A simple guide to
understanding Airbrush terminology, types of airbrushes and their recommended
guide is offered to help airbrush users select the best airbrush for their
application, and to provide important usage/maintenance information.
ACTION – refers to trigger
functions of the airbrush
SINGLE ACTION refers to airbrushes on which the trigger controls
only the airflow. The amount of sprayed material is adjusted by turning/setting
a needle (colour) adjustment screw. When the trigger is depressed, a pre-set
amount of material is sprayed.
DUAL ACTION refers to airbrushes on which the trigger controls
both air and material flow (press down on the trigger for air, pull back on the
trigger for material flow adjustment).
This style airbrush allows the user to adjust line width while spraying.
Single action is simpler
for applying uniform even coats of colour without any notable shade or tone
variation, and is almost always preferred for single colour and basic spray
coating applications. Dual action is
preferable for “artistic” applications as it allows the user to vary spray
pattern while spraying the airbrush, this enables the artist to go from fine to
wide lines (and vice-versa) without limitation.
Dual action is preferred for shading effects and color gradations, as
well as being more proficient for detail airbrush applications and truer
MIX – refers to the manner
in which air and material come together (atomize) while airbrushing
EXTERNAL MIX indicates that air and paint mix outside the airbrush,
producing a coarse round spray pattern.
INTERNAL MIX indicates air and paint mix inside the airbrush,
producing a precisely atomized “fine dot” spray pattern.
Airbrushes spray a series
of dots (atomized material). An external
mix airbrush sprays a larger coarser dot pattern, which is preferable for
larger surface coverage and volume spray applications. An internal mix airbrush sprays finer
“softer” dots, and is preferred for precision finishing needs, such as colour
gradations, shading effects, and fine lines.
FEED – refers to the place of entry and manner in which the sprayed material
enters the airbrush.
BOTTOM FEED refers to airbrushes on which material enters through
a siphon tube or colour cup attached to the bottom of the airbrush. This type of
airbrush should have at least 18 PSI while spraying to operate properly.
GRAVITY FEED refers to airbrushes on which material enters at the
top of the airbrush through a top-mounted color reservoir. Gravity draws the
material into the airbrush. This type of
airbrush can be operated at spray pressures as low as 8 PSI.
SIDE FEED refers to airbrushes on which material enters at the
side of the airbrush through a side attached color reservoir. This type of
airbrush operates best at approximately 12 PSI.
DUAL FEED refers to an airbrush that has the ability to be used
as either gravity feed or bottom feed depending on the user’s varying
application needs. This type of airbrush
is patented and exclusive to Badger Air-Brush Co.
The Bottom Feed airbrush is best for general and
production applications. The bottom feed
airbrush facilitates the use of more material without having to frequently fill
the material reservoir. The bottom feed
airbrush also allows (or causes) the artist to work at a brisker pace, enabling
faster spray application when desired.
The Gravity Feed airbrush, alternatively, allows the
artist to slow down. Gravity pulls
material into the airbrush, so the airbrush can be operated at a lower pressure
for improved airbrush control. This
makes it easier to do finer detail work as the finishing process can be done at
a more deliberate pace. Gravity feed is
usually the best choice for detail airbrushing.
The Side Feed airbrush allows the user to work
with a swivel side cup which allows more flexibility for airbrushing in
difficult to reach areas or on contoured pieces. Many artist prefer side feed airbrushes for
detail applications because the side feed cup also eliminates any sight line
obstruction to the needle tip when doing “close in” intricate detail work.
What is PSI? Pressure per square inch, is a
measurement of the level of air pressure.
Nozzle sizes - There are varying airbrush nozzle sizes for spraying a range of
materials. Although they have some effect on the line an airbrush produces,
nozzle sizes (Fine, Medium, Heavy or 1, 3, and 5) apply more to the material
that should be sprayed through the airbrush than the fineness of line an
airbrush will produce. The line fineness
is ultimately determined by multiple factors – nozzle size, the needle’s linear
air flow angle, pigment/base ratio of paint, pigment size, operating pressure,
NOTE: You must to have the
right nozzle/needle size with the right spray medium for optimum airbrush
suited to spray thin, low viscosity mediums (inks, water colours, dyes, stains
most popular choice; will spray airbrush ready paints, properly thinned
acrylics, lacquers, enamels, and special application materials (food
airbrushing colors, tanning solutions, airbrush cosmetics, body paints, etc.).
Heavy/5: Best for heavily pigmented and higher
viscosity materials (glazes, gesso, latex, and varnish)