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Holding Parts for Airbrushing

By John Kerr

John Kerr shares some suggestions for using simple, inexpensive and commonly-available household items as tools to aid airbrushing


If you do a lot of airbrushing, regardless of whether you build aircraft, tanks, ships, cars etc, your main concerns before actually spraying major/minor part(s) OR a semi-completed/completed model probably include the following:

  1. "While spraying, how am I going to hold the part/kit without actually getting fingerprints all over it?"
  2. "Where am I going to place the part/kit when sprayed?" - again without holding or touching.

Those new to airbrushing (and maybe for those not-so-new) should consider these two simple questions when planning your next spray painting session. Here are a few suggestions using common kitchen and household items that may be used to hold small-to-medium sized parts for spraying and drying - without physically touching them.


H O U S E H O L D   A C C E S S O R  I E S    A S   A I R B R U S H   A I D S


Blu-Tak has many applications for airbrushing. These include holding parts, masking off interiors & complex shapes, defining soft-edged demarcation lines/curves etc.


Ice Cream Sticks

Naturally after you’ve eaten the ice cream, and washed and dried the stick! These are great for holding small to medium size parts. Place a lump of Blu-Tak towards the end of the stick and then firmly place the part on the Blu-Tak. In the case of long parts, e.g. flaps, you may need a couple of small lumps of blu-tak to hold the part firmly in place on the stick.



Yes clothes pegs! If you haven’t got ice cream sticks then use common pegs (again Blu-Tak part on).


Toothpicks & Medium/Large Bamboo Skewers

Very useful when spraying round shaped parts with holes in them (eg. wheels, spinners, spinner backing plates, bombs, fuel tanks, one-piece cowlings etc.). Use toothpicks for small items (eg. spinners, small bombs) and skewers for larger items (fuel tanks, one-piece cowlings etc.). If the toothpick or skewer point does not secure the part because the hole is too large, use a bit of Blu-Tak and/or masking tape to reinforce the attachment.

An added advantage of using a "stick" to hold a part is that you can hold the part up at various angles to the airbrush paint flow. This will ensure good overall paint coverage.

Now that you’ve sprayed the part attached to the toothpick or skewer, you now have to find a safe place to let it dry. Here’s what I do:

  • I Blu-Tak the toothpick/skewer to the side of my modelling table (for skewers -place the Blu-Tak about half way or just higher than halfway - remember gravity tends to make heavy ends tilt.
  • Next I tear off a strip of everyday masking tape and place it across where the toothpick/skewer is affixed to the table, this will ensure the toothpick/skewer does not move!
  • The part(s) can now be left to dry without coming into contact any surface.


P A I N T I N G   W H O L E   M O D E L S

OK so we’ve mainly talked about painting small parts. What about whole airframes, car bodies, tank bodies? There are a couple of options in the case of an aircraft airframe that is being painted in one overall colour:

  1. Paint in stages, i.e. first paint the lower surfaces, allow to dry and then paint the upper surfaces, or
  2. Paint the whole airframe in one session.

If you decide to paint the whole airframe at one sitting, how are you going to hold it? All external surfaces will be painted. Try filling the wheel wells with Blu-Tak, then firmly plug a piece of cut sprue, or something similar, about 3cms in length in each wheel well. This will allow you to spray the lower surfaces and then place the airframe on your makeshift stand to spray the upper surfaces. Please note there are numerous variations to using a makeshift stand - a lot depends on the shape of the aircraft, jet intakes/exhausts, where the wheel well are located and so on.

One other benefit to the household items I’ve described in this short article is that they are very cheap, thus saving your hard-earned bucks for new kit!

If you are new to airbrushing, you will become very adept at painting parts and whole models with time, practice and experimentation. Don’t be afraid to think laterally. If you think something will work then give it a try!


John Kerr
South Australian Plastic Modellers' Association (SAPMA)
Adelaide, South Australia

Article Text Copyright 1998 by John Kerr.
Page Created on 01 September, 1998.
Last updated 18 May, 2001.

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