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There are so many choices in features and configurations…  Gravity feed, siphon feed, side feed.  External mix, internal mix.  Dual action, single action, trigger action.

Consult the Airbrush Dictionary if you’re dying to find out what all those terms mean, or just keep reading.

Then you have to take into consideration the different manufacturers out there. Iwata, Badger, Paasche, Grex, Richpen, Harder and Steenbeck, countless other private brands and even nameless airbrushes that look like any of the above…

So, what should you choose?

The Extremely Short Version for Impatient Beginners

Actually it’s easy…

  1. Choose a gravity feed, dual action, internal mix airbrush from a name brand manufacturer like Badger, Iwata, or Paasche.
  2. If you use a one airbrush per color, or one bottle per color setup, choose a siphon feed instead of the gravity feed.

That’s it.

Best Airbrush Kit for Beginners

I could walk you through the various branches and choice but most people under most circumstances end up at either a gravity or siphon-feed, dual action, internal mix airbrush.

Here are my top 3 airbrush kits for all round performance…

1. Iwata-Medea Eclipse HP CS

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Iwata has a reputation for producing quality brushes and the Eclipse HP CS is no exception. 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.

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.

Overall, the comprehensive function of the Eclipse makes it the only airbrush most artists will ever need.

2. Paasche TG-3F

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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.

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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 affordable price makes the Patriot appealing for beginners or professional artists. Use the Patriot 105 for everything including auto art, custom painting motorcycles, helmets, fine art, illustrations, T Shirts, models.

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.

Best Airbrush Buying Guide

Things You Should Already Know

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Coverage vs. Detail

  • Do you want lots of coverage?

    If you do, you need to look at spray guns.  Remember this rule.  The bigger the spray pattern the easier it is to blend and cover.  Your goal is to spray an area in as few passes as possible without getting hideously expensive.  Conversely you don’t want to get too big else your material waste (sprayed paint that never sticks to the surface) will chew up your cash.

  • Do you want lots of detail?

    If you do you’ll need something with a long pointy needle.  That usually, but not always, translates into an airbrush.

The rest of this article assumes you’re looking for an airbrush.  If you’re looking into spray guns feel free to contact me for a recommendation.  Do take into consideration if you’re in a heavily regulated state like California.

Beginners vs. Veterans

  • Are you a beginner?

    Beginners need an airbrush that “forgives” their mistakes more so than professionals do.  The biggest problem most people encounter with their airbrushes are user problems.  i.e. cleaning, paint consistency, lack of fine motor control, instead of product issues.  This means it’s better to have equipment that teaches you these things but doesn’t require you to know them inside and out.

    I’m getting at super detail airbrushes.  Beginners should STAY AWAY from super duper, amazingly amazing, ultra-micro-nanometer line producing airbrushes that solve all your detail problems.

    These are amazing airbrushes, but let me break it to you.  They’re too much airbrush for you to handle. These airbrushes are actually too amazing for beginners simply because they offer you your worst nightmare.  Control.  Control over every possible airbrushing variable.  The more variables you face the harder it is to learn, and the learning curve for airbrushes is steep enough already.

    I use this analogy.  Did you learn how to drive in a Formula 1 Racer?  No.  You probably learned how to drive in something street legal.

  • Veterans.

    I assume you know how to clean your airbrush and change your paint consistency (straining, reducing, etc.).

    'Fancy Wallet Azeeda Credit Business Card Holder CH00009118 Card Milkshake' Because you know a little or a lot about airbrushing you’ll need to do a bit more research to find the kinds of brushes you’re after.  There’re three ways to go about this.

    • Experimental research – This is actually what most people do.  They buy a new airbrush and try it out.  This is actually a good way to find the type of airbrush you want, but there are a couple drawbacks.   It’s expensive and time consuming.
    • Read reviews – Basically, take other people’s experience into consideration.
    • Mixture of both – Ultimately it does come down to this.  You hear about a product and you try it out.  The cost will be a bit lower but you should still be prepared to occasionally find tools you’re not interested in ever picking up again.

Internal Mix vs. External Mix

Azeeda Holder CH00009118 Credit Card Wallet 'Fancy Business Card Milkshake' The way the paint hits the air stream is important simply because it changes the way the spray looks when it hits the surface.

Unless you have a good reason to choose external mix you should choose internal mix simply because you get more consistent, more even spray.

  • Internal Mix

    The paint gets introduced into the center of the air stream.

  • External Mix

    The paint gets introduced into the air stream’s side producing a squished O or D shaped spray pattern.

    Reasons to choose external over internal mix.

    • You don’t mind the grainies, less consistent spray
    • You don’t need fine details just a small coverage area

Dual Action vs. Single Action vs. Trigger Action

This is about how you physically manipulate the airbrush controls.  Again, unless you have a good reason to choose something else choose dual action.

