Airbrushes – Advice on How to Choose the Best One


If you’ve never bought an airbrush before, choosing the right one can be quite a confusing task.

If you are looking to buy a new one or upgrade your old one, there are a few things to keep in mind when shopping about.

Ask yourself the following questions:

• What type of paint or fluid am I going to spray with?
• What detail or areas am I going to be spraying?
• What degree of instant control do I need?
• What might I require from my airbrush in future?
• What is my budget?

When you choose an airbrush, make sure it’s a product that is durable and long lasting so that it will cater to all your current needs as well as any future requirements you may have. The nozzle, also known as the tip, and the needle size of the airbrush will determine the amount of paint that can be sprayed through it. Sizes often vary between 0.10mm and 0.5mm on airbrush to 0.6 and 1.5mm on small spray guns. However, the majority of airbrushes come with one nozzle and needle already fitted.

Airbrush sets on the other hand come with a selection of nozzle sizes and needles, and it is a general rule of thumb that finer detail work requires a smaller nozzle. The various sizes include:

• Fine – 0.2mm
• Medium – 0.35mm
• Heavy – 0.5mm

As an airbrush user you could need up to seven different sized airbrushes as one will not be versatile enough. However a medium size nozzle will be able to achieve a fine line of around 0.3mm at its finest, and up to 50mm at its widest. When you change your airbrush sizes, the needle, nozzle and often the needle cap will need to be changed too. Also keep in mind the type of paint you will be using as all media sprayed through your airbrush needs to be of a ‘single cream’ like consistency.

Therefore, if your paint mixture has not already been pre-thinned, it will need to be thinned to this level before you can use it. Thicker paints require thicker nozzles so for those using emulsions and Metallica’s, you will normally need a nozzle that is at least 0.6mm thick.

Internal Mix

An internal mix airbrush is when the paint is mixed with the air right at the tip of the head assembly inside the cap. And because the air passes all around the tip, the fluid is thoroughly atomised to a small dot size.

External Mix

An external mix airbrush is when the paint and air are mixed outside of the airbrush as it passes over the fluid tip. This will produce a less atomised spray with a larger dot pattern and is less capable of finer line work.

Single Action

Single action airbrushes spray a pre-set amount of paint when the trigger is depressed and the airflow turned. The amount of paint sprayed is controlled by turning with one hand either a fluid tip or cone on external mix airbrushes, or a needle at the back of the handle on an internal mix airbrush.

Double or Dual Action

Double or dual action airbrushes use the button or trigger to control the amount of air and paint they spray. The trigger is pressed down for air and pulled back for paint, therefore the further you pull back the trigger, the more paint is released. This allows you to easily change the width of line you spray as well as the volume of paint and its coverage by simply moving your finger.

Gravity Feed

Gravity feed airbrushes have cups or cut outs in the top of their body’s. Less air pressure is required as the fluid is drawn to the tip by mostly gravity, which is particularly useful for finer detail airbrushing.

Siphon or Side Feed

Siphon or side feed airbrushes which can have either rotatable cups or bottles plugged into the side of them. This will make airbrushing possible at most angles and allow for finer detail spraying without your view being obstructed by a cup on the top of the airbrush. This type of airbrush is also particularly useful where colour changes are required or when different quantities of paint need to be used, as the colours can be kept in different size containers.

Suction or Bottom Feed

Airbrushes with a suction or bottom feed have either cups or bottles that plug into the bottom of the airbrush. This is especially useful when large quantities of paint are required as the bottles or cups can be plugged in or changed if quick colour changes are needed.

If you are still struggling to come to a decision and would like some expert advice on airbrushes, contact the experts at GraphicAir for more information.


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