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Advice on paint guns

Old 05-14-2011, 08:41 AM
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LGM Graphix
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Default Advice on paint guns

Hey guys, must be that time of year where lots of people are getting ready to paint jets, so rather than keep repeating myself in PM's, I thought I'd just make a post about paint guns, what is most useful to us for models and the different types of paint etc.

So, to get started.....

First and foremost, I will talk about the harbor freight / princess auto type of guns, please don't try to convince me how wonderful they are, I will get into that further below.

1. The first thing I recommend is to have 2 paint guns, one for primer and one for paint. 3 guns is actually nicer, one for primer, one for paint, and one for clear, but this isn't really necessary nor do many people want to invest in 3 guns.

2. Brand names are only important in that certain brands are far easier to get parts for in the event that you need something, be it a new needle, a color cup, needle packing, or whatever, eventually, you will need parts.

3. The type of finish you want will actually dictate somewhat the type of gun you have. Example, if you are only wanting to do scale flat finishes, or even some of the glossy finishes with solid colors, some of the cheaper guns are fine. If you want to do sport jobs with metallic or pearl paint, don't cheap out on the gun, you'll have problems with striping and spotting. (more on that later).

4. The type of paint you spray will also dictate what you need for a gun. If you are one of the fortunate (or unfortunate) souls that now has to deal with waterborne paint you need to make sure you buy a waterborne compliant gun, this means no unplated steel (only really found in cheap guns) or unplated aluminum parts. Make sure if you are spraying waterborne that the internal components are of the correct materials for waterborne paint (stainless needle's and nozzles, plastic rings, etc). Color cups must be plastic for waterborne, not aluminum.

So lets look at different guns.......

Airbrushes:

Airbrushes are a vital tool for doing weathering, fine detail work, or maybe painting very small parts. I'm not going to talk much about them here, because as an overall tool for painting a model, they are useless, you can do it, but it will take forever and yield mediocre results at best. If you want a write up on airbrushes let me know and I'll do another one when I have some more time.

Miniguns:

If you can only buy one paint gun, or perhaps you don't have a large enough compressor to really keep up with a full size gun, then the Mini guns are a must. The absolute best Mini gun on the market is the Sata Minijet series guns. They are on the spendy side, usually around $200 to $300 depending on where you find them. This gun will give you good coverage, with a 0.8 tip it is efficient with paint, and will give you a good tight edge for camo lines if you want to freehand with a soft edge. Tip sizes are available from 0.8 to 1.4. For general use with this particular gun I recommend on the smaller side, 0.8 is what I typically use with this gun. For clear, a 1.2 or larger is preferred. I don't recommend shooting primer with this gun if it can be avoided, but if you are going to shoot primer, use at least a 1.3 tip or you will have to heavily reduce your primers which kind of negates the use of primer anyway.
The only downside I've seen with the Minijet, is if you are using a smaller tip (like the 0.8), it is more of a challenge to spray a flat clear finish, but as mentioned above, for clear, I would recommend a 1.2 or 1.3.
If you are looking to do solid color finishes, sport finishes, etc, then I would just use a 1.2 tip overall for your color coats and clear coats.

Full size spray guns:

Our models are getting quite large, owning a full size gun for painting is not a bad idea these days. Benefits over something like the minijet....
- easier coverage, particularly when spraying metallics or pearls.
- better flow when spraying clears, especially gloss clears.
- Faster to spray, this may seem like a moot point when it's our hobby, but in fact, being able to get around an airplane (or any object) quickly is important, especially again with metallics, pearls, and clears. If your gun is to small to get around quickly, you will run into dry spray, in otherwords, your paint will be to dry in area's when you spray back over them to have the paint flow into itself, this will leave you with an ugly rough or heavily orange peeled look.


As with the mini guns, you can purchase a wide array of tip sizes for good guns. I generally use a 1.3 tip for almost all of my paint work except for fine metallics, then I go to a slightly smaller tip, 1.2 usually. The disadvantage to the big guns is that you need a larger compressor to keep up the air supply, if you are painting small items, you will waste a significant amount of product as the spray pattern even at the smallest pattern setting will still be much larger than a mini gun.
I mentioned above how a benefit over a mini gun is better flow to the paint, well, this can also work against you if you lack experience painting (particularly on odd shaped items like our jet fuselages) in that you can quickly apply to much paint and end up with some pretty bad runs. This comes down to experience however and is not a negative on the type of gun, like anything, it takes practice to become proficient at painting.

