Best Airbrush for Model Airplanes: What You Can Get in 2023 – a Buyer’s Guide

What makes an airbrush just right?

Are you in the market for an airbrush? Are you worried about choosing the right one? You may have been perplexed by the wide variety of options out there. Gravity feed, siphon feed, and side feed are some of the variations in functionality, while External mix, Internal mix are also up for grabs. The configurations do not come in one type either, as there are Dual action, single action, and trigger action options.

You also have to consider numerous manufacturers that produce similar airbrushes. Iwata, Badger, Paasche, Grex, Harder, and Steenbeck are some of the popular ones. And these companies are the furthest from becoming sole manufacturers. There are many off-brand products from smaller companies capable of getting the job done just the same.

All these options beg the question, how do you make the right choice? We can in two ways.

Bottom line – tips for the hurried shopper

No worries, it’s simple…

  • Go for a gravity feed model with dual action configuration. Your airbrush must have an internal mix, and its manufacturer must be a name-brand manufacturer like Badger, Iwata, or Paasche.
  • Keep all the specifications mentioned above except for the gravity feed, which you can replace with a siphon feed if you opt for one airbrush per color method.

And you’re all set.

A deeper look at popular airbrushes in the market: read before shopping

Things You Should Be Aware of:

  • your approach to painting: scale models, miniatures, etc.
  • the type of paint you intend on spraying with your airbrush.

Factors to consider when choosing an airbrush

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The Airbrush Needles

The airbrush needle is among the most vital and delicate parts that atomize your paint. In addition to mixing the paint effectively, needles are cherished by artists for their ability to form spray patterns. These sensitive parts must be handled gently because they can easily break or bend beyond repair if they fall from your hand and hit the floor.

The accuracy of an artist’s works largely depends on the physical size of the needles on the airbrush. The most common sizes stretch from 0.2mm to 0-7mm in width. As you may have guessed. the larger the width of the needle, the bigger the sprayed line and vice versa. It is necessary to be equipped with multiple needles of varying sizes for any given project. The subtle nuances in your work will require different sizes of needles.

The Airbrush Nozzles 

Airbrush nozzles are one of the main foundations that facilitate the functionality of an airbrush. They create a concentrated zone with little pressure at the edge of the nozzle and serve as tunnels for rushing air to pass. The relatively low pressure in the nozzle allows for the paint to be atomized and colors to shine.

The Airbrush Compressor 

Airbrush compressors are not a must-have. They are only useful in reducing sound disturbance and even that comes at a price of lower quality work. It is wise to go without them if your environment allows for some noise. If you choose to add an airbrush compressor, you will have to pick a quality compressor with little or o effect on your work. Beware, though, as these additions are very expensive.

Ease of Use and Portability

Your work may take you to various locations causing you to move with your airbrusher a lot. Therefore you must choose a product that is light and compact to make your commute easier. In addition, airbrushes have delicate parts that might get damaged while you carry them from place to place. You have to counter this risk by acquiring a safe and secure case for your airbrush. Make sure the case you purchase has all the small boxes for each part of your device.

Some products come with cases or bags while you may be required to buy a case separately if that is not the case.

Manuals

If you are not seasoned in your profession and if you are new to airbrushes, get an airbrush that comes with a thorough manual filled with detailed instructions. This way, you can figure out how to operate your airbrush step by step. If your airbrush did not come with a guide, you can resort to YouTube tutorials for information.

Covering wide perimeters vs getting the details right

Do you prioritize range over-focus?

If your answer is yes, you better opt for a big spray gun. If your goal is to cover a larger perimeter, an airbrush with a wider spray pattern will do the job efficiently.

Keep an eye out for the size because you might deploy a spray pattern that is too large and wasteful of paint. The extra layer of paint will have been a waste of cash that could have been sprayed on an empty canvas.

Do you care about the fine lines?

For lots of detail, choose an airbrush with a longer but thinner needle. This way, you can be more accurate and subtle with your passes, and you won’t miss an inch.

Newbies vs Pros

Are you just starting?

If you are a beginner, you probably require more space for error than professionals do. Most of the problems that arise associated with airbrushes are implementation issues. The user-friendliness of your airbrush and your skills as a user are the two factors that come into play while you work. Maintaining your airbrush, staying focused for better reflex and smooth passing, and uniformity of paint are common problems, while device malfunctions are rare.

Therefore you need to choose an airbrush that will allow you to learn as you go.

This means, as a beginner, you should shy away from detail-oriented airbrushes that allow for accurate work but require you to be precise and perfect with your hands.

You will have plenty of time to use these extraordinary airbrushes once your grip and movement are fit and ready to take control. As the saying goes, you have to crawl before you walk and walk before you run. You need to start with airbrushes that have wide spray patterns and slowly move into thinner airbrushes as your muscle memory adapts to your work.

