Spraying Free-Hand Camouflage

Free-hand airbrushing is one of the trickiest activities when it comes to modeling. It requires experience, devotion, patience and mostly – knowledge about stuff that you will work with.
Many people out there consider this Mission: Impossible due to lack of knowledge. As – in the matter of fact – most of the myths are created. If you have the proper knowledge, many myths can be
destroyed permanently. And knowledge often comes with experience, which, if the myth is scary is impossible to gain if you are not hazardous type of fella.
My personal journey into that begun with choosing an airbrush. I’ve heard tons and tons of explanations and theories /from people lame and unexperienced as later I discovered/ that the airbrushes are this and that, companies are good and bad and so on and so forth. Then, I decided to get myself 5-6 different airbrushes, and test them all. The one I like – keep it. The rest – for sale.
The most wonderful experience of that was that lack of the airbrushes or suppliers in my area helped me get rid of the used airbrushes at the price that I got them, so no harm was done to my modeling budget.
So, I got myself Iwata, H&S, Grex, Devilbiss, Paasche and Sparmax to test ride each of them. What I discovered – Knowledge comes with experience. Not before that, never. …and in some cases, not even after. Anyway, lack of experience with all the professors that shared their “knowledge” brought me to the point that I believed that cool paintjob can be achieved only with high-end airbrush for couple of hundred bucks, and even then it is not a closed deal.
Nothing like that. Nothing! I have achieved same /if not better sometimes/ results with China-crappy airbrush for 15$ as I did with Iwata HP-B or TR-1. Its not the airbrush, trust me. It is only a tool extending your hand over the model. Nothing more.
So myth of the airbrush and its qualities – forget it. If you need sharper lines, TAK or masks. And that wraps it up. Done deal. End of story.
You need to know few other things for freehand camo.
Paint dilution
Paint brand
Stuff you are diluting with
Distance of spraying

So let’s start with paints. Some are better than others. I prefer to use Gunze and Tamiya acrylics. They are curing faster than enamels but they are kinda odorless and diluted with water are nicer if you spray in closed areas.
Enamels are best though. They cure slow and the atomization there is best possible.
So most of the people use Enamels just because they are used to them. Older modelers I mean. They have no troubles.
The ones who use acrylics, you need to find your best dilution ratio. Its not 100% equal each time for each paint. But if you are 60-70% close to what you are looking for, the rest can be fixed with distance and pressure.
All above said – the dilution NEEDS to be like milk. But what milk? Well, .5% or 1% liquid stuff you drink with your coffee if you are fitness fella. Or , in other words, you paint should be kinda transparent in the jar, and for example, a Tamiya or Gunze paint jar doesn’t have that inside. You need to add 35-40% dilution to that.
Same for the enamels, although then the options are many, so you need to test. How to do that –
either spray from 1.5-2 inches distance with 1.2-1.5 bars or you dip your brush inside the jar, pick some paint and see how the drops are falling from that brush. They need to be falling equally and with same consistency. Again – like milk.
Dilution liquids are also important. But for acrylics they are water, special dilute solutions that brands offer and isopropyl-alcohol /Tamiya works great with that AND also with laquer diluters/.
Here all depends on how fast you are working and what area you cover, or in other words, how fast you want your paint to dry. You can use retarders but its useless once you have set the proper ratio for you paint.
So, if you wanna fast dry – alcohol does that best. Water is the exact opposite.
When you do that, you go on and find your
This varies a lot. Its not like with paints. You can spray with low pressure /.9-1.2 bars/ up until 2.5 even higher than that. Depends on the nozzle, the paint you made, the distance, and the line you are looking at. I spray /usually/ 1.3-1.5 but have in mind that my pressure gauge might shows with mistakes and my airbrushes are different – from HP-BH to cheapo China crap. Again – for freehand I use them all.
So from half inch distance you need to have steady line without fog to the sides or spiders of any kind. Moving your hand in some direction of course…
So once you set that pressure and the paint, you need to work with the distance.
If you haven’t set your perfect line yet – you go closer or further away. I spray from 2 inches and closing up to couple of mils. Why? Well, all the camouflages are different and require different approach.
Try those three described above. When you find yourself close /if not perfectly set/, you can go on and correct the atmosphere you are painting in. I do that with my air conditioner. It dries the air. And the moist is one of our worst enemies.
If its moist, water can be accumulated along the hose and cause some splatters over the perfect line you just drawn. Filters and moisture traps DOES NOT always help. Trust me. And the best thing you can do is evaluate the area you are working at.
One of the places are work is seaside, the other is mountain range. When close by the sea, be very careful especially winters. Actually, not only sea but lakes, big rivers and so on. You can always feel the moist, even not accurately, at least you can guess.
So if you guess it is moist – start the conditioner for a while.
Too dry will make foggy lines, so have in mind that the opposite is bad too.
Once you set those things, you are ready to go.
Of course, surface is important, in means which primer you are using, if you are using any. But you will find that along the way once you start spraying that.
German WWII freehand camos are perfect for try-outs. Spots, lines, overlapping colors…whatever you might think of.
So I would suggest, get a cheap model, and work through all those said above with it. Not many hours, not many try-outs. Just follow these steps, and see what happens.
I can guess, at least half of your troubles will be forgotten in a week.
And then you will be spraying freehand with ease….