A Beginners Guide to Using an Airbrush

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A Beginner's Guide to Using an Airbrush

Some art historians claim the airbrush was first used during the Stone Age, when paint was blown through wooden tubes. However, contemporary airbrush designs derive from the first airbrush pistol produced and patented in the late 1800s by a British artist. It took years for airbrushing to be considered an accepted art technique, since many museums and professional artists dismissed airbrushes as mechanical devices, and painting requires artists to utilise their hands. Once the art world accepted photorealism as a type of art, airbrushing soon became an accepted method of painting.

The acceptance of airbrushing as an art form has attracted legions of novices who want to take up airbrushing as a hobby or sell a few pieces of art on the side. Airbrush equipment can be purchased at art supply shops and hobby shops. Many airbrushing beginners shop for airbrushes and airbrush components online at eBay, where they find high-quality airbrushes at reasonable prices. Nonetheless, shopping for an airbrush is akin to putting the car before the horse. Beginners should first learn about the types of airbrushes, the air source options they have to power paint, and several tips that prepare them for their first airbrushing project.

Types of Airbrushes

Artists break down the types of airbrushes by describing two factors. The first factor refers to how an airbrush controls the flow of air and paint, while the second factor determines how a paint source supplies paint to an airbrush. Beginners to airbrushing must decide on the action and feed of an airbrush.

Single Action

Single-action airbrushes require a user to push down on a trigger device that resembles the push device on an aerosol can. The amount of pain that sprays depends on an external knob or screw located near the tip of the airbrush. Single-action airbrushes are easy to maintain, but they do not allow precision control.

Double Action

Double-action airbrushes offer more control than single-action airbrushes, and hence, are the preferred action when artists need to produce finely drawn lines. The air and paint mix within the airbrush nozzle by the triggering of two movements. Pressing the trigger down controls and airflow and pulling the trigger back controls the amount of paint dispersed.

Siphon Feed

The colour cup attaches underneath the airbrush body and air suction pulls paint from the cup to the nozzle. Siphon-feed airbrushes are preferred by users who spray for extended periods. The cup typically has a capacity of up to three fluid ounces.

Gravity Feed

An unattachable colour cup sits on top of the airbrush body to apply small amounts of paint over a short period. Gravity-feed airbrushes possess a tiny hole in the centre of the cap to prevent the development of a vacuum that sucks out air. The hole must always be open to ensure proper paint flow.

Air Sources

Artists have many choices when it comes to air source. An air source can represent the most substantial investment that an airbrush user makes. Beginners should consider renting air sources until they find one that meets their airbrushing needs. The type of air source used depends on the type of spray equipment and brushes, the style of airbrushing, and the scope of the airbrushing project.

Here is a chart that describes the positive and negative attributes of the most popular airbrushing air sources.

Air Source



Compressed aerosol can


Constant air pressure


Low pressure

Low supply

Tyre inner tube


Low cost

Constant air pressure

Pressure can drop without warning

Low supply

Air tank

Multiple sizes

Pressure regulator


Medium pressure

Low supply

Air compressor

Small size

Long lifespan


Requires electricity

Can overheat

CO2 tank

Moisture-free air source

Built-in regulator

Long lifespan

Moderate danger of compressed inert gas

Requires refilling

All connections must be secured to prevent freezing

Beginners who work on airbrushing projects, such as spraying food colouring on a birthday cake or other simple tasks, should consider using aerosol cans as an air source. As they acquire more complex skills, beginners can utilise more complex sources of air. Artists who airbrush designs on shirts require an air source that stores more paint and has a longer lifespan.

Airbrushing Tips Every Beginner Should Know

At first, beginners may perceive airbrushing to be a daunting task reserved for more experienced artists. However, by understanding the varied airbrush applications, beginners can find the right airbrush to perform less complex painting. Beginners should follow a few time-tested tips for using an airbrush. The most important tip of all pertains to eye protection. Industrial strength goggles prevent paint or needle parts from damaging the eye.

Professional Advice

The best source for learning how to use an airbrush is an artist who airbrushes for a living. These experts can provide insight into how to handle an airbrush and the best drawing supplies to purchase to begin airbrushing as a hobby. Professional advice can derive from personal acquaintances, but beginners should seek the advice of art teachers and local professionals. Airbrushing magazines and online resources can also help beginners learn airbrushing techniques.


