How to Paint my Airsoft Replica? [Part 2: Airbrush Step-by-Step Guide]
Welcome back to the previously mentioned step-by-step example of painting an airsoft replica with an airbrush freehand method. If you skipped Part 1 where we discuss alternative methods and equipment, here’s a link so you can catch up with the material if you are interested.
Our subject today is the G36 with a short barrel and folding stock including 4 mags. I have decided to go for something a little bit abstract rather than a standard camouflage. Thus I have chosen these colors: black,grey and white contrasts. In case you’re wondering why, I plan to use this replica for CQB and night games and wanted to stand out from the crowd!
- H&S Infinity Airbrush (Buy at harder-airbrush.eu)
- Masking Tape (Follow the links to buy the remaining products on Amazon)
- Vallejo Spray Acrylic Primer
- Tamiya German Grey (First Layer)
- Tamiya Ocean Grey (Second Layer)
- Tamiya Flat White (Third Layer)
The ‘Flat White’ is the final touch of paint job and will be mainly utilised to provide contrast so the rest of the darker colors “pop”.
To assemble or to disassemble?
There are two ways to go about painting your replica; you can either take it apart or not. Certain replicas, such as a VSR-10 sniper rifle, will be much easier to paint when disassembled; especially when trying to produce really specific and precise effect.
However, I decided the G36 and my camo idea was not the case; if you do decide to take your AEG apart, make sure that no internal parts are actually painted in the process nor are in the vicinity of the painting!
Personally, I paint my RIFs assembled. Airsoft replicas are fine machined and an excess of paint won’t help the parts get back together and also you risk getting paint on your AEG’s vitals if not careful.
Make sure to cover any parts that you don’t want the paint to get on with masking tape. This is particularly important with optics and spaces where the paint could get through to the internals of the replica.
Prime your replica with a Vallejo Spray Acrylic Primer. This will help the paint stick to the replica well and prevent easy scraping of the paint.
However, this particular replica has been painted before thus I worried about the thickness of the paint, but thanks to the use of an airbrush, I was able to get good paint coverage without using an excess of paint!
Prepare your equipment and workspace
Make sure to add airbrush Flow Improver to the paint as this will make the paint flow better and not clog up your airbrush. This ensures precise performance of the tool and stops any blockage from dry paint.
Also, in preparation for the job, you will need to ensure an adequate space to paint your replica in; about a square meter of table would be a minimum.
Quick tip – Remember to only paint in a room (or outdoor) with good ventilation. Even though the paints are acrylic, they dry almost immediately in the air and subsequently spread tiny dry particles everywhere in the first few seconds of flying between an airbrush and their destination.
You should clean your airbrush after every use, so as mentioned previously in Part 1, a highly toxic airbrush cleaner is employed which will also find its place in those tiny particles. You don’t want that entering your eyes, nostrils or mouth; open your windows people!
First Layer (‘German Grey’)
I recommend to paint one side, let it dry (approx. 20 minutes), then paint the other side so you don’t have to grab the gun and turn it, possibly disturbing the fresh paint. Although it’s a little more time consuming, it will allow you to cover the RIF with precision and consistency.
A good alternative is to paint the lines whilst standing the RIF on its bi-pod. In absence of a bi-pod, you could use a wooden block.
When doing the lines on the camo pattern, I don’t follow a specific pattern while using an airbrush. You can also use other techniques (which I will cover in future articles/videos) to achieve this effect. As you see above, I went for relatively thin, grey lines to create basic camo. I try to stay consistent so the entire replica, and the mags follow a similar pattern.
Whilst the first layer is drying, why not paint the mags too to keep the same color choice and save both paint and time. In this particular case, I painted two mid cap and two high cap mags.
Remember you don’t need to paint the entire mag; painting the part that sticks out of the rifle will suffice.
I decided to paint in lines to get a mix of smoke-like and “deformative” effect. As mentioned previously, I use this replica for night games and indoor CQB so I’m not worried about realism; I want it to stand out from the general crowd.
Second Layer (‘Ocean Grey’)
Once the first layer was complete and dry after approx. 20 mins, I moved on to painting the next set of lines. There is a choice to be made when adding another layer of camo; whether you want to follow the original pattern; ignore it; or somewhat follow and highlight some of the original, darker tones with lighter ones so the paint job becomes more vivid.
I also use even thinner lines now. This highlights the darker color and helps with the contrast as the whole thing was pretty dark to begin with.
Third and Final Layer (‘Flat White’)
It’s time for the showstopper, the final layer – white accents. Airbrush paints should be strongly thinned to provide good flow, however, this means they can somewhat get affected by the underlying colors; for example, black primer paints make following layers slightly darker. White can also be affected thus it becomes a very bright grey by the end of the process.
If you want to get a strong, clear, white color whenever you paint with an airbrush on a black background, I suggest doing a second layer of the white once the first one dries.
To achieve the below effect, I painted the thin white lines subtly following the light grey lines and criss-crossing at random places. Make sure to follow the same pattern on you magazines!
Part 3 of this series will cover all the essentials on how to create an effect of battle damage and weathering to make your replicas look absolutely epic! Subscribe to our email newsletter to find out when it’s released!
Once the paint is fully dry, the final step is to seal it against weather and other potential damages with Humbrol Acrylic. This helps to protect your replica’s paint from tear and wear during heavy use in games.
Obviously, if you throw your replica at a pile of bricks, rocks, or scratch it against a prickly wall, it will get damaged. However, that’s not necessarily a bad thing! You want it to look worn and bad ass, right?
There are many products of similar quality to the listed varnish but I personally recommend this from previous experience as it is perfectly transparent and won’t ‘fog’ the paint job whilst it also doesn’t make the paint glow or be super matte.
Thank you for reading and hopefully this has helped you gather enough information to feel confident about painting your own replica. There are more guides on the way written by the one and only Adam Rzymowski which will cover more realistic camos and alternative methods of painting along the way.
If you are interested in a specific camo and would rather have Adam do the job for you, here is his email where you can inquire about his services – email@example.com