So why do I not recommend the cheap guns like Harbor freight?
1. Parts availability, if you need a part, you will probably have to simply buy another gun. While some of the guns have a "parts list", almost nobody stocks parts for the cheap guns, beyond that, the QC of these guns is horrible, a new part, even when listed for that particular gun, may not fit correctly, if a nozzle doesn't seat correctly, or the needle doesn't seat the nozzle correctly, you will have problems with spray patterns, spotting etc.

2. Poor spray ability. If you have never used a good spray gun, you're probably happy just to have anything that will splatter paint onto your model. However, to get nice even coverage, you want a gun that will atomize the paint correctly from the edges of the spray pattern through the center. This means having a gun that you can control your airflow, paint flow, and fan pattern. A cheap spray gun gives you what it gives you. You will end up with stripes, spots, dry spray, runs, all sorts of issues.
Here are some pictures of what you want to see and what you don't want to see.

A. Here is a spray pattern that is concentrating the paint to heavily in the center of the fan, this will give you a heavy spray over a narrow area with a very dry edge, this type of spraying would mean your overlaps have to be very tight, but even at spraying very tight, you will still have an inconsistent paint job. Typically this is from to much paint, and not enough air flow or a "rich" mixture.


B. Here is the opposite problem, the center of the spray pattern is dry, while the edges are heavy, this means you will be trying to always fill in a space, meanwhile, your constant overlapping of the heavy sprayed edges means you will be building up to much in those area's. This is usually to much air, and not enough paint or a "lean" mixture.


C. This picture shows a nice even fan pattern indicating the proper paint / air mixture, this pattern will give you consistent overlaps, consistent coverage, and a nice even paint job.


3. Poor construction and materials. Many of the inexpensive guns are cast bodies, I've even seen some that were cast nozzles! Casting is ok as long as proper machining and plating is employed on the guns. However, I have seen cheap guns that have no machining or plating done in the paint chamber. This will contaminate your paint, create poor air and paint flow, and give generally poor paint jobs. I purchased a cheap gun years ago simply to spray an anti static product onto surfaces and was getting fish eyes in my paint jobs like crazy. I finally sprayed the anti static spray through a good gun and no more problems. What I found, was in the cheap gun, there was some sort of oily residue that remained no matter how well I cleaned the gun. I suspect it was coming out of the castings. No amount of cleaning would stop it.


Good guns:
There are certain names that you just can't really go wrong with. My personal preference is Sata guns. They are absolute top quality, no BS guns. They have every adjustment you could need, spray consistently all the time, and parts availability is easy. Next on the list would be Iwata, same as the Sata's, there is no discernable difference in build quality, or spray quality, it just comes down to feel, I personally like the feel of the Sata better. Other good manufactures are Devilbiss, Tekna, Astro Pneumatic etc.
Whatever gun you are buying, talk to your dealer (and yes, I recommend going to a body shop supply to buy a gun, one that supports the products they carry) about your needs, talk about the paint you will be spraying, talk about product support and make your decision based on that. Buying a good gun will make your life much easier in painting. Buying a poor gun will give you headaches like crazy. Some of the cheap guns (like the one I talked about that I purchased for the anti static spray) aren't even easy to clean! That thing was nearly impossible to clean all the ports properly as parts of the gun were riveted together so you couldn't even disassemble it to clean it). Speaking of headaches, when you're buying your gun, buy a good paint mask as well, I really like the 3M carbon filter masks.

Other important accessories:
1. Pressure regulator - even if your gun has an airflow adjustment on the gun, it's a good idea to have a pressure regulator on the inlet port of your gun so that you KNOW what pressure you have at the gun. The pressure on your compressor regulator will not be what you are getting at the gun. If your gun is designed to spray at 29psi, set the regulator on your gun to 29psi and then use the airflow adjustment to fine tune your pattern. The airflow adjustment will be worthless if you have to little or to much pressure coming into the gun.


