What Airbrush to Paint a Tank With?

  • By: Richard
  • Time to read: 17 min.

Many people have been asking, “What airbrush to paint a tank with?” more and more lately. This blog post will answer that question and give you some pointers on what types of airbrushes are best for certain tasks.

How To Get Started With Airbrushing

  • First, you’ll want to find the right paint for your tank. Different paints are depending on what kind of surface they will be going onto.
  • Next, you’ll want to find the right airbrush for your paint. Different paints require different sizes of airbrushes, so be sure to choose one that’s appropriate.
  • To start painting a tank, first, spray out some clean water onto it and then wipe off any excess moisture on the surface. This will help prevent overspray or drips from happening while you’re spraying on the paint!
  • Next, begin spraying the paint onto your tank. Be sure to work in long strokes, so you don’t get any drips or unwanted lines of paint!
  • Keep an even distance from the surface and move back as needed when painting a large area. You can also mask off certain areas if they need to be left untouched for some reason. This will help with overspray, too, because it will limit how far out the airbrush is spraying paint into other parts of your project (or outside).
  • When spraying the surface, keep a light touch. You don’t want to put too much pressure on the trigger because this will cause more paint and overspray than desired.
  • Practice with some paper or your hands before even touching up your tank! This is important for beginners as it can help you get a feel of what controlling an airbrush feels like while getting used to how different types of paints behave when sprayed onto surfaces so that by the time you’re ready to paint something big like a car’s exterior, most everything should be familiar territory!

What Airbrush To Paint A Plastic Model Tank With?

The larger models of tanks are going to require a lot more paint than the smaller ones. When you’re painting these, it’s always best to use an airbrush rather than hand paint it and end up with sloppy results. If you want your model tank painted quickly and efficiently, opting for an airbrush is definitely worth considering. Plus, if you try using this method without any experience whatsoever in how they work, first off, there’s a good chance that your final result will look absolutely terrible anyway regardless of whether or not you choose an airbrush.

What kind do I need?

There are two types: single-action and double-action (or dual). The former only has one control which does all the work for you, while with the latter, there are two controls to adjust. Keep in mind that a double-action airbrush will give you far more control over what is painted onto your model tank, and they’re also cheaper than single-action ones!

Single-Action Airbrush:

Price Range: $0-$50.00 USD; Uses a single control to do all the work for you; Easy to use and perfect if you’re just looking for something simple. The downside is that they don’t provide as much precision as double-action airbrushes can give because there’s only one control.

Double-Action Airbrush (or Dual):

Price Range: Varies depending on the quality and features included like ergonomic handle grip, variable airflow control etc.; If you’re serious about buying an airbrush then you’ll want something that’s comfortable and has a lot of control; Great for more advanced users who want to master the art.

You can also check out my “The Best Airbrush for Miniatures & Models: A Beginner’s Guide” before you buy an airbrush.

How can I make sure my paint goes on smoothly?

The key thing to keep in light of when painting a plastic model tank with an airbrush is thinning it down. Doing so makes it easier for all components inside, such as the needle and nozzle, to function properly without clogging up any internal parts. This means that if you want smooth lines, then this step needs to be taken seriously! The best way to do this would be by using either water or lacquer thinner to thin down the paint.

Airbrush model paints for Tanks

Do you have a project coming up that requires painting model tanks? If so, it’s worth looking into the many benefits of using acrylic paints for your bases. Airbrushed with an airbrush, these properties make them one of the easiest to use and best options available on today’s market.

Acrylic model paints for airbrushing model Tanks and AFVs

For painting scale models of tanks and AFVs with airbrushes, the choice is rather clear… Vallejo AFV Painting System. These are sets of paints specifically designed for military vehicles with an easy-to-use color chart for uniformity across a wide variety of projects.

Vallejo AFV paints are part of the Vallejo Model Air range of acrylic airbrush paint, designed specifically for tank models. They provide superb coverage and durability while being easy to use with a wide variety suited for specific tanks in the market today.

With these paints, you choose six base color paints based on the type of tank you want to paint. On top of that, there are an additional eight sets available for camouflage and weathering effects! As if this wasn’t enough variety already (obviously it is), every one-ounce bottle comes with two complimentary brushes – all packaged up in a handy carrying case too.

Acrylic model paints to paint your Tank models with a brush

One of the most overlooked details in miniature painting is what type of paintbrush to use. Vallejo Model Color and War Games Series Paint Kits have some great selections for tanks that will help you get started with your work.

Metallic model paints for Tanks (alluminium, chrome, steel, burnt metal…)

If you want a metallic finish, Vallejo Metal Color or Alclad II lacquer can help. Each of these products is designed to create the look and feel of metal like alluminium, chrome, silver steel, and more.

