Marilyn knows how to present the dullest topic in an interesting and easy-to-read way. When she’s not teaching English Literature at a local school or writing for our site, Marylin loves to knit and bake for her two grandchildren.
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Last updated: February 25, 2021
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You will be disappointed in the resulting art if you use a high-quality airbrush in conjunction with substandard paints. As such, having the best airbrush paints in your art kit should be on your priorities list. Most airbrush paints will come in sets, and for you to get the best value, a bit of preparation is required.
During the preparation stage, you should collect information on the paints available with particular emphasis on set features. Consequently, acquiring all data on the types of paints available, how many colors are included in a single package, and net weight will ensure that sellers don’t get a chance to take advantage of you. The best airbrush paint options are listed below. You can use the list and the descriptions that contain more information on features to make an informed airbrush paints purchase decision.
Few buyers complain about the Vallejo Basic USA Colors Paint Set and its quality. Considering the number of sales, it is also likely that you’ll be among the majority of people who love the purchase if you open up your wallet.
Notably, if you want airbrush paint for plastic or metal surfaces, this option works. The image above shows that the packaging for this paint set is attractive. Also, 16 bottles housing different color paints have been provided in the collection.
Another top characteristic associated with this set is the lightfast nature of the paints. As such, you needn’t worry about your hard work being eroded by sunshine or other light sources.
Lastly, the paint is opaque, ensuring that your artwork is seen in the best way, no matter the light source.
What we liked: We liked that the paint set is water-based. This means less fumes and added durability when used outdoors. Most people also consider it a plus that the paint is made to stick on flat surfaces, including those made of metal or plastic. The pigments are opaque in addition to being lightfast, and thus you can use the set in sunlight as well as well-lit conditions.
What could be better: While it is possible to mix black and white to get gray, it would be much easier if Gray paint was provided in the package.
The color options in the Badger Air-Brush Company Minitaire Color Paint Set make the purchase worth it. Since there are 80 paints in total, you will be hard-pressed to find a color excluded from the selection.
Also, with such a vast collection of colors, you will achieve more with your paints set. These acrylic paints are also water-based. Consequently, adverse effects on the environment are minimized if you buy the set.
Odors emitted by these paints are also going to be reduced compared to some of the competition. Nonetheless, even if you smell the paints, there is no cause for alarm as they are non-toxic.
The manufacturer has made the paints quick-drying, and that may be of benefit in some situations. However, a paint retarder is part of the package if you need to extend the drying time.
Organic pigments used are also of high quality. This has emphasized the color fastness of all the paints included. As a result, the colors you achieve using these paints won’t be fading any time soon.
What we liked: The number of color options is superior to other airbrush paints listed. The pigments are water-based and non-toxic. Additionally, the odors emitted by the paints are negligible. The paints are quick drying with a retarder provided if you need to extend the drying time. Lastly, colors are immune to fading.
What could be better: Some people would prefer knowing that these paints are glossy before committing to the purchase.
Another acrylic airbrush paint set option is the U.S. Art Supply Ultimate Acrylic Airbrush Paint Set. This is a pricier set as compared to most of the list. However, you will rarely see anyone complain about a lack of value for the money they spend.
An impressive aspect is the 54 bottles provided. These are subdivided into various options, namely, 12 opaque colors, 12 transparent colors, 12 pearlized colors, and 12 secondary opaque colors.
In addition to the above, three bottles of airbrush reducer and extender, as well as three bottles of airbrush cleaner are included in the pack. Finally, 50 mixing cups and mixing sticks are also included.
With all these colors available, you can achieve almost anything you want with your paintwork. Remember, you can use the color mixing wheel provided as a reference point to create some colors that are excluded from the pack.
There is no denying this airbrush paint will work on plastic models, paper, wood, leather, and a few other tricky surfaces. This makes it an invaluable asset in a painter’s toolset.
Painters can also work on mixed-media surfaces without worrying that the paint will come off and ruin their artwork. The same is the case when painters use this set on various textiles.
Also, if you are not mixing any colors, some bottles contain ready to spray paint. The box in which the colors are organized and shipped to you is not disappointing either.
What we liked: The variety of color options is impressive, in addition to the color wheel that helps users create the colors that are excluded from the mix. We loved that the paint comes ready to use. Packaging helps sort out and organize your options. The mixing cups and mixing sticks ensure all supplies for mixing colors are provided. Finally, airbrush cleaner + airbrush reducer and extender are supplied with the set.
What could be better: While almost no complaints have been registered with regard to the quality of the paints, shipping does seem to be a problem. Many buyers report receiving a damaged shipment where some of the box’s components leak out.
Going for the Golden High Flow Acrylic Paint Set may be a good idea since it contains high flow acrylic paints. Additionally, the whole set includes 10 oz of colors since there are ten paint cans, each with a 1 oz capacity.
