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Airbrush Basics

This short post is a quick overview about the two main types of airbrushes.

An airbrush is a tool used by makers and creators to apply colour to a surface. Airbrush users spray acrylics on plastic, makeup on skin, watercolour on paper and so much more.

When connected to an air compressor, an airbrush breaks a liquid into tiny droplets.  This is called atomisation. This produces seamless blends, coatings and gradients a standard paint brush can only dream of.

Airbrush Types

Single Action airbrushes have independent controls for air and paint. The trigger only controls air. A dial on the handle sets how much paint is will be released when the trigger is pressed.

Single action airbrushes can be good choice for a production environment when a spray pattern needs to be repeated exactly same again and again. Sometimes single action is recommended for those just learning but new users quickly outgrow single action and desire more control.

Dual action (sometimes called double action) airbrushes allow you to control both air and paint flow at the same time. Pressing down on the trigger releases air and drawing back on the trigger releases paint or spray material.

Pull back the trigger slightly for a little bit of paint and pull back farther to release more paint. Dual action airbrushes give you much better control and can create more dynamic spray patterns.

Single action airbrush
Single Action airbrush with siphon feed

Paint Feed Types

This refers to how the paint or spray material is “fed” into the airbrush. There are three types of airbrush feed styles.

Gravity Feed:
A gravity feed system, paint is drawn into an airbrush from a colour cup (also called a fluid cup) mounted on top or to the side of the airbrush. It is called gravity feed because the force of gravity helps spray material move through the airbrush. This allows the airbrush to spray at lower air pressures.

This feed style requires smaller amounts of paint and utilises every drop, making it economical to use and easy to clean. Gravity feed is the most practical choice for most applications.

Siphon Feed:
In siphon feed systems paint is drawn up from a jar or colour cup from underneath the airbrush. Unlike gravity feed, in a siphon feed airbrush, the air compressor must do all the work. This means more air pressure is required to spray material.

Siphon feed is preferred when using larger amounts of spray medium. This style is sometimes referred to as bottom feed or bottle feed.

Dual action airbrush with Gravity feed

This is just a basic guide to the types of airbrushes available, and following posts will go into using these amazing little tools.