miniature spray guns

Miniature Spray Guns for Scale Modeling

Consider that the surface finish of a scale model should be consistent with the scale of the model; so for our small scale models, this ultimately means that the finish needs to be absolutely as smooth and tight as possible while preserving the maximum amount of sharp detail.  A grainy rough texture looks out of scale and softens or obliterates detail.  Layering on floor polish to fill in the grain only fills in and softens details further, leading many modelers to paint on washes to artificially bring back some semblance of definition.

I’ve created several Youtube videos detailing how to achieve the smoothest possible finish on a scale model.  The key component is a proper sized air painting tool.  A typical small airbrush simply isn’t designed for producing a sufficiently large enough spray pattern to successfully apply a smooth, consistent overall finish to a model of any significant size.  This principle isn’t much different than if you’re using a paint brush.  You wouldn’t even think of painting an entire model airplane with a tiny brush that was designed for painting small details, and by the same token you shouldn’t spray the same model with an airbrush that was designed for fine graphics work spraying transparent colors.  Likewise, why would you want to base your entire finish on the uncontrolled results of a spray can?  Which is what many modelers do because their small airbrush is unsuitable for applying an even base coat of material.

The spray painting tools that are best suited to this task have been around for quite awhile.  Unfortunately, due to the necessary skills and additional air supply, these tools are more commonly used by professionals.  From a majority of what I read on the forum boards, high quality miniature spray guns and large pattern airbrushes are extremely misunderstood.  The confusion is rampant and usually led by individuals that have little to no experience with these tools yet they freely offer their opinions.  The problem for the modeler seeking a knowledgeable answer is that they have no way to distinguish just how misguided the majority of the comments are.

With over half a century of experience of air-painting scale models, much of it with miniature guns, I wanted to present as much material as possible to modelers who are interested in expanding their capabilities without having to sort through the smokescreen of misinformation.  I’ve created these videos to help explain why miniature spray guns are the best solution to the smoothest surface finish possible

In addition, I have created a listing of all the Iwata miniature spray guns that I feel are the best choice for model making .. along with a short video about each gun.   I hope this will fill in the blanks and allow anyone wanting to purchase a quality miniature spray gun enough information to make a better decision on which gun will best meet their modeling needs.
Miniature Spray Guns and Large Pattern Airbrushes

This video is an overview of options for airbrushes or miniature spray guns that will extend your capability to produce an ultra smooth finish over a larger area such as 1/48 scale jets, bombers, model cars, or 1/350 and larger ships.  A good quality miniature spray gun can deliver extremely well atomized material to the surface with a minimum of overspray so that the resulting finish will exceed anything that can be achieved with a small airbrush.

Tips for Painting Scale Models with a Miniature Spray Gun

This video is a step-by-step on how to use a miniature spray gun and answers some of the more common questions that modelers have about their use.  It also explains the three different types of miniature spray guns and demonstrates their versatility in painting scale models.

Fan Pattern Facts

A miniature spray gun with a fan pattern is the best way to apply an even coat of material over a broad area.  Even material thickness is important for color consistency and surface finish, especially when working with transparent or candy colors, metallic’s, as well as clear coats.  Because the fan spray is adjustable, a quality miniature spray gun is engineered to produce a wide pattern with a minimum of overspray.

Fog, Overspray, and Bounceback

This short video ties together several concepts and common issues that prevent modelers from achieving the smoothest possible scale surface finish.

How to Apply the Smoothest Primer Coat

Because the final finish of a model can only be as smooth as what is underneath the paint, a proper primer coat is essential.  So many modelers seem to struggle with achieving smooth coats of primer with an airbrush...and many just give up and turn to an aerosol can.  In reality, with the proper airbrush and technique, you should easily be able to surpass the results from an aerosol can and in turn provide a much better surface for the subsequent color coats.  This video explains how to achieve that result.

Iwata LPH 80

This video explains the unique features of the Iwata LPH 80 and how to set it up. The LPH 80 uses HVLP technology to reduce overspray, fog, and bounceback, ultimately delivering the smoothest surface finish possible.

Iwata RG3 Operation
This video explains the unique features of the Iwata RG-3 and how to set it up.  The RG-3 provides superior atomization over a larger area with more robust mechanical reliability than airbrush conversions.  The magic of the RG-3 is in the head design that features a large pattern needle and nozzle geometry with an adjustable aircap.  Unlike any other airbrush, the aircap can be fine tuned for air flow to maximize atomization and minimize overspray while taking advantage of the large pattern needle and nozzle.

Iwata Miniature Spray Guns

This is a list the Iwata mini spray guns that I feel are most useful to model making.  Iwata has the largest line of high quality miniature spray guns that consistently produce the smoothest of surface finishes.  The smaller spray guns are most applicable to small static scale modeling while the larger guns will prove more useful to builders of larger models such as RC airplanes or ships.  However, when looking at these numbers, keep in mind that these guns are fully adjustable, so you can always reduce the material flow and pattern size of a larger gun, but you can’t exceed a guns maximum material handling capability or pattern size.  Typically you want to choose the needle and nozzle size based on the material that you will be spraying.  Since you will be using the gun for painting base color coats and primer, you want a sufficiently large nozzle.  I usually find .60 to 1mm most useful.  This is not a complete list of Iwata spray guns, for a complete list of the entire Iwata line of spray guns you should consult the Iwata website.

