I put this article together for those of you who are brand new to airbrushing and for those of you who have been out of airbrushing for awhile. It’s common for me to hear from folks who at one time tried their hand at airbrushing and become so frustrated during the learning process they gave up and put the airbrush away until just recently when they decided to give airbrushing a try once again. Our network of web sites, forums and Airbrush Technique Magazine where created to help anyone interested entire the world of airbrushing.
Below is a list of supplies and equipment you’ll need to get off to a good start in the world of airbrushing no matter what it is you want to airbrush.
These days the most commonly used airbrush for auto art, custom painting motorcycles, helmets, fine art, illustrations, T Shirts, models is the double action airbrush. A good name brand (Iwata, Badger, Paasche) double action airbrush can be purchased for about $50.00 on the low end to $400.00 on the high end. Single action airbrushes are still manufactured but for the almost the same amount of money you can buy a double action airbrush which is much more versatile and easier to use.
With a double action airbrush you push the trigger down for air and gently pull back for paint. For more information on using a double action airbrush please check out the AIRBRUSHES article.
Two Types of Double Action Airbrushes
Paint is held in the color cup on top of the airbrush. Trigger action is the same as a bottom feed airbrush, push down for air and gently pull back for paint. The gravity feed airbrush is generally the choice for doing fine detail airbrushing.
Paint is contained in a small color cup or bottle which attaches to the bottom of the airbrush. Generally is type of airbrush is best for spraying thicker paints such as textile colors and for covering larger areas.
Best Airbrushes – My Picks
1. Iwata-Medea Eclipse HP CS
Iwata has a reputation for producing quality brushes and the Eclipse HP CS is no exception. Yet, the Eclipse HP CS is affordable. The quality construction that goes into Iwata products ensure years of service with proper care. The Eclipse HP CS remains one of the most popular models and is used by artists who specialize in small or large projects. Ease of use, cleaning and maintaining also make it the ideal tool for novice to experienced painters alike. In fact, the device is recommended for hobbyists aged eight and older. The versatility of the Eclipse makes it appropriate to use for a wide range of applications while providing economical paint use.
The gravity-fed airbrush is made of durable stainless steel with a polished chrome finish, which makes the exterior easy to keep clean. The large spray head quickly comes apart to reveal threads that are manufactured in such a way as to prevent stripping. The Eclipse features dual functionality for greater control over the spray.
Eclipse HP CS models come equipped with a 0.35mm, self-centering needle for fine line to wide spray patterns. Move the brush further away from the project to get a pattern having up to two inches in diameter. The top-mounted, funnel-shaped cup has a removable lid and holds up to 0.30 ounces of paint.
The single cut-away handle makes clog removal a snap. Merely move the chuck front and back a few times. To clean the needle and nozzle end of the brush, simply loosen the rear chuck and pull the needle through the front of the airbrush to prevent the backflow of paint. The back part of the handle also disassembles to access the trigger tension chuck.
Along with the airbrush, the package contains a detailed instruction booklet, a bottle of lubricant and a spanner. Iwata also offers a five-year warranty on manufacture, material or workmanship defects. Overall, the comprehensive function of the Eclipse makes it the only airbrush most artists will ever need.
2. Badger Patriot 105
The American-made Badger Patriot 105 is a versatile, easy-to-use airbrush that features a top-mounted, gravity-fed, 0.30-ounce cup and double-action functionality. The stainless steel construction means you get a durable product designed to last. The chrome finish is attractive and easy to clean. The brush is slightly heavier than some competitive models. Yet, the airbrush is still comfortable to hold and use. The affordable price makes the Patriot appealing for beginners or professional artists. Use the Patriot 105 for everything from cake decorating or model finishing to textile art.
A tight-fitting lid enables you to use the Patriot 105 at various angles without spilling paint. The device comes with a 0.50 mm needle, which enables the unit to handle thin or thicker mediums with ease. Even with the larger needle, artists can achieve pencil thin lines. Pull the brush back from the project to get a spray pattern of up to three inches in diameter.
The nozzle tip has fewer pieces and is also considerably larger than what is supplied on many models, which makes keeping track of the pieces that much easier. The tip also simply inserts into the device. So you need not worry about thread stripping. The nozzle collar keeps the tip in place.
A cut-away handle allows for quick clog removal and trigger tension adjustments. The back end of the needle features a knob. The knob combined with the larger needle size make for easier handling. However, removing the needle through the back of the brush means drawing paint through the entire unit, which makes cleaning a bit more complicated.
A foam-lined plastic case provides safe and easy storage. A detailed instruction booklet has artists up and going in no time. Badger offers a one-year warranty on the device against manufacturing defects. The PTFE seals and factory labor come with a lifetime warranty. The Patriot 105 is an affordable all-around tool.
3. Paasche TG-3F
Paasche has proudly been in the airbrush business for more than a century and is based in Chicago. The American-made Paasche TG-3F is an incredible value for all that comes in the package. The airbrush is one of the company’s newest models and is made from chrome-finished stainless steel and features an anodized gold-toned aluminum back handle and cup lid. The larger 0.40-ounce cup adds a little more weight to the airbrush. But overall, the device is well-balanced and comfortable to hold and use.
