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Selecting the Right Airbrush
The basics of choosing an airbrush
A Duck Blind Information Article 2001 by Willy McDonald

Choosing an airbrush is a lot like selecting a car. There are various models in many price ranges and not all are suited to your particular needs or financial situation. The same holds true for an Airbrush. Some are designed for specific applications and others are aimed at a variety of uses. Some will only handle a particular kind of paint and others are just for precise detailing. Of course, a variety of prices correspond with the assortment of models.  The following is information to help guide you to the airbrush that is right for your personal application.

Single Action vs. Double Action
Single Action airbrushes deliver paint and air simultaneously when you press the trigger. Paint amounts are controlled with an adjustment screw either at the front or rear of the brush.  The general rule is you have to stop spraying to make adjustments to your paint flow with a net result of minimal control.

Double Action airbrushes offer greater control because, air and paint are controlled by a single trigger. Simply push the trigger down for air and pull it back to introduce paint into the air stream.  Most experts agree that the double action airbrush should be the choice for beginners.

Gravity Feed, Side & Bottom Feed
On Gravity feed airbrushes, the paint is loaded in a reservoir or cup on the top of the airbrush. The paint travels by gravity and capillary action to the atomizer tip of the brush. This allows the painter to, not only paint very fine lines but also run at much lower pressures. Although oil based paints can be used in this brush, it is particularly suited for acrylics. A major consideration for selecting a gravity feed brush is the ability to fuel the brush with several drops of paint even though the brush may be equipped with a larger reservoir. This also makes cleaning and color changes easier. The above particulars make this style of brush ideal for the carving community.

Bottom and Side fed models utilize a siphon feed system to remove the paint from the jar mounted on the bottom or cup on the side of the brush. Siphon models must be run at higher pressures to establish paint flow to the tip. Air and paint are mixed internally and travel some distance to the atomizer tip. This style of brush is suited more for oil based paints than acrylics. Color changing and cleaning of this brush is more labor intensive because paint is in contact with more areas of the brush. However, this style is perfect for painting large projects and is the brush of choice for T-Shirt painters, auto graphics and the like.

Turbine Airbrush
The Turbine Airbrush is designed for the commercial illustrator or photo retoucher. Basically, a small air driven turbine oscillates a fine needle through a paint reservoir and back and forth in front of an air blast tube atomizing a small amount of paint. Although this brush has been utilized for painting decorative decoys it is best left to the expert airbrush operator as many adjustments make it a temperamental tool in the hands of a novice. The high price of this model is another consideration for the price conscious consumer. This brush is ideal for detail work but is limited for base coating and painting large areas.

Air Source
There are many sources for supplying air to your airbrush. Air compressors are available in many models and sizes. As a general rule all compressors will operate your airbrush providing you can control the amount of air with a regulator. This means that the air source can be as simple as a small hobby compressor to the large shop style compressor designed for running air tools. Even a portable air tank will work providing it has a regulator. Compressors can be found in a variety of price ranges and you can expect to spend $80 to $300 for one that will operate your brush. CO2 is another air source that many artists have found ideal to operate their brushes. One can expect to spend $100 to $200 to get set up for CO2 operation. Small cans of air are not recommended. There are expensive and are used up quickly in the cleaning process.../../instructionvideos.htm# AIR BRUSH 101

How-To Videos
Videos are an excellent source for instruction, especially if you are buying a brush from a vendor that doesn’t specialize in airbrushing. The number one rule for purchasing an airbrush is service after the sale. It is essential to have someone that can instruct you on the use and maintenance of the brush you have selected.

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