Airbrush Buyer Guide 2018

buyer guide 2016

Airbrush buyer guide:

The airbrush is a fantastic tool can be used in numerous different arts: going from model making or fashion design, to cake decorating, illustration or even make up.

In this Airbrush buyer guide, I will try to answer the following questions for you:

  • What are the different type of airbrush?
    • Single action Airbrush
    • Double action Airbrush or dual action airbrush
  • Gravity Feed or Siphon Feed airbrush?
  • Which nozzle size and what needle to choose for my airbrush?
  • What are the advantage and inconvenient for each of them?
  • So what airbrush should I choose?
    • nozzle
    • Airbrush price
    • Stop set trigger control
    • Simplicity of disassembly / reassembly


 What are the different type of airbrush?

They are different types of airbrushes available out there, and each of them would have different characteristics that would suit one or several of the above applications better, but all airbrushes basically obey to the same basic principle:

A flow of compressed air is fed through the tool (airbrush) and will draw the medium (paint, ink of whatever fluid you are using) from its reservoir and atomizes it into very tiny droplets. The moving air is at a lower pressure than static air creating “suction” for the medium (paint).

In this airbrush buyer guide, we will to understand the different type of airbrush available and how they operate:

Single action airbrush:

They are call single airbrush because by pressing the trigger, it delivers both the air and the paint flow without any possible adjustment.  You can modify the paint flow separately by turning a screw or knob located at the rear of the airbrush that will adjust the needle position in the nozzle.

Single action airbrushes are usually used to paint large area, rather fine details. For instance they would suit very well if you need to for with stencils or masking.

Would suit least experienced users or beginners that would require less adjustment options. Even children can use those airbrushes as they are much easier to control that the double action airbrushes.

Single action airbrush are usually cheaper than the double action airbrush. So if you are not planning to work on fine details and you have a pretty tight budget, this could be the way to go for you.

See the best selling Single Airbrushes on Amazon

Double action airbrush:

Double action airbrushes  are probably the most widely used airbrushes out there. They are more precise airbrush, ideal for art painting for instance. They allow much more control and are much more precise than the single action airbrushes. The airflow is controlled by pressing the airbrush trigger and the paint flow is controlled by pulling the same trigger back. The more you pull the trigger back, the bigger the paint flow is, making the spray pattern wider.

Yes it is great to be able to control both airflow and paint flow, but it makes double action airbrushes more difficult to use than single action airbrushes.You will need a certain amount of practice before you can master it. Double action airbrushes are usually more expensive than single action airbrushes. But I would say it is well worth the money as you have a tool that will allow you to produce fantastic details work.

See the best selling Double action Airbrushes on Amazon

Gravity feed or Suction (siphon) Feed?

Siphon Feed airbrush:

You can recognize those type of airbrushed with their bottle or container located generally at the bottom or on the side of the airbrush. As the air is going through the airbrush, the paint is pulled up by a vacuum into the airbrush towards the nozzle to be atomized.

The bottle on those airbrushes is larger than gravity feed airbrushes so they be useful if you have to pain larger surface without having to refill the bottle. They are also fitted with larger nozzle than those fitted on gravity feed airbrushes.  Also colour swapping is making easier with siphon feed airbrushes as it is very easy to just interchange bottle of different colour paint. You could potentially have few bottles of different colours ready to be used and also a bottle of cleaner you can use in between colour changes. All of those above characteristic make the siphon feed airbrushes more suited for users that want to paint large area.

Artists that paint on T-Shirt or work on airbrushed Tattoos often use those kind of siphon feed airbrushes.

Gravity feed airbrush:

Gravity feed airbrush are generally used by airbrush users that want to do fine detail work. They draw the paint down from a cup located at the top of the airbrush. Gravity feed airbrush allow users to work with lower air pressure than bottom feed airbrush. That subsequently will give you more control on the way you move you hand and spray on the support. They are in a way more economical than siphon feed airbrush. When you spray, you will use every single drop of paint in the cup. It is easier to pull down the paint from cup than to pull it up from the bottle of a bottom feed airbrush. So it is the ideal airbrush when you need to work on details with a small quantity of paint in the cup.


Which nozzle size and what needle to choose for my airbrush?

The nozzles and needles are very fragile. Therefore it is better to a spare one in stock as they can easily be bend or damaged if you drop the airbrush or during the maintenance. Make sure to choose an airbrush for which you can find spare parts. You will definitely have to replace either a nozzles or a needles at some stage. Check out the price for those parts also as you might need to replace them more frequently that you think.

You might wonder what type of nozzle\needle to buy?

I will depends again of what use you are going to have with the airbrush.