Vallejo Metal Color is water-soluble paint with excellent coverage and color density. This natural pigment will leave your model looking bright while still being environmentally friendly! Alclad II lacquer, on the other hand, contain toxic solvents. Those who use an airbrush for their hobby work need to be mindful of proper ventilation when using these paints and which kind of solvent they are thinning it down to avoid inhaling too many fumes from the thinner itself.

Choose Colors & Box Size

Vallejo Model Color is high-quality acrylic, water-based paint that offers great surface coverage with a dense pigment. They dry quickly and can withstand quite the beating when it comes to painting environments. With an amazing color range of 166 colors, there is no limit to what you could paint on your model!

A few different Vallejo Model Color boxes come in packs of 8, 16, or even 72 colors.

Paint jobs are everything when it comes to war games. It can determine whether your tank survives a battle or crashes into the battlefield in ruins. For you to create an original design, we’ve compiled all of our favorite colors from reputable brands like Vallejo Model Color and Tamiya Acrylics below! From vehicle-specific paints, such as British Tank Olive Drab Metallic (VMC) 2031 & German Armor Black (TAMIYA), these 8 different tones will take your designs in new directions with versatility; alone–ultimately making any model stand out among its peers!

You can also check out my “Guide to Choosing the Right Airbrush Compressor” before you buy an airbrush.

Table of colors

In the following table, you can find a selection of colors from different paint companies that might be perfect for your World War II tank.



Vallejo Model Color

Vallejo Model Air

Vallejo Surface Primer

Tamiya Enamel

Tamiya Acrylic

Tamiya TS (spray)




Panzergrau [RAL 7021]

German Grey


German Grey


German Panzer Grey


German Grey


German Grey


Matt Tank Grey


Tank Grey, Mat




Dunkelgelb [RAL 7028]





German Dark Yellow


Dark Yellow


Dark Yellow


Matt Middle Stone


Sandy Yellow, Mat


Panzer Dunkelgelb


Rotbraun 1 [RAL 8017]

Hull Red


Armour Brown


Red Brown


Red Brown




Rust, Mat


Panzer Schokobraun


Olive Grün [RAL 6003]

Retractive Green


Medium Olive


Olive Green


Olive Drab 2


Light Olive


Olive Green, Silk


Panzer Olive Grün


Rotbraun 2 [RAL 8012]

Burnt Red




German Red Brown


Hull Red


Hull Red


Matt German Cam. Red


Reddish Brown, Mat


Rot Braun


Gelb Braun [RAL 8000]

Green Brown


Khaki Brown


German Green Brown


Desert Yellow


Matt Light Earth


Dark Earth, Mat


Africa Yellow


[RAL 8020]

Brown Sand


Camouflage Brown




Light Sand


Matt Desert Yellow


Ochre Brown, Mat


DAK Gelb Braun


Grau Grün [RAL 7008]

Green Grey


Grey  Green


Khaki Drab


Khaki Drab


Olive Brown, Mat


Field Drab, Mat



Tools And Materials Needed For Painting Tanks

The list of tools and materials you will need for painting tanks with an airbrush is as follows:

  • Airbrushes -Lacquer thinner or water (depending on the paint) -Paint in a color relevant to your project.
  • Paper towels, cloths, or rags to clean off any splatters from mistakes during the process of painting.
  • A mask that protects against inhaling particles such as dust and fumes, which can come from either lacquer thinner, is used frequently throughout this process. This could also be a respirator if you’re working with latex paints often too!
  • An area where no objects nearby might get easily stained by the accidental flicking of paint over them when using an airbrush.
  • You have the freedom to move around a clear work surface, such as a table or desk.
  • An airbrush cleaning kit for when your tank is completed and ready to be stored away!

It’s worth noting here again that it’s best to know how an airbrush works before attempting any type of project with one! If not, then there are plenty of tutorials on YouTube which can help teach you all about them in detail – just make sure they’re recent ones so their recommendations will still apply today! Have fun painting tanks!

Selecting The Tank Camouflage Color

The first thing you need to do is select the correct color for your tank. This will have a big impact on what types of airbrush paint and supplies are needed.

One thing’s for certain -if it’s not already obvious- selecting the right type of terrain or environment will be a giant factor when choosing the appropriate paint scheme as well! So keep that in mind when figuring out the color of your tank.

So, for example: if you want to paint your tank with a desert camouflage scheme, it would be appropriate to use an earth-tone color. The three most common colors are Olive Drab (OD), Tan or Desert Sand (browns/tans), and Dark Green or Medium Green (greys). Greys will sometimes mix better in rocky terrain, while browns contrast when blended against the sand.

Alternatively, if you want your tank to blend in with a forest environment, it would be better to use green or khaki colors. As always, keeping the terrain type in mind will have a big effect -for example- using olive drab for forests may not work because of its dark tints, while desert sand might not look as good on lighter greens.