Professionals

As a veteran, you are probably well versed in the basic activities associated with airbrushes. You know how to clean and maintain them, and you know how to navigate the consistency of your paint. But you still need to dive in a little bit deeper if you want to choose the best airbrush in the market that suits your ideal efficiency level and ease.

Here are three things you can do about this.

  • Experimental research – The majority of users learn by trying. They make a purchase and see how it feels. First-hand experience is a great way to figure out your personal preference and what works for you. On the downside, it will cost you time and money to learn this way.
  • Read reviews – You can avoid common mistakes and discover solutions through reviews.
  • A mixture of both – As you may have guessed, the trick is to do a little bit of both. Buy an airbrush but also check out what other people are saying about other airbrushes before fixating on a specific item.

The mix – Internal or External

How the paint swirls in the air flow determine to a large extent what the spray will look like after landing on the canvas.

The wise choice is to go for the internal mix that facilitates a solid and consistent outcome. But you may opt for an external mix if you have a specific reason to do so.

Internal

As the name suggests, an internal mix intertwines the paint with the air inside the airbrush, and it is the most efficient type of mix.

External 

External mix airbrushes do not atomize paint as well as internal mix ones. These brushes let the paint mix with the air outside of the airbrush. External mix brushes are not used as commonly, as their outcome is dispersed instead of even.

The upside is their ability to atomize thick paint well. They come in handy when you are trying to cover a wide perimeter with thick paint.

The Action: Dual, single, or Trigger

In airbrush terms, actions are names for trigger functionality. They refer to how your fingers control the airbrush.

The Dual Action Airbrush (aka Double Action)

You can operate dual-action airbrushes by pressing down for air and pulling back for paint.

Dual-action airbrushes work by the distance in which you push or pull the trigger. The more you push, the more air is released, and the more paint becomes available. The extra space for specificity makes this option the go-to choice for seasoned professionals concerned with detail work.

Although some practice is necessary to handle this action, it pays off when working on a detail-oriented project.

In conclusion, double-action airbrushes are best utilized for fine lines and subtle details. Double-action airbrushes are also more expensive than their single-action counterparts and a bit more complex to operate.

The Single Action Airbrush

Single-action airbrushes are operated by pushing down the trigger to release air and manage paint. The paint stream is accessed and navigated by twisting a knob.

The paint is better atomized with single-action airbrushes. Better atomization does not come without a drawback, as you will face several flexibility issues as you can not determine the measure of paint while you spray.

Airbrushes like these are best suited for beginners because they resemble regular spray paint cans.

Most professional users find it tedious to work with single-action airbrushes due to the pausing required to make adjustments.

They are not suitable for any project that requires focused spraying.

Reasons to go for single-action airbrushes:

  • You will not have to worry about managing the amount of paint you spray because it is always the same.
  • The airbrush requires the minimum amount of motor control or skill.
  • Best for experimenting due to ease of use and consistency of paint.

The Trigger Action Airbrush

Trigger action airbrushes are almost identical to spray guns with handle and use.

Reasons to go for trigger action airbrushes:

  • If you have a ton of experience with spray guns, your muscle memory will quickly replace them with trigger-action airbrushes.

The Feed: Gravity, Siphon, or Side

This section covers how the paint streamlines into the airbrush. It is wise to choose a gravity feed unless you have solid reasons to choose otherwise.

The Gravity Feed

Gravity-feed airbrushes hold the paint in a cup placed on top. This way, gravity will do all the work and draw down the color to the atomizing section. The device uses gravity as a driving force to pull all colors into the atomizing chamber of your airbrush for use.

Pressure is substituted by gravity concerning the movement of paint. These airbrushes are known to be cost-effective and durable.

If you are doing detail-oriented work, then you will maximize accuracy and use less paint with gravity-feed airbrushes.

In addition, gravity-feed airbrushes are easier to clean and precise with strokes and spray lines. The only downside is their small space for paint that will require a refill quite often, as they hold much less paint than their Siphon Feed counterparts.

The Siphon Feed

Opposite the gravity-feed airbrush, the siphon-feed airbrush has its paint in a cup attached under the unit. The attached cap is much larger than that of gravity feed airbrushes.

The siphon feed is also called the suction feed, as it requires a tube to move the paint out of the cup. Its position below the unit makes it impossible for gravity to be of any help. Airflow is the driving force that moves the paint through the tube.

Air at high-speed creates a pressure-free space where the paint can move towards. These airbrushes do not need to be refilled as often as gravity-feed airbrushes. As long as there is sufficient airflow, the siphon-feed will work effortlessly.

The ability of the tank to hold large amounts of paint makes it the best option for big projects that take a lot of time.

