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When it comes to painting scale models or miniatures, it can be difficult to decide which airbrush model is the best as there are so many. Today, many airbrush models have been copied and appear to offer the same results. This makes it even more difficult to choose the correct airbrush. To gain a better picture of what you should be looking for, you need to read further. The following will guide you through the best airbrush for miniatures and models, top airbrushes from Badger, Iwata, and others. Also, learn what miniature or model artists look for when they want the best airbrush for their work.
Table of Contents
- 1 Your Guide to the Best Airbrush for Models
- 2 Best Airbrushes for Models and Miniatures
- 3 Types of Airbrush Guns for Painting Models
- 4 Siphon Feed and Gravity Feed Airbrush
- 5 External Mix and Internal Mix Airbrush
- 6 Miniature Painting Airbrush: Essential Pieces you need
- 7 Time to begin Airbrushing Miniatures and Models
Your Guide to the Best Airbrush for Models
There are a variety of best airbrushes for miniatures on the market, each with different features and not all offer the same functions. For example, an illustrator would use an airbrush that can use ink and not paint. Therefore, you must purchase the correct airbrush, one that can manage enamel paint and acrylic paint.
Whenever you are buying something for the first time, the price is important as some equipment can be rather expensive. Thankfully, the model or miniature airbrush systems are cost-effective. You should be able to find a miniature painting airbrush system for less than $200. Of course, cheaper is not necessarily better but there are quality affordable options available.
Some known brands include:
- Harder & Steenbeck
When you purchase a miniature airbrush kit, it usually comes with some accessories. One essential item to consider is the airbrush compressor, which powers the entire system. Have a look at our in-depth Airbrush Compressor Guide, especially for the professional airbrush artists out there.
Best Airbrushes for Models and Miniatures
Best Professional: Iwata High-Performance +C Airbrush
Looking for the best airbrush for models and money is not a problem? The Iwata High-Performance +C Airbrush is the best, as it will provide you with excellent precision work. When painting miniatures or models, precision is what you need to get the details right. This specific airbrush model also provides a high level of comfort when working, so you can paint for longer without getting tired.
Since this model is aimed at the professional, the equipment is quality made, durable and possibly outshines all other similar models. Ask any model artist who has used a lesser model and then upgraded to the Iwata High-Performance +C Airbrush, they will tell you the difference is noticeable. But even though it is the best professional model, it might not be the best fit for everybody.
Best Performance and Price: Iwata Revolution HP-CR Airbrush
Many find these brushes meet all requirements, the airbrush is affordable, offers great performance and is a quality product. It is priced just under $100 and can be considered the best airbrush for models.
Some features of the Iwata Revolution HP-CR Airbrush:
- Dual-action airbrush
- Large Nozzle
- 5 mm needle
- Can interchange between water-based and solvent paints
- Solvent proof PTFE replaceable packing
The airbrush is perfect for all users from beginners to professionals and those who wish to practice with a dual-action trigger. The combination of a larger nozzle and the needle makes this airbrush great to use for thicker paints and provides an array of lines.
The Iwata Revolution HP-CR Airbrush should last a long time and will most probably be the only one you will ever need. You can simply add a second needle and nozzle for finer detailed work, and you have a complete system that can tackle any painting job.
Best Budget Airbrush: Neo CN Airbrush
The most affordable airbrush on the market is the Neo CN Airbrush. This airbrush model offers affordability along with quality, so you cannot go wrong if this is your first airbrush purchase. The airbrush is, therefore, one of the best choices when it comes to beginners.
Some Neo CN Airbrush Features:
- The needle and nozzle can spray lines from medium to fine, perfect for miniature or model work.
- You can swap paint cups, from smaller to larger cups with more paint.
- Easy to clean
- Equipment is easy to maintain, ideal for beginners
This specific airbrush model is exactly what you need if you are just starting out, it is an excellent value for money choice.
Miniature Airbrush Kit: Vivohome Airbrush Kit
An airbrush will need a compressor for it to work, therefore, we recommend the Vivohome 11-piece Airbrush Kit. The complete airbrush kit offers you affordability and great quality for both the airbrush gun and the compressor.
The compressor itself offers an excellent spray pattern and is easy to handle. Because of its lightweight, it is considered one of the best airbrush for models. The compressor comes with:
- Pressure Gauge
- Air filter
- Pressure regulator
The compressor operates quietly and can even be fitted with a bigger air tank. This will help you to work quietly over a much longer time. The kit also includes three different airbrush guns, so that you can paint on primer and also do finer details.
Types of Airbrush Guns for Painting Models
How an airbrush handles will depend on some of the following:
- How is the airbrush controlled?
- How does the paint feed into and out of the nozzle?
- Nozzle size
- How is the paint atomized? (when the paint is mixed with the air)
- Is it a dual or single-action airbrush?
Airbrush manufacturers will use a combination on the above to create their product. Below we will have a look at the various aspects of an airbrush and what would be best for airbrushing miniatures or models. In the end, it will depend on what you need when choosing an airbrush.
