Air brush v spray can

Just interested in how many here use an air brush v those using spray cans.

Are cans easier?
Are cans economical?
Are the results from cans acceptable?

I have a love hate relationship with my airbrush. Especially with primers. When they work they are amazing. When the airbrush has a day off I have a meltdown! :tired_face:

I’m considering priming with a spray can and using the airbrush for the top coats simply to cut out some of the STRESS. :triumph::exploding_head::woozy_face:

Thats what I do,prime from a can,they level out nicely and dont obscure detail if you if you do it right,mainly a convenience thing.

However,I find airbrushing indispensable for models,once you get the hang of it,I sppreciate the results.

To add,I found it convenient also to spray can the hull of my 1/350 Akagi and I plan to lay down the basecoat of my 1/16 Tiger also.


Agree with Tojo72 - I have switched to priming from a rattle can - Tamiya Fine grey - simply for convenience . Airbrush for the rest .


Same, rattle can primer is more of a convenience, if you already have a setup it is not more economical. The results seem comparable for my needs.

Depending on the schemes, building habits etc it might make sense to only use rattle cans but eventually an airbrush will be cheaper in the long run.

I understand the issue and have very similar problems. For me a bigger needle made a big difference but I also use rattle can primer. I view it as a tool to have but like any other tool it just depends on when to use. I do run my rattle cans under hot water and shake well before use.


I use both. Primer from the can as described already above. Then if I have the color I need in the can I’ll just spray from there.

The model I’m working on now (Shunting Loco) is a green from a can but the can is old and lost all of the propellant. I had to remove the paint from the can to use in my AB. So there is that option as well.

For shiny cars I plan to try some new aerosol can products by UPOL and Rust-oleum. They made an Acrylic Lacquer series with clear coat.

I’m in the rattle-can primer camp too - I use autobody primer (from the local Halfords) sprayed outside in the shed, followed by colour sprayed through the airbrush indoors. The primer gets better grip than anything I’d be willing to spray in the house. But unless the kit is big I’d avoid spraying the finish colours by can - there’s just too little control over the rattle cans to get a good result.


Being a lazy bum, I use spray cans as often as I can get away with it. I only break out the airbrush for complicated camo schemes.


What type of airbrush?

Getting a Paasche H airbrush in 1988, was the end of painting with rattle cans for me. I used a rattle can for clear coat and dull coat occasionally until 1993. I greatly dislike rattle cans due to lack of color variety and lack of control.

Learning to use the external mix Paasche H was straight forward and it’s a simple easy airbrush to clean. I think the old school Paasche H makes a nice transition from rattle can to airbrush before one steps up to an internal mix airbrush or double action internal mix airbrush.

Same here…I am lazy also and I find that airbrushing isn’t as rewarding for the time spent to set it up and get the paint mixture correct.

I use Tamiya Fine Spray primer in a can for priming…one has to prime everything or without primer the paint tends to flake and shed off.

I also use a spray can for large surface areas as I find it too problematic to set up and clean the airbrush. I haven’t found good airbrushing paints despite all the new airbrush paint advertisement hype so I’ve stuck with Gunze Sanyo and Tamiya although I bought a lot of those airbrushing paint sets that somehow seem to clog my Iwata HP-C.

I use Mr. Gunze Sanyo Matt Flat Clear in a spray can for dullcote and it’s great.

Now that I mainly build figures and stopped AFV modeling, I don’t need to use the airbrush that often except for mecha and spaceships (which I haven’t done a lot of the latter).

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I also use Tamiya light grey primer and other spray can colors if they are what I need (for example Kure grey), but if I need for example British 507A I will use one of the acrylics in my airbrush. Using spray cans is quick and easy and does not require mixing and clean-up just spray and done


I tried can paint only one time, in the beginning of my modeling life and the result was OK. Since I could try that old Tamiya airbrush set back in the early 90’s, I only use can for primer purposes (Gunze Surfacer Grey 1000 and Gunze Finishing Surfacer Black 1500). All other major surfaces are painted with airbrush, details with hand-brush. Even the protective varnish is airbrushed (using bigger nozzle, of course).

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Stopped using primer on cans long ago, mainly because of the smell and paint flying everywhere. Airbrush is much more controllable, I can put the exact amount of paint where needed, I find it easier to cover everything without overpainting


You can get a range of different sized nozzles for spray cans, which is helpful.

