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Air Brushing questions

Discussion in 'Fish Taxidermy' started by Lonewolf_8126, May 2, 2018.

  1. Hi guys,

    I have some questions regarding airbrushing and paints. I currently have been using Lifetone Paints (Water based) with mixed results. I find it hard to to control my paint flow and get hot spots and spider webbing. What causes this? Do I need to thin my paint, and if so what is the best way (water, thinner, rubbing alcohol etc)? Another question I have is what exactly is retarder and should it be used through out the whole painting process?

    Any insight is greatly appreciated, I thought I would learn this stuff in Taxidermy School...but we just poured from the bottle and sprayed.
  2. 3bears

    3bears Well-Known Member

    Retarder slows the rate that paint dries, it is very useful when painting details with an airbrush. Often times your paint is actually drying on your tip, causing those issues you've described. When I am painting detail, I often thin and retard my paints. I don't use water based but I'm sure they make a retarder for it.

  3. Sikk

    Sikk Member

    I keep a dish of windex and a soft toothbrush by my setup, a quick scrub and blow off and its ready to go. dittos on thinning and retarder, experiment to get just the right combo for your climate. paul
  4. JL

    JL Taxidermist for 64 years

    Being on this site for many years I noticed that most of the questions regarding trouble with paint come from those using WATER BASE paint. I know many are concerned with health issues using lacquer paints but with proper air movement in the shop those fears are eliminated. And whats also eliminated are the troubles with airbrushing....I hate water base paints and for several reasons. First is the drying time....takes too long...second is the color brightness, too dull, doesn't POP...third are the troubles with thinning adequately for easy flow through the airbrush.I get non of these problems with lacquer paints. Turn on the exhaust fan, thin with thinner and paint. Want to eliminate your problems, switch to lacquer. Just my honest opinion.
    GWebb, joeym, Bill Dishman and 4 others like this.
  5. Cecil

    Cecil Well-Known Member

    I agree with JL. I switched back to lacquers years ago.
    Monty Python likes this.
  6. Kerby Ross

    Kerby Ross KSU - Class of '83; U.S. Army - Infantry (83-92)

    Woods and Water paint (water based paints).


  7. FishArt

    FishArt Well-Known Member

    I'm just guessing here, but I would imagine those that tried WB paints and were use to Lacquers simply gave up on the WB paints before working through all those issues. Many of us have worked through all those issues mentioned otherwise there'd be nobody using WB paints! As far as brightness goes, I'm not sure why the carrying agent would matter either??? I will say this. My problems disappeared once I started using retarder. I know some do not use retarder - and I didn't for years. But, I had to go quickly with my paint otherwise I'd have the paint drying on the tip w/o retarder. THE number one reason IMO why some folks have so many problems with WB paints is not using retarder.

    To the original poster. As mentioned, buy some retarder. I like the Hydromist Retarder vs. Polytranspar as for some reason Polytranspar has had some issues mixing with Polytranspar paints (weird!) I suspect it may be reacting to what I'm mixing my paint with along with the retarder (Rubbing alcohol or Windex usually). But, I figure, why bother if the Hydromist Retarder works with all my WB paints. JMO...
  8. I no longer hate airbrushing now that I switched to all Lacquer based paints, I tried a WB paint the other day again and after about 30 seconds it clogged and I chucked it. Switching truly took all the frustration out of the process for me.
    FishArt likes this.
  9. George

    George The older I get, the better I was.

    Most of us have gasoline asses and water based paints just don't cut it. In my years I've been like a yo-yo (assuming some of you actually know what a yo-yo is) but I've always come back to lacquer. When you have a waterbased problem, guess what you need to clean your airbrush? LACQUER THINNER! So about 20 years ago, i made the last lap on my yo-yo. Colors are brighter, dry to the touch almost instantly, clog up the brush less often, and can be layered so much more easily that waterbased.
    Years ago, waterbased was sold as a "safer" alternative to lacquer, and though it is in many ways, it also has it's unique ways of making you sick or killing you. Use good ventilation and wear a respirator so you don't end up like many of us old guys.
    FishArt likes this.
  10. FishArt

    FishArt Well-Known Member

    I think a big part of the problem, from what I'm hearing from the lacquer folks might be the airbrush one is using. I think a lot of folks get hung up on trying to do EVERYTHING with their air brush. And they also pick a high end air brush capable of putting in all these fine details when oftentimes the end results can be achieved easier and as good or sometimes better without the air brush! As mentioned I use all WB paints and have very few problems. That being said I use a cheap Pasche Single action exclusively and 99% of the time with the number 3 tip. Whenever I go down to the number 1, "details" tip I start seeing some of the issues many of you described in this thread. And if I'm not mistaken that number 1 tip is much bigger than the standard tip on many higher end detail air brushes! SO, that is probably why I have not seen the issues many have described here with WB paints.

