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The market for Airbrushes is growing steadily as the art of airbrushing becomes more and more popular. It is no wonder that especially beginners do not know which airbrush gun is the best and what to look for when buying an airbrush. We’ll give you useful tips and explain how to recognize a good airbrush gun, as well as which model is suitable for beginners.
Table of Contents
- 1 How does an airbrush gun work?
- 2 Best Airbrush for Beginners – Which airbrush gun do I need?
- 3 Which airbrush gun systems are available?
- 4 Airbrush Gun Test
- 5 Important factors when buying an airbrush gun
- 6 Clean your airbrush gun
- 7 Frequently asked questions and answers
How does an airbrush gun work?
The functioning of airbrush guns makes use of the laws of fluid mechanics. It would be beyond the scope of this article to go into the complete fluid mechanics of airbrush guns; knowledge of this is also not necessary to understand how an airbrush gun works. We accordingly try to limit ourselves to the basics.
One way of operation is when air forced through the gun sucks in the paint in the container so that it can be sprayed onto the painting surface. Alternatively, the paint is fed into the gun by gravity.
The assumption that the paint is pressed out by the compressed air is wrong. In principle, the air that is pressed past the nozzle carries the paint with it. The speed at which this happens depends on the pressure on the lever on the gun – and on the pressure set on the compressor used.
Best Airbrush for Beginners – Which airbrush gun do I need?
First of all, we should mention that every artist who has not already had experience with an airbrush art is a beginner. This means that it doesn’t matter if you’re a renowned artist who uses brushes to capture gigantic works of art on canvas – if you’ve never used an airbrush before, you’ll definitely need to get used to handling one. So, what does this mean for the gun you want to buy?
Before you buy an extremely expensive premium airbrush gun, you should first test whether you can handle an airbrush and whether you enjoy airbrushing. Therefore, it is best to get into the medium price segment first. The gun should be solidly manufactured and easy to use, but it does not immediately have to be the high-end product.
A significant influence on the decision to buy an airbrush gun is the purpose for which it is to be used. Of course, there are also those available that are suitable for every application. However, if you would like to practice a certain art form, you can also purchase a specifically made gun. Apart from that, the question arises as to which system you want to use for your airbrush. In the following chapters, we offer you answers to all your questions in this regard.
Which airbrush gun systems are available?
Various cup systems
A distinction is made between flow and suction systems. While the flow system works solely by gravity, the suction system draws in the paint through the air suction – hence the respective names. Both variants have their advantages and disadvantages. For example, a flow system can only pick up small amounts of paint, while the suction system is also suitable for large amounts of paint. A good airbrush gun with a flow system takes up to 3 ml of paint. It is therefore less suitable for spraying large works of art. An airbrush gun with a suction system, on the other hand, can be equipped with a larger paint container and is thus able to spray large formats. Their capacity is usually at least 100 ml.
If you work often with an airbrush and become more adept as you gain experience, you will soon want to own both systems. This will allow you to spray larger areas, as well as small details.
The Single Action System means nothing more than that both paint supply and airflow are controlled with a single button. More precisely, the paint supply is preset and you simply add the airflow.
This airbrush gun system is beginner-friendly but does not work with as much precision as the Double Action gun. It all depends on how far you want to go with your airbrush art. If you only want to spray a work of art once in a while and you don’t need high precision, you can choose a Single Action. However, if you want to enter into the airbrush Olympics, you should choose a double action airbrush gun from the start.
The Double Action is characterized by different regulation of the paint supply and airflow, i.e. nothing is preset. The gun is not only more intricate, but it also offers the user more possibilities. Because the pressure valve and needle can be operated separately, you can work on finer details. Of course, it takes more practice to use a Double Action gun adequately – but it’s worth the effort!
Airbrush Gun Test
In our airbrush gun test, we have taken a close look at different models and present you with our test winners in the following.
