Airbrush Dictionary - Airbrush Guru
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Airbrush Dictionary

Every industry has it’s own slang. Airbrushing is no exception. Knowing the slang or jargon allows you to talk to other people in the industry.

I always try to include a short answer on this page and a long answer with an explanation behind the link.

This list is by no means complete, it will grow over time, and suggestions for new entries are always welcome

Jump To

| 0-9 | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M |

| N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z |

.:: 0-9 ::.

1/4 inch NPT

The standard screw thread size most compressor manufacturers have settled on for air hose fittings.

.:: A ::.

Aerosol Spray

A mixture of liquid droplets in a gas. Usually referred to simply as Spray.


A small pen-like device used for atomizing various kinds of liquids into a directed, usually conical aerosol spray. They’re primarily used to spray some kind of coating, like paint, onto something else.

Airbrushes have many uses from cosmetics, movie special effects, various art forms, scientific experiments, to industrial applications.

Airbrush Body

The airbrush body is the chassis. Every other part attaches itself to this piece.


Slang for someone who uses airbrushes. You’ll normally call yourself an airhead before someone else does.

Air Filter

They clean the air from your compressor before arriving at your airbrush, or worse on your work.

Air Hose

The hose supplying air to your spray equipment.

Air Piston

The piece between the trigger and the air valve. The trigger presses the air piston into the air valve. On many newer airbrushes the air piston is the little dangly piece underneath the trigger itself.

Air Valve

The piece physically turning the air on and off.

Can also refer to the entire air valve assembly.


In airbrushing: Breaking up a liquid into tiny droplets to be sprayed.

Auxiliary Lever

The funny shaped S-tab thing in the trigger housing. It reduces your back-and-forth finger movement into smaller back-and-forth needle motion. It lets you spray less paint with less fine-motor control.

Automatic Spray Gun

A type of pressure-fed spray gun that doesn’t require a user. They’re usually found in factories on industrial and robotic assembly lines. Or, my favorite application, on the back of trucks spraying road lines.


.:: B ::.


One of the three parts of paint. Binder is the glue that holds the pigment to whatever surface you spray it onto.

Pigmentless binder is also a means to thin your paint without losing adhesion power.

Binder also gums up your airbrush, just like any good glue.


.:: C ::.


Cubic Feet per Minute, or ft3/min, measures air flow rate. The international measurement is m3/min.1 ft3/min = 0.0283 m3/min

Color Cup

The cup on a gravity or side feed airbrush that holds the paint.

Color Stem

The place to fit a siphon feed bottle into the airbrush.

Crown Cap

Iwata’s version of a needle cap that somewhat negates the spray pattern’s tendency to spread out.


.:: D ::.

Double Action Airbrush

Double action refers to how you work the airbrush. It combines two separate motions into a single control, the trigger.

Dual Action Airbrush, see Double Action Airbrush

Dual action, another word for double action, refers to how you work the airbrush. It combines two separate motions into a single control, the trigger.


.:: E ::.

External Mix

Refers to the way paint is introduced into the air stream produced by the airbrush. In an external mix airbrush the paint enters one side of the air stream.


.:: F ::.

ft3/min, see CFM

Cubic Feet per Minute measures air flow rate. The international measurement is m3/min. The industry collectively refers to this as CFM.

1 ft3/min = 0.0283 m3/min


Frisket is basically a sheet of film with low tac glue on one side used for masking a work to be painted. Artists will generally cut out the shapes they want to paint with a sharp razor blade being careful not to cut the surface (or substrate).

Some friskets are solvent-proof, others aren’t, do check the package to make sure it works with your intended use.


.:: G ::.


An inexpensive airbrush lubricant suitable for most water-based paints. Since it dries out, you will need to lubricate your airbrush more often.

Gravity Feed Airbrush

Gravity pulls the paint down to the airbrush’s tip. The built up pressure makes the paint ‘want’ to get out and be sprayed.


.:: H ::.

Head Cap

This piece holds the nozzle tightly in place on an Iwata Eclipse series airbrush.

Head System, see Matched Head System

A shortened, more common name for the Custom Micron’s Matched Head System


High Volume Low Pressure refers to how the air atomizes the liquid. HVLP uses large amounts of slow moving air.


.:: I ::.

Internal Mix

Refers to the way paint is introduced into the air stream to be atomized. An internal mix airbrush introduces the paint into the middle of the air stream.


.:: J ::.


.:: K ::.


This lubricant belongs in places other than your airbrush.


.:: L ::.


.:: M ::.

m3/min, see CFM

Cubic Meters per Minute measures airflow rate. The American measurement is CFM or ft3/min.1 m3/min = 31.315 ft3/min


Covering an area you don’t want painted with something to shield or catch the overspray. Masking materials include frisket, masking tape, masking paper, and many others.

