Are you looking to invest into an Airbrush? Not sure where to start? You are starting your journey in airbrushing and wondering what is the best airbrush for beginners? Then you came to the right place. In this airbrush buying guide, I will try to cover everything you need to know before taking that step to buy your first airbrush.
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 buying guide, I will try to answer the following questions for you:
- What is the best Airbrush for beginners?
- What are the different type of airbrush?
- Which nozzle size and what needle to choose for my airbrush?
- Advantage and inconvenient, what airbrush for what application?
- So what airbrush should I choose?
- Closing comments
What is the best Airbrush for beginners?
What airbrush to start?
You want to start airbrushing and you ask yourself what is the best airbrush to start with? For someone starting his or her journey in airbrushing, I would always recommend the following:
- Start with a dual action, gravity feed, internal mix airbrush from the main brand manufacturers like Badger, Iwata, Harder and Steenbeck or Paasche.
- Spend as much as your budget allows you. You won’t regret the money invested at the start. It is hard enough to learn how to use an airbrush properly. Cheap material will only make it harder for you. Which lead me to the next question.
Is it worth getting a cheap airbrush as a beginner?
I want to answer that question as early as possible cause I know most beginners are tempted at the idea of getting a cheap airbrush. You can find a lot of different airbrushes on the market, from the very cheap Chinese build airbrush costing only $20, to the great quality built airbrush costing several hundred dollars.
As a beginner, I wouldn’t recommend any of those airbrushes.
- Not the cheap Chinese build airbrush as you can expect the manufacturing quality of the airbrush to be very poor at that price. For me, they seriously lack of precision. The risk is also that those cheap airbrushes will put you off all together from airbrushing. You might spend more time cleaning them as you would spraying.
In my opinion, I would would consider them as a waste of money. You are probably going to invest in a good airbrush at one stage anyway, so why not do it at the start? You will end up saving money! If you can’t afford it right now, just wait and save. Don’t worry, they are some solid build airbrushes under $80, they won’t break the bank.
- In the other hand, for beginners, I wouldn’t recommend either a top of the range airbrush either because they have features that wouldn’t be necessary for you at that stage.
Best Airbrush for Beginners
NEO CN Gravity Feed Dual Action Airbrush
The NEO range of airbrushes for IWATA are design for beginners on a budget. Like every other IWATA airbrush, it comes with a 5 Year Limited Warranty. It is a very well priced airbrush made with high quality material. It is a very versatile airbrush . Check also the IWATA airbrush comparison chart if you want more info on the full range of NEO airbrushes.
- NEO CN is a Gravity-feed airbrush that perform well at lower air pressures, which help create greater detail
- 0.35-mm needle and nozzle combination for finer detail spraying and medium-sized spray patterns
- Includes interchangeable large (1/3 oz.) and medium (1/16 oz.) cups designed with a funnel shape, which makes for easy clean-up and more efficient paint flow
- Ideal operation is between 5 and 35 psi
- Ideal for use with smaller air compressors that produce a maximum of 20 psi
Iwata-Medea Revolution CR
This IWATA Revolution airbrush is a step higher in quality and precision from the NEO range. The Revolution range is is also a very affordable serie of Iwata airbrushes with a simple and elegant design perfect for new starter but also more experience airbrush artists. If you are a beginner in airbrushing looking for the best airbrush under 100$, you have found the perfect airbrush! Remember to have a look at my IWATA airbrush comparison chart: you will see all the IWATA airbrushes, will link to their spare parts list and the application their are best suited for.
- An internal mix, dual action top-feed airbrush with ergonomic handle design with a 1/3 oz (.9 ml) Gravity-Feed well
- Larger nozzle and needle combination (0.5-mm) that makes for easier spraying of thicker or heavier paints
- Redesigned trigger mechanism and larger needle-chucking nut for easy assembly
- Replaceable internal solvent-proof PTFE needle packing for use with solvent or water based paints
Iwata-Medea Eclipse HP CS
The IWATA Eclipse HP CS is a multi-purpose quality airbrush that really will last you a lifetime. Really a great airbrush for beginners. See the full review of the IWATA Eclipse.
