The first time airbrushing experience:
A lot of us model builders at some point along the line get the desire to improve the paintwork on our models by taking the plunge and buying an airbrush. After gazing in horror at the prices for some of the up-market airbrushes and compressors on offer you end up spending about € 30 ($40) for a plastic airbrush with a small glass reservoir screwed underneath accompanied by a huge yellow can proudly stating it contains “airbrush propellant”. The two objects are connect by a thin baby blue vinyl hose that is about two feet long so that when you start spraying your model you automatically pull the propellant can over and crush your masterpiece. You also quickly notice that the pressure in the can necessary to suck the paint out of the little glass jar drops at an alarming rate reducing the impressive hurricane force spray to a rather depressing dribble of paint drops within what seems like seconds. You realize with horror that you have nearly no control over the amount of paint being squirted in the approximate direction of your masterpiece and that the rather bland and featureless light grey color of the plastic is now covered by a bland and featureless layer of whatever paint you chose to use.
Recognize this? I do. Luckily it appears that things are going to change for the first time airbrush buyers though, thanks to a new marketing strategy by Iwata that will make your first airbrushing experience much more enjoyable.
Neo CN concept…
Iwata produces an impressive line of airbrushes that combine great precision with high quality but due to this also come with a high to very high price. This has led to a flood of Chinese airbrushes looking suspiciously like Iwata models hitting the market under a huge range of names. The cost of these clones is invariably low but the quality can be pretty dubious. To combat this Iwata has come up with their “Neo for Iwata” line of dual action airbrushes. The concept is a beginner’s airbrush that combines good quality and a wide range of uses with an attractive price tag. Iwata has also designed the Neo line of airbrushes to perform well at lower air pressures.
The components are made in Taiwan to Iwata’s specifications and are assembled in China. The resulting products are available for about € 50 ($67). At the moment a siphon- feed and a gravity-feed version are available. I was lucky enough to be sent a review copy of the gravity-feed Neo CN by “the Airbrush Company ltd.” of Sussex in the U.K.
The Neo for Iwata CN gravity-feed airbrush comes in a bright green cardboard box with a cellophane window on top to allow a view of the Neo. The Neo is cushioned by a foam bed containing the airbrush with the large 1/3 oz. cup with lid, a medium size 1/16 oz. cup without lid and a wrench to remove the nozzle from the airbrush for cleaning. The Neo can also be used without a cup for touch up purposes, the airbrush contains 1/32 oz. of paint without a cup attached. Underneath the foam bed
I found a small instruction sheet and a warranty sheet, (Iwata gives 5 years warranty on the Neo). The Neo comes with a 0,35mm needle/nozzle combination. I would suggest first going to the Iwata-Medea website before firing up your Neo: there is a more extensive instruction booklet available in .pdf format there,
medea.com/images/iwata-pdf/NEO-Install-Manual-Long.pdf>Instructions ), which gives you more information on using and stripping down the airbrush. There are also a couple of films on You Tube showing how to assemble and disassemble the Neo so plenty of reference material is available to the first time airbrush user.
The breakdown reveals the Neo’s ancestry, with the nozzle screwing into the main body section and then being covered by the nozzle- and needle protectors like just about any Iwata. The airbrush has a sleek and shiny chrome coating.
The Neo looks and feels nicely manufactured: the parts fit perfectly and the moving pieces feel smooth and precise. It appears that the seal rings are made of rubber.
The airbrush feels slightly nose heavy with the large paint cup fitted, I preferred the balance with the medium size cup. The action of the main lever is smooth and controlling the airflow is easy, the travel of the lever to control the paint flow is longer than I am accustomed to, (my most used airbrush is a Badger Renegade Velocity that has a shorter travel and a needle limiter), so the movement of the Neo took a little getting used to for me.
