Last updated: August 13, 2021

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Where you always find valuable information to make the best purchase of all kinds of items. This time we bring you everything you need to know to buy the airbrush that suits you best.

Airbrushes are a great tool to achieve unique details in artistic creations of small, medium or large format. They are also widely used in the automotive industry and to achieve impressive and extravagant make-up.

To give you the best experience, we want to show you the different types of airbrushes on the market so that you can compare them and make the best buying decision. After reading this guide from start to finish you will have all the tools you need to get the best out of the airbrush of your choice.




The most important things to know

  • An airbrush is a tool with a very ingenious mechanism that sprays paint by means of an air compressor through a nozzle connected by a hose. It is very useful for making unique gradients, impossible to achieve with a brush or paintbrush.
  • All airbrushes work by joining air and ink in a jet that comes out under pressure through a nozzle, but there are several ways to carry out this process. The most common are the gravity and suction mechanisms. We will discuss these in more detail later.
  • There are several factors to take into account so that you can make the best decision and get the most out of your airbrush. You have to consider the compressor you will use, as well as the diameter of the nozzle, the application you will use and the type of pigment you will use.

The Best Airbrush: Our Picks

Buying guide: What you need to know about airbrushes

We know that all airbrushes look pretty much the same and that it is not easy to know their particular characteristics. That's why we want to present you with this guide to help you find the airbrush that's right for you. Pay close attention to all the information below and make the best purchase

Anyone can use an airbrush! (Photo: Alfred Hofer / 123rf.com)

What is an airbrush?

An airbrush is a tool widely used by artists and confectioners, as well as by blacksmiths and car assemblers. It consists of a device that precisely releases paint from a reservoir that is driven by a compressor through a hose. It is usually controlled by a trigger.

This ingenious means of applying paint works for decorating pastries, dyeing clothes or painting on various surfaces. It was patented in the mid-19th century and has since been used in various industries to colour countless products and public or private spaces.

What are the advantages of an airbrush?

It is extremely useful for uniformly painting surfaces that are not so easy to impregnate with pigments by means of a brush or paintbrush. It is also able to give detail and gradients to artwork and decoration that would otherwise be impossible to achieve, thanks to the paint being applied subtly.

Anyone can use an airbrush and have a professional paint finish on furniture, cars, blacksmithing, modelling or decorating. However, it takes a lot of patience to master the technique and achieve perfect results, especially in artistic creation. In addition, the airbrush needs to be cleaned constantly.

Advantages
  • Unique finishes
  • Easy to use
  • Saves time when painting
  • Can paint almost any surface
  • Can achieve many different line widths
Disadvantages
  • Needs a compressor
  • Consumes paint quickly Compressor can be very noisy
  • Needs constant maintenance

Gravity or suction airbrush: What should you pay attention to?

All airbrushes work on the same principle of combining air and ink in a jet that comes out under pressure through a nozzle. However, the mechanism of action varies between different models and they can be classified as gravity or suction mechanisms.

This classification is made on the basis of the way the airbrush feeds the paint and depends on the placement of the reservoir in relation to the airbrush body. Either of these mechanisms has advantages and disadvantages depending on the type of work you want to use it for.

Suction airbrush. This mechanism places the paint reservoir at the bottom of the airbrush body, so that it sucks the paint upwards. They usually have interchangeable reservoirs for easy cleaning, and also offer great versatility.

Gravity airbrush. In this mechanism, the reservoir is located at the top of the airbrush body, causing the paint to fall by its own weight. This allows the paint to be used a little more, although most of these models cannot be disassembled for easy cleaning.

Suction airbrush Gravity airbrush
Cleaning Very easy Not so easy
Tank Detachable and interchangeable Fixed
For painting ceilings Yes No
Connecting tube Yes, if clogged it clogs No, it is impossible to clog

Single or double-acting airbrush

Another important aspect to consider in the airbrush mechanism is the trigger action, which can be single or double action. In the case of single action, the airbrush only allows the lever to be pulled down to release air and to control the amount of paint it is necessary to loosen the screw and move it.

On the other hand, the double-action mechanism does allow you to control the amount of paint directly from the trigger, providing a more complete level of precision. Pressing down only releases air, while pressing backwards delivers paint. This mechanism is recommended for more advanced users.

The single-action mechanism is usually cheaper and is much easier to operate, making it ideal for beginners. However, this does not provide much precision for making thinner lines and greatly limits the artist's possibilities.

How much does an airbrush cost?

Airbrushes are not cheap working tools, especially considering that you need to buy a separate compressor in most cases. However, the price range is wide. We can find a complete kit of acceptable quality starting at 1,000 MXN and in some cases it already includes a small compressor.

However, a higher quality professional kit can cost more than 3,000 MXN and will not include a compressor. The price range of a good compressor is between 2,000 MXN and 8,000 MXN depending on its power. More on the characteristics of compressors later.