As mentioned above, the paints can be used with various artist tools, including most airbrush options. Since these paints are compatible with multiple mediums as well as Golden acrylics, you can mix them up so that you can paint on wooden or metal surfaces.
Additionally, you can create a few extra colors by mixing the ones provided, and that will allow you more versatility with your set.
Lastly, if you check the exterior of the paint bottles carefully, you will note that lightfastness ratings have been indicated on each. This can help ascertain how long it takes paint colors to fade before you use them.
What we liked: The lightfastness has been indicated on all ten bottles, and thus discoloration shouldn’t catch users unaware. High-flow acrylic paints are compatible with most painter tools.
What could be better: The capacity, as well as the number of bottles, means this set can only be used for smaller projects.
The House of Kolor Bases & Color ready to spray set is another worthwhile purchase. These paints have already been mixed with a reducer by the time they get to your doorstep. As such, they come ready to use, which reduces the work you have to do.
Also, out of ten bottles in the package, there are only eight colors. The other two contain a fast dry reducer and an inter-coat clear spray.
Another impressive component is the capacity of the bottles. All eight have a 4 oz capacity, which totals 32 oz, excluding the inter-coat clear and fast dry reducer options.
What we liked: We liked that a medium reducer has already been mixed with the paints to make them ready to use. Also, the size and capacity of the bottles are quite commendable.
What could be better: No cons have been found yet.
Getting the best airbrush paint for cars is also not that tall a task if the Vallejo Metallic Set Model Air Paint is anything to go by. Like the Vallejo Basic USA Colors Paint Set, this option comes with 16 colors in total, all of which are in 17 ml bottles. This is somewhat expected since both sets come from the same source.
The paints in these bottles can be mixed with each other. Nevertheless, mixing with water is also allowed for a more watered-down effect. Since the bottles come with eyedroppers, it shouldn’t be too hard to combine them.
Lastly, the metallic effect may not be welcome on all surfaces painters come across. Nonetheless, it is one of the best for vehicle applications.
What we liked: Having the paint bottles come with eyedroppers makes putting the paints in an airbrush as well as mixing them easier. Also, painters will appreciate the option to add water to the paints if need be.
What could be better: Some of the color options may clog your painting equipment, making it harder to work.
While our editor’s choice focuses on giving painters opaque colors, the Wicked Colors W101-00 Wicked Primary Set is the exact opposite. As such, there are five transparent colors in the package. However, a high pigment load does make sure the colors are more visible.
Notably, each bottle holds two ounces of paint, which can also be reduced in the scenarios where the painter wants thinner colors. Since there are six bottles imaged, you can conclude that a high-performance reducer is in the last container.
The other five bottles come with white, black, red, blue and yellow paints. Also notable is how the packet’s contents are compatible with a variety of clears, primers, and paints in the market.
The manufacturer also advises that if you use these paints on hard surfaces, plastics, or vehicles, you should mix with the Createx Colors 4030 Intercoat. Unfortunately, this counts as an extra cost for you since the inter-coat is not included in the package.
Lightfastness achieved by these paints for airbrushing is nothing to scoff at either.
What we liked: Having paints that are compatible with a variety of clears, paints, and primers means that you can be less picky with your other purchases. The paints contain a high-pigment load and are thus more visible despite being transparent. A high-performance reducer is part of the package. Lastly, the paints are incredibly lightfast.
What could be better: You might need to make an extra purchase in the form of the Createx Colors 4030 Intercoat if you plan on painting certain surfaces. Paint color options are limited.
The Createx Colors 5803-00 Opaque Airbrush Paint Set has the same number of bottles as the Wicked Colors W101-00 Wicked Primary Set. Also, you should note that both options are water-based paints that offer two-ounce containers in their packs.
A critical difference is that this option offers opaque paints while the Wicked Colors W101-00 comes with transparent colors. Ideally, you would use these paints for home décor projects and decorations. It also helps that the paints are toxins-free.
What we liked: Having non-toxic paints means you can pursue your art without worrying about your health.
What could be better: You may need to purchase a thinner to use the paints.
Things to Consider
You can do so many things with airbrush paints, including creating fine art, painting on vehicles, fabrics, wood, and more. Notably, each job you come across may require a different type of paint. As such, it won’t do to close your eyes and pick the easiest, most affordable option you can find. You need to be more deliberate and pick the best airbrush paint based on the job at hand, as well as add other factors to the decision making process. However, you need to incorporate the information in the guide below to be effective in your selection.
Benefits of airbrush paints
There are a few things to look forward to once you decide to go the airbrush painting way. One is that both the paints and the airbrush are relatively easy to use. However, it might not seem that way when you are starting.