Recommendation: Harder & Steenbeck Ultra Two in One Double Action
The Harder & Steenbeck Ultra Two in One airbrush gun works on the double action principle. It has a high-quality finish and is a real feast for the eyes. It also offers the artist many advantages and has only a few disadvantages:
- 0.2 mm + 0.4 mm nozzle, 2ml + 5 ml colour cup Double Action Function
- Optionally the device can be extended with a 0.4 mm nozzle and a larger 5 ml cup
- The Double Action unit is available in two versions as a flow or suction system
- Fine lines and precise work are no problem with this device
Our conclusion: The Harder & Steenbeck Ultra Two in One delivers on its promises. Although in individual cases there may be paint backflow and thus nozzle blockage, this is rarely the case. In general, this model is the perfect airbrush gun not only for the beginner, but also for advanced users.
Value for money: Badger Patriot Air-Brush 105
Our airbrush gun recommendation number two and our absolute price-performance suggestion is the Badger Air-Brush 105. It comes in a set consisting of an airbrush gun, a nozzle wrench, various nozzles and nozzle needles, as well as a fast joint and other individual parts. This means that the set contains everything you need to start airbrushing – the only thing missing is the airbrush compressor.
- Dual action gravity feed airbrush; set includes an extra tip and instruction manual.
- Single needle/nozzle (.50 millimeter) for spraying all Mediums, inks, dyes, watercolors, acrylics, enamels, lacquers, glazes, latex, Air-Opaque, Air-Tex, MODELflex, TotallyTattoo, and Totally Tan colors
- Easy maintenance self- centering nozzle design; New acute tapered color well for faster cleaning; Maximum angle trigger clearance and stroke; Patented ?easy access? needle removal system
The Badger Patriot 105 can be effectively utilized in activities like customized art, helmets and motorcycles, clothing, fine art, illustrations, and many more.
Durability– The top-mounted Badger Patriot 105 is a powerful performer with dual action functionality.
Volumetric Capacity of Cup– The gravity-fed airbrush can hold up to 0.30 ounces of paint covered by a spill-proof cap.
Spray Precision– The size of the needle is 0.50mm, which is convenient to work with both thin and thick mediums. The airbrush is so versatile that it can create thin lines with a large needle. The spraying patterns can be adjusted up to a diameter of three inches based on the alterations of the distance between the airbrush and the project.
The nozzle tip can be easily fixed in the device while the nozzle collar firmly holds its position, eliminating the possibility of the thread stripping. The nozzle tip has comparatively fewer pieces than other models making it easier to keep track of them.
Maintenance– The cutaway handle assists in clog elimination and trigger adjustments. The device can be smoothly operated when the knob is attached to a larger needle. Pulling out the needle from the back end of the brush can induce complications as the paint might spill on the interior.
The airbrushing kit is covered in a foam-line plastic bag for easy organization and safety. The instruction manual gives hints to learn and level-up the skill of the enthusiasts. The device comes with a manufacturing warranty of one year alongside a lifetime warranty for PTFE seals and factory labor.
Our conclusion: Badger Patriot 105 is an all-round, reliable, and efficient Airbrush in an affordable price.
For advanced and demanding users: Iwata-Medea Eclipse HP CS Dual Action Airbrush Gun
The Iwata-Medea Eclipse HP is not an airbrush gun for beginners and for good reason. Of course, there’s the price – so if you want to get a taste of airbrushing first, you should choose a cheaper alternative. The price of the Iwata-Medea Eclipse HP is absolutely justified for the following reasons:
The Japanese corporation Iwata is well-known for its exceptional airbrushes, and the carefully machined Eclipse HP-CS is an added asset. Eclipse HP-CS is prominent amongst the industry-leading artists, be it for high-end or low-end projects. The Airbrush gun is lucrative, handy, and most importantly, the hassle-free cleaning system makes it easy for beginners too.
Durability – This gravity-fed dual-action airbrush contains a bunch of versatile additions for greater adaptability. The Eclipse HP-CS is composed of high-quality stainless steel covered by a layer of discreetly polished chrome plating, which accounts for easy maintenance of exteriors and solvent resistance. To prevent stripping, the huge spray gun is equipped with a mechanism to clear the threads rapidly.
