Airbrush suggestions

Hi, first time poster here. I’m a 700 scale modeler and for 12? years I’ve been brushpainting my ships and I’ve gotten pretty good at it. I’ve won Best Ship at the local model show and a couple of awards at the IPMS Nationals. I know I can do better. Everyone is telling me to get an airbrush, and it will up my game. What is a good airbrush/compressor combo for a beginner? Since I do build 700 scale I’m assuming a gravity fed airbrush would work best? I’m kinda afraid that I won’t enjoy the airbrushing aspect. I’ve always liked to brushpaint and I really don’t care about awards I do it for fun and if I don’t enjoy it… well, I guess I can always go back to brushes.


Hi Brian, welcome aboard!

I too was at first reluctant to get an airbrush, but I think once you get used to it you will like it very much for the speed of application and smoothness of finish. That said, if you are happy brush painting, there is no rule that says you need to change! Enjoy yourself in the hobby, and if that means brush painting, then why not just do what you enjoy?

Still, if you want to take the plunge I recommend the Aztex A470 which you can pick up as a set with various tips for about a hundred bucks. Simple, reliable, and easy to use. I also have an Iwata Eclipse, which is a bit fussier to use but is even better. As for a compressor, I use an Iwata Medea - very quiet and reliable. You really can’t go wrong with anything Iwata!

Very hard question to answer.

I’d just recommend any brand name airbrush - Badger, Iwata, Grex, Pasche, etc. A gravity fed, internal mix, double action brush sold by any of these will do you good service. An internal mix single action airbrush like the Badger 200 is also a good choice, especially to start with.

For compressors, get one specifically marketed for airbrushing. A piston driven compressor with a storage tank, regulator and water-trap/filter is better than a diaphragm type compressor (although those work and are much cheaper).

Avoid the little compressors that look like fish tank air-bubblers. They simply don’t put out the volume you’ll really need.

Learn to disassemble, clean and reassemble your airbrush and don’t be lulled into thinking that all you’ll ever need to do to keep it clean and running is to simply spray a little solvent or cleaner though it. Most “terminal” airbrush problems I see (i.e. the brush stops working) are the result of a failure to maintain and clean the brush.

Learn to thin (technically “reduce”) the paint you select to use. Use the proprietary brand thinner (until you develop some experience). Stick with a paint brand that you can get locally, if possible. Everybody has their favorite, so you can find someone who’ll recommend just about any brand that you can name. If you have a brand of paint that you prefer to hand brush, it’s very likely that brand will also be able to be thinned for airbrushing.

Once you shop around some, you can get advice on specific airbrush and compressor models, but the major name brands generally offer the best after-sales customer service, spare parts, and other information. If you have a local hobby shop, check with them to see what they sell. If you’re in luck the proprietor / sales staff might actually know something about that brand.

I generally recommend Badger to any first timer. Badger has unmatched after-sales service and customer support. Basically, for a very small cost, you can get a Badger airbrush serviced for as long as you own it. (I recently had a Model 200 that I purchased in 1980 factory serviced for the cost of postage plus $15. It runs like new.)

However, all of the major makers have good airbrushes and plenty of fans and satisfied customers.


I always send folks to Don Wheelers airbrush site,a beginner can’t go wrong with his basic advice and reviews