the Right Airbrush
The basics of choosing an airbrush
A Duck Blind Information Article 2001
by Willy McDonald
Choosing an airbrush is a lot like
selecting a car. There are various models in many price ranges and
not all are suited to your particular needs or financial
situation. The same holds true for an Airbrush. Some are designed
for specific applications and others are aimed at a variety of
uses. Some will only handle a particular kind of paint and others
are just for precise detailing. Of course, a variety of prices
correspond with the assortment of models.
The following is information to help guide you to the airbrush
that is right for your personal application.
Action vs. Double Action
Action airbrushes deliver paint and air simultaneously when you
press the trigger. Paint amounts are controlled with an adjustment
screw either at the front or rear of the brush.
The general rule is you have to stop spraying to make
adjustments to your paint flow with a net result of minimal
Action airbrushes offer greater control because, air and paint are
controlled by a single trigger. Simply push the trigger down for
air and pull it back to introduce paint into the air stream.
Most experts agree that the double action airbrush should
be the choice for beginners.
Feed, Side & Bottom Feed
Gravity feed airbrushes, the paint is loaded in a reservoir or cup
on the top of the airbrush. The paint travels by gravity and
capillary action to the atomizer tip of the brush. This allows the
painter to, not only paint very fine lines but also run at much
lower pressures. Although oil based paints can be used in this
brush, it is particularly suited for acrylics. A major
consideration for selecting a gravity feed brush is the ability to
fuel the brush with several drops of paint even though the brush
may be equipped with a larger reservoir. This also makes cleaning
and color changes easier. The above particulars make this style of
brush ideal for the carving community.
and Side fed models utilize a siphon feed system to remove the
paint from the jar mounted on the bottom or cup on the side of the
brush. Siphon models must be run at higher pressures to establish
paint flow to the tip. Air and paint are mixed internally and
travel some distance to the atomizer tip. This style of brush is
suited more for oil based paints than acrylics. Color changing and
cleaning of this brush is more labor intensive because paint is in
contact with more areas of the brush. However, this style is
perfect for painting large projects and is the brush of choice for
T-Shirt painters, auto graphics and the like.
Turbine Airbrush is designed for the commercial illustrator or
photo retoucher. Basically, a small air driven turbine oscillates
a fine needle through a paint reservoir and back and forth in
front of an air blast tube atomizing a small amount of paint.
Although this brush has been utilized for painting decorative
decoys it is best left to the expert airbrush operator as many
adjustments make it a temperamental tool in the hands of a novice.
The high price of this model is another consideration for the
price conscious consumer. This brush is ideal for detail work but
is limited for base coating and painting large areas.
are many sources for supplying air to your airbrush. Air
compressors are available in many models and sizes. As a general
rule all compressors will operate your airbrush providing you can
control the amount of air with a regulator. This means that the
air source can be as simple as a small hobby compressor to the
large shop style compressor designed for running air tools. Even a
portable air tank will work providing it has a regulator.
Compressors can be found in a variety of price ranges and you can
expect to spend $80 to $300 for one that will operate your brush.
CO2 is another air source that many artists have found ideal to
operate their brushes. One can expect to spend $100 to $200 to get
set up for CO2 operation. Small cans of air are not recommended.
There are expensive and are used up quickly in the cleaning
are an excellent source for instruction, especially if you are
buying a brush from a vendor that doesn’t specialize in
airbrushing. The number one rule for purchasing an airbrush is
service after the sale. It is essential to have someone that can
instruct you on the use and maintenance of the brush you have