching colors can result in muddy colors or unexpected color blends.
      Insufficient Cleaning After Use: Leaving paint in the airbrush can cause it to clog, making it difficult to clean and potentially damaging the airbrush over time.

      3. Improper Air Pressure

      Too High: High air pressure can cause the paint to dry too quickly, leading to a rough texture or "orange peel" effect. It can also blow paint away from the area you're trying to cover.
      Too Low: Low air pressure might not adequately atomize the paint, resulting in an uneven application or splattering.

      4. Ignoring the Importance of Distance

      Too Close: Spraying too close to the miniature can cause the paint to pool, ruining details.
      Too Far Away: Spraying from too far away can result in overspray and a very faint application of paint, making it hard to control where the paint lands.

      5. Neglecting to Use a Primer

      Skipping the priming step can result in poor paint adhesion, with the paint easily rubbing off or chipping. A good primer provides a surface that paint can adhere to more effectively.

      6. Not Testing the Paint Flow

      Beginning to paint without first testing the paint flow on a piece of scrap material can lead to unexpected results, such as splattering or an incorrect color mix.

      Avoiding these common mistakes can greatly improve your airbrushing results, leading to more professional-looking miniatures. Remember, patience and practice are key to mastering airbrushing techniques.