Airbrush Problems And Solutions

Airbrush problems and solutions tutorial covers common airbrush problems and solutions and was written with the help of the members of the magazine support forum, In this article we’ll cover some common problems you might experience while using your airbrush and solutions to those problems. Sponsored by Airbrush Technique Magazine.


airbrush problems and solutions
Iwata BCS airbrush


Thanks to all the subscribers to Airbrush Technique Magazine and members of Airbrush Technique airbrush forum  for helping out with this project by submitting problems and solutions to be published here.


Submitted by Chuck Newberry, Texas, USA:
Problem: I have a suction type airbrush and am not getting paint out of the nozzle…I use the bottles that came with the brush…I am getting air, just no paint.
Solution: Check to make sure the vent hole in the lid is open, also make sure the pickup tube is not clogged or sitting flat on the bottom of the jar. Remove the lid and attach it back to the airbrush, stick the suction tube in a container of water and see if it sprays water. If it does then either the vent hole is plugged or the tube is sitting on the bottom of the jar. If it wont spray water, check the tube for a blockage, or the inlet for the tube into the bottom of the airbrush. Once these are clean you should be able to spray with ease. Also make sure your needle is sliding back and forth and not slipping in the needle lock nut.


Submitted by Phil Revollo, Florida, USA:
Problem: No paint is coming out of my airbrush, I have gravity and bottom feed airbrush gun and I also notice bubbles in my bottle and cup.
Solution: Check Fluid nozzle, needle or nozzle cap. When any of these are clog you will get back feed back into cup or bottle.


Submitted by Chuck Newberry, Texas, USAProblem: I use water based paints and the paint is drying on the needle tip is there anything I do to stop this?
Solution: Not really “tip dry” is one of the down falls of water based paints. I use my thumb and finger to “pick” the paint off the needle. I also keep a small artist brush in a small container of water and will clean the needle with this followed by blowing the excess water off the tip. Water based paints are getting better all the time there are now paints out there that will greatly reduce tip dry but it is still there and a problem we as artists have to deal with. Once you get used to cleaning the tip, it will be second nature and you won’t even notice it happening.


Submitted by Chuck Newberry, Texas, US
Problem: When I push down on the lever to get air to come out of my airbrush, I’m getting paint also….why is this happening??
Solution: Your needle is not seating all the way into the airbrush. Loosen the chucking nut of the needle and see if it will go in further. If it doesn’t the tip is dirty and needs cleaning, clean the tip and reinstall the needle it should work fine.


Submitted by Al Marye
Problem: When shooting urethane white it seems like I get a lot of spitting is there a cure for this.
Solution: None that I have found but what will help is over reducing, starting with 50/50 paint and reducer. Another thing I do is use slow reducer no matter what the ambient temperature, and of course keep the air on all the time. White spits worse than any other color.


Submitted by Chuck Newberry, Texas, USA
Problem: I have heard of lubing my airbrush, how and what do I use?
Solution: Most lube the needle, and use spray gun lube. The lube can be purchased from most any paint distributor. When lubing the needle just put a bit on the needle then reinsert it. What you are doing is lubing the packing inside the gun.


Submitted by Chuck Newberry, Texas, USA
Problem: After I get done painting how do I clean my gun?
Solution: The cleaning process is the same for water based and solvent based paints. You want to run the cleaner through the airbrush and back flush it.(to back flush, place your finger over the tip of the airbrush with the needle pulled back a bit so it doesn’t go through you finger, and push on the trigger.) Be careful doing this as the fluid will shoot back out of the cup or out of the pickup tube. Repeat this until it shoots clean, then run some fresh cleaner through it until dry, pull the needle and apply a small amount of lube and reinstall the needle.


Submitted by Chuck Newberry, Texas, USA
Problem: My air cap leaks air…I think it is tight any fixes for this?
Solution: After removing the needle, remove the air cap. Take a very small amount of bees wax.(Use a toilet bowl wax ring, it will last forever and only cost a couple of dollars) and apply this to the threads. It will seal the threads from air leaking this can be done on any air leaks you may have.


Submitted by: Al Marye
Problem: How can I tell how the pearl I’m shooting will look in the sunlight when its raining outside?
Solution: I use a sunlamp (like what farmers use for chickens) I picked up at tractor supply. It’s not as good as real sunshine but it will give you a general idea and is a whole lot cheaper than the light 3M sells.


Submitted by John Avila
Problem: I notice every time I press trigger down for air only on my bottle feed airbrush; I get tiny micro spider lines. This does this when I do not pull back for paint. I tried some lines and shading even cleaned my air brush again and it still does this.
Solution: 1. By simply removing your needle and gently cleaning it removing all all paint and possibly dried paint near needle tip will fix problem, the needle was not totally seated. 2. Replace your fluid nozzle. It may have split where needle seats.