Most airbrush malfunctions occur because of poor sanitation practices. Beginners should utilise distilled or purified water for water-based paints to prevent clogging. They also have to monitor mineral and chlorine levels to avoid the rusting of airbrush components, especially the needle and nozzle.

Wear a Mask

Airbrushing appears to be a benign activity, but the combination of potential eye injuries and respiratory ailments requires airbrush users to wear protective gear. While goggles protect the eyes, a mask or even an electrical respirator, provides protection for the respiratory system. Water-based inks, dyes, and paints can damage lung cells and cause increasingly hazardous health problems. Beginners can find inexpensive masks at art shops or online at eBay.

Learn the Mediums

Airbrushers use toxic materials, such as solvents and pigments. Carefully read paint labels and call paint manufacturers if a label requires clarification. Many solvents can permeate through the skin or cause eye damage. Some airbrushing experts recommend reading beginner airbrushing books to learn more about paint mediums.


Many airbrushers perform their craft in low traffic areas of a home or studio. These areas typically do not have windows or ventilation systems to disperse noxious paint fumes. Consider purchasing a fan that is safe around flammable paints. Search for bathroom fans online at eBay or design a cheap spray booth that disperses paint overspray.

Cleaning Station

Also referred to by experienced airbrushers as a catch container, a cleaning station catches the excess paint when a user cleans an airbrush. Instead of excess paint landing on a table or drop cloth, the catch container prevents the paint from causing breathing problems by storing the paint in an enclosed space. Beginners can either purchase a cleaning station or construct one from a plastic container.


Some airbrushes require assembly, which may present complications for beginners. Professional airbrushers recommend that beginners purchase an already-assembled airbrush, and then learn how to assemble an airbrush by disassembling it to perform cleaning and maintenance. The needle and nozzle are the most important components for learning how to assemble an airbrush.


The venerable adage, "Practice makes perfect" is an applicable piece of advice for learning how to use an airbrush. After receiving input from professionals, beginners should try different techniques until they find one that provides both comfort and accuracy. Some beginners may need to steady their hand by placing their arms on a table, while other beginners can produce artwork using free flow airbrushing techniques.

How to Buy an Airbrush on eBay

Beginner airbrushers may be tempted to shop for airbrushes in art shops, but the best option for buying the right airbrush is to shop online at eBay. Airbrush buyers and sellers connect in a virtual marketplace predicated on eBay's powerful search engine. Buyers utilise the search engine to reduce the number of search results to ensure that they find the right seller. They accomplish this by specifying keywords to type into the search engine. A good strategy for buying airbrushes on eBay is to search for sellers who offer new airbrushes. Another keyword strategy is to search by reputable brands, such as Badger or Iwata.

Once beginner airbrushers narrow the list to a few eBay airbrush sellers, they should review the information that sellers publish on their product pages. The first source of pertinent seller information is the product photograph. This provides buyers with a visual indication as to the condition of the airbrush. eBay also publishes customer feedback on seller product pages, which is a valuable tool for discerning eBay's leading sellers. Look for positive customer feedback that spans the past year, especially positive feedback that a seller receives for selling painting supplies. You can also review accepted payment methods and delivery terms on seller product pages.


Airbrushing beginners face a number of questions, most of which require an extensive amount of research. They should confer with professional artists and art teachers to learn the basics of airbrushing. One of the points that beginners fail to address is the investment required to get started with airbrushing. Buying airbrushing equipment, especially the air source, can put a dent in a beginner's budget. Moreover, any money spent on airbrushing goes down the drain if a beginner eventually realises that he or she does not like the hobby.

For beginners who enjoy their newfound hobby, they need to learn about the types of airbrushes. Single- and double-action airbrushes control the flow of paint, while siphon- and gravity-feed airbrushes determine how an airbrush receives paint. Beginners should consider easier-to-handle, single-action airbrushes until they feel that they have mastered controlling paint flow. The air source is another important factor for learning how to airbrush, as each of the primary types of air sources provide disparate advantages and disadvantages. Beginners tend to learn the airbrushing craft faster by utilising aerosol cans as their first air source. The best advice offered by airbrushing professionals is for beginners to master the basics before they move onto more difficult airbrushing techniques.

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