Spray Precision – Achieve the utmost detailing with a 0.35mm self-centering needle packed in the Eclipse HP-CS ranging from fine line to ultra-wide performances. The maximum coverage of the spray is up to two inches in diameter while keeping some distance from the object.
Volumetric Capacity Of Cup – The detachable top-mounted fluid cup has a holding capacity of 0.3 ounces of paint, which is suitable for color mixing.
Maintenance – The Airbrush contains a premium fit compression nozzle, which makes cleaning and organizing a breeze. The magnificent rapid flush cutaway handle enables quick access to the needle, which further assists in the swift removal of unwanted paint and cleaning. To avoid spilling of paint from the backside, loosen the grip of the rear chuck and tug the needle from the front.
Our conclusion:The Iwata-Medea Eclipse HP-CS is advanced and cost-effective with all the required features.
Also for advanced and demanding users: Paasche TG 3F
The Paasche Airbrush Gun Company, based in Chicago, has been manufacturing remarkable airbrushes and related equipment for more than a hundred years. Paasche TG 3F is sensibly built with intelligent components.
- TG is Paasche's highest end airbrush and delivers the finest detail of all their models
- Gravity Feed Airbrush: Achieve patterns from a hair line to 3-inches
- Double Action Airbrush: The handle includes a needle stop to assist with consistent paint release
- Paasche TG Airbrush: Set includes all three head sizes and special fan aircap (.25mm, .38mm, .66mm). PTFE packing for spraying any type of fluid
Durability– The highly graded Paasche TG 3F is one of the newest arrivals from the American company. The Airbrush is composed of chrome-plated stainless steel, including an anodized gold-toned aluminum back handle for stability and a cup lid.
Volumetric Capacity of Cup– The holding capacity of the cup is 0.40 ounces of paint, which does make the Airbrush slightly heavier. The mechanization of the Airbrush works steadily and efficiently, making the extra weight not a big deal though.
Spray Precision– The Airbrush Gun comes with three different variants of spray head sizes, including 0.25mm, 0.38 mm, and 0.66 mm. The spray heads are equipped with a fan air cap. The adjustable spray precision ranges from hair-fine up to 1.5 inches in diameter by adjusting the distance between the Airbrush and the art. A crown tip is fixed to every device to protect the fragile needle tip.
Maintenance– Paasche TG 3F can be easily dismantled for cleaning. The cutaway handle allows for swift clog removal and tension adjustment. Although maintenance of the device is hassle-free, pulling out the needle from the back can slightly complicate the cleansing of the interiors.
Hose– The airbrush possesses a uniquely sized fitting for the air hose. Although some people might opt for a quick-attach mount to reduce complications, the new six-feet of braided hose manufactured by Paasche is advantageous.
Along with the hose, the package also comes with a stand, an instruction guide, wrenches, and a lessons booklet. The stand is used to rest the Airbrush downwards when not in use.
Our conclusion: The Airbrush is durable, competent, and, most importantly, resistant to water-based and solvent-based paints.
Important factors when buying an airbrush gun
A solid airbrush gun should have several characteristics that are important for the artist. We have already introduced single and double action, as well as suction and flow system. But other factors are also important, such as:
- The gun should be compatible with many nozzle sizes
- It should also be possible to spray paints from different manufacturers with the gun
- It must be made of high-quality materials that are resistant to solvents and cleaning agents
- The airbrush gun should be easy to take apart and clean
- All parts should be available separately so that you can replace them if they are damaged
- As banal as it sounds, the gun should not reflect the light too much – chrome-plated models especially can disturb the artist when bright light falls on them, so you should rather use an airbrush in subdued or matt colors
- The air connection piece should not be too long, because its weight also becomes unpleasantly noticeable after long working hours
Before you buy an airbrush gun, you should check it for all these characteristics.
The gun nozzles
The gun should be compatible with many nozzle sizes. This is especially important if you are an all-round person who wants to apply yourself to different projects. A large nozzle is more suitable for spraying large areas, while small nozzles are used for details and fine lines. Conversely, this also means that small nozzles must be used with highly pigmented paints, as too low pigmented paints can quickly clog the nozzle.
