How to Buy a Used Airbrush

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How to Buy a Used Airbrush

Hobbyists from around the world know that one of the best ways to accurately paint and detail figurines and other objects is to use an airbrush. However, an airbrush can be quite expensive, especially for those with a limited hobby budget. A popular solution to this problem is to simply buy a used airbrush, which are just as effective as a new airbrush. Used airbrushes can be found in hobby shops as well as on eBay.

Before purchasing an airbrush, it is important to know what makes one airbrush different than another as well as some of the common problems that plague used airbrushes and ruin their efficiency. It is also helpful to know some of the terms that airbrush users should be familiar with. Conducting research and understanding the nature of a used airbrush can make it possible for any hobbyist to find exactly what they need and at a price that they are comfortable with.

Understanding Airbrush Terms

Veteran airbrush users are most likely aware of the terms used in their craft, but novices who might be looking for a used airbrush as a means of entering the hobby without spending a lot of money can benefit from learning them. These terms also have practical applications, as they indicate different types of airbrushes that can be purchased.

Airbrush Action

With airbrushes, 'action' refers to how the trigger functions. All airbrushes are either single action or double action, although both kinds only use a single trigger. Single action airbrushes work on a very basic principle: once the trigger is pressed, compressed air is released. This air passes through the airbrush, where a small amount of paint is transformed into a mist. The trigger allows control over how much air is released, and the amount of paint used is usually determined by adjusting a screw which is usually found on the back of the airbrush.

A double action airbrush allows the user to control both the amount of air used as well as the amount of paint used. This is done with a single trigger, and can making painting much more efficient and responsive, as the user does not have to stop painting in order to adjust the amount of paint needed. Double action airbrushes are generally more popular than single action airbrushes. Double action airbrushes are more difficult to master than a single action airbrush, so a beginner may want to start with a single action airbrush.

Airbrush Feed

An airbrush 'feed' refers to how the paint is allowed to enter the airstream. There are two main types of feed found on modern airbrushes. Gravity feed airbrushes have the paint in a container on the top or on the side, where gravity can simply allow air to flow downward into the airstream. Gravity feed airbrushes require less air pressure, which means that a smaller compressor can work just fine. At the same time, less air pressure means that more delicate work can be performed without worrying about the paint spraying too far or too heavily if a lighter coat of paint is desired.

The other type of airbrush feed is the siphon feed. The siphon feed uses air pressure to pull paint out of a container that is kept below the airbrush. The siphon feed requires more air pressure, but the benefit of more air pressure is that it can cover an object with paint much faster than can a gravity feed. The nature of a siphon feed means that a larger container can be used for paint, which means that refilling the container happens less frequently.

Airbrush Mix

Airbrush mix refers to how and where the paint is transformed into a mist. Again, there are two different types of airbrushes when it comes to mix. The first kind of airbrush is known as an internal mix airbrush. In an internal mix airbrush, the paint and air are mixed within the body of the airbrush. This makes it easier to paint more smoothly and evenly across a surface.

External mix airbrushes combine air and paint in a nozzle usually found beneath the body of the airbrush itself. For the most part, external mix airbrushes are not as popular as internal mix airbrushes, although they are somewhat easier to clean and maintain as paint does not build up inside the airbrush.

Other Terms

There are several other terms related to airbrushes that hobbyists should be aware of before making a purchase. Many of these terms are very basic and refer to small parts of the airbrush.




Where the paint exits an airbrush


Device contained within the nozzle to alter angle and scope of paint flow

Solvent Resistance

The ability of an airbrush to resist the caustic effect of solvents

Moisture Trap

A device that collects moisture after it builds up in the airbrush but before it is expelled

Understanding the parts of an airbrush and how different types of airbrushes work is vital to making a proper purchase. Depending on the type of craft a person is airbrushing essentially determines which type of airbrush should be used.

Understanding Common Issues with Used Airbrushes

Used items are many times in excellent condition and can be used for many years, just like a new one. In the case of airbrushes, a used airbrush can be a valuable tool for any hobbyist. However, there are some warning flags that can inform a potential buyer if an airbrush was dropped, damaged, or improperly cared for.

Bent Nozzles and Needles

A visual close up of an airbrush allows a potential buyer to determine if an airbrush has a bent needle or nozzle. Such damage is fairly easy to replace with inexpensive replacement parts, but it is helpful to know how the airbrush was damaged. If it was an accidental drop that only occurred once, the rest of the airbrush should be fine. If the bent parts seem to be the result of consistent neglect, there may be unseen damage inside. When buying a used airbrush online, a careful look at the nozzle and needle should be enough to indicate if one is bent.

Damaged Seals

All airbrushes have seals that keep paint or other liquids from escaping. For the most part, these seals are reliable and can last for years. However, if an airbrush has been unused for a long period of time, rubber seals can dry out and crack, which leads to leaks. Extreme hot or extreme cold can also damage rubber and cause leaks. If paint was the primary use of the airbrush, it is unlikely that the seals are damaged, but other chemicals or substances such as floor sealant can eventually wear away at rubber seals.

Plastic Parts

Airbrushes that are made with plastic parts, rather than metal, are far less expensive than metal parts, but they do not last nearly as long and are more susceptible to the corrosive effects of paint and other materials. At the same time, plastic airbrush parts can easily crack and break if dropped, which can cause serious leaks. As a general rule of thumb, used airbrushes with plastic parts are generally unreliable, and are seldom worth the cost.

Buying a Used Airbrush on eBay

Used airbrushes are among the many kinds of hobby supplies available on eBay. Many of these used airbrushes are sold by hobbyists themselves who are either upgrading or trimming their collection. This means that many of the used airbrushes are in fine condition and have been well cared for. The best way to start looking for a used airbrush is to simply enter the term 'used airbrush' into the search bar that can be accessed from any eBay page. If a potential buyer wishes to look for a single-action airbrush, for example, it is a simple matter of modifying the search term to be more specific.

Read the Product Description

All products sold on eBay, including used airbrushes, have a product description. This description can include information about a product's history, which is extremely useful when buying a used airbrush. It is also possible that the product description may contain information about damage or other issues, allowing the buyer to make an informed choice.


An airbrush is a fast and efficient way for hobbyists and others to apply paint or other liquids to a number of different objects like figurines or pottery. For many who are wanting to get started with their hobby or who are on a budget, a used airbrush is a wise choice. Used airbrushes can be just as good as new ones, and can last for many years if cared for properly.

When one is in the market for a used airbrush, a good place to start is with the most important terms related to airbrushes. Airbrush action refers to how the trigger functions and beginners may want to know if a single or double-action airbrush is the better bet for them. Likewise, airbrush feed refers to how paint enters the airbrush, and airbrush mix refers to how the location where air and paint meet. There are several other terms as well that can help a novice to become more informed. It is also helpful to know what to look out for when buying a used airbrush as leaky seals and bent parts can cause problems. Taking all of this information into consideration when making a purchase can make the entire process much more satisfying and efficient.

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