What airbrush equipment do you use?
One of the most common questions of fellow airbrush artists and those wanting to get into airbrushing is what airbrush equipment I use. In a way interesting, because I spend very little time thinking about my tools of the trade. They need to be of good enough quality to do the job, but once I have that, I don’t spend much time looking at the newest or latest & greatest equipment. Also, any new airbrush is an expense I should justify to myself and my company, so I don’t really bother until something breaks.
Let’s start with the airbrush I use. My work horse is the Iwata Eclipse CS. This is a fairly simple airbrush, easy to clean, use and not too many parts, so it can be maintained well. I also have an Iwata Custom Micron, which is a much higher end airbrush with a much smaller nozzle (thinner lines), but I find it requires a lot of maintenance, with a lot of tiny parts and as a result I don’t tend to use it. Speaking of tiny parts: buy spare parts and keep them ready at all times. When you drop a part, you may either not find it, or it’s damaged.
I have a Paasche airbrush that I just can’t get used to, so I also never use that one.
I like gravity fed airbrushes (with the little cup on top), because I never have problems with getting paint out of a bottle and I can reduce the paint on the fly, so I can work with thinner paint and lower air pressure for detail work, or unreduced paint at high pressure for larger areas that need good cover. I also mix paints in the little cup sometimes for fine art work.
However, I can see that if you work in an environment where you need to change colors often and fast (like a t-shirt shop), having several siphon fed airbrushes on the go would work better.
When I’m not using it, my airbrush sits in a glass of a mix of water and brush cleaner or Windex. That way it doesn’t dry out and I don’t have to clean it as often.
My compressor is a Harbor Freight 21 gallon, 125 PSI. It is not oil free. For any paint spraying it’s advisable to use a larger tank compressor, because you keep the air pressure on much longer than for instance when using a nail gun, so you deplete the tank relatively fast. With a small compressor it ends up running all the time to keep up. My experience is that they then burn out.
This sucker is large, so it lives in my garage and I have a hose running from it to my studio. That way I don’t have to listen to it when it kicks in, because most compressors are loud (except the really expensive ones they sell for airbrushing). In the past I used a Porter-Cable 6 gallon pancake compressor, which held out for a really long time too.
I use 3 main brands of paint. All of them are acrylic, water based. They are Createx Auto Air and Wicked airbrush paints and Golden Liquids. I reduce them usually with a few drops of Createx airbrush reducer.
For work on objects I tend to use mostly the Createx products and the Golden Liquid I use more for fine art projects. However, the Golden color range spans the full artist color spectrum and the paint quality is high, so sometimes I also use them for airbrushing on objects.
For switching colors and quick airbrush cleaning I use Windex. You can dilute that if you want to make the bottle last longer. If I have a big hardened paint clog in the airbrush, I use acetone to get rid of it.
I learned to airbrush with House of Kolor automotive paint. A great paint to spray, but I couldn’t stand working with solvents. I also found that for organic and earth colors, they don’t have the color range (say if you wanted to paint an animal or a landscape). It’s designed for automotive use, not really for fine art, so if you’re looking for different umbers, ochre and a Van Dyke brown it’s not your paint.
The other airbrush equipment I use
Every airbrush artist works differently. Some freehand everything, others meticulously create overlapping stencils. If you want to see different ways to do things, I recommend reading Airbrush Action magazine and Youtube.
I tend to work with the airbrush the way I paint. I’m not a huge fan of stencil work, prefer freehand painting and like to detail out with traditional small brushes. I use masks to create hard line when I need them and even with those I basically only use the ones you see in this picture. I don’t buy them, but cut those out using a Silhouette cutter you can purchase at Michaels.
The masking tape you see is a low tack 3M 2080 masking tape from Home Depot. I also sometimes use yellow automotive masking tape, but this is what I use to mask over a painted area, to avoid ripping the paint off. Sometimes I spray a matte Krylon layer as an intra coat clear over the painted area, before applying masking tape.
I’ve trained myself to use a respirator all the time. You get used to it and after a while forget you’re wearing it. You don’t want paint or Windex to enter your lungs.
The last thing is the Ikea Lazy Susan you see under it. For $10 the SNUDDA makes your life so much easier, so you can paint any smaller object from all sides without having to move it.
As you can see from this picture of my studio, there’s a lot more crap in here that I haven’t discussed, but if you distill it down to the core. The stuff above is what I really use all the time.
Do you airbrush? What is your go-to equipment?