“Which airbrush should I buy?” is the most common question asked, either by a new airbrush artist looking to buy their first airbrush set, or someone looking to buy an airbrush set as a gift.
Unfortunately, there is not a one size fits all answer to this question. There are a few key factors that need to be taken into consideration before choosing an airbrush set.
Single Action vs. Double Action?
The first thing to think about is whether you need a single action airbrush set or a double action airbrush set. Here are the key differences between the two: A single action airbrush is the most basic type of airbrush that you can get. When you press down on the control lever (button), the airbrush paint is immediately mixed with the air flow and sprayed out at a pre set rate. To change the flow of paint from a single action airbrush set you need to let go of the control lever and adjust the fluid control valve on the airbrush.
A dual action airbrush set gives you complete control not only of the air flow, but also of the paint flow to the airbrush without the need to stop and make adjustments. A dual action airbrush is the only way to go if you are serious about airbrushing and want to achieve quality, consistent results. There is a reason that professional airbrush artists choose to use dual action instead of single action airbrushes. They’re a better airbrush, simple as that.
Single action airbrushes are almost always external mix airbrushes. That simply means that the paint and air are mixed outside of the airbrush body before being sprayed. This allows for the use of much thicker airbrush paints to be sprayed without having the clogging problems that may occur with thicker paints using a double action airbrush.
Single action airbrushes are used mostly for activities that do not require a high level of detail or control. They typically cost less than a dual action airbrush set and are more commonly used by hobbyist and occasional airbrush users. Some of the common uses of single action airbrushes are for spraying coverage on hobby and craft projects, airbrush stencils, ceramic glazes and applying thicker airbrushing paints such as acrylic enamel and automotive clear coats.
A dual action airbrush set is an absolute necessity for any serious airbrush artist. A dual action airbrush set works by allowing you to control the paint flow to the airbrush as you are painting. The control lever works by pressing down on the lever for air flow and pulling back on the lever for paint. By using this dual (double) action lever on an airbrush set, you get total control over the thickness of the line being painted, the depth or tone of the paint and the fading or gradient effect of the paint being applied, all while continuing to paint. This type of control is not needed in every situation, but for any kind of artwork or detailed painting, a dual action airbrush set is a must.
Gravity vs. Suction (siphon) Feed?
Gravity fed or suction fed is a highly debated subject in the world of airbrushing. Which is better? That really depends a lot on personal preference.
Suction fed airbrushes work by “sucking” the paint up a hose that is inserted into the paint bottle hanging below the airbrush. This type of airbrush takes a few seconds to begin spraying because it has to fill the tube with paint before it can reach the airbrush. Most suction feed airbrushes have larger needle and nozzle tips. So an advantage of a suction feed type airbrush is that it can usually spray thicker paints than a gravity fed airbrush because of the larger needle and nozzle sizes.
Suction fed airbrushes are very popular for painting t-shirts and other textiles, as these types of paints are usually thicker and spray better with a suction feed airbrush.
Once drawback to suction fed airbrushes is that they use quite a bit more paint than gravity fed brushes. So, if you are planning to paint things where a lot of the same color paint will be used, or you will be spraying a thicker paint, a suction fed brush is a good investment.
Gravity fed airbrushes have the color cup mounted on the top of the airbrush and, just as the name implies, uses gravity to introduce the paint into the airstream of the airbrush. Gravity fed brushes work best with needles and nozzles between 0.2mm-0.5mm and typically use less air pressure (psi) than suction fed airbrushes do.
Gravity fed airbrushes use a lot less paint than a suction fed airbrush, so making quick color changes is much easier when using a gravity fed brush. These airbrush sets tend to be easier to clean as well, since there are no jars of paint or suction tubes to clean up when finished painting or changing colors.
A gravity fed airbrush can’t spray as thick of paints as a suction fed airbrush. Paint for a gravity fed airbrush needs to be thinned to approximately the consistency of milk to work properly. Thicker paints tend to clog the gravity fed airbrushes easier than the suction fed. A contributing factor to this is that the suction fed airbrushes use more air pressure (psi) than the gravity fed brushes, so they are better able to blast out the thicker paints without clogging.
So which type of airbrush is better? Again, it really just comes down to personal preference and what you plan to use your airbrush set to paint. Both the gravity fed and suction fed airbrushes have their advantages. By taking the time to learn about and evaluate which airbrush you should buy, you can rest assured that you’ll make a great choice!