A Comprehensive Guide to Using and Caring for Your Airbrush

Professional Double-Action Airbrush

An airbrush is a high-precision spraying tool that was originally used only for art projects but has now become an essential tool for many model enthusiasts. It produces fine, even, solid lines with a strong sense of depth and excellent effects. However, an airbrush is also a delicate tool that requires careful maintenance. Here are some tips based on my own experience, which I hope will be helpful to those who have just acquired an airbrush. It is strongly recommended that you avoid disassembling the paint nozzle for cleaning whenever possible!

Structure of the Airbrush

The above is a breakdown of the airbrush, which allows you to understand its structural components. While different brands of airbrushes may vary, the basic structure is generally the same. Beginners can use this as a reference.

Airbrushes are typically divided into two types: dual-action and single-action. The difference between them is that the button on a dual-action airbrush can be pressed down and pulled back, allowing you to control both the airflow and paint flow with the button. In contrast, the button on a single-action airbrush can only be pressed down to control the airflow, while the paint flow cannot be controlled by the button and usually requires separate adjustment.

When making models, the joint part of the airbrush and the air pipe used has two sizes. The common Japanese airbrushes currently have large joints (except for airbrushes using compressed air tanks); some airbrushes produced in the United States and the United Kingdom have small joints, except when using compressed air tanks. They all need to be equipped with adapters.

The airbrush joints we produce are the conventional 8/1 large joints on the market now.

The nozzle diameter of an airbrush ranges from 0.2 to 1.0 mm. The smaller the diameter, the finer the lines it can spray. Small-diameter nozzles are suitable for spraying camouflage patterns and can produce sharper edges. Larger diameter nozzles are ideal for spraying large areas with a single color, such as monochromatic large-scale aircraft models, ships, and car bodies. For general AFV (Armored Fighting Vehicle) model-making, a 0.3mm nozzle is usually sufficient. If possible, it’s also beneficial to have a 0.5mm nozzle for large-area spraying.

Airbrush paint cups come in several types: fixed on the top of the airbrush body, detachable on the top, detachable on the side, and bottle-style under the body. The drawback of the fixed type is that the airbrush needs to be cleaned every time you change colors, whereas with the detachable type, you only need to replace the paint cup with a new color.

Tips for Using the Airbrush (Dual-Action Airbrush Example)

  1. First, the paint must be thinned to the appropriate consistency. Stir the paint in the bottle thoroughly with a mixing stick. Generally, model paints are thinned at a ratio of 2:1 to 3:1 (thinner to paint), but not all paints follow this ratio; for example, high gloss paints need to be much thinner. Make sure to mix the paint and thinner thoroughly before use, taking care not to introduce any foreign particles.
  2. Once the paint is prepared, pour it into the airbrush’s paint cup, connect the airbrush to the air compressor, and you are ready to start spraying. Press the airbrush button down first, then pull it back to release the paint. If you pull back first, a large blob of paint may come out, affecting the spray quality.
  3. Using a smaller airflow, less paint, and a closer distance will produce very fine lines. Beginners can practice on white paper. For fine lines, hold the airbrush close to the paper. This technique is useful for camouflage painting, where you can first outline the camouflage pattern and then fill it in. When increasing the airflow and paint flow, adjust the distance between the airbrush and the model accordingly to avoid paint runs. The results depend on the paint’s dilution, the distance from the model, and the extent to which you press and pull the button. Experience and practice are key to mastering this.
  4. If your airbrush has a needle-stop adjustment knob, you can set it to limit the maximum paint flow before starting. This way, you only need to control the distance between the airbrush and the model and the airflow, preventing accidentally spraying too much paint.
needle-stop adjustment knob

