The most important tool for an airbrush artist is the airbrush gun. It is used to apply the paint to the surface you are working on. The entire art form is named after this tool, the airbrush, so it is clearly an essential part of the process. Follow our complete guide below to help you understand airbrush spray guns to help you find the best airbrush gun available.
Table of Contents
- 1 Using the Airbrush Spray Gun
- 2 Different Types of Airbrush Guns Available
- 3 What Airbrush Gun is Best for Your Needs
- 4 Extensive Airbrush Guns Test
- 5 Complete Cleaning of the Airbrush Paint Gun
- 6 Frequently Asked Questions
Using the Airbrush Spray Gun
An airbrush gun, also known as a fine spray gun, pistol, or injection pen, consists of several components that work together:
- Paint container
- Plug that connects to an external compressor
Without the container for the paint, an airbrush gun is about the size of a ballpoint pen. The airflow required by an airbrush is generated by an external compressor. This compressor works with pressures between 1.5 and 3 bar. This compressed air is led past the paint and creates a negative pressure when it exits the nozzle. The resulting suction attracts the paint and leads to an atomization of the paint in the air stream.
Always remember: The higher the pressure, the finer the paint is atomized. This fine spray creates the well-known thin layer of paint of an airbrush gun.
Different Types of Airbrush Guns Available
Airbrush guns are not all the same. There are a few different types that you can choose from. We have outlined the various airbrush options below when looking for the best airbrush gun.
Various Cup Systems
The paint to be sprayed is in a cup. This paint cup can be placed at different places on the airbrush. When the cup is placed on the gun, the paint flows by gravity into the air stream. This variant is also called a flow cup system. The shape of the cup supports the flow properties of the paint. This system is particularly suitable in model making and other areas where the paint has to be changed frequently during a work cycle.
The paint cup can also be placed under the gun. This system is called the suction cup system. Here the paint is sucked out of the cup by means of negative pressure. The suction cups usually have a larger capacity and are particularly suitable for working in large areas. A suction cup system requires on average a higher pressure than a flow cup system.
In the side cup system, where the paint container is located on the side of the gun, you will find both flow cup systems and suction cup systems. Besides the different cup systems just described, there is another striking difference in which way the air pressure and the amount of paint can be varied.
In this variant, the ink flow is fixed by means of a wheel. During the spraying process, the airflow can be continuously adjusted by means of a lever and the dosage can be regulated. This system is easy to handle for simple work and is the best airbrush for beginners.
Even with the double-action principle, the airbrush has only one lever. However, this is linked to 2 functions (double action = 2 functions). Firstly, it doses the airflow by pressing the lever, and secondly the paint flow by pulling the lever back. Both are infinitely variable. This variant requires some practice and skill. In contrast to the single-action principle, it allows the artist to carry out fine and detailed work. For airbrush professionals, this option is, therefore, the best airbrush gun option.
Special Airbrush Gun Systems
The Controlled or Coupled Double Action System
In this system, the lever is only pulled back. Depending on the extent, the mixing ratio air – paint is automatically regulated. The advantage of this system is the uniformity of the spray jet. This system is rare. But it can be the best airbrush for beginners and professionals alike.
Mini Turbine or Paasche Turbo Airbrush Gun
The functional principle of this airbrush gun system is unique. A mini turbine makes the needle vibrate. Paint is taken out of the needle bearing and transported into the air stream. Airbrush guns with this fine construction are in the very high-priced segment and are reserved for professionals. They are able to work on the smallest details and realize projects in stamp size.
What Airbrush Gun is Best for Your Needs
Before you choose the best airbrush gun, you should be clear about how the airbrush is to be used. In addition, there are some considerations regarding individual skills.
- This is important to know before choosing the pistol you will use
- Flow cup systems are suitable in model making and for frequent color changes
- Suction cup systems are used more for the processing of large surfaces
- Single action pistols are suitable for easier work and are the best airbrush for beginners
- Double action pistols are all-rounders but require more practice in their use
- Mini turbines are required for the finest precision work and are reserved for professionals
Certainly, appearance, weight, handling and the range of accessories and spare parts also play an important role in the selection. Finally, there are different price categories in each area, which often go hand in hand with different quality requirements.
