How to airbrush Tamiya acrylic paints?

Greetings fellow model makers,

Recently I was working on one of my new projects, the Renault R35 tank from Tamiya. The new 2020 kit.
I was painting the tracks and I thought wouldn’t be it much faster, much easier and convenient to just airbrush it? Since I only have to do one color on them. And brush painting I found boring en not much fun at all.
But my actual question is, would it be a good idea? Because I remember at one point that I wanted to use my Revell enamel paint that were also metallic colors. And that they clogged up my airbrush. It didn’t go that well.
So that is the reason why I’m asking before I’m going to try and spray Tamiya acrylic metallic colors through my airbrush.
Maybe I did something wrong in the past that had caused me these problems? Maybe I didn’t thought on something crucial before doing? I don’t know. I hope you can help me out with this question I have.

Thanks in advance,


I like to use XF-84 Dark Iron as the base color for tracks. Some videos that might be helpful.


Until recently, i used Tamiya acrylics and Humbrol enamels almost exclusively.

They both airbrush well - BUT, you have to thin them before putting them through the brush, as they are quite heavily pigmented.

Another issue could be that your airbrush compressor setting isn’t high enough. you need AT LEAST 17psi to get any kind of paint to go through. What kind of airbrush/compressor combo are you using? I use an IWATA Eclipse CS brush and an IWATA Smart Jet Pro compressor. The compressor has an adjustable pressure setting.

My advice (and it worked well for me) is to pre-mix your paint in a seperate pot with about 25% thinners. What you’re looking for is a consistency that is almost like milk. This might sound too thin, but trust me, it isn’t.

In the end i got fed up with pre-mixing and swapped out my Tamiya paints for AMMO Mig. These drop straight into the airbrush pot without the need to thin them first.

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Thank you for replying so soon.
I’m using a airbrush compressor and spray gun from Fengda. I don’t remember exact details as which model or product number it is. But I do know there is a pressure regulator on the compressor. And that I have set it to 2 bars of pressure. I use this pressure constantly.
Furthermore, I’m mixing my paints everytime in a seperate small tiny jar. Just before I spray them. I’m using little paint with most of it thinner. I got that from the YouTube video if I remember correctly from what is mentioned above. The second one. And it worked quite well for me. I’m not liking the idea of premixing because I sometimes use the same paints as well for painting with my brushes. For example, when figures are included in the kit/box.

Thanks again for replying so soon and will look forward to your answer on my answer. :hugs:

In my current project I’m using XF-84 Dark Iron as well for painting the tracks. Especially since it is specified in the instructions for building the kit. I will watch the first video soon. I have seen the second one already. Thanks for the fast reply. :+1:

No problem. Tamiya also makes a paint retarder, I will add a drop or two one spraying to slow drying times. This helpful for brush painting. As you can see from the videos paint/thinner ratios and psi are different. Experiment for what works best for you.

2 BAR should be plenty.

You only need to pre-mix the paint you’re going to use in your airbrush, for brush painting, take it straight from the paint pot. Its up to you - you can pre-mix batches that will do for the whole kit, or a little at a time.

The only conclusion i can draw is that your airbrush nozzle is too fine. You can usually buy seperate nozzles that allow more fluid through (for coarser pigments).

It might be that your airbrush nozzle is partially blocked with pigment and just needs a good clean?

I also note that Fengda themselves do not endorse the use of Tamiya paint (not that this should make a difference) - or, just use paints from other manufacturers that come airbrush ready straight from the pot.

Thank you, I will take action for it.

I’m not a fan of Mig paints. They dry in the nozzle very quickly, not to mention require several thin coats. For the trouble of unclogging the brush and waiting for Mig’s (often moody) coats to dry, I find mixing Tamiya’s with thinner and getting the job done in one reliable pass easier.

With Tamiya paints, if something goes wrong, I will always know it was something on my end.

I’ve never had a problem with them drying in the nozzle or otherwise, but i think we all appreciate there are lots of alternatives.

Tamiya are fine if you don’t mind thinning them first - clearly something that the OP was doing, yet still was having problems with. I’ve still got all my Tamiya paints, but only tend to use them for dry brushing and very fine brushwork (small detail) now.

Tamiya generally airbrushes well. Where I think you may have issues is the metallics. One thing I have noticed is that Tamiya metallic paints have huge way out of scale metallic particles. I suspect these are what are clogging the airbrush.

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I would agree with Mead93…Tamiya’s metallics are horrible! Another factor is the thinner you’re using. Tamiya’s Lacquer Thinner (yellow top) works best with Tamiya acrylics; even though one’s a lacquer, and the other is an acrylic.

I just airbrushed Tamiya XF-84 Dark Iron for my KT tracks,almost fool proof.Only thing is I prefer Tamiya Lacquer thinner,probably a 50-50 mix

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Dark iron is a great versatile color. Love it for tracks, tools, base cost for exhaust etc.

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This is one of those misunderstandings that cause no end of problems. Just because a paint is an “acrylic” does not mean that its carrier is water or that the paint is “water based.”

Tamiya acrylics are soluble in cellulose, aka volatile organic, thinners. That is, their thinners are either an alcohol (like X-20A) or a lacquer thinner (like Tamiya’s “yellow cap” lacquer thinner) or a combination (and there are some other common cellulose thinners that are also compatible with Tamiya paints). There is some confusion around this because both alcohol and lacquer thinners will take some amount of water into solution with them.

This leads many to believe that water is the intended thinner. “Hey, if water will mix into it, then water must be the correct thinner… Right?” No. Water is not the primary or even preferred thinner for Tamiya paint.

(And. for that matter, neither is glass cleaner which just happens to be mostly a combination of water, alcohol and ammonia - along with green and or blue dyes and some other detergents. The water and alcohol are discussed above, and ammonia just happens to be a solvent that is particularly well suited for organics. Which is why it "cuts’ grease so well in your kitchen. So, the ammonia assists the incorporation of the water into to the paint. However, ammonia is not a particularly good paint solvent since it has trouble evaporating quickly from the paint film. Consider… When the last time you bought a can of paint that had ammonia as the recommended thinner?)

Gunze’s paints are also in the same class of acrylics that are formulated to thin with cellulose thinners. This is why Gunze’s Mr. Leveling Thinner is considered by many to be a good (or even superior) alternative to Tamiya’s own proprietary thinners.

“Acrylic” used in any paint’s name or description simply refers to the method that the binders in that paint form long molecular chains when they cure to hold the paint to the surface, the pigments and to itself. Acrylic paints can be soluble in many kinds of thinners, not just water. There are water-based acrylics, petroleum-hydrocarbon based acrylics and cellulose based acrylics.


Great basic chemistry lesson Mike.


I used Tamiya, Revell, Humbrol, Testors, Vallejo, AK and Gunze paints on my model, all with hand and aibrush. Last time I used Hataka red line, too
Actually the only real disappointment was the Hataka. The second worse was the Revell Acrylic to airbrush.

Back to the original question: when I run out of the X-20A Tamiya thinner last time, I used Gunze LEveling Thinner and the Tamiya paints loved it. It was so smooth to airbrush them that I decided to airbrush whatever I can with Gunze or Tamiya paints in the future but use the Gunze thinner with them. Yes, it smells awful, probably harmful if used in poor ventillation room but the lack of clogging, perfect smooth even surface on the 6 months built model does worth it.

You are most of the time airbrushing the Tamiya paints in one go?
I’m most of the time doing this as well.

What can I do about it?

I’m using acrylic thinner from Tamiya.