Side Feed Airbrush - Airbrush Guru

Side Feed Airbrush

Paint is feed through the airbrush’s side.   But the way it functions is based on where the paint level is in relation to the airbrush’s nozzle.

Side Feed Airbrush Explained

The rule is simple.  If the paint level is above the nozzle’s tip the airbrush is gravity fed.  If the paint level is below the nozzle’s tip the airbrush is siphon fed.

Side feed airbrushes adapt to your needs depending on the attachment you choose.  There are many different kinds of cups or bottles that can be attached.

They also have one trick that only pressure fed airbrushes can duplicate; they can spray upside down.

The Good


A side feed airbrush can become a gravity feed airbrush or a siphon feed airbrush simply by changing the side mounted cup.

As long as the paint is above the airbrush’s tip it’s a gravity feed airbrush. As soon as the paint falls below the level of the airbrush’s tip it’s a siphon feed airbrush.

Lots of attachments

Gravity feed cups.  1 and 2oz bottles.   Side feed cups.  Customization opportunities abound.

Attachments can generally be cleaned separately from the airbrush

I tell people “no soaking the airbrush body” but cups are detachable. Soak then scrub a bit and viola! Clean cups!

Sprays upside down

If you’re painting the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling flat on your back, this is the airbrush for you.

The Bad

Attachments are spendy

The bottles cost a bit more than siphon feed bottles for the right angle elbow, but the cups are really expensive.  All that flashy chrome and machining adds up.

A little more to clean than either a siphon or gravity feed airbrush

Longer paint passages mean more to clean up.  Not much, but enough to notice.

Different attachments make the airbrush behave slightly differently

This is also a benefit–except when you’re first learning to airbrush.  Airbrushes have a lot of variables under your direct control.  The more variables to control the steeper the learning curve.

If you’re just beginning you can get around this small pitfall by sticking to one cup while you’re getting started.  Then you can branch out and explore.

The Guru’s Opinion

I love side feed airbrushes.  It’s really that simple.

  • Interchangeable cups
  • Quick siphon feed style cleaning
  • Sprays a full 2oz of paint when I’ve got to cover something
  • Gravity feed responsiveness when I need details

But, I don’t like recommending them to beginners…

  • Extra cups are super expensive
  • Getting lost in extra attachments doesn’t help you learn to airbrush
  • Beginners already have enough to worry about

However, if you have the extra money, and you’re willing to put in the extra learning time a side feed airbrush is the ultimate do-it-all airbrush.