New to Airbrushing?

Hello fellow artists. If you are interested in learning how to airbrush, i want to share some valuable info that took me a few years to figure out. When i started airbrushing 5 years ago i had no clue what the hell i was doing. Now i airbrush everything from hot rods to wall murals.

From beginner to advanced, based on my personal experience, id like to provide you with a few tips and equipment suggestions that will help you tremendously when starting out. Also i would like to describe some items that you may want to consider skipping as they are a waste of your time and money. No matter what your goal is, from canvas and t-shirt art, to full custom paint for hot rods and motorcycles, these are my recommendations.


Chances are, if you are a beginner you don’t want to spend a lot of cash on expensive airbrush equipment. Starting out, needless to say, you are not going to need a 55 gallon 10 hp air compressor and the top of the line Iwata Custom Micron Airbrush that goes for nearly $500. Are these items worth the money? YES! For the elite professional who demands precise and accurate control of very detailed spraying, the Iwata Custom Micron Series airbrush is built to be the “best of the best”.  Well you are not Best of the Best…yet. You just want to test the water and see if this is something you could be interested in.  There is a wide range of airbrushes that are tailored to your skill level, and an even larger variety of brands.

You are going to need 2 things: An Airbrush and a Compressed air source.


Basics – The 2 different kinds of airbrush

(image of inside airbrish)

An airbrush works by passing a stream of fast moving (compressed) air through its core, which creates a local reduction in air pressure (suction) that allows paint to be pulled from a reservoir.

Long story short, there are two different types of airbrushes that you should know about.

The “Single Action” and “Dual Action”.

With the Single Action Airbrush, the spray pattern needs to be manually adjusted at the tip of the airbrush. For the sake of this article, im going to jump the gun and say, it is useless.  Yes it may have its place, but if you want to take the creative path, you will instantly get bored and outgrow the single action airbrush. Instantly. Seriously. The single action airbrush is mostly useful for cosmetic purposes, such as applying makeup.

The Dual Action Airbrush is ideal because the flow of air AND paint spray pattern can be adjusted simultaneously with the twitch of your finger. This allows you to cover a large area with a wide spray pattern and then instantly produce a hair thin line, without adjusting the brush. Usually, the thinner the needle inside the airbrush, the thinner the line that can be produced. So the more detailed your artwork is, the more you will benefit from a thin needle (the general  thickness of an airbrush needle is…)

For the sake of this article, i will only be discussing the Dual Action Airbrush. Thats the easy part, as their are hundreds of types of airbrushes to choose from.

Beneath the action type, you have two main preferences to choose from.

Top (Gravity) Feed and

the Bottom (Bottle) Feed.

This refers to the way the paint is fed into the airbrush. I would say that this is personal preference.



Top Feed

As you might guess, the Top (Gravity) Feed is fed paint from a reservoir, connected at the top of the airbrush.  This makes for easy organization, paint switching and easy cleanup. Very useful when you are working with little quantities of paint at a time.


Bottom Feed

The Bottom (Bottle) Feed airbrush is fed paint from a container, usually a glass bottle (as shown) that is connected at the side or bottom of the airbrush.   If you plan on working with the same color, or covering a large area at one time, this may be helpfull.  Swaping paints is a breez as well, aside form still having to clear the brush of existing paint before starting a new color.


Adam Dallas Preference: The Top Feed Airbrush.


I have experience with, and own both types. I get more use from the Top Feed Airbrush. It is easy to clean, and swapping colors is easy.  I buy all of my paints pre-mixed (ill get to that in a minute) and they come in their own containers. This allows me to add paint to the brush as i go.

Using the Bottom (Bottle) Fed Airbrush, was a bit of a pain. You need a different bottle for each paint color and the bottles are not as cheap as you might think. Plus the paints dry faster inside the bottle and the “straw” becomes clogged. The bottom fed airbrush is just more work, in my opinion.

What Airbrush NOT to buy.

If you were to walk into your local hobby store like Hobby Lobby or Micheal’s, you might find a small selection of beginner airbrush kits. These kits are almost always single action. Even the dual action ones are very cheaply made and sometimes require a can of compressed air. Temptation will set in and you will want to buy this, because you are a “beginner” and its cheap. I will say again, you will almost INSTANTLY outgrow this type of airbrush. If you want a quality airbrush that will provide a GREAT first time experience, i suggest buying from the following brands.

What are the best airbrush brands?


Iwata and Badger are by far the best and most reasonably priced airbrush brands on the market. From beginner to advanced they have the largest selection of airbrushes and equipment.  Off brands from China are OK for a short time but the components are cheap and you will find yourself needing to replace this brush quite quickly.  Most of the time, the cost difference for off brand and quality brand is very small, so you would benefit from spending $20 extra for a quality brush that will not give you any issues.  A good quality beginner Dual Action Airbrush can cost anywhere form $75 to $150. Well worth the investment as this comes with a lifetime warranty, quality parts and a damn good peace-of-mind.

If this is your first experience with airbrushing, i would consider buying a Kit. The kit will come with everything you need, including the airbrush, quality air compressor and sometimes a bottle of paint or two.