One of the laments I have about many product reviews, including reviews for airbrushes, is that they tend to be first impressions. Take it out of the box, draw some lines with it on a piece of paper, fiddle around with some bits, maybe paint one of the spare Space Marines everyone seems to have, and then move on.
What that doesn’t tell you about is reliability. “All the seals wore out three months in” doesn’t come up. You don’t get a feel for how something works into people’s actual workflows.
So I’m going to to a longer-term use review of a somewhat unusual airbrush: the Grex Tritium.TG.
What’s a Tritium.TG?
Grex has a solid reputation as a decent airbrush maker, but something of an “also-ran” compared to Badger, Iwata and H&S. What interested me about the Tritium.TG a couple years ago when Grex had a booth at the Las Vegas Open is that it’s a trigger-pull airbrush. Basically, instead of a pencil-grip with a trigger on top, you have a pistol grip with a trigger that’s more like…a trigger…rather than a pad on a lever. The “TG” is the gravity fed version.
Basically, it looks like this:
It remains a dual-action airbrush – you pull back on the trigger about halfway for air, and then there’s a sort of resistance pause, and as you continue, you get paint. Mine has the 0.3mm needle and nozzle, which I bought as a sort of happy middle-ground between the 0.5mm in my Badger Patriot 105 and the 0.2mm on my SOTAR 20/20. It can be adapted for 0.2, 0.3, 0.5 or a 0.7mm nozzle, but I’m reviewing the one I’ve got.
The Nice Bits
The fundamental premise of the pistol-trigger type airbrush is one of ergonomics. It should be more comfortable, more easy to control, and generally a pretty natural feeling airbrush. And in my experience, this is true. My index finger cramps up if I spend a long session with one of my conventional airbrushes, but I can spend hours with my Grex pain-free. It’s not a true full hand grip, as you can see in the pictures above (I have relatively small hands for a man and they still dwarf the grip). But it fits naturally, and feels like it rests in place, rather than needing to be held.
And I really like the paint control I can get from the trigger on it. Really rather a lot.
There’s also some motions that are really natural with the Grex that I find harder with a conventional design. Most notably, a slow backwards pull, going from intense and close-in to more diffuse and far out, like you might do for lighting. This is a sort of whole-arm movement with the Grex that feels precise and controlled in a way I never feel with either of my Badgers. It’s the movement I use for the lighting effect on my MDF terrain, and while not amazing OSL, it’s easy to hammer out with little to no effort or drama.
Ironically, the other motion that’s really easy to do with the Grex is a sort of vague back and forth motion, great for basecoating tanks or terrain. It got used a lot when painting terrain for exactly that reason.
The interchangeable cups are nice as well, with a smallish one for quick, low-volume jobs, and a massive 15mL cup at the top end for the spray sessions that involve you just dumping a bunch of Stynlrez into the cup and going to town. And since they’re detachable, they’re easy to clean – just dump the cup in a small dish of cleaner to get rid of even the worst dried on primer rings, while you now have much closer access to the needle, etc. Which is great for cleaning, a thing that we’re going to bring up in a bit. During those sessions, I rarely had clogs, and overall, was pretty impressed with the Grex.
The nozzle crowns are also magnetic and hot-swappable, with a spot for the one not in use hanging out on the back of the brush, stored but out of the way. It comes with a full-coverage grown as well as a two-pronged version and again, taking these off to directly clean the tip is easy and a nice quality of life feature when dealing with fussier paints or in ultra-dry environments like the one I live in.
The “Meh” Bits
Most of the things on this airbrush are, in my mind, good or bad, with very little that’s just lackluster. The one thing that does clearly fall into this category for me is the “Fan Spray Cap”. This adapter replaces the normal nozzle cap, and like it says on the tin, converts the normally circular spray pattern of an airbrush to a fan.
It’s a chunky little device, and a spendy one, currently $40 on Amazon.
When I demo’d the Grex at LVO, I legitimately thought this was the airbrush’s killer feature. I was more excited about this than I was the trigger pull. The cap put out a nice, broad spray pattern on paper, and I had dreams of one-pass painting of massive, multi-story Imperial ruins.
The short version? The reason I used a picture from Grex’s website is because I honestly I have no idea where mine is. I used it…once…and then gave up. It works as advertised, but a fan turns out to be less useful than I expected, and I encountered myself having to go back due to poor coverage. And the switching back and forth between this and a normal nozzle cap got annoying. If it was 1/4th the price, I’d might say it was worth it for the odd job, but as it is, I wouldn’t.
The Bad Bits
Overall, I have three complaints about my Grex, two petty, one serious. Lets get the petty ones out of the way. The neon green coloring of the Grex’s grip and trigger, just like a car of the same color, shows dirt and grime immediately. And it never really gets clean afterwards. And with a fairly robust hose connector on the bottom, which then needs an adapter to take Badger-style parts and then a Badger quick-disconnect coupler, there’s quite a chain of fittings and adapters sticking out the bottom of the grip.
The bigger complaint is what I mentioned earlier with cleaning: the Grex is a little fussy. For the most part, my Badger 105 is pretty bombproof, and an easy combination of flushing the cup and sending some airbrush cleaner through (I use a 80/20 mix of water and isopropyl alcohol). Despite using it for years, I’ve done the full-on disassemble and clean routine maybe two or three times at most. The Grex on the other hand has a tendency to draw whatever you’re spraying back behind where it enters from the cup, and into the body of the airbrush itself. Which means even after a pretty careful cleaning, there’s stuff left in the body, and that stuff will dry. Unless I take the needle out and run a little cleaner through the back body of the brush, it’s very likely to find the needle stuck stiff in place, sometimes so badly that it needs to be pulled out with a pair of pliers. Which resulted in me bending a needle tip once.
It’s not a showstopper, but it is slightly annoying.
The Grex Tritium.TG, at $205 at the moment on Amazon, is a little bit dear for an airbrush, but it’s proven the be a valuable addition to my toolkit. It’s my go-to brush for priming as well as varnishing, definitely what I lean on for terrain painting, and my preferred tool for work that should be precise but not necessarily fine. I still prefer my SOTAR for fine detail work and really getting up into models to spray inks into shadows, etc., and the flexibility of the Patriot 105 for base coating, but with the Grex I find myself reaching for the latter less and less.
If the Badger 105 is the Toyota Corolla of the airbrush world, inexpensive, nearly bomb-proof and mechanically simple, then the Grex Tritium.TG is the Volkswagen GTI. Expensive, but not top-of-the-line expensive, with excellent performance in exchange for needing a little more tending and maintenance. But an excellent daily driver (Disclaimer: I also own, and love, my GTI). It’s not the first airbrush I’d suggest for anyone, but it is an excellent second airbrush if someone is looking to expand their toolkit, and especially if they’re looking to tackle larger models like terrain, or are anticipating long sessions at the airbrush station where the superior ergonomics of the Grex really come into their own.
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