The Guns Nozzle
Besides the viscosity of the paint and the air pressure used, the nozzles are decisive for the fineness of the brush stroke. The smaller the nozzle diameter, the more delicate the jet stroke. Nozzles are usually available in diameters from 0.1-0.3mm (for fine work) to 0.5-1.0mm (for primers and coarse work).
Depending on the model you can change the complete nozzle head or the nozzle is put into a bayonet position and changed this way. If the complete nozzle head has to be exchanged, the thread should be sealed with wax when changing. The different nozzles are usually available as accessories. A kind of universal size is the nozzle size 0.2 – 0.4 mm. This nozzle is ideal for learning and general use. As you progress, we recommend having a wider range of variants here for the best airbrush gun painting techniques and versatility.
The Pistol Material
Does the color and material of the best airbrush gun matter? Absolutely! Chrome-plated or mirrored parts of the gun can reflect the motif and thus be very disturbing. Especially if you have to get very close to your work with the airbrush gun. Also when working in sunlight such reflecting parts have a very unpleasant effect.
The material is also decisive for good handling. Where professionals prefer smooth surfaces, it can be quite useful for the beginner or hobby airbrush artist to work with a rougher gun surface or at least non-slip grip surfaces.
Weight and Hose
If you want to work longer with the airbrush gun or do fine detail work you should pay attention to the weight. With a heavy gun, your fingers tire more easily than with a lightweight. When choosing a gun, you should therefore avoid unnecessary details. Try out if your new airbrush gun fits comfortably in your hand. Often the air connection nozzle and hose in the rear part of the airbrush gun are too heavy. Make sure that the nozzle is as short as possible and the hose as light as possible.
Airbrush guns can range greatly in price. There are very expensive specialized options and very affordable ones. Basically, all models can be used in their own way. However, they differ considerably in their quality of workmanship. This is reflected in the resistance of the threads, the life span of the pistol, and often also in the ergonomics and weight.
In addition, inexpensive models can usually only be disassembled with special tools in order to carry out thorough cleaning. More expensive models, on the other hand, can often be disassembled into their smallest components without tools, which enables thorough cleaning.
In the price category between $50 and $100, you will surely find models that meet most requirements with a great price-performance ratio and do not have to be thrown away later. If you stay true to this hobby, you will accumulate various guns and accessories over time to work on different projects.
Extensive Airbrush Guns Test
Airbrush Guns – Popular Devices in Comparison
There is a very large selection of airbrush guns and gun sets available. Our airbrush gun comparison below should help you to find the perfect unit for your needs.
Recommendation: HARDER & STEENBEECK Ultra Two in One Double Action
The Harder & Steenbeck Ultra is a highly recommended model for beginners and professionals. The Ultra Two in one is available for a great price considering its high level of quality. The offer includes a 0.2 mm nozzle and a 2ml paint cup, a 0.4 mm nozzle, and a 5 ml paint pot. This enables the processing of different color viscosities. The Harder & Steenbeck Ultra works in the Double Action flow system. It is multifunctional due to the different nozzles.
Conclusion: The Harder & Steenbeck Ultra Two in One Double Action is an excellent model at an unbeatable price.
Best Value: GAGA MILANO General Purpose Airbrush Kit
This comprehensive complete set includes the airbrush paint gun, the connection hose for the compressor, and a water separator. So the gun can be connected immediately to almost any standard compressor. Also included are 2 nozzles in the sizes 0.3 mm / 0.5 mm and 3 different needles (0.2 / 0.3 / 0.5). This airbrush uses a double-action flow system.
Conclusion: All in all a good and comprehensive entry-level model at a particularly fair price. The included water separator and connection hose are a special highlight and make it possible to start immediately with airbrush art.
For Advanced Users: Harder & Steenbeck Infinity CRplus
This really exceptionally elegant airbrush paint gun is one of the best fine spray guns currently available on the market. It doesn’t just perform well, but also looks great with a combination of classic chrome, rich red and gold applications.
The Infinity CRplus Double Action Airbrush Gun comes in a beautiful hard case, which serves as a storage and transport box for the chrome-plated gun. The Infinity CRplus is available as Solo version with 0,15, 0,2 or 0,4 mm nozzle set and 2ml color cup or as Two in One version, here the 0,4mm nozzle and the 5ml color cup is additionally included.