Submitted by John Avila
Problem: All of a sudden my airbrush trigger has play in it. It doesn’t want to return to trigger off and spits paint. What broke?
Solution: A lot of times its how you clean your airbrush after using. Did you use a Cotton Swab?? Do you really clean your airbrush or just give it a quick spray of cleaner and put it up?? Many times a micro film of paint or a piece of cotton can get lodged in the fluid nozzle causing the fluid needle not to seat perfect. Take off outer air cap and fluid nozzle and soak it and gently blow it out. If unable to clean it purchase new fluid nozzle.


Submitted by John Avila
Problem: Do you always just replace fluid nozzle, or do you replace fluid needle and fluid nozzle together as a set?
Solution: When you have to replace a fluid nozzle because of wear examine the fluid needle for wear also. If there is a slight shiny spot on the needle replace it too. This way you have new fluid nozzle and needle with a perfect fit. An old worn needle may cause an irregular spray pattern.


Submitted by John Avila
Problem: My airbrush was working fine. I pressed down the trigger and it just does nothing. So I try again and just a puff of air. My regulator said I got 30 pounds. I tried again and a slight puff then nothing.
Solution: Sometimes the valve assembly where hose connects is defective, or a small o-ring and spring in side assembly just wears out. This can be fixed by just replacing the valve assembly. You must take off air hose, and remove fluid needle and trigger to safely replace this item. After replacing valve very careful reinstall trigger and needle. If airbrush is brand new notify store where you purchased it and get it fixed. This is a very rare type of problem.


Submitted by Joyce Boston
Problem: What’s wrong with my airbrush? It is spraying a double line and splatters after only a few seconds of use.
Solution: Always drain the compressor. I was not aware that a compressor was to be drained often. After trying all the trouble shooting methods and sending my airbrush back to manufacturer I found the problem was lots of water build up inside the compressor.


Submitted by Dave Schmidt
As far as worn needles are concerned they can be used until they are too short for the culet to grab them and with this method it will take a looooong time to do that. Make a strop. A strop is a leather strap that barbers used to use to put his final edge on straight razors. To build, go to a shoe repair place and get 2 pieces of “sole leather” about 2″ wide and 8″ long. Shape a piece of 1/4″ luan plywood to the 2×8 dimension and leave enough sticking out on the length to have a handle. Glue the leather to the plywood. Then get some diamond polishing compound or jewelers rouge, (these can be had at Home Depot under the Ryobi name) and lightly rub the polish into the leather on one side only. Use just a little ……..enough to cover the entire side but not build up a thick layer. To use draw the tapered area of the needle down the polish side of the strop, and rotate the needle between your fingers while drawing. About 20 times will do the trick. Then burnish clean on the clean leather side. Again about 20 strokes and rotate the needle. Wipe the needle with a clean cotton rag, lube and replace. This method will polish the needle to a mirror finish and keep it in very good shape. Do this about once a month. It also cuts down on tip dry drastically, as there is a smooth slick surface and not much for the paint to stick to.


Submitted by Brian Fuelleman
If you have paint coming out in the trigger area, it is probably your needle packing/bearing, it either needs to be adjusted or replaced. The needle passes through this packing/bearing before it goes through the reservoir or the area where the paint is pulled in on a siphon feed airbrush. This is problem is often caused by people forcing a dirty needle back through the packing, and over time, just the normal wear and tear of daily use will take it’s tole. I have had many students tell me about having their airbrush so dirty that they had to use pliers to pull the needle out to clean or inspect it. That paint or material that is dried on the needle acts like a rasp, and just tears away the inside of the needle packing, and that lets paint pass backwards down the needle and into the trigger area of your airbrush. This is not only a nuisance because of the mess it makes, but it can also be an expensive mistake, you can destroy the packing, do permanent damage to the needle itself, and you can get paint down into the air valve assembly, The cost of replacing all those individual things is about the same cost as buying a new Paasche VL. So the answer is, when you have brush that has dried paint in it, fill the reservoir with solvent if it is a gravity feed, if it is a siphon feed, you may find that filling a fast cap bottle with the proper solvent, then prop the airbrush upside down so that the solvent is constantly flooding the needle. If this doesn’t work, you can remove the front end of the airbrush, including the nozzle, and then pull the needle out the front of the brush. This is not a good habit for everyday cleaning, but if you have an emergency, it lets you get the needle out without trashing the packing. NEVER submerge the whole airbrush in liquids or solvents; you contaminate areas of the airbrush that were never designed to have exposure to that kind of thing. NEVER use ammonia or ammonia based products, avoid cleaners like 409, Fantastic, etc., the detergents can do severe damage to the seals and packing, and they can leave residue that will contaminate your artwork. NEVER use abrasives (Sandpaper, cleansers, etc.) on your airbrush, the body of your airbrush is probably made of brass, which is fairly soft, and is coated with chrome. The chrome is only as stable as the brass that it is covering, so when you use something that can scratch, ding, dent, etc., the brass, you are distorting or scraping away the chrome, which exposes the brass, and leads to an early death for your airbrush. Try to avoid “Polishing” your needle with anything if you can avoid it. Your needle and nozzle were designed to fit together, when you change the contour of the needle, which you do every time you “polish”, sand, etc., you make the needle so it won’t fit in the brush the same way, you alter the way it seats in the nozzle, and the way it will spray. For most people, learning how to airbrush is “fun” enough without having another variable thrown into the mix. Keeping your airbrush clean, both inside and out, will let you operate for a lot longer, with an airbrush that is a whole lot more predictable, and it will save you a nice chunk of money too!


