Image: Guide for choosing your first airbrush. | SwansonFineArts.com

Buying your first airbrush can seem intimidating at first. What is single vs dual-action? How much air do I need to run my airbrush? How much paint will I need to buy to be able to practice? What’s the difference between a hobby airbrush kit and a professional airbrush setup? These are just a few of the questions that I had when I bought my first airbrush, so don’t worry if you feel overwhelmed. Keep reading!

Single vs Dual Action

Single-action airbrushes produce both air and paint in a predetermined mixture when you push/pull the trigger. Dual-action airbrushes push down for air then forward/back to gradually increase or decrease the amount of paint you are mixing with the air. That means that single-action airbrushes are like a spray paint can. They’re great for filling a large area with low detail, but cannot handle gradients and details like a dual-action brush.

PSI needs for Airbrushing

Most airbrush compressors can handle small and medium sized airbrushes. The Iwata SmartJet with a maximum PSI of 50 is perfect for both single and dual-action airbrushes up to this rating. This covers the Iwata Eclipse, Iwata Hi-Line, and even HVLP spray guns for small projects.

How much paint to Buy?

A few drops of airbrush paint is all that you need for most small projects. If you find yourself using more than a few drops for small and medium projects, you are likely applying your paint too thick or working on a dark background. To reduce the amount of paint you need, plan your project ahead and don’t apply dark paint only to go back over and apply a lighter paint, simply paint around the lighter areas with your darker color(s) and you can make a single 1fl oz bottle of airbrush paint last a long time. We recommend buying five or ten paints to start, and be sure to buy some airbrush cleaner!



Image: Golden Brand High-Flow Acrylics | Amazon

The SwansonFineArts Company stands by the Iwata airbrush products. Our artists have used them for more than thirty years combined and have been extremely satisfied, except for the ComArt paint that comes with the Iwata-Medea Deluxe Airbrush Set which is good for practice but not for professional use. We recommend purchasing the deluxe kit as a beginning kit to start airbrushing with and then replace your paints with high-quality illustration paint such as Golden brand high-flow acrylics.


Image: Iwata Medea Deluxe Airbrush Kit | Amazon

We use an Iwata Hi-Line HP-CS with a SmartJet compressor in our studio. In fact, our travel compressor for events was purchased in the Deluxe Airbrush Set back in 2005. Although we had a part break a few years ago, we used the compressor for approximately ten years with no problems and were able to make small repairs to extend the life for a little while longer. Our original compressor is still in use today!



Image: Iwata SmartJet AirBrush Compressor | Amazon

What Other Suggestions Do You Have?

  1. We recommend the Iwata Deluxe Airbrush Kit because it will work for beginners, intermediate airbrush artists, and professionals. You will not outgrow this compressor or airbrush until you are doing extremely large volumes of work, and you can’t beat the durability.
  2. Sign up for an airbrush class. Whether it is online or in-person, find an instructor that you like and see if you can arrange courses that fit your schedule and budget. This will save you headaches and teach you better habits compared to trying to learn to do it by yourself.
  3. Practice, practice, practice! The more you practice, the easier it becomes. If you are having problems, start by cleaning your airbrush and most of the time the problem will resolve itself even if you never see what was clogging it.

Now it’s your turn!

What questions do you have for the SwansonFineArts team?

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