Airbrush Types: Ultimate Guide

Marilyn Grant
Marilyn Grant
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Last updated: August 06, 2023
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An airbrush is an atomizer that allows the user to spray a surface with paint, dye, or ink. The various models in the market differ from one another depending on the feed type and other intricate features. Knowing the airbrush types available is vital in helping one make an informed decision regarding the model to purchase. Each of the categories present has pros and cons that the buyer must be aware of to ensure that they are buying the ideal fit for the projects at hand.

Herein, we discuss three major categories available and the different variations that fall in each selection. Before purchasing any of the models available in both virtual and brick-and-mortar stores, one should read through reviews from experts as well as testimonials from previous users before reaching a decision. The kind of projects to be worked on also dictates the best airbrushes for one to buy to guarantee excellent results.

What defines the airbrush

The three categories we discuss below are the main ones that help distinguish the different types of airbrushes Trusted Source Airbrush - Wikipedia An airbrush is a small, air-operated tool that sprays various media, most often paint but also ink and dye, and foundation by a process of nebulization. Spray painting developed from the airbrush and is considered to employ a type of airbrush. that one will come across in stores.


Not all models in the market have the same feed type, which is why this feature is vital in the categorization of airbrushes. The feed type dictates where the color is added into the airbrush before release onto the surface being worked on. Siphon feed is one of the variations available. The paint cup in these models is situated below the airbrush. The side and gravity feed are the other alternatives. The units in this category have the paint cup placed above the airbrush.


This refers to where the ink, dye, or paint mixes with high-pressure air. The mixing of the air and color leads to creating an atomized mist that is released on the surface. Under this selection, there are two alternatives. An airbrush can either be external or internal mix type. For the internal mix variations, the air and color blend inside the tip of the airbrush before release. For the outer mix brushes, the air and color combine after discharge from the device. This results in a coarse pattern when compared to the internal mix atomization design.


Under this category, we have two types of airbrushes: the single and double action trigger action alternatives. The double-action variety is popular as it allows for both color and air adjustment controls. One does not have to stop the airbrushing process to adjust spray patterns, as is the case with the single-action type of airbrushes. The color flow and spray pattern are adjusted differently for the single-action models. The needle placement must be altered to allow the user to achieve the desired results. Reviews on the wide web indicate that a decent percentage of the population prefer piston-style air compression models like the Grex GCK03 Tritium airbrush kit.

Different types of airbrushes

Numerous factors dictate the categorization of airbrushes. The three main categories above are essential in grouping products in this family, but they are not the only ways to differentiate airbrushes. Below we take an in-depth look at the different types of airbrushes available in the market today.

Siphon feed airbrush

Airbrush Types: Ultimate GuideThe siphon feed airbrush gets its name from the mechanism that draws the color from the paint holder through the needle to the surface. The cup with the paint, ink, or dye is located below the airbrush body. The design allows for high-pressure airflow, which makes it possible for the compressed air to suck the color from the holder. The atomization for the siphon-feed airbrush models is acceptable due to the high pressure built up when the trigger is pulled. This type of airbrush is ideal for beginners and intermediate users as it is easy to use and clean.

Gravity feed airbrush

Airbrush Types: Ultimate GuideThis variety of airbrushes has a paint holder on the top of the pistol body. Gravity pulls the color from the container into the body. High pressure combines with the paint to ensure maximum atomization before it is released onto the surface. This type of airbrush is different from the others as it does not require a source of compressed air.

When looking for professional class airbrushes, one should consider the gravity feed alternatives as they have low average pressures that result in more refined work. Important to note is that gravity feed airbrushes have smaller cup sizes and will require multiple refills for large projects.

Side feed airbrush

Airbrush Types: Ultimate GuideThe paint container in the side-feed airbrush varieties is located crosswise o the body. The construction determines whether the model uses the siphon or gravity feed process to get the paint into the needle in readiness for spraying. If the placement of the paint cup is above the nozzle when atomization happens, then it is a gravity feed type. On the other hand, if the paint cup is below the nozzle, then the mechanism that draws the color to the needle is siphoning. Some models that fall in this family use both the gravity and siphon-feed. The side feed airbrush units are not common in the market compared to the gravity and siphon feed models. The choice between the two operation mechanisms will be dictated by the project and skill set of the users.

Internal mix airbrush

Airbrush Types: Ultimate GuideInternal mix airbrushes have atomization chambers in the design to allow the ink, dye, or paint to mix with compressed air before releasing onto a surface. In recent times, manufacturers have been moving away from the external mix alternatives as this variation is more practical.

The results are also better for the internal mix airbrushes as the automization chambers ensure that the paint is processed under the right conditions to attain the desired results. Gravity and side feed airbrushes feature the internal mix type of construction. This is because the design does not permit the external mix variety.

External mix airbrush

Airbrush Types: Ultimate GuideThe atomization area for external mix airbrushes is located outside the body—the paint and compressed air meet before release but outside the airbrush. The siphon feed airbrushes are the only ones with this type of construction since the operational mechanism allows for the same. The air sucks out the paint and pulls it towards the surface resulting in unique paint patterns. The external mix construction allows for easy operation and enhances the performance of the paintbrush. It is the perfect choice for people learning to airbrush or those perfecting their skills.

Dual or double action airbrush

Airbrush Types: Ultimate GuideThe double-action airbrush allows users to have a seamless experience when working on different projects. The trigger gives the user the freedom to control airflow and the amount of color leaving the airbrush. This makes it possible for one to work on elaborate paintings without having to use different airbrushes. When the trigger in the design is pressed down, it allows for air control. When pulled back, it will enable the paint to pass into the nozzle. The user has the power to decide the volume of the color going through and the air as well. Not all dual-action airbrushes in the market are a perfect fit. Reviews on the internet indicate that airbrush sets from reputable manufacturers should be given priority.

How to choose an airbrush

Choosing an airbrush can be a daunting task for those who are buying their first set. Many factors come into play, and familiarizing with the best airbrush compressors and kits is vital before one goes out to purchase units in this selection. The main elements to assess before placing an order include:

  • Airbrush type – there are several options in stores for anyone looking to buy units in this family. Understanding the operational mechanisms and the unique features that set each variety apart from the rest is crucial when choosing an airbrush.
  • Purpose – choosing from the different kinds present may be a hard nut to crack when the uses are not clean from the onset. One must evaluate their needs to ensure that they buy the appropriate model for the projects they undertake.
  • Manufacturers – different manufacturing companies bring airbrushes to the market. Buying from a reputable brand is advisable to ensure that the unit features flawless construction with premium quality materials. Manufacturers that have years of experience in the market and top-tier customer service should be given priority.

Final thoughts

There are different airbrush models that a person will find in stores when shopping for one. Knowing the various alternatives available is vital in picking the best fit. Some units are bets for beginners while others are not, which is why research is an intricate part of airbrush purchases. The projects that one is likely to undertake with the airbrush dictate the best variety to buy.

Most of the airbrush types in the market are versatile, and they can be used for different projects with ease. Additionally, they can be used by both novice and experienced creators without hassle. It is best to buy airbrush kits that are ideal for multiple uses. Maintenance is a critical aspect for all the models available today. Proper cleaning procedures should be followed after every use to ensure longevity.


Airbrush - Wikipedia
An airbrush is a small, air-operated tool that sprays various media, most often paint but also ink and dye, and foundation by a process of nebulization. Spray painting developed from the airbrush and is considered to employ a type of airbrush.
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