    I rarely use a color straight out of the bottle and mix my own WB paints to match my customers photos. I think many of the WB paints are watered down and maybe that's why some have stated the lacquers are more vibrant? I wouldn't know because I've never used lacquers. But, mixing my own I've never thought that I needed more "pop" in matching my customer's photos with WB paints.
    Timjo and Cory like this.
  11. fishmaster

    fishmaster Well-Known Member

    Marty, do you realize your post was at 3:45am???? Are you dracula's taxidermist or what lol!

    And, you did hit on the key point. If using WB paints your life will be much easier if you use a #3 tip and needle vs a #1 regardless of whether it's a double action or single action airbrush.
    FishArt and Cory like this.
  12. Cory

    Cory Keep an eye on quality!

    I've sprayed WB ever since I started; it does have its issues. I use both bigger needles and smaller needles for the airbrushing I do. I have found that flow enamel and retarder are the two biggest WB users friend. Learning to use these in conjunction with each other can lighten the frustration. The only real thing I can see lacquer has over WB would be the drying time. Otherwise, I've never had anyone tell me you must be using WB because your colors are not as vibrant.
    JUST FISH, FishArt and Kerby Ross like this.
  13. FishArt

    FishArt Well-Known Member

    Yeah I know Fishmaster, I was there at 3:45 am - lol! Wife woke me up with some light snoring. I didn't have the heart to roll her over and wake her up so I just got up (at 12:45 a.m.) and tipped a bunch of scales til 4 a.m.. I guess I'm not always an a-hole - lol
  14. JL

    JL Taxidermist for 64 years

    Attaboy Marty make sure she's rested and can get to work in the morning..lol
    FishArt likes this.

    JUST FISH New Member

    What air brush are you using?
  16. slabbandit

    slabbandit Active Member

    By no means am I an expert as I still have problems every now and then. I actually just use the cheap double action airbrushed from Harbour Freight. They are about 20 bucks and do quite a nice job. I use Tom Sexton's old formula for mixing my detail paint which is 50/50 paint and thinner and about 15% retarder. I only use lacquer based paints though and have no experience with water based.
    I was taught by a competition fish taxidermist who primarily used lacquer paints so that's what I still use. Not knocking water based just don't have any experience using them.
    Retarder seems to help more than anything on stopping the paint from drying on the tip of the airbrush causing spitting. The main tip I can give you is to experiment with your air pressure. I have found that I get a lot better results with my detail colors if I run my air pressure around 25 PSI. For general painting I may go as high as 33 PSI or so.
    Good Luck
  17. I was going to start a post but I may try the above, I tried my 1st attempt on some brown trout spots with a Paasche H-1 size needle and it was a nightmare, and I tried all sorts of air pressures. Was using Lifetone paints and was getting splatters, start and stops etc. I am really thinking about a Renegade or can I get this to work?
  18. 3bears

    3bears Well-Known Member

    Yes you can get it to work, it takes some experimenting with thinner and retarder and air pressure.
    FishArt and slabbandit like this.
  19. FishArt

    FishArt Well-Known Member

    To add to what 3Bears mentioned it also might be what color you're using to create your spots. Some colors are more heavily pigmented and may not squeeze through a #1 tip. (That's what it sounds like to me when an air brush "sputters" if you're using retarder already). I use a #3 tip for almost everything. But, for metallics I may have to go up to a #5 tip due to the larger size of the mica or metal flakes. I generally try to blast (eg) silver pearl through the number 3 tip with high PSI (60PSI or more). But oftentimes have found it more effective to use a hand brush/powders or even a Q-tip to apply the powders instead of using the air brush. I don't think switching air brushes is the problem as 3Bears mentioned it can be done. That would just add one more change anyway in an attempt to isolate/solve the problem. Try changing tips to something larger than #1...
    slabbandit likes this.
  20. I am really starting to realize how talented you guys really are, Crappie, Perch, Bass even Bluegill took some time but now are becoming relatively easy, but Trout wow an entire new beast, I have little kids and a full time job yet fish are pouring in. If there is anyone in the New York area needing some work I may be able to kick some customers your way. Fact of the matter is I have a buddy who hates painting fish but is a master at the mounting process, I hate mounting but love the painting. I just do not have the time, there just doesn't appear to be guys around me who bother with fish any more.
    FishArt likes this.