When I started using an airbrush my life as an artist changed. And soon it will change yours too.
You are probably well-versed in drawing and painting with pencils and paintbrushes.
But using an airbrush give a certain amount of freedom and joy that other tools can’t compare too.
Finding a good airbrush starter kit isn’t requires some technical knowledge though.
What is the best airbrush? And how do I choose a suitable compressor?
Keep reading to learn if you want to find out.
How does an airbrush work?
Before you buy an airbrush kit you should at least know the basics.
Makes sense right?
There are three important components to keep in mind: the nozzle tip, the paint feed, and the air valve.
When the air valve is opened a high speed air current will start to flow the airbrush. As soon as you pull the trigger, a small amount of the paint is drawn into the airflow.
In this process the paint becomes “atomized” according to the Venturi effect. Or more simply put: the paint gets dispersed into very small droplets.
Finally, the atomized paint will leave through the nozzle onto the paper, T-shirt or other surface of choice.
Is an airbrush really better than a paintbrush?
You might be wondering, why don’t you just use a regular paintbrush?
They are much cheaper and don’t require any setup.
Those are some valid points. But the airbrush has some unique features that you won’t find in any of your paintbrushes. These include:
- Controlling the flow of paint easily adjusts the opacity of your color
- Regulating the air flow lets you work on small details or large areas
- Achieve super smooth gradients due to the atomized paint
Thanks to these characteristic properties, skilled airbrush artists can work faster and make photo-realistic paintings with ease.
But don’t worry.
Even beginners can pull off some surprisingly good results by using stencils and friskets.
But can I use my favorite type of paint?
We all have our favorite paint. Personally I always preferred watercolors to oil and acrylics.
But every type of paint has their own pros and cons.
That’s why it’s great that airbrushes can be used with almost any paint you can think of.
The most commonly used paints include:
- Acrylic paint
- Oil paint
- Watercolor paint
- Inks & dyes
The only thing you have to consider is the viscosity of the paint. If your paint is too viscous it might clog the airbrush.
Normally watercolor paint, inks and dyes can be used directly because they are thin already.
But if you are using heavy-body acrylic paint you might have to dilute it by adding in some water. Similarly, since oil paints are rather thick you will have to use some paint thinner.
You want to aim for a consistency similar to milk.
Choosing the right airbrush
Now that you understand why so many people like working with an airbrush, let’s take a closer look at the features to look for when buying one.
When it comes to airbrushing, your success will strongly depend on the quality of the air brush itself.
So it’s important to pay extra attention the following:
- Nozzle size: the length of the nozzle can change for each air brush. A longer nozzle releases a narrow air current and is better for narrow lines and details. A short nozzle releases a wide air current and is more suited for covering large areas. Also, check if the nozzle can replaced.
- Feed type: the feed that holds and releases the paint is normally either a “gravity feed” or “siphon feed” type. A gravity feed holds only a small amount of paint but only requires very low pressure to work. A siphon feed hold a lot of paint but also needs a high pressure to operate. So a gravity feed is preferred for small projects and a siphon feed is ideal for big projects.
- Single action vs dual action: the trigger of the airbrush can be either single or dual action. Dual action gives you the most control since you can change both the air flow and the paint flow separately. With single action airbrushes the air and paint are released simultaneously. A dual action airbrush might be a little more difficult to learn, but gives much better results when mastered.
Finding a reliable compressor
So you now have a good idea of what kind of airbrush you want.
But an airbrush doesn’t work without any air. And that’s where the compressor kicks in.
The compressor will take in ambient air and reduce its volume. By doing so it will drastically increase the pressure of that air.
You can then use that pressure to produce a steady air flow through your airbrush.
This sounds a little technical. So you might be relieved to find out that most beginner airbrush kits come with a compressor included.
But to make sure if that compressor is of good quality or just a cheap knockoff, you want to look at the following:
- Durability: just like any piece of electrical equipment, compressors of low quality break easily. Prevent having to buy a new compressor by buying a good one from the start.
- Noise: some compressors can be extremely loud. Depending on your situation and budget that might be fine. But your neighbors would probably appreciate it if you find a compressor with minimal noise.
- Steady air flow: it is crucial that the compressor produces a constant air flow. Sudden increases or decreases in pressure will turn your smooth gradient into a big blotch
- Portability & storage: heavy-duty compressors can be rather big. For airbrushing you really don’t need too much power. A small and lightweight compressor is easier to work with, travel with, and store after use.
Best airbrush kits for beginners
So far you learned how an airbrush works. You understand what makes it different from a paintbrush, and you know what to look for when buying one.
But you are still wondering what the best airbrush kit for a beginner is.
Below are 3 starter kits that span a wide price range. So no matter your budget, you will be able to find a trustworthy airbrush.
1 Best Airbrush Kit
Iwata is one of the best airbrush brands when it comes to quality and performance. The Iwata Eclipse Airbrush kit is a great option for both beginners and advanced airbrush users.
Besides the standard airbrush, compressor and hose, this kit also comes with some goodies such as an airbrush cleaning tank, small amounts of the 12 primary colors and an airbrush holder.
Although the airbrush is dual action and uses a gravity feed, it is pretty lightweight and comfortable to work with for long periods of time. Additionally, the compressor might look a little daunting at first, but it operates with almost no noise and provide a consistent airflow.
The video that comes with the kit explains some of the basics such as the different types of paints you can use, which surfaces you can spray on, and the most common spray patterns.
If you are serious about learning how to use an airbrush, this airbrush kit might be best for you.
2 Starter kit with the best value for money
This versatile kit by PointZero can be used for painting models, t-shirts, illustrations, etc. Pretty much anything you can possible do with an airbrush.
The kit come with a compact air compressor which provides consistent airflow without making too much noise. The best part of this set is that it comes with 3 different airguns.
The first one is a dual action airbrush with a gravity feed and 0.3mm nozzle. The second one is also dual action but comes with a 0.2mm nozzle. Finally, the third airbrush is single action and has a 22cc siphon feed jar with a 0.8mm nozzle.
By combining these three airguns, you can do very detailed work or apply a quick base layer.
For beginners this kit also comes with 6 different guides that will help you get the hang of your new airbrush quickly.
All in all, this set provides a huge amount of value for a relatively low price.
3 Cheap beginner kit
If you are looking for a cheap, yet versatile and portable airbrush kit, then take a look at this model by Master Airbrush.
This kit comes with a versatile airbrush nozzle that will allow you to take on a variety of different projects such as painting your miniature figures or other hobby projects.
It is surprisingly light-weight, being only 2 lbs, so you can easily carry it around. It also comes with a 6 foot air hose and the compressor doesn’t make too much noise.
For complete beginners, the “How To Airbrush” manual that is provided with this kit will be great to get you started.
Unfortunately, the compressor doesn’t give an indication of the psi, so you never really know beforehand how much paint you will spray.
Although this starter airbrush kit is not without any flaws, it is a great place to start for beginners on a low budget.