The cut-away handle enables quick clog removal or tension adjustments. The TG-3F easily disassembles for cleaning. However, the needle must be removed from the back of the brush, which complicates the internal cleaning process.
Paasche airbrushes have a uniquely-sized fitting for the air hose. So the fact that the package comes with six-feet of Paasche braided hose is especially convenient. Otherwise, many prefer using a universal quick-attach mount to eliminate the hassle.
The device comes with size 1 and 3 spray heads along with a fan air cap in 0.25mm, 0.38mm and 0.66mm sizes. The needle itself is 0.35mm. Create spray patterns ranging from hair fine up to 1.5 inches in diameter simply by altering the distance between the brush and the project. A crown tip protects the delicate needle tip.
An enclosed hanger enables you to set the brush down when it is not in use. You also get two wrenches, an instruction manual and a lesson booklet. The TG-3F capably handles any water-based or solvent-based mediums.
When you purchase your airbrush be sure to also buy the correct air hose to fit the brand airbrush you will be using. Badger, Passche, Iwata airbrushes have there own airbrush hose’s which fit only their airbrushes. The smaller end of the airbrush hose will be the end you screw into your airbrush while the larger end ( ¼ standard coupling) will screw right onto just about all types of compressors. Some hose’s coming with in line moisture traps which is not a bad idea as you need to keep any water in your air from ruining your art work.
Compressors manufactured, marketed for airbrushing vary in price from $90.00 on the low side to $800 or $900. These type’s of compressor you can purchase thru most art supply stores and come in various sizes. Be sure the compressor is rated for the type of airbrushing you will be doing. These compressors are best suited for airbrushing fine art, illustrations, nail art, body art, models and crafts.
1. Badger TC910
While Badger offers products at virtually every skill set of airbrushing, the TC910 is best understood as a hobbyist model that can be used for some commercial purposes with specific projects.
This compressor comes with some solid qualities. For instance, the motor generates an ample ⅙ HP while simultaneously being able to deliver a maximum of 57 psi. This compressor also comes with the largest air storage tank at 1 gallon. This compressor was intended to be transported. For one, the entire kit has been housed in a metal box that features non-slip feet. The box itself features a handle on the top and there are even two holsters for the airbrushes. All of this seems to indicate that the Badger is meant to be quickly and easily taken on the go with you to be used onsite. If you choose to do so, be prepared to lug around a nearly 20-pound compressor kit.
2. Paasche D3000R
Paasche is one of the better brands of compressors for airbrushing out there, and the D3000R performs admirably. While there are a number of nice qualities and features about this compressor, by far one of the most impressive has to be how quiet it is. Unlike many other compressors for airbrushing, the Paasche D3000R only generates a paltry 46 dB when turned on–which is not a constant state of this compressor anyway. To put that in perspective, 46 dB is a little louder than a quiet office or household room but softer than moderate rainfall or a normal conversation. Even if other compressors for airbrushing claim to be quiet, they will be hard-pressed to match the Paasche in this regard.
In terms of the standard specs, the Paasche is adequate but not spectacular. For instance, the compressor’s motor only generates ⅛ HP which as adequate–average in fact–but does not truly stand out. Of course, the ¾ gallon air storage tank only further reduces the noise of this compressor by alleviating the need for it to always be on. The 40 psi is decent, but not the most impressive on our list.
Iwata-Medea Studio Series
Iwata-Medea Studio Series is the only piston-driven compressor that we reviewed. The distinction between the piston compressor and the membrane compressor is that the piston compressor draws air continuously whereas the diaphragm compressor only draws air on the “intake” action. This allows the Iwata to draw air through a smoother mechanism.
Unfortunately, this is actually a bit of a necessity for this specific compressor as it does not have an air storage tank. While this need not be a dealbreaker for you, it is important to note that the Iwata is not as quiet as some of the other products that we reviewed as well. While it is still noted for being reasonably quiet, you will definitely put that to the test without the ability to use this compressor for airbrushing on an alternating use.
If you are looking for something that can tackle larger jobs, you may want to opt for the Badger TC910. With the most powerful motor we reviewed and the highest maximum pressure, it can accomplish tasks the others simply cannot. Of course, if your projects are not as large, the Paasche may be a better fit. Though it is not as powerful, it does have the advantage of being by far the quietest.
Standard compressors are those you find sold at outlets like Sears, Home Depot, Lowes. For doing airbrushing T Shirts commercially, auto art, bikes and helmets these types of compressors are generally your best choice. Airbrush T Shirts all day long five, six, seven days a week is very hard on a compressor and a standard type compressor is much better suited for this type of use. Airbrushing auto art, motorcycles, and helmets generally requires spraying base coats, clear coats which requires at least a thirty gallon tank and five horse power compressors to operate a small spray gun. If all you will be doing is adding art work than a small “airbrush” compressor would work fine.
No matter what you will be airbrushing please be sure to wear a respirator rated for the type of material you’ll be spraying.
Airbrush holder is a must have for any studio or shop, its very cheap insurance against your airbrush hitting the floor.
Some other airbrush accessories you’ll find come in vary handy would be: Drawing paper, tracing paper, drawing pencils, hobby knife, ease’s of all types, and several rolls of masking tape, Frisket Film, drafting templates and rules, an easel.