Buyers Guide To Airbrushes

Choosing the perfect Airbrush for your project

To begin airbrushing you to need purchase an airbrush, an air source such as a compressor, and an applicable airbrush paint. There are many different airbrushes and the wide selection can easily overwhelm beginners who do not understand terms like double action internal mix airbrush or single action. By doing a bit of research beforehand, buyers can find an airbrush that fits their artistic needs.

Before buying an airbrush, customers need to understand the different parts of the entire airbrush system. The airbrush itself is connected through a hose to an air compressor. This air compressor controls the air pressure that passes through the airbrush. The tip of the airbrush holds a nozzle that directs the flow of air and paint via a needle. Nozzles and needles come in different sizes depending on the paint application. For example, an artist doing commercial illustrations uses a very fine nozzle that emits little paint, while an airbrush artist whom sprays muruals whould use a larger nozzle that releases more amounts of paint. Wider nozzle sizes (0.35mm to 0.6mm) spray paint over a larger area than do smaller ones (0.15mm to 0.3mm).

Airbrush Types

All airbrushes use either a single-action, or double-action air/fluid control mechanism. Choosing the right one is a matter of personal taste or the airbrush application. For artists who just need coverage, the single-action airbrush is all they need. Those who prefer more detailed and controlled work often choose a double-action airbrush.
Single-Action Airbrush
The single-action airbrush uses the same basic spraying application found in spray paint cans. The artist pushes the trigger down to get the paint to spray through the airbrush, and how much comes out is controlled through a knob usually located near the tip of the airbrush. Because the air and paint mix in front of the needle, this type is sometimes called an external mix airbrush.

Single-action airbrushes are a great choice for beginners because they are so easy to control and maintain. They are less complex than double-action control method so are easier to control. The downside to this type is that it is not as precise as a double-action airbrush. If you do not require an airbrush extreme precision but for larger overall coverage then the single-action model is ideal.
Double-Action Airbrush
The double-action airbrush is a little more complex than a single-action, but this results in greater control. The artist pushes the trigger down to control the airflow, and back to start the paint flow. Pulling the trigger back results in a larger volume of paint being sprayed thus widening the spray pattern.Because the air and paint are mixed behind the needle, this type is called an internal mix airbrush.

One advantage of the double-action airbrush is the ability to shape and craft very fine lines. Freehand artists and t-shirt artists often select this type because of the added precision control. The downside to double-action models is that they are more expensive than single-action types and as you have full control over the paint flow they are more difficult to use.

Airbrush Feeds

The airbrush feed mechanism refers to how paint is mixed with the air. There are three methods: the gravity-feed, the suction-feed and the side-feed. The main difference between these two mechanisms is how much paint the airbrush holds before it needs to be refilled.
Gravity feeds have a colour cup on top of the airbrush, and use the principle of gravity to supply the airbrush with paint. The cup cannot be removed as it can with syphon-feed models. Some gravity-feed airbrushes have interchangeable cups that can be simply unscrew to allow larger cups to be fitted. Gravity-feed airbrushes are generally used for fine to medium detail work and have nozzle sizes ranging from 0.15mm to 0.4mm
The suction-feed method uses a bottle that is attached underneath the airbrush. The air pressure from the compressor syphons the paint out of the bottle and mixes it with the air flow. These airbrushes are suitable for artist’s who need to chop and change between different colours quickly. The syphon-feed airbrushes are ideal for larger area coverage and come with nozzle sizes ranging from 0.35mm to 0.6mm.
Side-feed airbrushes have either a gravity cup or suction feed bottle which connects to the side of the airbrush. The cup or bottle can be rotated 360 degrees and locked into postion making them ideal for airbrush artist’s working at difficult or extreme angles.

Budget vs Branded

We at Everything Airbrush often get asked the question of quality of airbrush to go for. The simple answer is buy the best airbrush you can afford. Below we explain some of the differences between Budget and Branded airbrushes.

Our Finespray range of airbrushes offer good value for money for airbrushers on a budget. They allow beginners to test the water with airbrushing before upgrading to a higher performance airbrush. Generally, due to the lower cost of these airbrushes, spares availability is restricted. Often they have rubber internal o-rings that are only suitable for use with water based paints.

Branded airbrushes like the ones produced by Badger, Sparmax and Harder & Steenbeck are leaders in their field and produce top quality airbrushes to suit all budgets. As the machining tolerances of Branded airbrushes are tighter than the budget range, they will produce more consistent and repeatable results. Branded airbrushes have a full range of spares available and a wide range of accessories to alter the performance of the airbrush.
Many Branded airbrushes use PTFE nozzle o-rings which means they are suitable for use with both water and solvent based paints.

Our advice would be to buy an airbrush that most suits your application. Budget airbrushes are useful for people to try out airbrushing as beginners before committing to investing in a more expensive model.