What Makes a Good Quality Airbrush


Getting a new airbrush is exciting but it can also be intimidating. In the wide world of airbrushing, there is a boatload of options to choose from.

There are certainly a lot of bad-quality airbrushes out there, but the truth is that more expensive doesn’t always mean better. Most people are looking for a good quality airbrush that also doesn’t cost a fortune. So the trick to finding the ideal middle ground between cost and quality is knowing what to look for.

Good quality airbrushes have certain characteristics that allow them to perform above all the rest.

A good quality airbrush gives you full control over your paint stream. Precision, versatility, reliability, and ease of use are all considerations in airbrush quality. Practical airbrush features include a well-balanced double-action trigger, a large paint cup, a compression fit nozzle, and made with durable materials.

If you’re looking to skip the frustration of using bad-quality airbrushes and get something good, this article is for you. We’re going to go over the benefits of a good quality airbrush and all the features to look out for.

For anyone wanting the artist’s pick right away: get the Iwata Eclipse HP-CS. It’s a good quality airbrush at a good price that will serve you well as a beginner or intermediate user.


Benefits of a Good Quality Airbrush

Here are the 4 main benefits of a good quality airbrush:

1. Precision

To really gain confidence in your airbrushing skills, you’ll want an airbrush that can perform exactly how it’s supposed to. Nothing kills your confidence like when you watch a great tutorial, you sit down to paint your own rendition, and your airbrush just doesn’t put the line where it’s supposed to go.

A good quality airbrush has precision, which means the paint goes exactly where you want it and nowhere else. You’ll find with finely tuned airbrushes that there is a distinct moment when paint flow starts and stops over the arch of a stroke.

2. Versatility

An airbrush that can do it all is worth its weight in gold. When you’re getting into airbrushing, you never know what kind of artwork you’ll get into.

You could be painting a figurine one day and decide to paint your motorbike tank the next.

This is where versatility comes into play.

ARTICLE: The Best Materials to Airbrush On

Some airbrushes are made to paint extremely fine lines, whereas others are only good at painting wide spread patterns. These kinds of airbrushes are good for specialty work, but a really good quality airbrush will have the ability to paint both fine detail and large spread patterns alike.

3. Reliabilty

There’s nothing more frustrating than having an airbrush sputter and splatter paint onto your substrate halfway through a project.

ARTICLE: What Causes Airbrush Splatter and What to Do About It

This issue is well worth tackling with a bit of investment in a good quality airbrush. When a nozzle or needle is made with poor construction materials, it can quickly start deforming.

This deformation can lead to air or paint escaping through the tip of the nozzle.

Paint then builds up on the nozzle tip, and when the air stream is activated, a blob of paint splatters onto the canvas.

Airbrush splatter always seems to happen at the worst times (usually when you’re putting the finishing touches on a masterpiece only to have it ruined.)

Quality airbrush construction materials will delay the breakdown of needles and nozzles so issues like airbrush splatter are much less likely to occur.

4. Ease of Use

Airbrushing is like any other art form in that it takes time to practice and improve. When you’re putting some hours in on the airbrush, ease of use will make a world of difference.

Quality airbrushes have good ergonomic design – a good weight balance, smooth trigger action – they just feel good in your hand.

Good airbrush design also makes it easy to take apart, clean, and reassemble on the fly. Troubleshooting and cleaning is a regular part of airbrushing so a good design will make this aspect simpler and less stressful.

Features of a Good Quality Airbrush

To get all the benefits that a good quality airbrush has to offer, you’ll want to look out for these 5 features:

Double-Action Gravity-Fed Airbrush

The double-action gravity-fed airbrush is the most versatile type of airbrush on the market. For more on why this is, checkout this article where I give an introduction to the different kinds of airbrushes and how they work.

ARTICLE: How to Choose the Right Kind of Airbrush

Double-action refers to the style of trigger mechanism – pushing down activates the air, and pulling back engages the paint stream.

This style of airbrush action does everything a single action can do and gives you more control over the spray pattern.

Gravity-fed means there is a paint reservoir on top of the airbrush instead of a bottle underneath that sucks the paint up (siphon-fed).

The cup also gives you more versatility as you can feed one color or mix multiple colors directly in the cup. Siphon-fed airbrushes allow you to switch out single colors easily, but they do not allow for mixing. With practice, switching colors on the gravity-fed is actually quick and easy.

