While many art materials have only a limited range of uses, airbrush painting is a very diverse hobby. Car enthusiasts use airbrushes to create hood decals and full-body paint jobs, makeup artists use airbrushes for ultra-smooth, even application and there are even airbrushes intended specifically for painting fingernails. This list focuses on the broad group of airbrushes used for fine art projects but when applicable, we’ve noted which of these best picks can be used for special projects such as fingernails or autos.
It may take a little effort to understand the terminology used, but the basics are simple. With a single-action brush, artists can change the airflow but not the flow of paint. With double-action brushes, artists change both the airflow and the volume of paint. Gravity-flow airbrushes have a cup fixed to the top of the brush, while siphon-flow airbrushes draw the paint up from a tube fixed to the bottom of the airbrush. The style affects the type of painting to a degree, though having a high-quality airbrush is more important than having a particular style.
These best airbrushes were selected based on their versatility or range of uses, as well as their reliability and ease of use. The airbrushes are all favorites among artists and have a good reputation for quality, but it is important to treat them carefully and to read the manufacturer’s instructions before beginning use.
Iwata produces some of the most popular airbrushes available and this set provides everything a beginner might need to get started. This set comes with the Eclipse HP-CS, a good beginner’s airbrush, intended for mid-size and larger projects. Read Full Review
The Iwata Brand is popularly acknowledged as one of the best airbrush brands available, known for its quality and five-year warranty. It might be bewildering to sort through all of the models available, but the Deluxe Kit is one of Iwata’s most extensive starter kits, with the brand’s popular Eclipse HP-CS Airbrush, ten bottles of Medea paint, sample templates, and even two instructional DVDs.
The set makes it easy for a beginner to start practicing immediately without worrying about forgotten supplies or hunting down paint and templates. Even without the rest of the set, the Eclipse HP-CS is a great, beginner-friendly airbrush and works well for mid-size and larger projects. The brand is known for being moderately expensive but many artists consider the Iwata airbrushes to be worth the full price. Like all of Iwata’s airbrushes, this airbrush excels in detail and quality.
The Ultra dual-action airbrush in this set is one of the best choices for beginners, and also comes with paint and a portable compressor, allowing artists to start at once. The brand is known for its high price tag, but the Ultra is fairly reasonable compared to similar brands. Read Full Review
One of the best brands available, Harder & Steenbeck offers several top-line airbrushes including this kit with the Ultra double-action airbrush. The Ultra comes with a 0.2-millimeter nozzle and a 2-milliliter gravity-feed cup, though it can be modified with a larger nozzle or paint cup. The kit also comes with a starter collection of general-purpose paints and a portable air compressor, making it a compact, mobile set ideal for beginners or anyone working on the go.
The Ultra is Harder & Steenbeck’s introductory model, and it’s one of the brand’s least expensive airbrushes. The other models are a fairly pricey especially when compared with other brands but they have an excellent reputation for quality.
The Patriot is a dual-action, gravity-feed airbrush suited for beginners, but satisfactory for professionals. The nozzle design allows artists to work with a variety of mediums from ink to acrylics without changing between nozzles. Read Full Review
As a dual action, internal mix airbrush system, the Badger Patriot is easy to handle and versatile. The airbrush works for projects as diverse as detailing cars or painting fingernails. This airbrush is similar to Badger’s Anthem 155, another popular model with the main difference being the Patriot uses a gravity-feed cup which creates a thinner line and allows better control over fine details.
The Patriot doesn’t come with any extra supplies, but it uses a single-nozzle design allowing artists to work with almost any medium, from inks to acrylics, without needing to change needles or stock multiple pieces. It’s recommended as a model for beginners, but it has enough quality to suit a professional.
The Paasche VL is a unique double-action airbrush with a roller allowing artists to use is as a single-action airbrush, making it easier for beginners to learn. The set comes with an assortment of basic accessories, including three sizes of nozzles. Read Full Review
This model uses a standard, all-purpose siphon feed to create a highly versatile tool. While most airbrushes are either single or double-feed, this model allows users to swap back and forth between the two styles. The VL Airbrush is designed as a double-action airbrush with a flow of paint which increases with airflow but for projects which need a steady, constant flow of paint it can function as a single-action brush.
The airbrush works for a wide variety of paints and projects from cake decorating to auto painting. It has a spray width varying from 1-1/2 inches down to an ultra-fine 1/32 inch for inserting miniscule detailing. The set comes with all three sizes of heads, as well as the other basic accessories an artist would need to get started. Like the Paasche Talon, it’s a set good choice for beginning or intermediate artists who want versatility at a mid-range, reasonable price.
Testor’s Aztek airbrushes run fairly low in price with its top A470 Model costing about as much as other brands’ introductory models. Some artists find the brand’s airbrushes tricky to use but others prefer them over other technically high-quality airbrushes. The Ultimate Airbrush Set comes with an excellent collection of accessories. Read Full Review
While many other airbrushes focus on detail, Testor’s Aztek airbrushes work better on large areas. Some artists have issues with the Aztek airbrushes breaking down frequently or needing special treatment. While this brand is known for its cheap airbrushes, they’re still a popular choice for their price and how they handle.
Testor’s airbrushes cover the full range from a basic kit at a fraction of other airbrush’s cost to this massive all-purpose kit. The Ultimate Kit includes the Aztek A470, a double-action internal-mix airbrush featuring a roller which allows artists to control the paint flow and it’s a good choice for projects which require covering large areas. The kit also comes with 9 nozzles, 7 paint cups, and an adaptor for fitting the airbrush to a compressor.