Submitted by Brian Fuelleman
Problem: Color change procedure, especially if you are going from a dark colored paint to a light colored paint.
Solution: Dump your existing paint from your brush or bottle. Wipe the cup or bottle out with a paper towel, then rinse and dump until your cup looks clean, then loosen the chucking nut on your brush, and pull the needle back and tighten the chucking nut back up. Now place a finger over the tip of the airbrush and push the trigger down so that you get air forcing it’s way back through the nozzle and paint passage, and into the reservoir (cup/bottle), this is called back flushing, it will remove a whole bunch of that contaminating paint, you may need to do this step a couple of times, but it will speed things up quite a bit. Once the solvent in the reservoir stays clean, loosen the chucking nut, and pump the needle in and out a bit, watch the solvent to see if it clouds up with color, that color is the paint that is caked up against the lead opening in the needle packing/bearing. Dump out the contaminated solvent and repeat the process until the solvent stays clean, then spray the clean solvent out like you normally would. If you are using water based paints, plain water will probably work just fine, if not, you can try airbrush cleaners or denatured alcohol to break down any remaining paint. Clean out the needle cap and the front surface of the nozzle cap and you should be ready to go. Always test your new paint on a test surface before you apply it to your finished surface. This same routine is what you would use if you get bubbling in your reservoir. When that happens, it is usually a build up of junk in the nozzle cap. That gunk keeps the air from going through its normal path, so it finds the next easiest route of escape, which is back through the paint passage and out of the reservoir.


Submitted by Brian Fuelleman
Problem: It seems like I am always fighting the water buildup with my compressor, I drain it regularly, but I still get water coming through the line. What Gives?
Solution: Your compressor and motor superheat the air being pulled through, so the water in the air stays as a vapor, the compressor trap only lets water out in it’s liquid form, water traps are made to trap water in it’s liquid form too, so the solution is to give the air a chance to cool down so that the water goes from being a vapor back to a liquid where it can be trapped. The cheapest and easiest way to do this is to add 50′ of hose between your compressor and your work area, and add a water trap at the airbrush end of the long hose, even if the compressor is sitting next to you (which isn’t really good for your compressor), that distance of hose acts like the radiator in your car, the distance or length gives the air a chance to cool down, and that lets the water vapor turn back into liquid again so that your water traps can catch it. Having your compressor close to where you work will heat up the area, and it also means that the compressor and motor are pulling in the contaminated air from your spraying, so moving the compressor away will help your compressor live longer, and help you eliminate the water problem.


Submitted by Brian Fuelleman
Problem: I’m having the same problem with paint oozing out of the trigger on my gravity feed brush.
Solution: You can try a couple of things, if the paint is coming past the needle, but only in a certain area, then either the needle is damaged, or the packing needs to be adjusted or replaced. One of the many problems with people “Fine Tuning” or “Tweaking” their airbrushes is that they change the dimensions of the pieces involved; the most delicate of these is the needle and the nozzle. If you “polish”, sand, etc., your needle, and you don’t do it perfectly round, or for the entire length, then you change how it interacts with the nozzle, while the needle may be fine in one area, it ends up with a gap between it and the packing/bearing it is sliding through, and that lets paint come past the needle when the trigger is pulled back to the right spot(s). If you force a crusty or bent needle back through the packing/bearing, it usually damages the packing on it’s way through, this too can let paint go past, but that usually means that you will have paint coming back all the time you are painting. By your description, it sounds like the needle is damaged or defective, try replacing it. If it still leaks, then you can try tightening the packing down, but only do this a tiny bit at a time, and try the needle with each adjustment. Too tight, and the needle will be a fight to use, too loose, and you will have leaking all the time. If you have a needle that is crusty with paint, fill the reservoir with the proper solvent, and let your airbrush soak overnight, then GENTLY try removing the needle through the back of the airbrush, if it is still a fight, then remove the front end of the airbrush and take the needle out that way, let the needle soak in the solvent again, use as gentle a brush or cloth as you have and remove the paint. Put the front end of the airbrush back on, then, when your needle is clean or replaced; install it like you normally would. Using a drop of Aero lube or other airbrush lubricant applied to the needle may help you avoid this problem in the future. If your needle gets severely bent, remove the needle cap and nozzle cap, and then the nozzle, and pull the needle out the front of your airbrush, then carefully replace the parts, get a new needle and install it like you normally would. Mild bends can usually be cured for needles, but sharp kinks will never work right again. While you can use sandpaper, sharpening stones, leather stropps, etc, the reality is that the nozzle and needle are shaped to match together, once you alter the shape of one, it will never fit right again with the other. Good cleaning, maintenance and care are the best way to have a fine working instrument that will give you years of pleasure.

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