I can’t believe – well, okay, I can – that in 2022 we’re still having this discussion…
Recently on a forum, another modeller posted about building a “spray booth” from a rubber storage tub about the size of the box that a new pair of boots comes in. He added a light and a turntable inside so he could spin his model about, and says he can use it on his kitchen table.
This non-booth was not ventilated. It would, in fact, be worse than spraying into the wide open because it would redirect the spray back on the modeller. (Here’s a test you can try: Dump a couple of tablespoons of glitter in an upended box and then hit it with an airbrush or can of compressed air. Now look at how much glitter you have to clean up. And it’s all over you, too!)
Later in the discussion, the original poster added that it’s okay because he only sprays acrylics. A quick google of “dangers of spraying acrylic paint” turns up hundreds of reasons why this is a bad idea. While the carrier is water, the pigment can include many toxic ingredients – such as cobalt, manganese, cadmium, chromium, and lead – so even when brush-painting, paints should always be used in a well-ventilated area.
When airbrushing or using a rattle can, the pigment is atomized – including all those lovely toxins that give paint its colour. The resulting dust and fine particles can cause permanent lung damage.
Don’t do it.
Most airbrush manufacturers also offer a selection of booths suitable for hobbyists (plus industrial booths with explosion-proof fans if you spray a lot or if you spray lacquer-based paints). Any airbrush dealer should be able to offer you some advice on this – whether it’s a railway modelling shop, a shop that caters to plastic modellers, or a decent art supply store. If not, ask around: Get on the Internet and get recommendations.
Just don’t listen to anybody who says “make your own from a plastic tub or a cardboard box”.
A properly-vented paint booth and a filter mask are relatively cheap investments – especially measured against a lifetime of lung damage. If you don’t have space for a permanent installation, portable versions can also do the trick, providing you can vent them out a window.
If not, consider only spraying outside.