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Airbrushing Humbrol and Enamels

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Ron Laden27/01/2021 09:22:16
2134 forum posts
429 photos

Morning Guys,

I have done a reasonable amount of airbrushing over the years but I have only ever used water based paint.

I have some painting to do on the loco and will be using Humbrol and other makes of enamel and wondered if the enamel thinners recommended for Humbrol and others for both paint thinning and airbrush cleaning are safe with the O rings and seals in the brush.

I know a lot of people airbrush enamels so I guess the thinners is safe for the seals but thought I would check in case people use a particular type and avoid others.



Clive Brown 127/01/2021 09:47:04
614 forum posts
23 photos

Over the years I've sprayed quite a lot of Humbrol enamel thinned with white spirit using mainly a Badger 250 and, a lesser amount, with a DeVilbiss air brush. Also cleaned these tools with white spirit. No problems have shown up.

Neil Wyatt27/01/2021 10:17:59
18504 forum posts
720 photos
78 articles

As a teenager I used white spirit to thin them for spraying, but I understand the 'proper' thinners works better and gives faster drying too.


Ramon Wilson27/01/2021 10:57:33
1051 forum posts
205 photos

Hi Ron, when plastic modelling I use airbrushes a lot but using mainly acrylics. I do spray Humbrol on bases however but of course this is not a high finish. I use Humbrol thinners and sometimes cellulose thinners which works quite well but would not recommend the latter in your case. I have a large Revell submarine in my workshop that was painted using White Ensign Miniatures enamel, very similar to Humbrol the paint thinned entirely with cellulose but a matt finish of course

The one thing is that all my airbrushes get cleaned using cellulose thinner and I have not had any issues with seals but o rings will swell in cellulose - I'm not so sure about white spirit.

Spraying with white spirit is nowhere as easy as with a cellulose based product - and particularly so if the paint is a gloss finish - it is very easy to get it too wet and runs to occur so do practice on something that doesn't matter first.

Hope that helps - Tug

Nick Clarke 327/01/2021 11:01:56
1095 forum posts
42 photos

As far as using cellulose thinners goes - they are fine for thinning paint for spraying, however do not soak in cellulose thinners to clean a spraygun or airbrush out as the o rings can swell and become sticky.

Bazyle27/01/2021 13:34:46
5788 forum posts
216 photos

I used white spirit at about 30-40% as I find 50% is definately too thin. It may be less needed now as they are bound to have obeyed the accountants by using less pgments and binder.for quite a few years. I find celullose evaporates so fast it is easier to dry in the air if you are not close to the work. I think that might be the effect called 'orange peel' or is that when it wrinkles. Gosh I think it might be a decade since I used Humbrol, it sure is a price now.

Richard S227/01/2021 14:01:01
195 forum posts
108 photos
Posted by Ron Laden on 27/01/2021 09:22:16:

I know a lot of people airbrush enamels so I guess the thinners is safe for the seals but thought I would check in case people use a particular type and avoid others.



Hello Ron, Not knowing the brand of airbrush you have, I can only advise that my 45 year old Badger 200 has sprayed many a car/van panel mural using cellulose. Also models using Humbrol enamels. Always used cellulose to clean afterwards. Still has the original seals in the Airbrush.

Some enamel paint manufacturers provide fast drying spraying thinners for enamels the ingredient that accelerates the drying process is nearly always xylene. I have a preference for the faster drying thinners with enamels.

The important point is that if doing larger areas, the airbrush needle/nozzle size is correct for the amount of paint you need to lay on. So if you have a low feed rate needle and narrow fan area, a slower drying thinner would be preferable.

Stuart Bridger27/01/2021 14:22:35
512 forum posts
29 photos

I have done a bit of airbrushing with Humbrol and use their genuine thinners. Seems short sighted to risk the finish of your model for the small cost of the correct product.

Dave S27/01/2021 15:12:07
84 forum posts

Ive only ever used enamel thinners when spraying enamels.

My Tamiya Sprayworks Airbrush must be approaching 30 years old now and I've never had an issue with the seals or O Rings.


Fowlers Fury27/01/2021 15:56:34
362 forum posts
82 photos

Please ensure if you are spraying white spirits or indeed any other proprietary enamel solvent* (petroleum distillate) that you avoid inhalation of the droplets or vapour. Although the quantities used and released from airbrushing are small, the health hazards are potentially significant, even under 100 parts per million in air. Detailed information is summarised here:-

Check -

*At least read the manufacturer's MSDS online.

An ordinary fabric face mask will provide no protection.
Then there is also the fire/explosion risk from the vapour. White spirit forms explosive air-vapour mixtures above 21°C.

Using a little white spirit on a rag to clean a small surface constitutes a minimal risk to health but spraying the complex petroleum mixture should really take place in a booth or outside.

Of course there will be many claiming "a working lifetime of exposure to white spirit never did me any harm". Unfortunately, CNS effects following long-term solvent exposure are well known.

Ron Laden28/01/2021 09:19:54
2134 forum posts
429 photos

Thanks guys for your advice I have both white spirit and cellulose thinners so will do a few mixes and tests and see how I get on before I paint the loco.

I also have some Isopropyl 99% alcohol does that have any uses in air brushing I guess I am thinking more for cleaning than paint thinning.


Edited By Ron Laden on 28/01/2021 09:25:50

the artfull-codger28/01/2021 15:50:08
262 forum posts

.I do quite a lot of spraying,mainly plaques & signs & also models & use a paasche typeH external mix airbrush,the beauty of it is that it has no seals to damage or really fine jets to clog as the paint is externaly mixed & I always clean it out straight away with celly thinners,I rarely use humbrol now as I was told it's no good for external use not sure if that's true,I use smith & allen vehicle enamel [don't live far from them ] it's about £16 per litre & always thin with celly thinners,of course for a model you probably wouldn't need that much but humbrol is about £140.oo a litre!!.

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