When determining what color camouflage pattern is best suited for your needs, three things can affect this decision: The color scheme (scheme), the background, and existing patterns.

  • The first thing that should be considered is whether one’s own forces wear similar uniforms; usually, matching uniform colors make sense when painting tanks, so they don’t stand out too much against each other.
  • The second thing to bear in mind is the type of terrain you intend on using your vehicle in; for instance, if one’s own forces wear a dark green uniform with black boots while operating in an urban environment, then it may be better to paint all vehicles (including tanks) with light browns or khakis so they’ll blend into their surroundings and not stand out too much. This also applies when dealing with an open country as well -using similar camouflage patterns will make sense there as well.
  • Thirdly, any existing patterns should factor into this decision: What color would go best if the tank has stripes running down both sides (side-skirts)? The answer might depend on whether these are vertical or horizontal lines going across the vehicle.

Don’t forget to take the time and think about what’s best for your situation, without thinking anything will sound silly once you’ve painted it! Don’t go with a camouflage paint scheme that doesn’t have any meaning or purpose -you’ll end up regretting this decision later.

Painting The Base Coat On Your Tank

The base coat is the first and most important paint you will apply. It is your primer that seals in all of those cracks and crevices to prevent any unwanted air bubbles or dirt from working their way into nooks and crannies later on. You want a high-quality acrylic latex house paint with an even color tone – it’s worth spending extra money at this point for quality! Covering areas quickly (the more coats, the better) will help ensure no spots are missed. This step needs up to two days before applying the topcoat, so be patient during this time period!

Using a quality primer will help you get the best paint job possible. It’s worth spending extra money at this point for quality! Covering areas quickly (the more coats, the better) will help ensure no spots are missed. This step needs up to two days before applying the topcoat, so be patient during this time period!

Paint guns will have a predetermined nozzle, and the hose attachment is always on the gun.

The best way to get your desired airbrush effect from an air compressor is by using a spray gun with various nozzles that can be easily switched out when necessary! The mesh filter should never clog since there are so many holes for the paint to pass through it which means you’ll constantly use this tool without having any hiccups in work production or quality. This also makes cleanup much easier because all you need to do is take off the part that has been used and clean both sides thoroughly before putting them back together again!

  • A high-quality acrylic latex house paint with an even color tone (covering large areas quickly with multiple coats) will give the best paint job possible.
  • A quality primer is key to ensuring no missed spots in your base coat, which needs at least two days before applying the topcoat.
  • The nozzle on a gun has predetermined spray patterns such as horizontal and vertical lines, but you can also find guns with interchangeable tips for different styles! You may want to consider getting one if this is something you plan on often doing.
  • An airbrush requires an air compressor or some other form of compressed gas (such as CO²). However, the most important part of using an airbrush is having a mesh filter, which doesn’t clog up while spraying color onto surfaces. This filter is also easy to clean, which means you can use this tool without any hiccups in work production or quality.

Painting The Camo Patterns Onto Your Tank

I recommend Gunze Sangyo’s Mr. Color line of model paint for beginners as they have excellent coverage on plastic models with little need for masking  (unlike some other brands), which will save time in this portion of the process. For those who prefer acrylics, Liquitex Basics Acrylic Paints may also be worth considering if not already using them – their colors are vibrant and opaque enough to cover well without being too thick or runny so you won’t get any splotches or bleeding over your camouflage pattern when applying it on your tank.

-Once you have found the right paints, set up your airbrush and paint thin layers of color onto a piece of paper that is at least one-foot square to begin practicing with how much pressure it takes to get an even coat. You don’t need too much paint as this will run down into unwanted places if there are any gaps in your coverage or strokes left behind from when starting on surface tension becomes weaker due to more pigment being used than what it can handle (think about those times where you sprayed balloons for kids parties and they popped) so do not worry about using large amounts for now; we’ll tackle that step once you’re ready!

A good way to tell if done correctly is by looking at the paper you’re practicing on. A nice, even coat should not look too light or dark, and there shouldn’t be any visible brushstrokes left behind!

Once this is done, it’ll be time to mask off the areas of your tank that are supposed to stay black before spraying over them with a layer of white paint. The idea is that you will paint camo patterns in browns (or any color) onto what remains exposed after the masking tape has been removed – this way, when looking at your model from afar, all that will appear as one solid tan color without being able to tell where each pattern starts and stops which makes camouflage tanks quite difficult for snipers.

I have a separate article on how to make a tank realistic.

The best way I’ve found for painting these shapes onto smaller models is to use a hobby knife or scissors with a blade made of metal. These can be cut anywhere and not have any string-like edges show up after being applied – but if you’re using an airbrush, then this step may need to depend on what type of tank you are painting!