Maintenance Tips for Airbrush

  1. After using the airbrush, it should be cleaned immediately. First, add a small amount of solvent to the paint cup. Cover the nozzle with a tissue, press the button, and slightly pull it back. You will see bubbles in the paint cup due to the backflow of air caused by covering the nozzle. Then release the nozzle to spray out the solvent, and use a tissue to wipe off any remaining paint inside the cup. Repeat this process several times until the solvent being sprayed is clear and free of any color.
  2. Each time you spray out the solvent, unscrew the rear cover of the airbrush, loosen the needle chucking nut, and carefully remove the needle. Use a tissue or cotton swab dipped in solvent to clean the needle. Then gently reinsert the needle into the airbrush body. Be careful when passing it through the paint nozzle; apply just enough force to push it through without using excessive force, which could widen the nozzle. Tighten the needle chucking nut, and screw the rear cover back on. Finally, unscrew the nozzle cap and air cap, and use a tissue or cotton swab dipped in solvent to clean off any residual paint.
  3. Reassemble the air cap and nozzle cap, taking care not to bend the exposed needle tip.
  4. A special note: some people like to soak the entire airbrush in solvent, which is not advisable! The airbrush contains rubber parts that can degrade in solvent, reducing their lifespan and sealing performance, potentially rendering the airbrush unusable. Additionally, extensive exposure to solvent is harmful to your health.

Solving Some Common Airbrush Issues

1. When you take out the airbrush that you washed last time and prepare to use it, you may find that the airbrush button cannot be pulled back. This is because the residual unwashed paint in the pen body sticks to the spray needle. You can unscrew the airbrush tail sleeve, loosen the needle nut and pull the spray needle out with force. If it still cannot be pulled out, you can wrap the spray needle with a piece of paper, clamp it with pliers and pull it out. You can see traces of residual paint on the spray needle. Wipe it off with a paper towel dipped in solvent and reinstall the spray needle.

2. It is strongly recommended to avoid disassembling the paint nozzle for cleaning as much as possible. Most airbrush nozzles have very small rubber seals, and removing the nozzle can damage these seals or reduce their sealing performance, leading to issues like those described in point 3. Only if the airbrush has not been cleaned for a long time and paint has dried inside should you remove the nozzle for cleaning. Use the nozzle wrench provided with the airbrush to unscrew it, then insert a solvent-dipped sewing needle to stir inside. Alternatively, place the nozzle in a solvent-filled bottle, cap it, and shake it until you see paint residue appear. Once cleaned, reassemble the nozzle. The airbrush’s design ensures that as long as the needle can pass through the nozzle, the nozzle is clear. Residual paint in the nozzle only affects the color being sprayed; clogs are not caused this way. If there are foreign particles blocking the nozzle, it must be removed and cleaned with solvent. Use the nozzle wrench to unscrew it, then use a solvent-dipped twisted tissue to clean inside, or place the nozzle in a solvent-filled bottle, cap it, and shake it until clean. Reassemble the nozzle afterward.

3. When using the airbrush, the lines should be even, solid, round at points, and produce a fine spray effect. If you notice intermittent spray, accompanied by sputtering sounds, or sometimes no paint comes out or a large blob suddenly sprays out, check the following:

  • Check for water in the air hose: Water in the hose is not acceptable. The best solution is to use an air pump with an air tank.
  • Check the paint consistency: Ensure the paint is not too thick.
  • Check the nozzle and body connection: If the nozzle and body are loose or not sealed properly, press the button and pull back to spray paint. Observe the paint cup; if you see bubbles, it indicates a leak at the nozzle-body connection. Use the nozzle wrench to tighten the nozzle, but be careful not to over-tighten as it can break the nozzle. If there’s still a leak, remove the nozzle, wrap a small amount of Teflon tape (used for water pipes) around the threads, and reattach it. Remember to empty the paint first.
  • Check the air pump: Ensure the airflow is even, the pressure is adequate, and there are no intermittent issues. If there are, the problem might be with the air pump.
  • Check for debris in the nozzle: Consider if any dirt might have mixed in when preparing the paint, such as brush hairs. If so, empty the paint and clean the airbrush with solvent.

4. The paint used in the airbrush must be specialized airbrush paint, which has finer particles that can smoothly pass through the nozzle. Industrial paint is strictly prohibited, as its larger particles can easily clog the airbrush nozzle.

Airbrush Acrylic Paint-1230ml Colors

The above tips on using and maintaining your airbrush are intended to help you create more perfect works. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us, and we will provide you with professional advice.

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