It is also important to take into account that you will also have to invest in good airbrush paints. A package with several paints can cost between approximately 500 MXN and more than 2,000 MXN, depending on the brand and the number of bottles.

Airbrushing allows you to create unique gradients full of texture (Photo: Олена Сушицька / 123rf.com)

Buying criteria: factors that allow you to compare airbrush models

Airbrushes are very varied and have different characteristics that we can divide into some important purchasing criteria to consider before making a decision. Here are the ones we consider to be the most essential for you to buy the airbrush that is right for you.

Airbrush cleaning

The correct cleaning of the airbrush is essential for its proper functioning, and it is important to clean specific parts of the airbrush after each use to avoid clogging the nozzle. Most of the problems that airbrush users have are due to the lack of cleanliness of the mechanism.

The intensity of cleaning will largely depend on the colour change: if it goes from a light to a dark colour, only water will be needed. However, if the colour change is the other way round, it is advisable to use some kind of solvent. It is always easier to clean after each use rather than waiting for the paint to dry.

We recommend getting some basic cleaning supplies such as pipe cleaners, small interdental brushes, cotton swabs and a stiff bristle brush. This will ensure a thorough cleaning of your airbrush after each use and you will be able to enjoy it for much longer.

"Once in Dutch customs they thought my works were photographs. Where on earth did they think I could have photographed such things? In hell?" - H. R. Giger, Swiss airbrush artist

Nozzle precision

This is a very important factor to consider depending on the detail you need when using your airbrush. The simplest airbrushes come with a wide nozzle with which it is impossible to paint very thin lines. However, some models incorporate interchangeable nozzles to give different line qualities in your creations.

It is important that you check the product description for the characteristics of the nozzle, as it is the most important part to achieve the level of detail you are looking for. But if what you need is simply to paint objects to give them texture without much detail, any standard nozzle will work perfectly.

Compressor

The air compressor is an essential tool for running your airbrush. It is used to compress air from outside with the help of one or more pistons, storing it if you have a tank, or applying it directly if you don't have a tank.

With tank. The fact of storing the air in this tank helps the engine not to be working all the time, avoiding its overheating, vibration and excessive noise to be able to work more quietly.
Tankless. These compressors can be more economical but are not recommended, as the motor needs to be on every time it is used and this can overheat it if it is not continuously paused.

Many modern compressors have an automatic on/off system to refill the air tank when necessary. Some models even have a pressure gauge that allows you to see the pressure level at which you are working. Small compressors operate at 1-1.5 bar while larger compressors operate at up to 6 bar.

The airbrush is an ingenious mechanism with great aesthetic value. (Photo: Ludmila Martins Abou Haikal / 123rf.com)

Applications

The type of airbrush you choose will depend largely on the application you want to use it for. Below is a list of the most common applications and the recommended models to get the best results.

Modelling. In this case it is highly recommended to get a double action airbrush because it gives you the necessary control to give details by controlling the amount of paint that comes out of the nozzle. We also recommend one with interchangeable nozzles.

Baking. For this type of application you don't need a precision airbrush, a general purpose airbrush will do the job perfectly. You can paint perfectly well with chocolate or edible paint using a wide nozzle and a simple compressor is enough.

Make-up. In this case a gravity-fed airbrush is best, as make-up paint tends to be denser and can clog up the suction mechanisms. You don't need a very sophisticated compressor to work in this type of application.

Textile. To work on T-shirts and other textiles we recommend you to get an airbrush with a suction method to be able to change the colour constantly without wasting so much time. A medium tip is enough to achieve all kinds of designs.

Automotive. Here we include applications on car bodies, helmets or skateboards. We recommend a gravity airbrush with a larger tank than standard to cover larger surfaces. Here you will need a good compressor.

Illustration. For all types of fine art you will definitely need a dual action airbrush, preferably gravity and with interchangeable nozzles for the best control of fine details. For these applications a compressor with an automatic on/off system is recommended.

Types of paint

In general, any type of paint can be used with the airbrush as long as it is diluted correctly (gouache, acrylic, liquid make-up, etc.). In the case of oil paints and hard enamels it is not very advisable to use them, as they can cause serious difficulties in application and above all in cleaning.

In the case of modelling, quick-drying water-based paints with a fine pigment density are used. Some brands offer metallic or fluorescent finishes to give an incredible texture to your scale models.

For confectionery, any type of edible vegetable-based ink is used and can also be used with chocolate. It is generally recommended that no matter what type of paint is used, the viscosity of the paint should ideally be similar to that of milk.

Now you have all the tools to choose the best airbrush for you and unleash your creativity. (photo: Vitalij Sova / 123rf.com)

(Featured image photo: Andrey Kekyalyanen / 123RF)

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