August 28, 2012

Paasche's Turbo airbrush

Today I thought I would fire up the Turbo again. I had not used it for years, but the thing still spins and screams like a dentist's drill. Not an airbrush for beginners or for artists that forget how to adjust it after not using it for too long...

Paasche Turbo

At making delicate fine lines of varying color intensity it is unbeatable. Controlled spattering is also one of its fortes. Spraying larger surfaces is best done with other type of double action brushes. The Turbo allows the artist to adjust every facet of airbrushing separately, no compromises like with normal double action airbrushes. But at the same time the shipload of options makes it difficult to understand and handle.

I use a magnifying glass to set up the airbrush correctly, since a few microns out of range makes it behave differently. The air jet has to be aimed at the center of the needle that always has the same travel distance, but can be bent more or less by the needle tension knob. More tension means more paint per sequence that the needle passes the column of air ejected by the air jet. Less tension probably requires the paint cup to be adjusted towards the turbo house to avoid too little paint being picked up by the needle. And artists do not want to tilt the paint cup to angles (during the adjustment process) that will cause the paint to flow out of it in instances that they do not expect and can not predict.... On the other hand they do not want to tilt the cup too far backward to avoid the needle from running dry.

The above probably makes no sense at all to those who are not familiar with the Turbo's quirks and special requirements. And these are just a few of all possible adjustments one can make to the Paasche. The Turbo allows to, independently from each other, adjust the air pressure, the frequency of the number of times that needle passes the paint cup exit, the distance over which the needle travels in front of the paint cup exit or how much paint the needle picks up at each stroke, the distance of the needle to the exit of the paint cup exit (which is useful while spattering - further away leads to dryer ink or paint, closer gives wetter ink or paint, especially at low revs) in a controlled way and the angle of tilt of the the paint cup that determines the amount of ink or paint to be fed to the needle because of the gravity effect. No other airbrush allows to adjust each of these settings independently. The best way to explain the workings and adjustment of the Turbo perhaps is through visual demonstration. For airbrush maniacs who have an interest in these settings, I am considering to make a Youtube video of the adjustments.

In view of the airbrush properties described here, it is clear that mainly portrait artists of paintings that are not too large - A4 to A3 size airbrush board or very fine structured canvas - will find it beneficial to use this legendary tool for spraying the fine details like the eyes, eye lashes, skin texture and hair. It us not particularly fit to spray larger surfaces, but there is no better tool to craft really fine details. It also makes no use to spray on gross surfaces, because that type of rough surface will make it very difficult to create extreme detail. The construction of the Turbo - small paint cup and intricate, but superbly adjustable vaporizing mechanism - is aimed at using fine pigmented and nicely flowing paint like solvent based automotive paint or top class water based acrylic paints.

An other outstanding feature of the Turbo is that it allows spraying very controllable spatter patterns (from very fine to less fine), which is unmatched by any other airbrush. Artists that create photorealistic paintings appreciate this property. Proper us if this techniques requires a well developed dexterity and a good hearing, because the pitch of the humming of the turbo is an indication of how much paint will be sprayed on the surface; low revs can be detected (allowing almost expelling dot for dot of paint) as well as high revs, which makes the Turbo sound like a dentist's drill. The Turbo prefers Holbein Aeroflash acrylic paint, currently renamed to Holbein acrylic inks in the water based department, which is expensive and does not really adhere all too well to hard surfaces, but allow the best spraying of fine detail ever. So, Paasche's Turbo airbrush definitely is a specialist tool, hugely different from an all purpose airbrush, who will have to bring their own (properly functioning) Turbo.

The Turbo is no longer produced. Airbrushes like Iwata's Micron SB are able to produce almost equally fine and stable lines, while this and other airbrushes are able to produce more or less controllable and predictable spatter patterns. It actually is possible to hear what type of stream (continued or spattering) similar to the Turbo and how much paint this airbrush is producing. The Turbo's adjustability remains unique, but many if its special properties have been overtaken by less difficult to adjust airbrush guns. Paasche has some time ago taken this brilliant tool out of production, since only die hards in a small niche still used it, especially those that do not have a particular preference for using masks.