The Quik Fix Function:
With this function, the needle path and the amount of ink can be precisely adjusted using a rotary wheel and the engraved scale. This needle travel limitation can be activated by pressing a button and has a memory function. When the adjustment sleeve is pulled back, the needle stroke limitation is deactivated and the setting is stored until the next activation. The Infinity CRplus is particularly suitable for illustrations and fine art, but can also be used for model making, custom painting, and body painting.
Conclusion: The Infinity CRplus is an absolute high-end model among airbrush paint guns. Not only the elegant design but also the perfect handling and the extraordinarily fine spray pattern justify the high purchase price. With the Harder & Steenbeck modular system and especially with the Infinity CRplus no wishes will remain unfulfilled.
Complete Cleaning of the Airbrush Paint Gun
In addition to the minor cleaning of the airbrush paint gun required when changing the color or after finishing the work, you should clean your airbrush paint gun thoroughly more often in order to maintain its functionality for a long time.
- Handkerchiefs, cotton swabs
- Airbrush cleaner
- Possibly a clean pot
- The first step is to clean the airbrush gun with clear water and a handkerchief or cotton swab. This will remove all coarse, visible paint residue
- Afterward, airbrush cleaner is led through the tool and hard paint residues are thoroughly removed with a brush
- Attention: the needle must not be bent, work very carefully here!
- Now disassemble the airbrush gun as far as possible:
- Remove the nozzle
- Pull out the needle
- Disassemble the rest of the gun as far apart as possible
- It is best to collect the small parts in a cup so that nothing is lost.
- Now the components can be cleaned thoroughly. An ultrasonic bath can save you a lot of cleaning work. But the gun has to be disassembled also for this kind of cleaning.
Correcting Errors in the Spray Pattern
Many errors in the spray pattern can be avoided by proper and regular cleaning of the airbrush gun. But also defective wearing parts such as the nozzle or needle can be the cause for the unsightly result.
Coarse, pixelated, speckled spray pattern:
- The cause is often deposited paint in the needle, nozzle, or airhead. The fault can be quickly rectified by cleaning these parts
- Another cause can be insufficient air pressure, which means that the paint is not sufficiently atomized. Check the compressor pressure and the air hose, even kinks in it can reduce the air pressure.
- A third cause can be overly thick paint. Either dilute the paint or increase the air pressure to make it more atomized.
- A defective nozzle can also lead to a speckled spray pattern. Check the nozzle with a magnifying glass or microscope. In an emergency, it must be replaced.
Dark Edges (Color Clouds)
Dark edges in color gradients are often caused by the wrong spraying movement. Colour gradients must be sprayed without stalling! You should not change direction on the painting surface
No Thin Lines
Often, a lack of experience in the interplay of ink viscosity, air pressure, and distance to the painting surface is the cause of this error. But also an incorrectly seated needle or a defective nozzle can cause this error
Paint splashes can be caused by a defective nozzle. Paint residues that come loose and are ejected can also cause paint splashes. Thorough and regular cleaning of the airbrush gun eliminates this defect. Sometimes a handling error can also cause paint splashes: first, make sure that the lever is in the zero position and only then stop the airflow. If the procedure is reversed, paint drops may stick to the tip of the needle, which will hit your object unintentionally during the next spraying process.
A defective or bent needle, a dirty nozzle, or overly thick paint are possible causes. Cleaning the needle and nozzle, replacing the defective part or additional thinning of the ink will quickly correct the fault.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which Airbrush Gun is Best for Model Making?
For the fine detail work in model making, it is necessary that your airbrush gun is able to do such fine work. In addition, the airbrush gun used should allow an easy color change. We recommend models from Harder & Steenbeck or Iwata.
Which Airbrush Gun is Best for Large Areas and Paint Jobs?
In order to spray large areas, no specific airbrush gun is actually used. However, the sprayer used works on the same principle. However, the devices are somewhat more robust and the nozzles and the paint container are larger.
Which Airbrush Gun to Use for Airbrush Tattoos or Nail Design?
Whether the application of tinting lotion, make-up, fine patterns in nail design, or for a “washable” tattoo, the airbrush technique is used in many areas of cosmetics. Especially in the field of nail art and tattoo art, similar to model making, an airbrush gun model is needed, which allows fine detail work and a simple color change.
We hope we provided an insight into the variety of airbrush guns and clarified the most important terms. We wish you lots of fun in choosing the best spray gun for your painting projects ahead!