Airbrushing Fine Lines, Detail

Airbrushing Fine Lines, Detail

Airbrushing fine lines, detail tutorial we’ll go over airbrushing fine lines and detail using different airbrushes, needle, nozzle sizes. One of the most common questions I have heard sense I stated helping people learn to use their airbrush is “which airbrush with what size nozzle, needle is best for rendering detail, fine lines”. One of most common problems I hear about from those just starting out is “this airbrush just won’t do fine lines, detail work”  With the many different airbrush’s, needle, nozzle sizes available on the market these days its easy to understand the confusion surrounding airbrushing fine lines, detail. By Don Johnson, airbrush artist

Unfortunately there is not magical trick I can show you to make your journey easier or shorten the length of time it takes to learn the skills necessary to render fine lines, detail. I would like to encourage you to not get frustrated during your journey, I taught myself how to airbrush which means you certainly can.

“Well how long will I have to practice before I can accomplish rendering (painting) fine lines, detail art work?” That I know was your next question, right? Again there is no magical trick I can show you, no pat answer to this question the best answer I have is if you apply yourself to mastering the basic lessons on this web site you will be looking back sooner than later smiling knowing at one time not so long ago you thought you never would master fine lines or detail with your airbrush.

The length of time it will take is directly related to how you approach learning the basic lessons, apply yourself, practice everyday and in no time you will have mastered it.

Below are four example sheets I did using four different airbrushes to drive home a point I believe will help you master rendering fine lines, detail with your airbrush. Each of the airbrushes had different size needles, nozzles most where gravity feed, one was a bottom or siphon feed but as you can see by the size of the lines I was able to create they are very similar in size (they where thin). To give you some prospective I drew some loops with a pencil on each sheet to help you realize the size of the airbrushed lines.

The airbrushes I used just happened to be the ones connected to my compressor at the time I did these examples. They could have very well been a Paasche VL or Badger 150 instead; my goal was to use four different airbrushes the model, brand was just what I had on hand at the time no more than that.

The same paint straight out of the bottle was used in all four airbrushes, Golden Carbon Black.
The four airbrushes I used where:

Iwata BCS Eclipse – 0.5 mm needle, nozzle combination
Iwata HP-CS – .35mm needle, nozzle combination
Iwata Mircon B – .18 mm nozzle, needle combination
Sata 3 – 0.25 nozzle, needle combination

See if you can guess which set of loops was created using which airbrush. Did the needle and nozzle size determind my abilty to keep all the sets of loops similar in size, thin lines? I don’t believe it did, do you?


airbrush fine lines examples
airbrush fine lines examples


As you can see it’s very hard to say which size needle, nozzle created which set of loops. These examples illustrate the point it’s not the airbrush brand, model, needle size or nozzle size that makes rendering fine lines, detail possible. What makes rendering fine lines, detail possible is mastering the basic’s it’s that simple. If I can do it you surely can. Below are the answers to which airbrush created which set of loops. Click on the images to see a bigger view.


created with Iwata BCS
created with Iwata BCS


created with Iwata CS airbrush
created with Iwata CS airbrush


created with Iwata micro airbrush
created with Iwata micro airbrush


created with SATA airbrush
created with SATA airbrush


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7 Responses to “Airbrushing Fine Lines, Detail”

  1. Reply Ed LaRow

    Hi Don;

    thanks for the immediate reply,
    what would be a good air brush for around $125/$150
    there are so many out there
    I would rather have a better air brush to learn with
    Thanks again, Ed

    • Reply Don Johnson

      I have had a very good experiance with both the Badger Krome and Iwata HP-CS take a look at both. Parts for the Badger are a lot my reasonable than the Iwata which is something to keep in mind

  2. Reply Ed LaRow

    I have a master airbrush G46 with a .3 tip, just starting air brushing
    I have a dual Iwata power jet compressor with adjustable air pressure
    the pressure is set at 40psi and the paint sprays well,
    The pressure is reduced to less than 20psi, I was told for a fine line, but at that
    setting nothing comes out. There is an adjustment under the air brush and
    on the end of the gun. it is a top feed type
    The paint is Createx with a reducer in it
    How can I get the fine line for detailing or touching up
    Thanks, Ed

    • Reply Don Johnson

      Try using Createx new reducer and reduce the paint up to sixty percent. That airbrush is fine for general airbrushing and can produce fine lines in the hands of a very experienced user but if you are fairly new you might want to get a better airbrush with smaller nozzle, tip

  3. Reply Don Johnson

    Airbrush is just another tool George buy the best you can afford. Is there a quality dif. between a $75.00 and a $600.00…same as any other tool generally high end tools usually are made of higher quality materials. The point of this article is if you don’t know the basic’s of airbrushing, they are not second nature to you a $600 airbrush is not going to make up for that. Its the hand that controls the airbrush that produces the results.

  4. Reply George

    So if they’re all almost identical, why do so many people make such a fuss about what airbrush to use? Why are there so many options? Why buy a $500 airbrush when a $75 is almost as fine?

    I’m looking into trying airbrushing and working on helmets and motorcycles. Can I get away with a $75 badger 150 as opposed to an iwata micron?

    • Reply Rick Primeau

      George, you could use a Badger 150, what it comes down to is what is comfortable in your hands, What you can afford, and Something that is not to small for the job.. Meaning, You wouldn’t clear a tank with a Micron, Nor would you spray a face on a dime with a Spray gun.. With that said, I recommend going with something that is Name brand, as you mentioned, Iwata and Badger, which both are great companies. Look into something that can handle the paints you are looking to use, and then look for something that fits your hand. Some people love the Iwata Micron, and other Like the feel of a Cresendo, it is based on what you as an artist like.. I really like the balance of the Krome from Badger it is an affordable brush and parts are readily available.. One thing about the really expensive brushes are the fact that they are matched needles and nozzles.. the precision in the machining is far none.. so it is like why drive a Porsche when you can drive a VW, they both get you there, one is better performance and better machined.. That is my 2 cents..

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