2. Water traps - moisture in your air lines will cause you many problems, from fish eyes, to spattering, to clumps of crap coming out of your gun (water will make most solvent based paints clump up to some extent). Even a paint job that looks perfect will eventually suffer from small bubbles in the paint as time goes on and the moisture tries to find it's way out.


3. Final filter - disposable final filters on your gun will help to catch any particles that might come through your air line, it helps reduce moisture content, but is not a water trap, don't use it alone. Devilbiss makes one called a whirlwind, they are inexpensive and they do make a difference.



I hope that this is of some help to you, have fun with painting, it's not rocket science, but it does take practice!

Happy spraying!
Old 05-14-2011, 08:59 AM
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AngusMc
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Default RE: Advice on paint guns

Thanks Jeremy, I think you answered my question

AM
Old 05-14-2011, 11:38 AM
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readyturn
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Default RE: Advice on paint guns

You put a lot of effort into this, really appreciated.

Thank you
Rick
Old 05-14-2011, 11:43 AM
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Kometfreak
 
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Default RE: Advice on paint guns

Thank you for posting and sharing.

Do you have a favorite gun cleaning solution that won't strip off the plating/anodize? No water base paint in my neighborhood yet.


Roy
Old 05-14-2011, 11:58 AM
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AmishWarlord
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Default RE: Advice on paint guns

Great post, thanks!
Old 05-14-2011, 12:00 PM
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sailing1
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Default RE: Advice on paint guns

Thanks!

What a great write up. First off, someone who has the talent that Jeremy has and is willing to share his experience is rare. We here on RCU are lucky to have members who will take their time to help us with complicated subjects such as painting. And make no mistake, doing this task correctly is an art. Jeremy is obviously an expert (I have only seen his work in pictures but those pictures are something to see) and it is rare to find experts that are willing to share. Thanks Jeremy
Old 05-14-2011, 05:56 PM
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sskianpour
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Default RE: Advice on paint guns

+1
Thanks Jeremy!

Shaz

ORIGINAL: sailing1

Thanks!

What a great write up. First off, someone who has the talent that Jeremy has and is willing to share his experience is rare. We here on RCU are lucky to have members who will take their time to help us with complicated subjects such as painting. And make no mistake, doing this task correctly is an art. Jeremy is obviously an expert (I have only seen his work in pictures but those pictures are something to see) and it is rare to find experts that are willing to share. Thanks Jeremy
Old 05-14-2011, 06:06 PM
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jzuniga
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Default RE: Advice on paint guns

Good post Jeremy! Now if I could only paint worth a @%^$!!! ...hehe;-)

Z
Old 05-14-2011, 07:50 PM
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GSR
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Default RE: Advice on paint guns

Thanks J!!!
Old 05-14-2011, 08:27 PM
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Default RE: Advice on paint guns

[quote]ORIGINAL: sskianpour

+1
Thanks Jeremy!

Shaz



+2
A great effort, and the photos of the spray pattern are priceless!
THANKS!
Greg
Old 05-15-2011, 05:00 AM
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basimpsn
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Default RE: Advice on paint guns

I'm jealous [&o], If only I could stop touching the paint just after painting
Old 05-15-2011, 10:35 AM
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LGM Graphix
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Default RE: Advice on paint guns

Glad the thread is helpful to you guys
As for a gun cleaner, I just use a regular old solvent gun wash. On a good gun the plating and anodizing should never come off because of your solvent. All my guns even with thousands of gallons through them still look new. Good quality gun wash is important though to avoid contamination. I had a batch years ago brought to me by mistake and it was a reclaimed low quality gun wash, gave me all kinds of contamination issues.


ORIGINAL: Kometfreak

Thank you for posting and sharing.

Do you have a favorite gun cleaning solution that won't strip off the plating/anodize? No water base paint in my neighborhood yet.


Roy
Old 05-15-2011, 10:36 AM
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LGM Graphix
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ORIGINAL: basimpsn

I'm jealous [&o], If only I could stop touching the paint just after painting

Lol, my problem is licking it!
Old 05-15-2011, 04:14 PM
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Lol, my problem is licking it!
[X(]
Old 05-15-2011, 11:46 PM
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Default RE: Advice on paint guns

Thanks very much Jeremy, Good information which is not readily available.