Masking Tape

Low tac tape used as a masking material or to hold larger masking materials (like masking paper) in place. The smaller the width of the tape the easier it is to trace curves and lines.

Matched Head System

The head of a Custom Micron series airbrush. It’s named after the fact that three of the four parts are matched together for the best spray pattern those parts are capable of.


.:: N ::.


The needle serves two functions on an airbrush and only one function on a spray gun.

The needle always acts as a liquid flow limiter at the end of the paint system. Think of it like the stop light at many freeway entrances. It’s there to only allow certain amounts of liquid through.

It’s second function on an airbrush is to direct the aerosol spray down it’s long taper. Your detail ability comes from the pointy part of the needle.

Needle Cap

The needle cap protects the needle’s tip from contacting any surface. Most hard surfaces will bend and damage the needle.

In beauty applications the needle cap protects the client from contact with the needle. That’s a Bad Thing if you were wondering…


The nozzle is the most important piece on any airbrush. It’s also the most fragile. It separates the fast moving air from the liquid until the moment it’s atomized into an aerosol spray.

Nozzle Cap

The nozzle cap makes the airbrush go. It funnels the air through a venturi nozzle and focuses the resulting low pressure zone of fast moving air in front of the nozzle.


.:: O ::.


Overspray is simply aerosol spray from spray equipment somewhere you don’t want it to be.


.:: P ::.


One of the three parts of paint. Pigment is basically colored dirt.

Large clumps of pigment are what generally clog your airbrush, unless you left paint inside your airbrush, then it’s a combination of binder and pigment.

Pressure Drop

For airbrushing, pressure drop refers to the difference between the pressure gauge’s reading before starting air flow (static pressure) and the pressure gauge’s reading once you start airflow (dynamic pressure).


.:: Q ::.

Quick Disconnect

A device that allows two sections of a pressurized air system to be joined without substantial pressure loss. They’re “quick” because there’s no screwing involved.

Quick Fit, see Quick Disconnect

An uncommon name for a Quick Disconnect.


.:: R ::.


Usually the paint’s solvent. Reducer thins the paint’s viscosity and reduces the amount of solid content being sprayed.

Reducer came come in a few different types.

Slow reducer slows down the paint’s drying time. This is good in hotter weather to keep the paint from drying too quickly and for spraying because it reduces the amount of tip-dry you experience.

Fast reducer speeds up the paint’s drying time. You usually use fast reducer in colder weather, though it does increase the amount of tip-dry you experience as well.


A mask covering the nose and mouth that filters and detoxifies the air you breathe. ALWAYS WEAR YOUR MASK OR RESPIRATOR WHENEVER YOU SPRAY!


.:: S ::.

Side Feed Airbrush

Paint is fed through the airbrush’s side but how it functions is based on the paint level in relation to the nozzle tip.

Single Action Airbrush

Single action refers to how you work the airbrush. Each control operates a single spray variable.

Siphon Feed Airbrush

A siphon feed airbrush sucks paint up through a tube, then sprays it.


Is one of the three parts of paint. The solvent is the paint’s carrier liquid. It keeps the glue from sticking until it’s gone.

Though water is a solvent, most people don’t usually include water-based paints when they say solvent-based. They mean much, much nastier stuff.


Jargon for Aerosol Spray. It’s the mixture of paint and air being atomized and thrown toward the surface.


A stencil is anything you use to shield a piece from overspray. Stencils are generally reusable, unlike masking tape or frisket. Many manufacturers have extensive lines of shields and stencils to help people make the kind of art their looking for.


.:: T ::.


Usually refers to an airbrush’s nozzle. But sometimes it means everything on the airbrush’s front end. Needle tip, needle cap, nozzle cap,nozzle, and the head cap.

Tip Size

The size of the needle, nozzle, and nozzle cap.

Badger and Paasche have numbered sizes for each airbrush. The smaller the number the finer the tip size.

Iwata uses a metric measurement in millimeters, but again the smaller the number the finer the tip.


The mechanism you use to start and stop air and spray.

See, single action, double action, trigger guns

Trigger Guns

Airbrushes with spray gun-style triggers.


.:: U ::.


.:: V ::.


How much the liquid wants to stick to itself or how runny it is. Thicker paint is more viscous. Thinner paint is less viscous.


.:: W ::.


A product of the WD-40 company that you should NOT use to lubricate your airbrush. At all. Ever. Period. End of discussion.

WD-40 and paint generally don’t like each other but it’s also not the right kind of lubricant for a sealed o-ring.


.:: X ::.


.:: Y ::.


.:: Z ::.