You need to know that:

  • The finer the nozzle\needle assembly is, the finer the spray is going to be, the more details you are going to be able to achieve with your airbrush. But also the less suited for spraying large area.
  • The finer the nozzle\needle assembly is, the finer the paint you will use will have to be adapted (finer pigmented), and the less your compressed air requirements will be.

On the other hand:

  • The larger the nozzle\needle assembly is, the more difficult it will be to work on fine details and the easier it will be to paint large area and backgrounds.
  • The wider the nozzle\needle assembly is, the more freedom you will have in choosing the type of paint to be sprayed and the greater your need for compressed air will be.

So it is hard to answer the above question, the choice of the nozzle\needle assembly will really depends on what you are going to do with it.To make it easier, some airbrush like the Badger SOTAR 20/20 comes with a set of different nozzle\needle.

For me, 0.4mm is a good compromise to get started. Starting with a 0.15mm / 0.2mm needle is complicated: the nozzle and needle are very fine and can get clogged easily, and you may spend much more time cleaning the airbrush than painting.

Advantage and inconvenient, what airbrush for what application?

In the table below, you will be able to see some advantages and inconvenient for the different types of airbrushes I described previously.  You can also see which type of airbrushes is suitable for what application.

GRAVITY FEEDFine details work
Work with lower air pressure
Dispense all paint in cup (even metallic paint)
Easier to clean
Faster response time to get paint out
Stop and Start of a line easier
Need less pressure (works with smaller compressor)
Smaller cup not suited for painting large area
Reload paint cup more often if painting large area
Cup can block the view
Illustration, fine art, Make-up artist,
Model painting, some cake decorating
bigger paint jar, suited for painting large area (T-shirt, Tattoo),
Easy & quick to change colour
Side Bottle can be rotated
Allow to paint at any angle (upside down)
Allow good visibility, cup not in the way
Not suited for detail work
Need more pressure
Harder to start& stop lines when working
Takes a bit longer to clean
Suited for tee-shirt painting, Tatoo
Culinary art Painting
DOUBLE ACTIONAllow very fine control
Good for fading or blending
Versatile airbrush
Instant control over the amount of paint and spray pattern.
Control both air and fluid actions
A bit more difficult to use for beginnerIllustrating, art, crafts, model painting, Make-up artist,
SINGLE ACTIONIdeal for solid fill area
Good for beginner\novice
Can’t adjust paint flow with trigger.
Less instant control than dual-action airbrushes
Tanning Spray, cake decorating,
base or top coating for model painting

So what airbrush should I choose?

I gave you already quite a bit of information in there but if you are still unsure, there is few more thing that you can also consider.

If you are into fine art paint, Illustrating or want to paint plastic models, you really to have a maximum control over the amount paint and air you spray. Double action airbrushes will suit you better.


You can find double action airbrushes with different size on nozzle\needle out there: 0.2 mm, 0.3 mm, 0.4 mm, o.5 mm, 0.6 mm …..I already cover that in the previous paragraph.

If you need to work on large area, you will want to choose an airbrush with a large nozzle (0.5 mm or more). If you need to paint fine details, thin line, then obviously you will require a finer nozzle.

You can have a type of airbrush for a particular type of job. However, you can find some airbrush out there that have an interchangeable nozzle system. That will allow to do several type of jobs with the same airbrush (like the Iwata-Medea Eclipse HP CS). This will give you a lot of flexibility. You could spray background with a set of nozzle and then swap the nozzle\needle\cap for a thinner one do work on the details.

Stop set trigger control:

Another element I wanted to mention is the stop set trigger control. You can find on some dual action airbrush like the Badger Renegade range. It is also called “speed dial” on the Harder and Steenbeck Infinity airbrush for instance.

This will allow you set how far the needle can go back when you pull the trigger, to restrict the amount of paint that can get atomized. Handy when you want to spray even size lines. Although this feature might not be necessarily a must for the pro, it is a nice safety net to have for a beginner.

Airbrush price:

There are some airbrush manufacturers out there who produce very cheap, low quality airbrushes, with non-existent spare parts. I would stay clear from those airbrushes. They are designed to be used only a few times before they usually fail to function correctly.

So don’t buy a 30 € airbrush but try to invest a bit more money if you can. You won’t regret it. You can find a very good airbrush for 150€.

The main airbrush manufacturers on the market are :

Those manufacturer produce reliable, high quality products, with high quality materials. The all have a wide range of spare parts and accessories for their airbrushes. Very important as you will soon discover!

Simplicity of disassembly / reassembly:

This is also an important factor because at the beginning, you will  spends a lot of time cleaning your airbrush


Closing comments:

There you go, I think I covered everything I wanted to speak about in this airbrush buyer guide. I hope you have found this post informative. Hopefully you have a better understanding of the airbrush now than before reading it.

About David AirbrushGeek

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