Why you should go for a siphon feed airbrush instead of a gravity feed;

  • The multi-gun, one brush-per-color setup makes for an easier and more efficient work environment that is less dependent on consistent cleaning.
  • Ideal for projects that require more paint. You can deliver fast
  • You get faster maintenance and cleaning.

The Side Feed

A side-feed airbrush is a hybrid that makes the best of both gravities and siphons feed airbrushes. Gravity feeds has its cup over the nozzle tip, while siphon-feed has a bottle under the unit. But why compromise when you can have it all.

Why do you need to opt for a side-feed airbrush over a gravity feed

  • You want an all-in-one airbrush for all types of spraying.
  • You may spray in reversed positions like upside down
  • Paying for extra elements is not an issue
  • You do not mind the hassle of cleaning all the time
  • All signs point toward side-feed airbrushes as they are the jack of all trades

The right airbrush manufacturer

The smart choice is to go for the tried and true and well-known brands when it comes to choosing a manufacturer. The company’s track record is proven, and they have impeccable customer service for any issue you might have concerning their product.

About three to four brands have turned into household names.

Beware of cheap airbrushes that barely function.

Iwata 

Iwata has climbed to the higher echelons of airbrush manufacturing by delivering quality devices. The Eclipse CS (gravity feed) and the Eclipse BCS (siphon feed) are the highest-selling items that everyone is using. Iwata’s support staff and technical assistance are through the roof.

Badger 

Badger is the most cost-effective brand out of the top three, and the products are neither the best nor the worst. The airbrushes get the job done, and they improve their efficiency annually.

They are decent alternatives to have.

Paasche

Paasche is slightly better than Badger. Most users learn their craft using these airbrushes. Their customer service is good, and if sales are any indication, then people have received the product well.

Smaller companies 

Many less-known brands in the market provide airbrushes, like Harder and Steinbeck. Despite being affordable, their downside is customer service and general lack of reputation. There are also copies of the three big brands, all manufactured in China or Taiwan.

You can avoid the mistake of buying a clone by looking at the engravings. The real products have clear names and contact addresses for customer service, while the copies look shady and blank.

It is always best to buy your products from verified stores and online platforms to guarantee that they are authentic.

Are brand names significant, or is the budget the only issue?

Buying the best airbrush on the market is the ideal way to go about your purchase. Let’s look into the similarities and differences between budget and branded airbrushes to further clarify the issue.

Budget airbrushes are better suited for beginners who want to try their hands and get used to their craft before moving on to other more advanced airbrushes. They are good returns on your money as they function at an acceptable level for an affordable price. You might use these airbrushes for a long time before getting another one, and that is when problems arise.

Spare parts become impossible to find as smaller companies with limited resources produce airbrushes..

Therefore you can not maintain them. Also, the functionality of the airbrushes is usually limited and equipped for water-based paints only.

On the other hand, Branded airbrushes such as products manufactured by Badger, Sparmax, Harder & Steenbeck are leading innovations that come in varying prices to accommodate all types of budgets.

In addition to their consistency, strength, and durability, these airbrushes also allow for projects that are not water-based (solvent-based).

You can find customer service and technical support when you buy branded airbrushes. Spare parts are also available in bulk so you can repair them as often as you need to. You will not need to buy a new one when a part gets damaged.

Ultimately you should buy an airbrush that fits the project you are about to undertake. Budget airbrushes can be utilized by beginners, and branded ones can be upgraded for pros.

Conclusion

You can now make an informed choice in your quest to purchase the best airbrush. Afterward, you can look into the best compressors if your work environment requires them.

Frequently asked questions

Q: What exactly is an airbrush?

A: An air-operated device or tool capable of optimizing and spraying several types of media, including dyes, and inks. The whole unit is called an airbrush. Airbrushes come in various types depending on their functionality, configuration, and model.

Q: Which is the better option? Gravity or siphon airbrush?

A: The answer to this question relies on the final result you hope to achieve. If you are seeking low air pressure tools that are accurate and capable of producing thin lines for detailed work, then gravity is for you. Siphon brushes have been used for detailed-oriented works in the past, like their gravity counterpart, but they are less ideal because they are wasteful of paint by design. The high pressure requires more paint in your passes.

Q: Which paint should I use with my airbrush?

A: According to the consensus and popular belief, the best paint to get through your airbrush is acrylic paint. 

Acrylic paint is ideal because it comes in transparent and opaque forms and allows you a lot of flexibility with your project. In addition, it does not have a hazardous odor, nor does it release toxic gas, making them the safest paints to work with…

Q: How do I clean my airbrush?

A: If you want to clean your airbrush and make it good as new, you must take it apart piece by piece as per the guidelines in the manual provided by the manufacturer. T Before wiping, let the needle cap, nozzle, and nozzle cap soak in concentrated alcohol(preferably 99% isopropyl alcohol). Dry with a clean cloth, and you are all set.

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