I enjoy painting models, but don't do it often enough to get good at it. I have learned that there is no real substitute for experience, so your tips are invaluable.

One thing I have learned, thanks to you, is I thin paint exactly as the manufacturer recommends. I used to over reduce paint, and this gave good slick results, but I was always battling with runs and needing several coats, which picked up more dust. (And dust is always an issue). Reducing the paint correctly allows me to get a colour coat on in two coats, with no runs, even on a vertical surface.

This is my Super Bandit which I am using a base/clear coat system for the first time. Easy to apply. Wings painted and clear coated. Fuse is currently being based coated.

A tip from me, build a fuse stand that you can rotate the model on. This makes life much easier.

Roger
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Old 05-16-2011, 11:04 AM
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Default RE: Advice on paint guns

Hi

Thanks for the tips. Very helpfull.

I am about to paint a Skymaster big Hawk and one of my concerns is to buy a good HVLP gun. This is very helpfull.

Since I don't want the rivets and panel lines to disapear with the clear coat, I was planning to reduce it. Is there any solution to make a thin coat to avoid this beside reducing?

Best regards

Nuno
Old 05-17-2011, 07:53 AM
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Default RE: Advice on paint guns

Jeremy,
Regarding airbrushes, you said, "...as an overall tool for painting a model, they are useless..." Given that, I just bought a Paasche airbrush with the intent of using it to touch up some areas, first being the underside wingtips of my UF. I will be painting areas of about 4-8 square inches. Is that too big of an area to use the airbrush? I'll be spraying the CARF touchup paint with urethane reducer.
Thanks for the great post on painting - it's always been a bit of a mystery to me.
Regards,
Gus
Old 05-17-2011, 12:13 PM
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jescardin
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Default RE: Advice on paint guns

Congrats for the excellent tutorial on paint guns!.

Best Regards,

Jesus Cardin
Old 05-17-2011, 03:08 PM
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Eddie P
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Default RE: Advice on paint guns

I have always looked forward to paint and finish on a model. I enjoyed your write-up! My problem is I always have sticker shock on the equipment. But it's true, mediocre tools mean you have to be four times as good to get decent results - I am not four times as good as a good painter, so I should probably upgrade my cheap Harbor Freight HVLP water based polyurethane paint air brushes before I start on my next project!!
Old 07-13-2011, 01:00 PM
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Default RE: Advice on paint guns

What prices have you guys found on the Sata Minijet? So far $365 is the best I've found. I like Jeremy's estimate of $200 - $300 better.
Old 07-13-2011, 02:30 PM
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Default RE: Advice on paint guns


ORIGINAL: furloughed ual

What prices have you guys found on the Sata Minijet? So far $365 is the best I've found. I like Jeremy's estimate of $200 - $300 better.
Sent you a pm. If you don't get it, let me know. My RCU doesn't seem to be very happy today.
Old 07-13-2011, 03:28 PM
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Default RE: Advice on paint guns

good stuff Jeremy

thanks for the effort, one of these days I'm going to step up to the plate and put away my krylon cans.

cheers
Old 07-13-2011, 09:00 PM
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Default RE: Advice on paint guns

Jeremy,
Great post! I bought a 'Minijet 4' several years ago and I am SO glad I did.

What's your opinion of the Sharpe Finex series guns.
I also have a Finex 100 detail gun. This is a very reasonable priced gun for the performance it offers. In my opinion, I feel that this gun is definately worth looking at if someone didnt want to buy a Mercedes but still wanted a great gun. At just over $100, I'd say it's like buying a Toyota Camry over a Ford Fiesta

Would you please add your thoughts on this?

Thanks and again, great post.

Les
Old 06-27-2021, 04:54 PM
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Jeremy,

Will disposable cups work with the guns you mention? Just thinking about the least amount of cleaning.

Thanks

Scott
Old 06-27-2021, 06:22 PM
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LGM Graphix
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Hi Scott
yes most manufactures make disposable cups but the cup is easy to clean compared to the gun itself. The fps system cups get expensive in a short time.

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