Painting miniatures and models for wargames, RPGs, or other projects is a fine art. You need a steady hand, good eyes, and a heck of a lot of patience.
There is an easier way! You could splash out on an airbrush for your miniatures. It’s a bit of an investment but it can help you gain some serious XP in the painting game.
Airbrushes are ideal tools for applying basecoats, varnishes, stencils, highlights, and primers. They can pretty much be used for the whole miniature.
Admittedly, choosing an airbrush is a little bit more complicated than choosing a standard paintbrush. You have a few different things to consider when choosing an airbrush.
To make your life easier, we’ve put in all the research so you don’t have to. We’ve gathered together some of the best airbrushes out there that work exceptionally well on miniatures.
We’ve also put together a buyer’s guide to help you understand what you should be looking for in an airbrush.
In a hurry?
Here’s our top pick: Iwata-Medea Eclipse HP CS Dual Action Airbrush Gun / Gravity Feed
- Gravity feed.
- Easy to clean.
- 0.35mm needle tip.
- ⅓ oz gravity cup.
- Incredible for detailed work.
- Professional-grade but also suitable for beginners.
OUR TOP PICK
OUR TOP PICK
Iwata is one of the top names in the airbrushing world.
When you buy one of their brushes you not only get the security of a branded item but you also have a lot of options when it comes to accessories.
A lot of cheap or unbranded products model themselves on Iwata brushes so you can usually pick up cheaper replacements or connections if you want to.
This is just an airbrush. It does not come with a compressor or hose.
It comes with the airbrush, a bottle of Iwata lube, and a mini wrench for assembly. Why then does it take our top spot?
Well, this airbrush is of stellar quality. It is a sturdy, low maintenance brush that cannot be beaten on performance.
It’s sold with a 0.35mm needle and is capable of making lines as thin as a hair’s breadth up to a 2” circle.
You could write a letter with this airbrush if you wanted to. The detail is so fine.
For miniatures, this is wonderful. You can get right into all those nooks and crannies.
Facial features, clothing details, wood grains, whatever you need to detail, this brush can do it.
The trigger is very responsive giving you amazing levels of control. Coupled with the gravity feed cup, this airbrush is just perfect for painting miniatures.
- Gravity feed.
- Hairline to 2” round spray pattern.
- Professional grade.
- Low maintenance.
- Ideal for high and medium detailing.
- No compressor included.
This might not be the cheapest item on our list but when you consider the fact that you get both the brush and compressor, it is excellent value.
The compressor is a solid machine with ⅕ horsepower. It can deliver up to 57psi which is incredible.
You probably won’t need all that power but it’s good to know that you have it.
It has an automatic setting of 40psi. To reach your desired psi you simply turn a dial. The built-in pressure gauge is easy to read so getting your ideal pressure is a piece of cake.
Another feature we love is the automatic shut off feature. If you’re not pressing the trigger on your brush the compressor will shut off.
It saves the motor and reduces the amount of noise in your painting room.
On to the brush itself. You get a 0.3mm tipped brush with a gravity feed cup. It’s a pretty standard brush that seems to work well.
It’s a dual-action brush that has excellent tactile response. You can really control the amount of paint that comes out of this.
It might take you a while to master this skill but it means that you won’t outgrow the brush as soon as you start to develop your skills.
- Gravity feed.
- 0.3mm needle.
- Excellent for beginners.
- Powerful, well-designed compressor.
- Great value for money.
- Airbrush is fairly cheap feeling.
First things first, the sheer amount of stuff you get with this kit is phenomenal. It comes with everything you could possibly want to get into airbrushing.
Let’s start with the airbrushes. Yes, you read that right, this kit comes with multiple airbrushes. 3 airbrushes in fact.
You get a 0.2mm dual-action gravity feed brush, a 0.3mm dual-action gravity feed brush, and a 0.8mm single-action siphon feed brush.
This is a great range because it allows you to fine detail and larger surfaces.
From the reviews, these brushes seem to perform admirably. They are light enough in the hand and responsive to your touch.
The compressor supplied with the kit is a substantial bit of machinery. It has a carry handle so you can move it around easily.