Also, airbrush paints are perfect for miniatures, such as toys and plastic models. For people who have hoards of miniature models using these paints will even be faster. Airbrush painting is also faster when applying a base coat layer. Finally, you can spray airbrush paints indoors with relative ease.
Types of airbrush paints
You would be benefitting yourself by being aware of the different types of airbrush paints in the market. This information should also come with the downsides expected of each as well as the positives. If you don’t have this data, you are in luck as the section below will make available some handy information on the topic.
Acrylic paints are a standard airbrushing option, and you can find some examples of them on the airbrush paints list above. One example is the Vallejo Basic USA Colors Paint Set.
Acrylic airbrush paints are some of the fastest drying options in the market. Also, if you want to know the makeup, it consists of pigment suspended in acrylic. The paints are water-soluble, which might account for why they are also known as water-based paints. Nevertheless, when you use them and they dry up, they end up water-resistant.
In some of your paint jobs and artwork, you may want to delay the paints’ dry time. This can allow you more time to blend the paints or even to layer highlights. This is possible only if you add a retarder to the paint.
Also, painters can get a transparent look in their paint colors by thinning the paints a little more. When the paint is all dry, it can be hard to remove them from whatever surface you painted. However, if you use alcohol, the paint will definitely get weaker.
For best results, shake the acrylic paints in the bottle before using them. The reason for this is that they separate while bottled. When you eventually get these paints into the airbrush, set it to 40 or 60 psi. These paints need this pressure if they are to set better on the surface being painted.
A theme that we will repeat a few times is on the need to clean your airbrush and other equipment after use. If you wait a few minutes after you are done painting, the paints will be much harder to get off your painting devices.
Inks and dyes
If you want thinner airbrush paints, go for the inks and dyes. Also, if you paint on illustration boards and paper, these paints will likely serve you better than some of the other options. They provide some rather brilliant colors when used to paint on those two surfaces.
There are nonetheless a few useful guidelines for painting with inks and dyes. The first is a low PSI, or spraying pressure will always serve you better. This is as a result of the inks and dyes’ thinness. Next is a recommendation on the type of paper to use. Fine-grain paper is a better pick if you want to avoid seeing paper textures through the paint.
A caution before purchase is that there are minimal colors that you can purchase from the various stores. However, you can put on your artist’s hat and get creative with the colors you get to create new ones. For this, an eyedropper is almost always provided with the inks and dyes.
If you are keen and note down the portions you use to create each new color, you can streamline your processes. When painting using these options, be careful of the light sources around you. These can lead to fading in the inks and dyes.
Another thing that can ruin work done is putting your hands on the artwork as the oil in your hands is detrimental to the inks and dyes. If you wear cotton gloves beforehand, you will be able to handle the paintings more easily.
Remember that cleaning the airbrush, mixing tools, and other equipment immediately after use is highly recommended.
Intense durable colors are also a favorite for some painters reading this. Notably, oil paints were invented before the airbrush painting came along, but they satisfy the intense colors requirement. As such, they are not precisely designed to work with airbrushes. However, this can be overcome by thinning them.
After thinning them, choose a PSI level of 60/40, and you may be able to achieve the desired artwork results. The thinning options you have at your disposal where oil paints are concerned are turpentine, linseed oil, and mineral spirits.
Be aware that oil paints can take painstakingly long to dry. As such, if you’re an impatient painter, these paints are not for you. They will test your patience if you are applying several paint coats to the art.
Two out of the three thinning methods suggested will reduce the time it takes these paints to dry but not by long. However, if you use linseed oil as the thinning method, be prepared to wait even longer for the paints to dry.
Urethane airbrush paints will best serve metal surfaces such as those on the bodies of boats, cars, and motorcycles. One critical selling point for urethanes is that they are weatherproof. These paints can as well take a beating without coming off if you have the right painting skills. However, this is dependent on them getting a clear coat that helps protect colors used.
Another thing to note is urethanes don’t dry easily unless a catalyst is used. Also, you may not need that much finesse when painting using urethanes. This is because buyers can both polish and sand them for a smoother application. However, this is only after drying.
A respirator should be another thing you purchase when considering urethanes for purchase. They release fumes that you shouldn’t breathe in. Additionally, only using urethanes in a well-ventilated room will do you good. Lastly, clean up your equipment immediately after you are done painting to easily get rid of some paint and fumes.
Watercolors are the last category of airbrush paints you will find being sold. They arrive at your doorstep premixed and ready to use, as cakes or in tubes. For the last two, distilled water should be enough of a thinning medium.
These are the easiest to clean up out of all airbrush paint types despite drying up relatively fast. However, it is still good practice to clean them as the first order of business after a painting session.
Of the benefits of watercolors, spreading easily and evenly is at the top. However, on paper, the downsides are quite a number. Exposing them to moisture and weather elements, for instance, may alter painting results negatively. They need at least a few coats of the same color since they spray on transparently.
