Like any other tool, you will want to choose the correct airbrush for the job at hand. There are many different options available for airbrushes. It is often difficult to decipher how to shop for an airbrush with the technical jargon used by manufacturers. This is an explanation of the fundamental options available on airbrushes.
If you are shopping for your first airbrush, you will want to stick with name brand equipment from reputable sellers. Learning how to airbrush can be a difficult task, and you do not need the added frustration of poorly constructed equipment, or an airbrush that has been used and damaged by someone else.
The first option we will look at is double action verses single action airbrushes. A single action airbrush does not allow you to control the paint flow while painting. You simply push the trigger down, and you get the mixture of air and paint that the airbrush is set to. Applications of single action airbrushes are fairly limited. A double action airbrush allows you to control the needle at all times to regulate the paint flow. By pushing the trigger down, you get only air, but as you pull the trigger back, the farther you pull, the more paint will flow. This allows you to develop great control of the airbrush, as you can go from thin lines to thick in a single stroke.
The second option to consider is top-feed, or gravity-feed, verses bottle-feed airbrushes. Generally speaking, a gravity-feed airbrush allows you to work at a lower PSI, which allows the artist to achieve greater detail. The drawbacks of gravity-feed airbrushes are that the paint cup can only hold a limited amount of paint, and sometimes blocks the view of the work by the artist. A bottle-feed airbrush requires a higher PSI to operate in order to achieve the vacuum effect needed to pull paint up from the bottle. Generally speaking, bottle-feed airbrushes are used for shading and basic line work, and gravity-feed airbrushes are used for detail work.
The third option to consider is needle size. The size of the airbrush makeup needle determines how big the opening is for the paint to be atomized. Generally speaking, the smaller the needle size, the smaller the line that can be achieved. A .5mm needle is considered standard, and will accommodate most types of airbrush paint. Depending on your skill level, a wide range of work can be done with an airbrush with a .5mm needle. The smaller the needle, the more your paint must be reduced in order to flow properly. Larger needles will allow for heavier paints to be used.
If you are looking for a good tool to learn how to airbrush effectively, the following 3 models are recommended, as they are fairly easy to learn with, and will continue to be useful to you as your skill develops.
1. Thayer and Chandler Vega 2000 – This is a double action, bottle-feed airbrush. It can be purchased as a kit that comes with the airbrush, a 6 foot hose, bottles for paint, and 3 different needle sizes that can be changed by the user.
2. Paasche VL – This is a double action, bottle-feed airbrush, and has been a long standing favorite of airbrush artists. This is a very popular model for T-Shirt artists. It can also be purchased as a kit with a hose, bottle , and 3 different needle sizes that can be changed based on the paint you will be using.
3. Iwata Eclipse HP-BCS – This too is a double action, bottle-feed airbrush. Iwata is considered the gold standard in the airbrush industry currently. The Eclipse HP-BCS can be purchased as a kit that includes a 10 foot hose, and a bottle for paint. It comes with a .5mm needle.