To paint camo patterns onto your larger models, I recommend masking off as much space as possible before spraying white so that there isn’t too much overlap between each pattern which would make it more obvious from afar (as well as cover less area), for example: when doing stripes, only leave out one side of the model at first until you feel confident enough about how they will look in person; once completed, go back and apply tape to the other side and continue painting.

-If you’re using an airbrush, these steps may need to be adjusted accordingly depending on what type of tank you are trying to paint; if doing a World War II or Russian T34, for example, I recommend cutting off as much space from your model as possible before masking it with tape – this way there is less overlap between each pattern when done correctly which will make them seem more realistic!

I hope this has helped clear up any confusion about how different types of tanks can easily be painted without wasting too much time figuring out yourself! Now, all that’s left is waiting and then taking a look at those amazing results in person once they dry 🙂

Finishing Touches On The plastic Tank’s Paint Job

It’s finally time to finish the paint job. There are many ways to do this, but I will list two possible methods below:

Paint an overall coat of gloss clearcoat over your project’s painted surface, or spray a layer of matte clear coat on top with some body filler in between coats for a smooth and clean look

  1. Spray several thin layers of plastic model primer onto your workpiece – these should be applied evenly, wetting each section before applying more so that you don’t get any dry patches where the airbrush can clog up once it has dried sufficiently (usually overnight), sand down any rough bits and then use another light coating for final priming.* The primed surface can now be painted with the desired color.
  2. For a gloss finish, apply several thin coats of colored paint combined with a polyurethane clear coat – these should be applied evenly and wetting each section before applying more so that you don’t get any dry patches where the airbrush can clog up.* Once it has dried sufficiently (usually overnight), sand down any rough bits and then use another light coating for final priming. For this technique, you will need to wash out your compressor’s airbrushes between layers to avoid them building up by spraying some water first, which clears away built-up residue.

Tips On How To Clean Up After Using Your Airbrush

  • Never use water to clean your airbrush. Instead, pump some rubbing alcohol in the airbrush and quickly turn it on for a few seconds to remove any paint or dust that may have clogged up your nozzle. If the spray doesn’t work well after doing this, you can try using acetone instead of rubbing alcohol.
  • If there is dried paint inside your airbrush head, you can either take apart the headpiece by removing screws with an Allen wrench and gently scraping off what’s left with a plastic knife or toothpick. After taking it apart, put all parts into warm soapy water (no soap yet) and allow them to soak for about 30 minutes before washing again and rinsing thoroughly.
  • If you want to get rid of any dried paint in/on your airbrush, use acetone. Acetone is a strong solvent that can be used safely on plastics and rubbers. After spraying the nozzle with some acetone, put it back together (without tightening too much) for about fifteen minutes before removing the parts again from warm soapy water. You’ll be able to see all of the old paint come off when washing this time!
  • If there’s still dried paint inside of your airbrush head after soaking or using acetone, then try placing a small drop of dish soap onto one end of an eyedropper and squirting some into each part while they’re submerged in water… But don’t forget to remove the airbrush from a water source after you’ve done this.
  • If your nozzle has gotten too dirty, use an Allen wrench to loosen it before removing any parts. Then take off all of the old paint by placing some acetone on a paper towel and holding it over every part for about thirty seconds each while gently turning them with your hands until they are clean again! Just make sure not to touch anything but the outside surface because oil can ruin electronics. You should also be careful when using these chemicals around children or pets – even if their noses are wet, that doesn’t mean they’re protected against inhaling toxic fumes… If you have sensitive skin (or suspect that you do), wear gloves and avoid getting these toxic chemicals on your skin.
  • To remove dried paint from the nozzle, gently scrape it off with a plastic knife or toothpick while running hot water over it. If there is any leftover debris, use rubbing alcohol to clear out what remains before taking apart and washing as usual!
  • To remove dried paint from the needle, take a clean cotton swab and soak it in acetone. You can also use rubbing alcohol if you want to avoid using acetones fumes – just make sure not to touch anything but the outside of your airbrush head while doing this!

When choosing a paint kit for your model airplane (or helicopter, or any other aircraft), the first thing you need to decide is whether you will paint with an airbrush or with a paintbrush.


It is time to paint your tank! Choose the airbrush that will work best for you and get started. After a few simple steps, you’ll be done in no time. If this has been helpful, or if you have other questions about painting tanks, let me know! I am always happy to help our customers out as they go through their painting process, and I love hearing feedback from others who have painted their own models. Let’s all make some awesome-looking tanks together!

Hi! I'm Richard Baker, a miniature painter who has been painting for about ten years. My website is packed with great advice that I've learned from both books and personal experience on building and painting miniatures.

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