So the advantage of switching colors with the siphon fed airbrush really becomes moot in most circumstances.

For these reasons, I personally believe the double-action gravity-fed airbrush is the all-around superior option to other airbrush types.

Well-balanced Trigger Mechanism

The trigger mechanism is the only moving part on the airbrush and is, therefore, the most delicate.

Fine detail work is only possible if you have an even, frictionless pull back from the beginning to the end of a stroke. Well-crafted airbrushes have balanced triggers that are very responsive to small movements.

High-quality Build

Unlike a paintbrush or a sponge, an airbrush is an exquisite tool that can last you for many years with proper care and maintenance.

ARTICLE: How to Maintain an Airbrush | Best Tricks and Tips

Side by side, the difference in build quality is very apparent between a low-end airbrush and a medium to high-end airbrush.

A cheap airbrush is usually built with inferior materials which leads to failure and issues within the first few uses.

Good quality airbrushes are built with superior metals and crafted on specialty machinery. The nozzles and needles are reinforced and designed to last because these are the first points of failure.

Good build design and materials act as a good base for smooth operation – precision, durability, and ease of use all rely on the airbrush build.

Large Paint Cup

Some airbrushes come with larger paint cups than others. Generally speaking, a larger paint cup is better because it allows you to fill it with more paint and mix colors directly in the cup.

Sometimes you only need a small amount of paint and a large cup is not needed. However, you can always partially fill the cup so there is really no downside to having a large cup size.

The Compresion Fit Nozzle

The nozzle secures onto the front of an airbrush in two different ways:

  1. Threaded fit
  2. Compression fit

Threaded fit uses tiny threads on the backend of the nozzle to secure it to the airbrush. These threads are very fragile and very easy to cross-thread.

Conversely, the compression fit nozzle is secured in place by the nozzle cap. The nozzle cap has larger threads and is much more of a sturdy piece than the nozzle.

In order to protect the vital nozzle, a compression fit arrangement just makes more sense.

A Good Quality Airbrush | Artist’s Pick

Finding an airbrush that has all the aforementioned benefits and features but doesn’t cost an arm and a leg is hard.

Over my years of airbrushing, I have experimented with many different airbrushes to much pain and frustration. Like most, I started with the cheapest brands but eventually realized the headache I was saved with an all-around quality product.

The best quality airbrush for its price that I can find is the Iwata Eclipse HP-CS.

Iwata Eclipse HP-CS

The Iwata Eclipse HP-CS is a great beginner to intermediate airbrush that many professionals still use as their “work-horse”.

The 0.35mm nozzle gives this airbrush a perfect balance between fine line drawing and wide shades.

t’s a double-action gravity-fed airbrush with a silky smooth trigger action – I am constantly amazed at the exactness the paint stream activation can achieve.

Iwata Eclipse HP-CS BenefitsScore
Precision: smooth double-action trigger with 0.35 mm nozzle 8/10
Versatility: Fine detail and wide spray applications10/10
Reliability: silver alloy nozzle with compression fit brass bass10/10
Ease of Use: Beginner to intermediate level with good weight distribution9/10

It’s a double-action gravity-fed airbrush with a silky smooth trigger action – I am constantly amazed at the exactness the paint stream activation can achieve.

One of the most striking things about the Eclipse is its high-quality craftsmanship and how good it feels in your hand. After hours of airbrushing, it does not make your hand sore or tired.

It has a large 0.24 oz fluid cup and a silver alloy compression fit nozzle, the body is stainless steel with a chrome finish, which makes the whole rig very sturdy and comfortable in your hand.

While there are some great specialty options out there, I highly recommend the Iwata Eclipse HP-CS as a beginner/intermediate airbrush. It has all the characteristics of a good quality airbrush at a very reasonable price point.

Hopefully, this article has given you some info to arm yourself with if you are considering getting a good quality airbrush.

I have certainly made enough errors with bad equipment over the years that it pains me to see others go through the same thing.

The Iwata Eclipse HP-CS is one of the best quality airbrushes I have come across, but I’m interested: What have you found to be a good quality airbrush? What kind of airbrush do you use? Leave a comment below and let me know!

Until next time, keep on brushing!


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