Thanks to the paint’s transparent nature, mistakes can often be visibly seen. Finally, bending the surface on which you are painting will lead to cracks in the final product. This necessitates that paint surfaces be as rigid as possible.
Despite the many downsides, fine art artists will still pick this option over the rest.
How to choose the best paints for airbrushing
Being familiar with airbrush paint types isn’t all there is to picking the best paints for airbrushing. Determining the purpose, legality of the paints, coverage, and tick a few other boxes as well. Avoid mistakes by using the data below as a reference point.
There are reasons that fine art artists pick watercolors while vehicle painters pick urethanes. These are simply the best airbrush paints for the job. Consequently, the paint job you have in mind will best be served by a particular airbrush paint.
Being aware of the purpose and which paint is best suited to it will prevent you from buying watercolors to paint your motorcycle and making other similar mistakes. Notably, acrylics are mostly ideal where porous and plastic surfaces are concerned.
The government also regulates the airbrush paints used. In California, for example, you can paint using up to a gallon of urethane-based paint if you are a hobbyist with no negative ramifications. Trying to go one gallon over that limit may get you fined or land you in prison. This is in line with the environmental restrictions in the state. Some of you also need licenses to work with certain types of paints.
Knowing how well you can cover a surface with a single coat of airbrush paint is also necessary. Some paint options perform better than others. However, expecting to apply a single coat when using something like watercolors would be foolhardy.
The consistency and the ease of flow will also affect the painting, whether a thinner is needed, and this usually affects the coverage. Remember that you can achieve a thinner consistency with the thickest paints by piling on a thinner. Thicker paints will tend to offer more coverage as well.
You can’t use an airbrush paint for artwork that is positioned outdoors if sunlight or rain will lead to it fading. In the same way, you can’t use watercolors on miniature models with moving parts. The result of your hard work will go down the drain if you do.
Picking the paint with the right amount of durability is your job, as only you know what purpose you have for your purchase.
For beginner painters, not having to worry about color mixing can be a huge help. You get to focus on your art and getting the paint on a specific surface. However, veterans may know how to get particular colors out of the options they are given.
The Vallejo Basic USA Colors Paint Set, for example, doesn’t provide gray as an option, and that has some buyers complaining. Others simply mix the black and white option to get gray paint. Nevertheless, avoiding that hassle is easy if you buy paints with all the color options you want included.
Bottle design for airbrush paints is another selling factor. The Vallejo Metallic Set Model Air Paint purchase, for instance, offers eyedroppers, which are a necessity if you are to mix any two colors. This will be superior to other purchases that allow for mixing since it is much easier to do with the Vallejo pick.
We did mention that the cheapest paint option isn’t always the best option. However, that applies to the priciest paint as well. The price does matter, and some of these paints are highly-priced. For your peace of mind, if an airbrush paint set is priced out of your affordability range, you should leave it alone. Finding paint that is both affordable and effective is not impossible, and some of the options above are excellent examples of the same.
We have already covered viscosity as one of the things to consider before buying airbrush paints. It is also the primary disparity between airbrush-ready paint and its counterpart, the regular model paint.
The latter is thicker, more consistent, and heavier and would not work well in an airbrush. However, thinning it will achieve the right consistency for airbrush use.
As for airbrush-ready paint options like the House of Kolor Bases & Color Set, you can pour them from the bottle into an airbrush and get to painting right away.
Some airbrush-ready paint manufacturers also include certain additives in their offerings. The resulting effect is the additives act as a lubricant for the airbrush devices being used. This makes it even easier to spray the paints.
A more straightforward question to ask would be whether there are dangers to airbrushing, and the answer is yes. Urethanes like the House of Kolor Bases & Color Set, for instance, release fumes. If you breathe in these fumes, nausea, vomiting, and passing out are a few of the symptoms you may experience. They may also affect your brain and bone marrow. Damage to kidneys and liver is also plausible.
For the above reason, a well-ventilated room and respirator use are a requirement. Other airbrush paints are flammable. It is also still recommended that you use well-ventilated areas even if you are not using urethanes.
The Vallejo Basic USA Colors Paint Set, a water-based and acrylics type set, works well on various surfaces. Paints in this collection are exceptionally lightfast and opaque. They will thus be easy to use, even for beginners.
The paints in the collection are safe and don’t need any extra mixing to be ready to use. However, clear coats and paint retarder are some useful extras in the package. Picking the U.S. Art Supply Ultimate Acrylic Airbrush Paint Set, can as well be an excellent choice.
Notably, that last pick is non-toxic as well. Further, it ranks highly on the lightfastness meter. Having up to 54 bottles of colors in a single pack is also a pro. Let us know what airbrush paints are your top picks. If possible, also inform us why they rank so high up in your ratings. You can use the comments section below for the task.