Home Tool Guide Airbrushes Buying Guide

Airbrushes Buying Guide

by Bart Aghimien
Airbrushes Buying Guide

Airbrushes allow you to apply liquid color to any surface with ease and precision. Some airbrushes are used to spray paint onto surfaces. While some use airbrushes to apply makeup to the skin or to get creative with art. Others use this helpful tool to apply paint to canvas, walls, fabric, and some use a special airbrush to decorate pastries. Those who master the art of using an airbrush are able to create with precise fine lines, gradients, and block colors. Whatever you want to use an airbrush for, let’s brush up on the basics before you shop.

How Do Airbrushes Work?

An airbrush is connected to a pneumatic compressor with the paint or other liquid stored in its reservoir. It uses a special process called atomization to break down the liquid into tiny droplets. Think about how a paint gun works, and you will have a pretty good idea as to how an airbrush works. It projects paint onto surfaces by using compressed air.

Types of Airbrushes

Choose from two main types of airbrushes include Gravity or Suction.

Gravity Airbrush

With a gravity airbrush, the reservoir is attached above so that it is able to supply paint using gravity. The pros to this kind of airbrush is that they tend to be durable and easy to use regardless of whether you are left or right handed. A gravity airbrush is great to use with thicker paints. One downside is that it isn’t the best choice for covering large surfaces.

Suction Airbrush

suction airbrush propels the paint using pressurized air through the Venturi effect. It has a removable reservoir on the side. It is usually placed on the right side on small units or under the body on units designed to be used on larger projects. A nice feature of a suction airbrush is that it comes with a variety of sized reservoirs that can be interchanged depending on the project. However, it requires a lot of paint preparation before it can be used.

Also, those who are not right-handed find the placement of the reservoir to get in the way when it is attached to the right side.

Single Or Dual Action

Select from two different choices of action.

Single Action Airbrush

single-action airbrush allows the user to control it with a trigger making it great for beginners or those who only use it occasionally. It is easy to handle and easy to maintain. It is perfect to use for craft projects or to apply high viscosity paint or ceramic glazes.

Dual Action Airbrush

With a dual-action airbrush, the user is able to control not only the flow of the paint but also the airflow which is perfect for complicated artistic effects, gradients, or to precisely create very fine lines. To use a dual-action airbrush will take a little practice, but once you get the feel for it, most users say there’s no turning back to the single-action option.

The dual action option is also comfortable to hold but is not the best choice for painting large surfaces. There is also a lot of maintenance that must be done.

Additional Information And How To Use The Air Brush

Before you press the trigger and start spraying paint everywhere, it’s helpful to understand how an airbrush works and how to use it properly. Let’s explain the components and how to use it.


Since an airbrush essentially runs using compressed air, a compressor is a very important part of the tool. Some users start with a compressor that does not have a storage tank since these models are more cost-effective and not a bad choice for beginners. However, once you’ve mastered using an airbrush, you will probably prefer a compressor with a storage tank. Having a storage tank allows you to run the air compressor longer before needing to refill it. Though, it is bulkier with the tank. A tank that holds at least a gallon of liquid with a compressor running at least 1/6 HP and around 40-50 PSI is an overall good starting point. Also, choose a compressor that has a filter to keep condensation building up inside the tank.

Three questions to ask about the compressor are:

  1. What capacity do I need?
  2. How noisy is it?
  3. How much electrical power will I need?

Nozzles or Needles

To use the airbrush for multiple types of projects, it is best to have a range of nozzles and needles that allow you to switch off depending on how intricate you need the color liquid to be. Even in America, the nozzles and needles often come in metric sizes that range from .15 mm to .5 mm, which are all much smaller than an inch in diameter. A set of nozzles or needles ranging from fine, medium, to large is a great start. The smaller the diameter, the finer the lines. These attachments tend to break fairly easily, so you will also want to have some spares on hand.


The airbrush reservoir may be made of steel or glass. A glass reservoir will usually have a higher capacity. The size of the reservoir is going to determine how much liquid you will be able to use before it needs to be refilled. The size you need will depend upon how precise or large your project requires. Also keep in mind that the bigger the reservoir, the airbrush will be the heavier and bulkier to use. Also, consider where the reservoir is located to make sure it is comfortable to use.

Internal and External Mixing

Before an airbrush can propel the liquid onto a surface, it needs to use compressed air. The two have to mix, and there are two different ways to do so.

  • Internal mixing happens inside the nozzle through a process called atomization. The result is a fine mixture jetting out. Atomization is simply the result of mixing a liquid with air.​
  • External mixing happens outside of the nozzle which results in a slightly more coarse mixture.​

Cleaning And Safety Tips

When your job is complete, the airbrush will need to be cleaned after each use. Fill the reservoir at least twice with a cleaning solution to fully clean out the mechanisms. Never use acetone-based cleaning products since it could damage the joints in the unit. Also, protect your airways by wearing a protective mask and work clothing that won’t be ruined if paint splatters on them when using an airbrush. Be patient. Airbrush skill often takes time and practice.

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