Are you thinking of adding an airbrush to your models and miniatures painting hobby?
Airbrushes help speed up your painting and with practice you can achieve some great results with them. With airbrush you can prime your minis indoors all year round in whatever color you want. You can use an airbrush for everything you do on your minis and models; basecoating, varnishing, priming, stencils, highlighting and many more.
Airbrushes are a bit expensive investment for your hobby. There are so many choices that may confuse you. So I have created this detailed guide along with my recommendations for absolute beginner airbrush for miniatures and model painting.
When choosing your airbrush, you’ll quickly realize that there are numerous different features to contend with and a number of different concepts and attributes. Some airbrushes are better suited to specific tasks, while others are just generally better.
This guide will help you find your way through the confusion.
There are several different types of airbrush, and picking the right one is key to getting the best experience.
Single action airbrushes only give the user control over the airflow via a trigger or button. When you press down, both air and paint come out of the needle.
With dual action airbrush, when you press down, air will come out. Then you need to pull back trigger to release paint.
What to choose – In general, a dual-action airbrush will thereby provide a much finer control and more intuitive interaction with the brush specially for your miniatures and models.
This refers to the way in which the paint is actually delivered to the gun, and here both options have pros and cons.
In a gravity feed airbrush, the paint is placed in a small container at the top of the brush. This will then allow the paint to naturally “slide” into the main chamber. Gravity fed airbrushes allow you to work with a lower air pressure, which may give you slightly more control when painting detailed parts of your mini. It also helps to avoid “overspray.”
Siphon feed airbrushes meanwhile place the container underneath the main unit, and then feed the paint upward to the mixing chamber using a small amount of pressure. These allow you to store more paint at any given time, and they are advantageous when painting larger models or basecoating as they don’t require constant refilling.
The size of the needle is an important feature when comparing airbrushes. Smaller needles allow you to create finer lines, and when draw tiny details onto an even smaller model, this can be a Godsend. At the same time though, fine needles aren’t as useful when painting large objects. What’s more, is that fine needles are prone to clogging so you need to thin your paint.
For miniature painting it is advisable to get needle in the range of 0.2 to 0.5mm.
If you are just starting out and you can currently only afford a single airbrush, then starting with 0.3 needle may well be the better option.
A good place to start is with the different brands. There are three particular brands that are very popular. These are Iwata, Badger, and Paasche. Other well known brands include Harder & Steenbeck, and Grex. If you choose one of these brands, then you can generally expect the product to be well made and to perform well at what it does, which is a good minimum!
Kits vs Brushes
When buying your airbrush, there is a difference between buying a brush on its own, and an airbrush kit. The latter is going to provide you with all of the different tools and accessories that you need in order to start airbrushing.
If you buy an airbrush on its own, then you will need to also invest in an airbrush compressor. This is what will power the airbrush and it is the most important piece of equipment other than the airbrush itself!
Perhaps the most important piece of equipment after airbrush is the compressor. This is what will provide the airbrush with a steady air supply and help to maintain the ideal pressure and airflow.
Fluctuations in pressure can cause imperfections in your final product. You need to consider the PSI when choosing, which will tell you the maximum amount of pressure you’re able to deliver. For miniatures and models painting get one with at least 30 psi minimum.
The ideal compressor offers lots of consistent air pressure, while also being quiet to operate.
Other useful accessories to consider include:
With all this in mind, let’s take a look at some of the very best airbrushes on the market right now.
First up is the Iwata-Medea Eclipse. This is an airbrush with a 0.35mm needle and drop-in self-centering nozzle. That combination makes it excellent for applying smaller details. This is also a gravity feed gun, which makes it all the more appropriate in that capacity.
The Eclipse CS is designed specifically for spraying heavier acrylics and medea textile colors, without losing definition or clarity. Despite being gravity fed, the cup is still a decent size at 1/3oz, meaning you won’t constantly need to change paint.
The spray pattern is hairline/2” round.
Iwata is one of the best known brands of airbrush, meaning you can rely on a high quality finish and durability. It also means you can rely on great compatibility with a large range of different accessories and paints.
There’s not much negative to say about this product in fact, other than it is very much fit-for-purpose and that the chrome can occasionally become damaged.
A rather bombastic name for what is essentially just a painting tool, but the “patriot” is never-the-less a very well-made dual action, gravity fed airbrush. This time the product comes as a set, including an additional tip, instruction manual, and more.
The needle is a very middle-of-the-road .5mm, which makes it perfectly versatile for a range of different jobs. This, combined with the included extras, makes it a quite appealing option for those starting out.
Maintenance is also made easy thanks to the self-centering nozzle design. A tapered color also helps to keep the gun looking fresh for years to come.
The only issue we experienced was occasional jamming, but not to an alarming extent.
This is a brilliantly comprehensive airbrush kit that comes with additional lids, two cups, and even a nice carry case.
The big bonus in this pack though, is the cleaning brush set, as well as the additional hose!
The two self-centering nozzles provide 0.15mm and 0.4mm patterns respectively, making this another versatile option for miniature painters.
But all the freebies in the world won’t make up for a poor product. Fortunately, this is another well made airbrush that features some great quality-of-life features such as an innovative adjustable trigger mechanism, and a quick-fix end piece with a numbered dial.
This is once again a gravity fed gun.
This is an ultra-fine airbrush that allows spray patterns all the way down to 1/1000 of an inch! A softer trigger also allows for extremely precise control, while the gravity feed is also well chosen for the purpose. This is perfect airbrush for models and miniatures like warhammer 40k.
Also standout is the actual construction of the airbrush itself. This is a brush with a highly ergonomic design, great balancing, and a really attractive look. It also comes with a case!
That said, the airflow and precision do somewhat reflect the lower price. It’s certainly fit for purpose, but if you spend more, you will notice a more consistent experience.
This is another more affordable airbrush gun, this time from the major players Iwata. So what happens when a company at the top of its game attempts to offer something that can compete with more budget providers?
The answer is the Iwata-Medea Revolution CR Dual Action/Large Gravity Feed Cup. That name tells you a lot of what you need to know, including the dual action nature of the brush and the large gravity feed cup found on other Iwata products.
The needle is nice and versatile at the 0.5mm sweet spot, and this also means the brush can use heavier paints. The product has replaceable internal solvent-proof PTFE needle packing, and thanks to the well known brand, you should have no problem finding replacement parts or accessories.
They say that a bad workman blames their tools. While this may be true, it’s also true that the right airbrush can make all the difference to the kind of precision and quality you’re capable of when painting your figures and models.
Any of the items on the list will serve you well, with the more expensive options of course providing a slightly higher level of precision and comfort. Choose the option that suits your budget, and think about the type of work you intend on doing. If possible, invest in a few different airbrushes and needles to handle different types of detail and scope.
And whatever you do, have fun! This is a highly relaxing, rewarding, and addictive hobby that results in beautiful figures you can display to the world.