Let us have a look at the action of an airbrush. Simply put, it is the trigger function of an airbrush, or how the paint and air are released. This will, in a way, determine the amount of control you have while painting. You have two main actions:
In this case, only the airflow is controlled by a trigger. To control the paint flow, you have to regulate this by turning an adjustment screw, which changes the needle position within the nozzle. You have to stop painting to adjust the paint flow, so it can be a little awkward and time-consuming. When you push the trigger, a defined amount of paint will be released.
The single-action airbrush is best for those starting out, as it is easier to maintain and learn with this type of airbrush. Once you have the knowledge and experience, you can move on to the dual-action airbrush.
The single-action airbrush is used more in applying single even layers and is great to use for those general base coats on surfaces.
This type of airbrush has a trigger that controls both the airflow and paint flow. You need to push the trigger down for airflow and then slide or pull back for paint flow. The harder you push the trigger and the further you pull it back will determine the amount of air and paint.
Even though this way is more versatile, it does require a certain amount of practice to get it right. Ultimately, with a dual action, you can make adjustments while you are spraying. The dual-action airbrush is great for more artistic applications, as you can make fine adjustments while painting. Perfect for creating those shade effects and color variations.
Siphon Feed and Gravity Feed Airbrush
When selecting an airbrush, you should also take into account how the paint is delivered. Both gravity and siphon methods have pros and cons, so you should decide which one works best for your purposes.
The paint bottle is located at the bottom of the airbrush, a tube connects the airbrush unit to the mixing chamber and bottle. A siphon feed sucks the paint up through the tube and sprays it.
You can usually store more paint in a siphon feed, so it is good to use on larger surfaces or for general applications. The siphon feed does tend to use more paint and takes a bit more time to clean it out. Cup or bottle sizes for a siphon feed can come in anything from 0.9 ml to 15 ml.
A paint cup for a gravity feed usually sits at the top of the airbrush. Gravity then takes over and the paint is pulled into the airbrush. The gravity feed uses lower air pressure, it can be as low as 8 Psi, which allows for more control. This can help with painting finer details on miniatures or models. However, the paint cup does tend to hold less paint, which means you may have to refill it if you need to.
External Mix and Internal Mix Airbrush
The mix refers to how the paint and the air mix or comes together before spraying. Depending on where the mix occurs, will determine the effect the paint has on the finish.
External Mix Airbrush
In this case, the air, and the paint mix outside the airbrush. This tends to produce a spray with a rounder pattern. The paint flows externally along with the nozzle and is then atomized as it leaves the nozzle. This method tends to leave a less smooth finish, but you can play around with the paint mix until you get what you want.
Internal Mix Airbrush
The paint and air mix inside the airbrush, which produces a fine spray pattern. The best airbrushes for models have an internal mix, which provides a smoother finish. Even though it is negligible, the internal mix airbrush does require more clean-up measures.
Miniature Painting Airbrush: Essential Pieces you need
Miniature Airbrush Nozzles
When it comes to the spray pattern of your airbrush, the nozzles play an important part. You get two main types of nozzles for this:
- Short Nozzle: Covers a larger area with a wider spray pattern.
- Long Nozzle: This nozzle is for more precision work and produces narrow spray lines.
You will find that most nozzles are included in an Airbrush Kit, but if you for some reason need to buy it separately, make sure the nozzle is compatible with your airbrush. When buying your nozzle, take note of the following:
- Heavy Nozzle: Best used with heavier paints, for example, glazes and latex.
- Medium Nozzle: This is the most well-liked nozzle as it sprays any type of paint that has been thinned out correctly.
- Fine Nozzle: Great for spraying thin paint/watercolors
You may be busy with a project that has different types of miniatures, it might be a good idea to then get yourself a variety of nozzles and matching needles.
Airbrush Needle Size
The size of the needle is significant when looking for an airbrush, it depends on what you are working on. Small needles create fine lines and details, great for smaller models. However, the smaller needles do not work so well for larger items. The fine needles also clog up more, so your paint should be thinned out more.
When it comes to a miniature painting airbrush, the needle should be around 0.2 mm to 0.5 mm. The best option is to start with a 0.3 mm needle if you can only afford one airbrush.
Compressors for Airbrushing Miniatures and Models
The most important piece of equipment is your airbrush, but the compressor comes in at a close second. You need the compressor to provide the perfect pressure and flow of air when applying the paint.
If there is a variation with the pressure, this may cause problems with your work. When purchasing your compressor, consider the PSI, this will tell you how much pressure you will be able to produce. Painting miniatures and models require a minimum of 30 PSI.
Time to begin Airbrushing Miniatures and Models
Once you have purchased and have all you need to begin your miniature airbrush project, you now have to consider your workspace. You need an area that is well ventilated and where you can leave all your equipment. If you do not have a basement or garage space, maybe a spare room or even a space in your bedroom if necessary.
There needs to be enough space available for all your supplies and equipment. Having enough light is another important factor in airbrush painting. Get yourself a good light source if there is not enough natural light in your workspace. You can create your own worktable according to what you need, or there are painting stations you can purchase in-store.
Once you have all your equipment and space prepared, you need to now get your paint and miniatures or models. You may be able to use some paints you already have, just make sure you have enough and that they are not too old. If you do not have enough paints, you will have to purchase more. Purchase your miniatures and you are ready to begin your miniature airbrush painting adventure.