The Guru’s Airbrush FAQ

The Airbrush FAQ focuses on frequently asked questions about airbrushes and spray equipment in general. Quick answers are available at a glance or in-depth answers after a link.

If you have unanswered questions after reading, please feel free to contact me. After all, how can a question get on the frequently asked questions list if it doesn’t get frequently asked?

I also keep FAQs that focus on particular industry questions.

The Airbrush Tattoos FAQ

The Spray Tanning FAQ

Q: Can I soak my airbrush?

A: You can soak individual parts, but avoid soaking the whole airbrush.
In-Depth

Q: Can I wet dock my airbrush?

A: Wet docking is a well intentioned yet bad idea, for all the same reasons soaking an airbrush is bad.
In-Depth

Q: Can I spray different types of paint through the same airbrush?

A: I don’t recommend spraying different paint types, but sometimes it’s acceptable…
In-Depth

Q: What pressure should I spray at?

A: Spray at the lowest pressure that gives you the kind of paint atomization you’re looking for without clogging your airbrush.
In-Depth

Q: Why doesn’t my compressor turn on?

A: Here are the easy fixes first

  1. The compressor might already be full of air. Try spraying.
  2. Make sure it’s plugged into a known good socket (plug a lamp into the socket to be sure)
  3. Drain all water from the moisture trap and air tank.
  4. Unscrew the air hose and leave the compressor on for half an hour to see if it turns on by itself. (This is especially true if the compressor stopped with a loud click after heavy use–you might’ve over heated your compressor)
  5. Still not running? Call up the manufacturer and ask them for help. The problem can be anything from a short in the electrical system to something wrong with the motor. It’s usually not fixable by you unless the company’s support staff tells you otherwise. Receipts and warranty cards are good to have about this time.

Q: Why does my airbrush clog?

A: To put it simply, paint hates being sprayed and exacts revenge upon unsuspecting users!

  1. Use an airbrush ready paint to deal with clogs before they start.
  2. Strain and/or thin your paint (yes, even airbrush ready paints sometimes need to be strained and thinned, this is more true of lighter colors than darker colors).
  3. Deal with any tip dry.
  4. Turn up the air pressure and rinse out your airbrush.
  5. For really bad clogs, give your airbrush a deep cleaning.

Q: Should I take my airbrush apart and clean it after every use?

A: No. Just clean the places paint goes. If you work in front of people, consider keeping the outside spotless too. It makes a good impression on customers.

Head over here for a step-by-step, blow-by-blow account of how to go about cleaning your airbrush.

Q: How do I spray fine lines and details?

A: Ahh, the dream of most airbrush artists. In a word, “PRACTICE!” You probably want more than that though.

  1. Get in close. Use the smallest part of the spray cone possible
  2. Use a little paint flow. Don’t pull back very far.
  3. Move your hand quicker to avoid paint buildup.
  4. Keep air pressure low.
  5. PRACTICE! <—- That’s the important part!

You’ll have to wait until I can do the topic justice to get more though.

Q: How do I spray even coats of paint?

A: This really needs far more room than I’ve got here, but here’s the basics.

  1. Move out. Use a larger portion of the spray cone.
  2. Use lots of paint. Pull back a lot or even all the way.
  3. Keep your airbrush moving. Remember to spray the paint on as dry as possible.
  4. Overlap the spray pattern. Usually 50%.
  5. The fewer the passes you make the easier it is to blend to color properly.
  6. Your equipment might be too small for what you’re doing. Airbrushes are not the right tool to paint a car door evenly. That’s what spray guns are for.

Q: How safe is airbrushing?

A: Airbrushing is completely safe as long as you keep these risks into consideration.

  1. Wear your mask or respirator.
  2. When appropriate wear protective clothing.

In-Depth

Q: Which paint should I use?

A: Use paint for the kind of surface you’re going to spray. I do tend to prefer airbrush ready paints over non-airbrush ready paints. Specifically because the pigments have been ground up more and they’re thinner and less viscous. That doesn’t mean you won’t need to strain or thin the paint yourself, but it should mean that you’ll need to do far less of it than you might.

Q: What’s wrong with my airbrush?

A: Usually you’re dealing with a cleaning problem. Everybody tells you to “clean your airbrush” because it solves 90% of all airbrushing problems. So go clean your airbrush first. After that you’re looking at something a little more elusive. For now I’ll tell you to call up your airbrush’s manufacturer and ask them what’s wrong. Most of them have great technical support help. At some point in the far off and all too distant future, I’ll write up a troubleshooting guide to take you through the most common problems step-by-step.

Q: How do I use stencils?

A: Stencils can be used a couple of ways.

  1. Freehand Simply hold the stencil against the surface (or for softer edges away from the surface) then spray the cut out areas.
  2. Tape them to your work.This method lets you use both your hands to spray while the stencil does it’s job. Try not to blow the paint underneath the stencil, tape can only do so much holding.

After you’ve sprayed the shape onto your work remove the stencil and either leave it as is, or freehand other details into the shape to personalize it.

Q: How do I remove broken threads from the airbrush body?

A: You need a small EZ Out if the threads are still together.

Make sure you don’t damage the stem the nozzle fits into. That’s a Bad Idea.

The full procedure to remove broken nozzle threads is here.

Q: How often should I lube my airbrush?

A: As often as the airbrush needs to be lubed. For instance if the needle is sticking back and forth or up and down it might be time to try a little lube to help things move along.

Here are the locations that need to be lubed and why.

Q: What kind of airbrush lube should I get?

A: Get a non-reactive, non-drying airbrush lube that won’t react with your paint.

In-depth explanation with a few recommendations.

Q: Can I use WD-40 to lube my airbrush?

A: WD-40 isn’t the right kind of lubricant for a sealed o-ring.

In-Depth

Q: Why are airbrush compressors expensive?

A: They’re made to be quiet. Creating machines that don’t make a lot of noise isn’t cheap.

In-Depth guide to choosing right airbrush compressor.

Q: When do I need a new needle?

A: Generally, you need a needle when you destroy (bend, mangle, obliterate) the needle you’re currently using. Sometimes the needle can be repaired. But even then, I consider that a temporary fix until you get really, really good at it.

Your needle can wear out over time. It can happen. But odds are that you’ll be the source of your needle’s demise long before it passes to the great needle heaven in the sky from old age and long service.

Q: When do I need a new nozzle?

A: After you’ve killed it.

Just like needles, nozzles can wear out but it takes a few years (minimum) of constantly (all day, every day) spraying gritty paint.

Nozzles cannot be repaired. Go buy the new one. Better yet, plan on future carelessness and have a spare nozzle ready to go! ๐Ÿ˜‰