- Features a 0.35mm needle and drop-in self-centering nozzle combination comes with a large 1/3 oz gravity-feed cup
- Generous 1/3 oz sized cup is designed with a new funnel shape, which makes for easy cleanup and more efficient paint flow
- The Eclipse CS sprays heavier acrylics and Medea Textile Colors, while maintaining high-detail spray characteristics
- Single cut-away handle
- Spray pattern – hairline to 2″ (50-mm) round
Badger Patriot 105
The Badger Patriot is also a good priced high quality airbrush airbrush. It has an “Easy Access” needle removal system that make it easy to clean and disassemble. The Patriot is the ideal airbrush for beginners but it will also suit more advanced users. Also a very versatile airbrush, that will suit projects with high coverage but also more work on fine details. See the full Badger Patriot Review.
- Dual action gravity feed airbrush
- 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
- Badger Airbrushes are American Made. One year warranty on mfg defects with a lifetime warranty on the PTFE needle bearing and any factory labor repairs
Harder & Steenbeck Ultra X Airbrush
The german made Harder & Steenbeck Ultra X has a 0.40mm nozzle and needle as opposed to the Harder & Steenbeck Ultra that has a finer 0.20mm nozzle and needle. They both can be considered ideal airbrush for beginning airbrushers. Very easy to maintain, and again very versatile airbrush that will allow you spray most model projects.
- Self-centering socket-type nozzle 0.4mm
- Side feed, cup not included
- Double action
- Great starter airbrush!
- Cleaning brush set included
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 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 buying guide, we will to understand the different type of airbrush available and how they operate:
Internal Mix vs External Mix Airbrush
The difference refers to the way the paint mixes with the air to become atomized.
Internal Mix Airbrush
- With an internal mix brush, the paint gets mixed right at the tip of the head assembly inside the cap.
- Internal Mix airbrush will produce finer and more soft spray pattern which is excellent for details.
- Internal mix airbrush is ideal for detail work.
- The paint used need to be thinned properly to avoid clogging.
External Mix Airbrush
- With an external mix, the paint gets mixed into the air stream (atomized) from the side thus producing a squished “0” or “D” shaped spray pattern which is a little less consistent and more grainy.
- External mix airbrush sprays with a larger dot pattern, more difficult to do fine lines for detail work.
- External mix airbrush are ideal for spraying thick or high viscosity materials, such as acrylics or varnishes.
- External mix airbrushes are definitely easier to use and clean than internal mix airbrushes.
External Mix airbrush is your ideal airbrush if you need to spay a large area without being too concerned about the details.
Single action vs Double Action Airbrush:
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.
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.
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.
See in this little table how all those elements interact with each others:
|Needle||0.2 mm||0.3 mm/0.4 mm||0.6 mm|
|Pressure PSI||10 to 20||22 to 32||22 to 36|
|ink and Dyes||ink and Dyes||ink and Dyes|
|Food colorant||Food colorant||Food colorant|
|Bio paint||Bio Paint|
|Surface to paint||8 x 8 inch||20 x 20 inch||30 x 30 inch|
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.
|ADVANTAGE||INCONVENIENT||BEST SUITED FOR|
|GRAVITY FEED||Fine 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 ACTION||Allow very fine control|
Good for fading or blending
Instant control over the amount of paint and spray pattern.
Control both air and fluid actions
|A bit more difficult to use for beginner||Illustrating, art, crafts, model painting, Make-up artist,|
|SINGLE ACTION||Ideal 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.
I already cover why I don’t recommend cheap, low quality airbrushes on the first section of this post.But I want to say it again. 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 :
- Badger – US manufacturer see popular Badger Airbrushes on Amazon
- Paasche – US manufacturer see popular Paasche Airbrushed on Amazon
- Aztek – US manufacturer see popular Aztek Airbrushed on Amazon
- Iwata – Japenese manufacturer see popular Iwata Airbrushes on Amazon
- Harder and Steenbeck – German manufacturer see popular Harder and Steenbeck Airbrushes on Amazon
- Hansa – German manufacturer see popular Hansa Airbrushes on Amazon
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
There you go, I think I covered everything I wanted to speak about in this airbrush buying guide for beginners. If you are a beginner, I hope this post will help you to choose the right airbrush for you and that you have found this post informative. Hopefully you have a better understanding of the airbrush now than before reading it.
Please leave a comment below and let me know if this post has helped you to choose your first airbrush.