Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Breaking Citadel/GW Paint (Airbrushing)

After a lot of frustration and research I'm glad to say I've found a reliable and easy way to use GW paints for airbrushing.

Left thinned Citadel paints.  Right pulled from pot.

To be fair the title is a bit misleading.  The paints weren't broken perse just figured out how to use them with an airbrush.

As always giving credit where it is due.  Les from AwesomePaintJob.com has it worked out.

I've mentioned in several posts that I want to use GW/Citadel paints when airbrushing.  I don't want to switch out paints just to use one painting tool.  Especially since I won't be getting rid of my brushes anytime soon.

When it comes to airbrushing with GW paints my question was "How do I use paint from a pot in an airbrush?"

Apparently there are several experienced airbrush artists that are also confused about making sure  paint is the consistancy of milk.  Being a smart ass, I've never painted with milk nor do I intend too.  So I'm not sure exactly what to look for.

If you're like me who wants specifics instead of Chef Emeril who says "Bam!" when adding an unspecified amount of ingredients.  Paints need a certain mixture to work.  Finding that mixture is key.  Les is onto something with 1:1 paint to windex.

Would like to expand on that further.  What I thought was going to be useless when first thinning paints for airbrushing actually turned out to be the very thing to make it work.  Boy was I relieved.

When making "how to's" I want to keep with the main theme of this blog.  One of the themes is KISS.  Keep it Simple Stupid.  Not using high language or confusing terms.  The clarity of the message lays firmly on the messenger.  Unless there's a genuine language barrier if a message is not understood the fault is the speaker.  Hopefully the "How to's" are explained as clearly and simply as possible to avoid any confusion.  Pictures with clear references are ideal.  In many ways I would like this blog to be a launching platform for new painters who pick up some skills here.  As their skill improves they branch out and move to other blogs that speak to their paint style.  This blog shouldn't be-all and end-all for any painter.  Nor would I want it to.

Something I've said in several comments lately, as mentioned to ieuan recently, this blog belongs to everyone.  Google lets me play in their sandbox.  It would be extremely arrogant of me to say this part of their sandbox is mine and no one else's.  I encourage armchair warriors/monday night quarterbacks.  Anons have schooled me recently regarding Eldar posts.  Which humbles me, this I deeply appreciate.

Last two nights I've been working on "how to" posts for the blog not my models.  Feels very strange.  Hopefully these are helpful for someone.  Onto breaking Citadel/GW paints.

Stealing something from Les.  This isn't The way to make GW paints work with airbrushes.  This is just a way to do so.  I'm sure Golden's Medium for airbrushes will work.  So will water.  Or as cpyke said isopropyl alcohol/water mix.

Citadel paint costs 45 cents more for 5 ml less paint than Vallejo Model Air.

Purchased these 1 oz cups from Blick.

This is yet another description of how to tell paint is thinned correctly.  The paint sticks to the edge streaking towards the pool.  Much like 2% milk or oil and water reaction on surfaces.  Do not dwell heavily on the "milk test" though.

Abaddon Black is surprisingly thick.  Pudding thick.

1:1 Citadel paint and Windex.

Mixed and they look great.  Had to do a lot of mixing to get the paint from the bottom to blend with Windex.  Notice the side of the black where it clings instead of dripping down.  That's ideal

Moved the thinned paint from the cups to the bottles so it doesn't dry as quickly.  Also easier to shack the bottles instead of stirring the paint from the bottom.

I can only hope this video doesn't look nearly as bad as it does now.  This is my attempt to show what the purple thinned paint looks like when shaken in the bottle.  I just have a feeling this video is going to look extremely bad.

Here's an example of what the paints look like painted.

Right are pulled from pot.  Left from thinned bottles.  Can see the left swatch is very thin in fact still wet after drying for sometime.  That is ideal for airbrushing.

To answer the question I've been asking for sometime now.  How do I use Citadel paint efficiently without buying two sets of paint.  One for brush other for airbrush.  Which is just a waste of money in my opinion.

"Tada!  A magazine made by and for gay magicians"  The observant will notice the markings on the outside of the eye dropper.  Cut into the plastic with a modelling knife then with pen put ink into those marks.  The forward thinking of you will be curious how do you measure the amount of paint being pulled into the eye dropper when its submerged.  This is is the careful part.  Place just the nozzle of the eye dropper in the paint then release the squeeze cap.  You can see how much paint you are pulling into the eye dropper.  Then rinse or use different eye dropper, marked same way, and pull same amount of Windex.  You're not going to be putting this little eye dropper into the huge bottle of Windex.  You can however fill up an empty Citadel paint pot with Windex for easier access.