The gun material
Most airbrush guns are made of different materials. Usually, the needles are made of stainless steel, but the gun itself of copper and various alloys. Some are Teflon-coated and therefore particularly robust against chemical and environmental influences.
The seals are either made of Teflon or rubber. Care should be taken when cleaning, as the rubber seals are not particularly robust against aggressive cleaning agents!
Weight and hose
The weight of the airbrush gun should be as low as possible so that you can work with it for a long time without showing signs of fatigue. However, the weight does not only depend on the airbrush gun itself, but also on the amount of paint used – and this in turn depends on the type of project, the size of the area to be sprayed, and thus the size and level of the paint container. Nevertheless, in case of doubt, it is better to choose an airbrush gun with a low weight.
The hose should be chosen long enough to be able to work comfortably even at a greater distance from the compressor. Nevertheless, it must be light, because it will also feel heavier over time.
The price of an airbrush gun depends on many factors, such as equipment, material, and workmanship. The price segment varies so much that we can hardly give a recommendation.
How much you want to spend on an airbrush gun is of course primarily up to you. You should make this decision primarily based on your skills, but also on your ambitions. If you would like to get a taste of the world of airbrushing, choose a gun with a lower price, but still make sure that the workmanship is solid. You might also want to try airbrushing at a friend’s home before you buy a gun or airbrush set.
We would recommend an airbrush gun in the medium price segment. Models that are too cheap may be poorly made, so they do not produce a good spray pattern. With such an airbrush you will quickly lose your enthusiasm. However, a too expensive model often does not pay off for the beginner. Therefore choose a solid, medium-priced spray gun.
Clean your airbrush gun
Cleaning an airbrush gun is not as complicated as you might think. However, it is a step that is not only necessary after using the airbrush, but usually also after every airbrush paint change.
We provide you here with a step-by-step guide, with which nothing can go wrong. The following materials are required:
- airbrush cleaner
- Small brushes, preferably special airbrush cleaning brushes
Now you can start:
- First, you let clear water run through your gun and press it several times to spray the water out
- Use the handkerchief to remove the first traces of paint
- Repeat the same step with Airbrush Cleaner
- Use the brush to remove stubborn paint, but be careful with the needle to avoid bending it
- Then disassemble your airbrush gun by first removing the nozzle and then the needle
- Collect all parts in a small bowl so that nothing gets lost
- First clean the components carefully with clear water and a handkerchief to remove the first traces of paint, then repeat step two with the cleaner
- Now you can carefully dry and reassemble all parts
It is important not to use aggressive cleaners when cleaning parts with rubber seals. These can make the rubber porous and damage the air brush gun.
Frequently asked questions and answers
How can I correct errors in the spray pattern?
Mistakes in the spray pattern are not always related to your know-how, but sometimes also to a faulty airbrush gun. If a fine line becomes uneven or wobbly, this is often due to a damaged needle.
Unattractive paint splashes may be related to a drop in pressure or due to poor cleaning of the airbrush gun. In such cases, you should disassemble the gun, clean it thoroughly, and check the nozzle and needle. All connections and compressor settings should also be checked.
Which airbrush gun should I use for large areas and paint jobs?
For large surfaces, an airbrush compatible with a large paint container is recommended. A large nozzle is of course mandatory for such surfaces. We recommend an airbrush gun with a suction system.
Which airbrush gun should I use for model making?
In model making it is important to be able to work out fine details and shades. Therefore you should choose a well-built airbrush gun with small nozzles.
Which airbrush gun should I use for airbrush tattoos or nail design?
In nail design and with airbrush tattoos you also work with many details. However, an airbrush gun for tattoos should be more versatile than one that is used exclusively for nail design. Tattoos can also be more extensive; nail art, however, must always be sprayed filigree.
For both applications, an airbrush gun with a flow system can be used. The colors should be highly pigmented, so that very fine nozzles can be used. Pay attention to easy handling and the lowest possible weight, so that you don’t start shaking when working on details.
We can therefore not give a precise recommendation for an airbrush gun. Which one you choose depends on many factors. However, we hope that we could help you in your decision making process.