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Airbrush Troubleshooting

Airbrush Troubleshooting

Listed below are some of the most common problems experienced while airbrushing (and the recommended solutions)


Bubbling in the Gravity Cup or Suction Bottle


This is caused by air pressure entering the paint reservoir. This can have several causes; the most common are an air leak in air cap/nozzle area, tip dry/blocked nozzle, a loose air cap/head or a split airbrush nozzle.

  • Loose Air Cap/Head - Tighten
  • Tip Dry/Blocked Nozzle - Clean or Replace
  • Worn/Damage Nozzle Seal - Replace
  • Split Nozzle - Replace

Spray Pattern Off-Center

This is caused by a bent needle tip. The fluid exits the airbrush and follows the bend on the tip of the needle.

  • Straighten the Needle Tip - Can be acheived with a flat sharpening stone
  • Replace the Needle

Airbrush Doesn't Spray Paint

This can be caused by many things; the most common are a blocked nozzle (due to poor cleaning), a loose needle chucking nut, improper/low air pressure and the paint being too thick

  • Blocked Nozzle - Clean or soak the nozzle
  • Needle not Moving with Trigger Action - Check and tighten the needle chucking/locking nut.
  • Paint Too Thick - Thin paint with appropriate reducer to a milky consistency
  • Pressure Too Low - Sometimes the paint can be slightly too thick and the pressure is too low to atomize. Increase pressure.

Airbrush Sprays Paint When Trigger Depressed For Air

This is caused because the needle isn't sitting flush inside the nozzle. Alternatively if the airbrush only sprays a blob of paint  when the trigger is depressed then follow the Air On - Air Off procedure; first push down on the trigger, then pull the trigger back for paint flow and then after spraying return the trigger forward before releasing the trigger/air flow. Shutting the paint flow off before the air flow will spray any residue paint off the tip of the needle.  

  • Unscrew the needle locking nut.
  • Glently push the needle forward until it rests inside the nozzle
  • Tighten the needle locking nut.

Air Pressure Remains On When Trigger Released

This can be caused due to various reasons; solvents or residue paint entering the air valve and causing the air valve seals to become swollen or sticky. A loose air valve closure/guide screw will not compress the air valve spring enough to fully return and shut off air flow.

  • Disassemble internal air valve componants and lubricate with airbrush lube and re-assemble
  • Replace air valve seals if they have been eroded by solvents
  • Tighten air valve closure/guide screw - this will compress the air valve spring and shut off air flow.  

Poor Spraying or Spattering

This can be caused by a number of reasons from paint consistency, low air pressure, damaged needles, tip dry or a partially block nozzle.

  • Paint consistency too thick - Reduce to a milky consistency
  • Air pressure to low - Increase air pressure until paint atomizes
  • Dried paint/tip dry on the needle - Remove needle and clean with a cloth dampened with airbrush cleaner. Some airbrushes like the Harder & Steenbeck Infinity, ALplus and CRplus models have cut away Crown/Pinch Caps allowing tip dry to be removed without removing the needle.
  • Residue paint build-up in the Needle Cap, Nozzle or Air Cap - Clean or replace if needed.

Spray Pattern Spidering

This is mainly caused if the paint has been over-reduced and is too thin or runny, it can also be caused by applying the paint too heavily on a non-porous surface or by operating at too high an air pressure.

  • Paint too thin - Add paint to the mix or reduce the air pressure.
  • Too much paint being applied - Do not draw the trigger back so far or increase the distance from the surface.