It was at this point thinning the paints Sat night it dawned on me.  What I considered useless for thinning paints was exactly what I needed.

Bringing this all together.

My list of recommended items to thin your Citadel/GW paints for airbrushing.  You'll need:

Citadel paint you want to use with an airbrush
Small Empty i.e. empty paint pot container for Windex.
Eye drop purchased rom Blick or Amazon, even ebay
Olde brush or stirring stick
Little container to mix paint and Windex in, shot glass, olde Nyquil cup, etc.
Using your marked eye dropper pull same amount of paint and Windex then mix in cup til your have an even consistancy.  Pour 1:1 mix into airbrush cup and you're ready to paint with Citadel paints.  Or if you have a lot of empty pots like I do you can mix a medium size batch then shake pot to mix contents before airbrushing.

As you fill your airbrush paint cup and paint with it you'll quickly learn you don't need nearly as much paint as you think.  This will help you to avoid making more thinned paint than you'll need.

One question that may come up is what to do with the extra paint in the airbrush paint cup?  Choice is yours.  Some airbrushers pour the remaining paint into the pot it was pulled from.  Others, /waves hand, practice with the left over paint.  Others still just spray it out and clean the gun.  Should you decided to keep the paint you will need a container to put the paint into.  Empty paint pots anyone?  You could pour into the pot the non-thinned paint was pulled from.  That paint will get thinner each time the airbrush cup is emptied into it.  Good news won't need to thin the paint anymore.  Bad news won't have the same consistancy each time you use it.  I would suggest to spray out excess.

Thin your paints.  Yes it is a pain.  It's completely worth it.  Example super smooth finish.

There's an unexpected upside to learning how to thin your paints for airbrushing.  Vallejo Model Air is cheaper and doesn't need to be thinned.  Yet after thinning you're getting double your paint with GW.  What is the better deal?

slainte mhath


  1. I found it super easy thinning with vallejos own thinner. Why not come and join our blog roll at: http://scifiwargamers.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/join-scifiwargamers-network.html
    We would love to have you there!

  2. FYI, The video was good quality. It's a great way to show people just how thin it should be. A little slosh is all it should take. Nice job.

    1. Thanks, Zab. Video image in the post was very fuzzy. Surprised that it turned out well.

    2. Video looks good. -LT

  3. I know this is resurrecting a post from the grave, but We are talking thinning the paint with Windex Glass Cleaner????

    1. Olde posts need love to. Actually, yes Windex Glass Cleaner. Have a new version of this post coming later this week.

  4. A lot of very experienced professional airbrushers(including the guy who owns Badger Airbrush) will tell you the same thing: don't thin with windex, especially if you're premixing and plan to keep the paint around long term.

    The short of it is that windex contains ammonia, which is a cleaning agent. Over time, it can break down your pre-thinned paint and cause you more headaches than you wanted(which in a perfect world, should be none).

    Citadel Paint itself isn't really great for airbrushing because they've traditionally used a much larger pigment grain size, because well, it's cheaper to produce paint like that. The paint will work just fine with a brush, but it causes headaches once you atomize it with an airbrush.

    That said, your point of: "Paints need a certain mixture to work." is key. Furthermore, how much you thin the citadel paint depends on which line it is from: you don't really need to thin Layer colors as much as you do Base colors.

    I would really consider either using a mixture of Isopropyl Alcohol and water, or be lazy like me and just use the Testors Acrylic Airbrush Thinner(which is just a mixture of Isopropyl and Water, as near as I can tell). I've been premixing both Citadel and P3 paints with this mixture for years now, through multiple different revisions of the Citadel paint line, and I've yet to have a pot become unusable.

    You might also consider premixing your paints in these: http://www.sks-bottle.com/340c/fin21a.html I've been using the 1oz bottles(they're bigger than Vallejo droppers) and they make your life a ton easier. You get nearly 50 of them(with droppers and caps) for around $25.

    1. Been thinning paints with water because I don't want to be breathing ammonia. Also reminds me I need to buy a new mask.

      Yeah, picked up a bottle of Testors Acrylic Airbrush Thinner after told me that several months ago. Stuff works weird. Most likely because I'm not use to it.

      Presently using 2oz bottles from Blicks. That is seems like a reasonable deal. Thanks for the reference.

  5. Also I clearly didn't look at the post date on this one. Hah!

    1. That's ok. Olde posts need love too.

  6. Just used this from way back when on my first time with an airbrush. Didn't blow up myself or the airbrush. I call that one a win.

    1. Yeah, especially the airbrush not blowing up. Definitely a win.


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