By far the best thing about this compressor is the air pressure gauge. All too often these are left off in beginner kits.
The compressor also has a built-in water trap filter. It saves you having to attach one every time you change brushes.
Along with the gun, you get a 6ft long hose. This is wonderful because it means you can move the compressor further away from you to mitigate the noise.
You also get cleaning brushes, a color chart, a color wheel, an instruction manual, and 6 opaque paints.
There are some reports of a nozzle breaking. It is mentioned in a few reviews and seems to be a result of poorly manufactured threads.
This is a shame, considering the overall quality of the product.
- Complete starter kit.
- Includes 3 airbrushes including a 0.2mm, 0.3mm, and a 0.8mm tip.
- The compressor is robust and powerful.
- Pressure gauge and water trap are built-in to the compressor.
- Paints, cleaning brushes, and hose supplied.
- Some reports of nozzles breaking.
- Can clog quite easily.
Badger is an American airbrush company. Their products are designed and made in the US.
They are a quality name in the airbrush industry and their products come with a lifetime labor warranty.
Now, this is just an airbrush. It does not come with a compressor, hose, or cleaning items. This means that unfortunately, it’s not ideal for beginners.
This airbrush is more aimed at intermediates and pros who are looking to add another airbrush to their set-up.
This particular brush comes with a 0.5mm needle tip. It’s a bit too large for fine detail work but handles full coats with ease.
This is a great choice for applying primers or varnishes to your minis.
One issue that a few customers have noted is the protruding needle. It does stick out a bit further than on other airbrushes. It’s not necessarily an issue.
A nozzle cap is provided to protect the needle when not in use. If you drop it during use, you may have an issue.
Like others in this list, this is a dual-action airbrush. It has a very responsive trigger to the point of being slightly oversensitive.
You need to be careful with how far back you pull the trigger. This is especially true if you’re going for a lighter coat.
In general, this is an excellent mid-range airbrush. It is middle of the road in terms of detail size, features, and useability.
Where it excels is in the stability and maintenance departments.
This is a low-maintenance brush that can take some use and abuse. It needs cleaning after every use just like any other airbrush.
However, it seems to clog up a lot less than competitors.
- Gravity feed.
- High-quality construction.
- Great for medium-sized projects.
- Not ideal for beginners.
- Needle is too large for fine detailing.
This is a great, compact little kit that might be a good choice for beginners.
It includes an air compressor, airbrush, hose, cleaning brushes, moisture collector, pipette, and airbrush holder.
The compressor is small enough to fit in your hand and has a very simple interface.
There is a large on/off button and a slot for the airbrush holder on top. The hose connection and the pressure knob is on the side of the unit.
One thing that seems to be missing is a pressure gauge. This means that setting the pressure is a bit of a guess.
The maximum PSI of this unit is only 25. This is a little low, but customers seem to be incredibly happy with the quality and performance.
One thing to note is that you’ll need to take a rest every 30 minutes to allow the compressor to cool down.
In all honesty, you probably won’t get 30 minutes of continuous use out of the airgun if you’re painting miniatures.
It is a dual-action airbrush and has an excellent tactile response. The 0.3mm nozzle is a nice happy medium.
Customers find it works unbelievably well for detail work and is fairly good with larger areas.
- Gravity feed.
- Compressor and airbrush included.
- Cleaning and maintenance accessories included.
- Great for beginners.
- No instructions included.
- Paint needs to be thinned to at least 60%
Best Airbrush For Minatures Buying Guide
The first thing you’ll want to know before you buy your airbrush is what an airbrush actually is.
An airbrush is a small, hollow pen-like device. It is attached to an air compressor which forces air through the airbrush towards the opening at the end.
When a button is pushed, ink, dye, or pain is introduced to the airbrush. The compressed air forces the paint out of the opening. This process is known as nebulization.
When it comes to buying an airbrush you can buy the brush on its own or you can buy an airbrush kit. The kits usually tend to come with the compressor and all the bits and pieces you need.
If you’re a beginner, you’re better off buying a kit. That way you can start airbrushing straight away.
