I am not an artist.
I have practically no artistic ability, and I can’t paint to save my life. If you asked me to draw a scenic landscape, it would probably end up being a bunch of little stick men with rifles blowing each other up… similar to what I might have produced in the 4th grade. It may come as a surprise to you then that I own an airbrush, and that I use it all the time. I love the thing.
You see, I have always been into painting new bodies for my cars and trucks. I don’t do any freehand artistry or anything like that, and I’m not even very good at cutting masks. My paint schemes tend to involve basic designs and straight lines, and for me that’s good enough. Painting a new body is a quick and satisfying way of breathing new life into a tired old ride, particularly when you replicate a drool-worthy real-life vehicle that’s a bit out of your price range.
Historically I have always used rattle cans to paint my car bodies – with varying levels of success. There are good things and bad things about rattle cans, as well as polycarbonate paint in general. On the plus side, cans are completely self-contained, inexpensive, require no additional equipment to operate, and are capable of producing very good results with a little practice. On the down side, rattle cans are stinky, messy, prone to clogging, murder on your spray nozzle finger, and extremely unforgiving. If you get paint somewhere you don’t want it, you’re pretty much stuck living with it. This holds true to the inevitable overspray that catches the breeze and, for example, turns some of your wife’s most cherished potted plants a nice fluorescent orange. Try explaining yourself out of that one.
I finally decided to get a good quality airbrush setup a couple of years ago and I have never looked back. The initial cost is a bit steep (a few hundred bucks), especially if you don’t already have an air compressor. Once you get all your paints and other supplies you need, however, the ongoing cost of using an airbrush is fairly cheap. If you use water-based paint (and I highly recommend that you do) such as Faskolor/Createx, airbrushes are also remarkably forgiving. Drips, leaky mask jobs, and other screw-ups are easily mended with a cotton swab dipped in a mild cleaning solution, and cleanup is accomplished with warm water. Overspray is minimized because you can adjust the pressure you are using to spray the paint, and your trigger finger will thank you by not cramping up and threatening to fall off of the end of your arm. You also have the flexibility to mix your own colors, and leftover paint can easily be saved and re-used instead of thrown in the trash.
All-in-all, if you already own a compressor and you paint more than a couple car or truck bodies a year, it’s totally worth it to get yourself an airbrush. The ease of use and cleanup alone are worth the price of admission, and if you have any artistic talent you’ll have a lot more freedom to create with the proper tools.