I stripped down the brush, cleaned it, reassembled it and sprayed a couple of cups of cleaner through it before getting down to some test brushing, (it didn’t really need cleaning but I always do this with a new airbrush). I use big old garage air compressor with huge storage tank that I bought at a DIY store for about € 85.($114)
It’s ugly, bellows like an angry bull and is totally unrefined but it has been giving me sterling service for the last 6 years. I use a Badger air hose on it with quick release connection for the airbrush. The quick release connector from my Iwata HP-CRI fitted the Neo perfectly once again confirming its lineage. The instruction sheet warns you not to exceed 100 psi with the Neo; I did my first test at about 50 psi on an ordinary sheet of printer paper using sepia colored ink.
The results were very impressive to say the least. After some experimenting it is possible to draw extremely fine lines, 0.5 mm, although I did have some problems with “spidering” at first. Shading, mottling and filling in camouflage areas are easily performed with the Neo.
After cleaning the Neo I did a second test at about 25 psi using an orange colored ink. As you can see on the photo the lines are less sharply defined at a lower pressure but the Neo still applies a nice even coat of ink. After cleaning the Neo once again I tried using Lifecolor acrylic paints on an old 1/ 25th scale piece of Panther tank to see how the Neo handled. The paint was thinned down to the consistency of milk and I cranked the compressor up to about 30 psi. The Neo had no problems at all with the acrylic paint, laying down a smooth coat and being accurate enough to block in smaller areas.
In all cases the flow of paint or ink is smooth, the Neo only stops spraying when you want it to stop.
As a last test I painted a build that had been waiting for some color: an old Tamiya
Char-B1 that I fancied in a Caunter style camouflage. The results once again were impressive with the Neo laying down a nice even layer of paint.
The Neo has been given a couple of glowing reviews in the short time it has been on the market. It has also taken a lot of flak on some of the “professional” forums.
Before wading in and adding my 2 cents to the Neo saga it is necessary to remember what Iwata had in mind with this airbrush: It is supposed to be a low cost, entry level airbrush that beginning airbrush users can develop their skills and experience with while having access to a wide range of uses.
The Neo is designed to work well at lower air pressures so that it can be used in combination with the light “desktop” compressors now available. When the beginning airbrush user upgrades to a more up market airbrush the Neo should still be able to provide service as a general purpose back up. Iwata also has enough faith in the quality of the build to include a 5 year warranty, while at the same time being able to take on the Chinese clones that have been nibbling at the airbrush market.
Has Iwata succeeded at this? Most definitely. With this airbrush and a budget compressor better paintwork on your model is within reach, (for approximately the price of a 1/35th scale model tank and 10 big rattle cans of paint). Considering its price and 0,35mm needle the accuracy and possibilities for shading and detailing are very good. It lays down a thin and even coat of paint that doesn’t mar or mask the details on your model.
I received the Neo last Wednesday and I had about 2 days to experiment with it before writing this review. I am convinced that this will be a very welcome addition to my collection of airbrushes. One minor con is the construction of the nozzle: it is a very delicate part that fits with a fine thread to main body and you are provided with a very large wrench with which to tighten the nozzle. I murdered my first Iwata HP with the wrench by giving what I considered to be a last gentle turn, which ripped the thread off leaving the nozzle on the workbench and the thread in the body of the airbrush. I now take great care fitting the nozzle after cleaning.
I didn’t get the best results with the recommended pressures that are provided on the instruction sheet but that is always a personal preference based on paint type, paint thickness etc.
I am rather curious if Iwata will continue along this road and issue more complex
Neos, (with needle limiters or MAC valves). It would be nice to see those gimmicks available to a larger group of modelers.
If you are looking for a versatile but nicely priced airbrush you can’t go wrong here. If you can get hold of one, go for it, preferably in combination with a compressor.
I would rate the Neo at a healthy 90 out of a possible 100 points, (based on Iwata’s concept please remember, there are better airbrushes but you will pay considerably more for them). The Neo is a nice looking airbrush that is also very user friendly.
A big thank you to Ethelian at the Airbrush Company for supplying the Neo, I thoroughly enjoyed using it.