Iwata RG3L
Iwata RG-3L
Model Nozzle Size Pattern Width (in.) PSI CFM
RG3L-2 0.6 1.4 36 1.1
RG3L-3 1.0 1.4 36 1.8

The RG-3 miniature, gravity/side-feed, airbrush/spray gun, is the updated version of the RG-2 with the same spray pattern. The major difference is the integrated cartridge-style “air-valve” set. The air-valve set can be removed like a cartridge, serviced outside the gun and easily placed back into the gun body, making it more reliable and easier to maintain. The RG3L produces a precisely controlled well atomized round spray pattern. The side mounted gravity cup allows for a wide variety of spraying angles. The maximum spray pattern for the RG3L is about 2 1/2 inches. The low air consumption requirement makes it a good choice for modelers with limited air supply.  Unless you only build small models, I would suggest the 1mm set.

Iwata RG3L Parts Diagram
Iwata Eclipse G5
Iwata Eclipse G5
Model Nozzle Size Pattern Width (in.) PSI CFM
Eclipse G5 0.5 1/4 to 3 35 1.1

lthough it looks like a mini spray gun, the fine precise spray pattern delivered by the Eclipse G5 allows it to perform more like an airbrush. The straight forward design makes it very easy to use and because of the low air consumption, it is an excellent choice for modelers with limited air supply and build small models. The 0.5 mm nozzle and needle works well for all modeling paints but it would not be my choice for primers. The airbrush-like atomization of the G5 produces a smooth surface finish with the versatility of a fully adjustable fan pattern.

Iwata Eclipse G5 Manual
Iwata Eclipse G6
Iwata Eclipse G6
Model Nozzle Size Pattern Width (in.) PSI CFM
Eclipse G6 0.6 1/8 to 2.5 35 1.1

The Eclipse G6 is a unique airbrush. The Eclipse G6 airbrush looks like a miniature spray gun, but sprays and performs like a large airbrush with its 0.6-mm stainless-steel nozzle. It is equipped with a long tapered needle that ensures a smooth transition between fine and wide spray patterns. It utilizes a dual-purpose air cap and a fan adjustment valve that lets the airbrush spray a round or oval pattern. The low air consumption requirement makes it a good choice for modelers with limited air supply. From my experience, the G6 delivers the best atomized spray of all the Iwata mini spray guns. Small wonder it is a favorite among spray tan professionals.  I would not recommend this gun for typical primer application.

Iwata Eclipse G6 Manual
Iwata LPH50
Iwata LPH50
Model Nozzle Size Pattern Width (in.) PSI CFM
LPH50-062G 0.6 2.4 13 1.8
LPH50-102G 1.0 3.9 13 1.8

The LPH50 is a fully adjustable mini HVLP spray gun. It uses the same integrated cartridge-style “air-valve” set as the RG3. The air-valve set can be removed like a cartridge, serviced outside the gun and easily placed back into the gun body, making it more reliable and easier to maintain. The LPH50 also uses the same swivel side cup as the RG3.  It shares the same head parts as the LPH80.

Iwata LPH50 Parts Diagram
Iwata LPH80
Iwata LPH 80
Model Nozzle Size Pattern Width (in.) PSI CFM
LPH80-062G 0.6 2.4 13 1.8
LPH80-082G 0.8 3.2 13 1.8
LPH80-102G 1.0 3.9 13 1.8
Wide Pattern
Model Nozzle Size Pattern Width (in.) PSI CFM
LPH80-104G 1.0 5.1 14 2.1

The LPH80 is a fully adjustable, center post mini HVLP spray gun.  The LPH80 is offered in a large number of nozzle sizes as well as standard and wide pattern spray caps.  It uses an easy-to-service cartridge-style “air-valve” set, which can be serviced outside the gun and easily placed back into the gun body.  In my opinion, the LPH80 with 0.80 mm nozzle (LPH80-082G) is the best mini spray gun for typical scale modeling tasks. The only drawback for some modelers will be the increased demand for a good continuous airflow which is essential for proper performance for any HVLP gun.

Iwata LPH80 Parts Diagram
Iwata W101G
Iwata W101-101G
Model Nozzle Size Pattern Width (in.) PSI CFM
W101-101G 1.0 5.1 35 2.6

The Iwata W101G is a ¾ sized spray gun that I have found useful for really large models. So if you build large RC models, you might want to consider this gun.  While it is offered in a number of nozzle sizes, the only one that is practical for modeling is the 1 mm.  The W101G is not an HVLP gun, but it is designed to still deliver high transfer efficiency.  Air consumption is less than an HVLP gun of this nozzle size.  It uses the same side feed cup as the LPH50 and the larger size makes it more ergonomic than a mini spray gun.

Iwata W101G Parts Diagram
Additional Links
Airbrushing for Modelers 101