  • Dual Action (aka Double Action)

    Press down for air.  Pull back for paint.  Most people use dual action airbrushes, most techniques are built upon how they work and function.  Also, the manufacturers have accessories to duplicate many of the benefits other gun types offer without sacrificing the benefits dual action offers.

  • Single Action

    Press down for air which usually starts the paint too.  Twist a knob to adjust the paint-flow.

    Reasons to Messenger Large Canvas Universe Print Medium Large Black Bag Galaxy Medium EIqaPwU over dual action.

    • You always spray the same amount of fluid all the time.
    • CH00009118 Holder 'Fancy Wallet Milkshake' Business Card Credit Card Azeeda The airbrush passes through many untrained hands to do the same repeatable thing all the time.
    • If you’re looking into some kind of research application I generally recommend single action airbrushes, simply because they’re a little bit easier for you ordered, logical science types.  You can take some measurements and they’ll stay generally the same.  You don’t have to worry about that silly, artistic, relative measurement junk!
  • Trigger Action

    This setup is for people who want to use their airbrushes as if they were spray guns.

    Reasons to choose trigger action over dual action

    • You’ve used spray guns forever and have a pretty good feel for them.  This will be easier for you to get used to instead of learning a separate motion.

Gravity Feed vs. Siphon Feed vs. Side Feed

This covers how the paint is fed into the airbrush.  Generally choose a gravity feed unless you have good reasons to choose something else.

  • Gravity Feed

    Gravity pulls the paint down to the nozzle’s tip.  The paint ‘wants’ to be sprayed.  It’s economical and can function on a drop of paint.  You can also use less air pressure to effectively atomize the paint.  Less pressure means the built in ability to spray finer details than the other configurations.

  • Siphon Feed

    Fast moving air generates a low pressure zone at the nozzle’s tip.  This pulls the paint up through the stem to get atomized.  They do require a bit more air than a gravity feed airbrush but make up for it with the ability to hold far more paint depending on the bottle size attached.

    Reasons to use a siphon feed airbrush over a gravity feed.

    • Your using a multi-gun setup.  1 airbrush per color.  It’s faster this way because there’s less cleaning.
    • You need the extra capacity because you spray a lot of paint at one time. i.e. Wallet Dragon' Holder Business Credit Card Card CH00007257 'Cute Azeeda CwHqPOC use siphon feed airbrushes because they don’t need to worry about responsiveness.
    • Card Azeeda Card Business Milkshake' Wallet Credit Holder 'Fancy CH00009118 You want a quick cleanup
    • You’ve got a lot of stock colors you use all the time.
  • Side Feed

    A side feed airbrush is cross between the straight siphon or straight gravity feed airbrush.  If the paint level is above the nozzle tip it’s a gravity feed.  If the paint level is below then it’s a siphon feed.

    Reasons to use a side feed airbrush over a gravity feed

    • You want one airbrush to do it all.
    • You need to spray upside down
    • You don’t mind the cost of extra accessories
    • Credit CH00009118 Business Card Milkshake' Wallet Card Azeeda 'Fancy Holder You don’t mind the slightly longer cleanup time

    I actually really like side feed airbrushes.  If I had to only choose one airbrush this would be it.

Choosing the Manufacturer

I generally recommend one of three or four manufacturers simply because they’ve got a reputation and understand customer service [ avoid cheap airbrushes].  This isn’t to say that you won’t find good equipment from other people but it’s kind of hit or miss.

  • Iwata

    Click Here for Top Rated Iwata Airbrushes

    Iwata positions themselves at the top of the airbrush food chain.  The Eclipse CS (gravity feed) and the Eclipse BCS (siphon feed) are the two most popular airbrushes they produce.  I know their customer service and technical support rocks.

  • Badger
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    Click Here for Top rated Badger Airbrushes

    Of the three Badger is by far the least expensive.  I personally don’t think they’re the best airbrushes in the world, however, they are certainly NOT the worst.  They stand behind their products and continually innovate new designs.

  • Paasche

    Click here for Top Rated Paasche Airbrushes

    Paasche is a step up from Badger.  In fact, many people I’ve met first learned on Paasche VLs.  I’ve never dealt with Paasche’s customer or technical support so I can’t say ya or nay, but I’ve never heard complaints about it being bad.

  • Everyone else There are other brands that I’ve heard good things about (Harder and Steinbeck comes to mind) but I’ve never played with them or done much research into how they perform and how the companies take care of their end users.  At the other end of the spectrum are the clones.  Most clones come out of China or Taiwan and model themselves as exact duplicates of the first three.  Try to avoid the clones.  You can tell the clones because they aren’t ‘claimed’.  Iwata, Badger, Paasche, and most reputable manufacturers will engrave their name on the side so you can call them and figure out what’s going on when you have problems.  Clones don’t.

Conclusion

It’s time for you to go looking for a good airbrush.  Once you’ve found it, it’ll be time to choose the right kind of airbrush compressor to power it.

Good luck!

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