Single Action Vs Dual Action
There are two types of operation when it comes to airbrushes. Which one you go for is down to what you find easiest and often your price range.
Single-action airbrushes are operated by a push-button or trigger. This button only goes up or down. When you push the button, both air and paint are released and sprayed.
Dual-action airbrushes also have a button or trigger but it requires two separate movements to operate.
You press the button to get the air flowing but you need to pull or push the trigger backward to get the paint flowing.
Dual-action airbrushes are the most common kind. You don’t see a huge amount of single-action brushes anymore.
Dual-action brushes have the benefit of being more tactile. You have more control over when and where the paint sprays.
The next choice you’re going to have to make is whether you want a gravity-fed brush or a siphon-fed brush.
Gravity feed airbrushes have a little pot above the airbrush. Paint drops into the brush naturally thanks to gravity.
In siphon feed airbrushes, the container is below the main body. Often it is larger and attached via a flexible tube.
Gravity feed airbrushes have the benefit of more control. The paint enters the gun at a lower pressure and doesn’t, therefore overspray.
Siphon feed airbrushes are much better for covering larger areas. The container tends to be bigger than on gravity feed brushes because it doesn’t need to be physically attached to the brush.
The issue with siphon feed airbrushes is that the paint enters the main body through a tube using a bit of pressure. This pressure does sometimes cause over-spraying, especially through smaller needles.
Ideally, you want a gravity feed for detail work and a siphon feed for larger areas. If you are only looking to get one, then my advice is to go for a gravity feed.
The needle sits inside the brush and is attached to the airflow line. The needle size dictates how thick or thin the paint line comes out.
Finer needles allow you to do more detailed work but they get clogged more frequently than larger needles.
The annoying thing about needles is that they generally aren’t interchangeable. If you need to replace your needle you will have to find an exact replacement from the same company and brand.
For miniatures, you’ll want a range between 0.2-0.5mm. If you’re only getting one airbrush you’ll want to go for something in the middle. Perhaps a 0.3mm.
You can now get airbrushes that use a battery-powered air compressor. The battery and compressor become a sort of a handle. You hold the compressor and operate the trigger with one finger.
These are great travel airbrushes for obvious reasons. However, there seems to be a few issues with the quality and performance of these airbrushes.
The compressor is hugely important. The compressor is responsible for providing stable airflow. This is crucial for getting the best coverage.
The PSI, which is a measure of the amount of pressure being put out, is important to know. For miniatures and models, you need at least 30psi.
Before buying an airbrush, read the reviews of a product. Check that the compressor gives even pressure and how loud it is.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you set up an airbrush?
Setting up your airbrush is as simple as attaching a hose to the brush and the compressor.
If you buy an airbrush kit, you should receive everything you need to set up your airbrush, including the hose for the compressor.
Once you’ve attached the airbrush to the compressor, you’ll need to set the air pressure. Most of the time this is controlled by a knob on the front of the compressor.
You want to depress the trigger when you get close to the desired air pressure. Then you can fine-tune using the knob.
The final thing you need to do before you start painting is to thin the paint. If you try to use undiluted paint, your airbrush will clog and you’ll get terribly uneven coverage.
To water down the paint you’ll need to mix it with airbrush thinner. This can be bought online or at a model store.
Do you need ventilation for airbrushing?
The short answer is yes, you do need ventilation while you are airbrushing. The long answer is that it depends on a couple of factors.
First and foremost you need to figure out how toxic your paint is. Silicone-based paints are generally considered to be toxic and you need to avoid inhaling the overspray.
Water-based paints tend to be non-toxic. You still don’t want to inhale the overspray but it generally won’t cause lasting damage.
If you’re working with silicone paints you’ll need a lot of ventilation. Think open doors and windows as well as some fans. With water-based paints, you can get away with an open window.
One thing to note is that you should always wear a respirator when using airbrushes. Toxic or not, inhaling paint droplets is no good for your lungs.
Another thing to think about is the size of your workspace. Small, stuffy areas need more ventilation than open airy spaces.
What’s your favourite Airbrush brand? We’d love to hear from you... Please leave your comments below.
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