I never prime. I never use a rattle can.
Consider your model a delicate flower. An airbrush is a garden hose. A rattle can is a fire hose. Rattle cans are great for bicycles and lawn furniture, but they put out way too much paint too fast for models. It is noticeable on a model that has too much paint on it, with softened detail, as opposed to a model with a tight skin of paint and razor sharp detail. If you are going to put your all into a build and detail it to your utmost skill limit, you need to cover that detail with the thinnest paint coat possible.
If you have a clean model surface to start, you don’t need to prime. Paint will adhere equally well to metal, resin, and plastic and as long as you achieve opacity with your airbrush everything will turn out the same color. To prep your model for painting, take it to the kitchen sink. Spray the whole model down liberally with Windex with ammonia. Get it soaked everywhere. This will melt mold release, skin oils, sanding dust, and build residue everywhere without having to scrub the model and dislodge parts. Then rinse the model thoroughly with cool clean water. The sink sprayer works well for this. Finally, let the model dry under an over turned Tupperware to keep it dust free.
Get really comfortable with your airbrush and the paint you are using. I test shoot on empty gallon milk jugs before ever pointing the airbrush at a model. I use Tamiya and AK Real Color paints thinned 50/50 with Mr. Color Leveling Thinner shot at 15 PSI and rarely experience airbrushing problems. Having a gravity feed, double action airbrush, having a MAC valve on the airbrush, and keeping the airbrush super clean are also important to success. Get it so that you know what’s going to happen when you pull that airbrush trigger.


Amen Matt. I stopped priming years ago especially figures, although you should prime metal figures but I’m not sure because I’ve never done metal figs, only plastic and resin.
I do spray a dark brown or black preshade coat as thin as I possibly can before my base color but that’s not the same as a primer coat.


I’m a primary rattle can guy its easier and airbrushes are a little scary and also it an expense that I am trying to get approves thru the funds officer.

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my other motivation for rattle can use is I build almost exclusively modern US Armor which is in my care almost always painted a shade of tan. It’s a lot cheaper to do a spray can that covers 5 kits over a bottle that I need to purchase for every kit.

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I recently resorted to rattle-can paints due to the very large surface areas I had to cover. Though the resulting finish was okay for my needs, I did miss using my airbrush. Also, I agree that rattle-can paint is not as fine or controllable as with an airbrush. … And Tamiya 100ml cans are by no means economical. :money_with_wings:


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As someone returning to the hobby after a very long hiatus, figuring out best practices requires a great deal of trial and error. Relearning to use an airbrush continues to be particularly painful, resulting in many accidents, cleaning problems, and errors. Only sheer experience makes that better and gaining the experience involves messing up. A lot. For this reason, I definitely understand the motivation for falling back on a spray can. Spray cans produce consistent results and since the primers are mass produced for an extremely competitive market, they perform very well. The problem is, spray can primers are intended for big projects. The delivery mechanism is just not designed for fine control. Getting paint into all the nooks and crannies of a complex model absolutely requires that fine control. However, trying to use an airbrush for the same job, but lacking the skill, results in ruined models.

For me, the solution continues to be practice models. I slap them together and paint them up as fast as I can, trying different products and techniques along the way. If I mess up a 50 year old Tamiya Pak 40, who the heck cares? I am not competing with anyone to build The Best Model Ever™.

As I started to rack up hours driving an airbrush, my ability to clean it, mix paints for it, and troubleshoot problems rapidly improved. Running an airbrush once a month will not result in meaningful skill improvement. Sitting behind an airbrush two to three hours a day, 4 to 5 days a week, results in serious progress.

My council is this: If you are happy with your current models than continue to use spray can primers. You know how to use them, like the results, and need not risk a project using a problematic airbrush or wonky primer. If you are not happy with your current models, you will need to improve your airbrush skill and find a suitable primer. There is no getting around it. Getting better with an airbrush requires using an airbrush more often, perhaps a lot more often. Finding the right primer requires trial and error. Do NOT practice with the airbrush or try new products on high value projects. Build up some models you are emotionally prepared to mess up and practice on them until you figure out best practices for you.

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FWIW - I’ve measured to the milliliter how much paint (color coat) it took me to airbrush a 1/35 scale model tank.

It’s 1.5 ml (small) to 2.5 ml (large), averaging ~2ml per model.

  1. A half oz (14.7 ml) bottle of Floquil typically yields 5 to 7 painted models.

  2. A 23 ml bottle of of Tamiya/AK or whatever paint can do 7 to 11 models using an airbrush.

$2.89 to $3.89 per 23 ml bottle.

~about 35 cents per model.

There is a lot of upfront in a good airbrush and compressor etc but looking at cost for paint, long term airbrush was considerably less expensive in my experience.