Sunday, December 11, 2022

Taking the Pain out of Painting

Painting is one of my least favorite things on the planet. Well, to be a little more specific - this kind of painting . . .

Painting about anything in the house is a pain, start to finish. My OCD goes into overdrive and I never feel like I do a great job. Yeah, all those blue lines? Painter's tape, to mask off all the trim. Painful.

For the longest time, the pain of painting extended to my hobby - to the extent that I let my first airbrush languish in its box for over 25 years, way too fearful of messing up to actually use it (click here for that story). Forget about ever actually enjoying it.

In fact, the only painting I've come to actually enjoy has been on the layout. Blue sky for the backdrop and dark green for the fascia is super easy with a roller and a huge boost of progress for the time spent. And no taping!

So early this morning, now that I'm finally done with filling in the screw holes and seams, I decided to get out the roller and prime the fascia in Essex. But later this afternoon, the fun really began . . .

I actually used my new(ish) airbrush! It's a lot more sophisticated than "The Choice of the 80s" and I figured using it to seal my foam-built Dickinson coal dump with a clear coat would be a good way to practice.

Fortunately, I also had some "training wheels" along for the ride in the form of some airbrushing notes derived from a number email conversations - not to mention virtual visits - with my friend Ralph Renzetti. In one handy place, I have crib sheets for thinning ratios, air pressures and cleanup tips for all different kinds of paint.

But after today's airbrushing session, I don't think I'm going to need that much info because after seeing how easy - and actually fun - Tamiya paint is to use, I may just decide to use it exclusively.

After sealing the coal dump, I figured I'd see if any of the Tamiya paint I had on-hand would match my go-to track paint - Rustoleum Earth Brown. I've been looking for a non (or at least less) toxic way to paint the track indoors during the winter and Ralph suggested I try some Tamiya colors. I'd used them to paint the coal dump track a few weeks back and it came out well, so painting a sample color swatch was a great way to practice double-action triggering.

And my new airbrush of choice? The Badger Patriot 105, another Ralph suggestion. I actually got it during a great sale last February and had fallen into my old rut of being afraid to actually use it.

But I have to say, much to my pleasant surprise, shooting Tamiya paint through it is just about as easy as using a rattle can. Sure, there's a little more involved than just taking off a cap and firing away, but you more than make up for that in additional control. Coupled with an in-line moisture trap (shown here - and another Ralph suggestion and sale acquisition), I daresay airbrushing is becoming almost easy.

It's certainly become a lot more fun. And if you have fun doing something, you'll tend to do it more often. And while practice may not result in perfection, you can't help but get better over time.

That's what I'm counting on - and I'm already looking forward to the next time I can fire up the 'brush and paint something!

In case you're interested, here's my nascent go-to airbrushing combo:
  • Airbrush: Badger Patriot 105 dual-action, top feed, internal mix
  • Paint: Tamiya, thinned 1:1 with 91% isopropyl alcohol (IPA)
  • Air Pressure: 15-20 psi
  • Cleanup: IPA & Windex


  1. Thanks for shout out Chris, but in the end it’s all you! You got this!

  2. Hello Chris
    I use pretty much exclusively use Tamiya XF paint now, but I think using IPA as a thinner isn't recommended. It don't think it's compatible and at least it did not work well when I tried it (I didn't know at the time). I use the recommended Tamiya thinner X-20A (Acrylic). But, it looks like you have a different experience, so this is interesting...
    By the way, I very much enjoyed your presentation Saturday on Hindsight 20/20. You have a very well thought out layout design and operating plan. The modeling is very realistic as well. And, I too "broadcast" era specific tunes at operating sessions. It really does create an ambiance.
    Best Wishes
    Rick De Candido

    1. Rick De Candido, I'm not sure how you were using Tamiya paint and IPA, but Tamiya paint is very compatible with IPA, Lacquer Thinner and Acetone.
      I have been using this method and instructing clinic attendees for at least ten years now and have never had any negative experiences!
      Ralph Renzetti

    2. Thanks for the compliment Rick! Setting the mood with era-appropriate music really helps get folks in the right frame of mind during the session - at least at the beginning before things start to take off :^)