Getting started Airbrushing – Overview on Airbrushing

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Getting Started Airbrush Series

What do I need to get started airbrushing my miniatures?
This is probably the number one question I am asked. I know that it can seem like a daunting subject to dive into but I hope to boil down the topic and make it easy to digest.

Disclaimer – There are a lot misconceptions out there about airbrushing miniatures. Airbrushing is an art so an artist’s style can play a role in their airbrushing tools. There are many different ways to airbrush depending on the artist’s style. A technique that works for me might not work for you since it isn’t you artistic style. So in this series I am going to hopefully break down some misconceptions and also get to the core of airbrushing. I am not endorsed or paid by any of the products or tools that I reference in this series. These are my opinions based on years as a hobbyist and  commission painter.  Also, I haven’t used every tool out there so there might be something out there that is better or can make life easier. If you know of something leave it in the comments below, I’d love to learn more.


“Airbrushing is a tool, tools don’t create the art people do.”

Airbrushing Looks Better

      • Airbrushing is a tool, tools don’t create the art people do.
      • This is an opinion
      • Example: These two knights, one was airbrushed and the other brushed with a standard brush. I have likes and dislikes about both.

Airbrushing Is Faster

      • Airbrushing can be faster. It really just depends on the need and if it is the right tool for the job.

Airbrushing  is Expensive

      • No, not really. There are some really great painters and artists out there that use low priced airbrushes. The cost to airbrushes has been on a decline.
      • Example: Airbrush($12), Compressor/Trap/Regulator($65) vs Army Painter Brush set ($60). Check out my recommended starter setup. 

Airbrushing is Easier or Harder than bristle brushes.

      • Again, an airbrush is a tool. It is the master of the technique that takes time. Mastering an airbrush takes as much time to master as classic brush work.


Science behind how airbrushing works.
An airbrush works by pushing a stream of compressed air through a venturi or tube, this creates suction that pulls paint from a reservoir at normal atmospheric pressure. The high velocity of the air atomizes the paint into very small droplets as it blows past a very fine paint-metering component. The paint is carried through the air onto the surface.

Three main components

  • Airbrush
  • Compressor
  • Air cleaning and regulating supply


This is the endpoint where paint atomizes and is projected to you miniature.

Airbrushes are usually classified by three characteristics.

  • Action or Trigger Type
  • Paint Feed System
  • Mix location

We will go over this more in details in Getting Started Airbrushing – Airbrush


This is simply the device that compresses air and serves it to the airbrush.

  • Piston
    • Oil – There is an oil lubricant to aid in friction, similar to a small combustion engine.
    • Oilless – These compressors don’t have a oil reservoir and can be diaphragm or fixed piston.
  • Diaphragm
    • Diaphragm compressors are quieter and usually smaller.


The benefit to tank is that the compressor doesn’t have to run as long.

We will go over this more in detail in the third part of this series Gettings Started Airbrushing – Compressor

Air supply and Moisture trap

Some compressors come with a way to supply the brush with clean regulated air, but they can also be bought separately.


The selection for hoses is almost endless. Colors, material, and length are all just something to consider based on your needs. Something that I love having on my hose is a quick release. It allows me to quickly change out my airbrushes. Pay attention to your thread sizes and get the right hose and quick release adapter for you airbrush. Help me find my quick release: Badger, Iwata, Harder & Steenbeck, and TCP/Master.


The regulator allows you  to control the air pressure. Depending on the brush and the job that I am trying to get done determines what I set the pressure at. This is just something that I had to experiment with. Practice, practice, practice. Free tip: Any new tool or paint/media that you want to use, test it on a test surface before using it on your models.

Moisture trap

A moisture trap Removes or reduces moisture caused by the compression of the air. Unless you live in a 0% humidity environment this is a must have. Without one you can ruin a paint job pretty quick, trust me I have done it before. Water from your compressor is blown through the airbrush causing your paint to spider.

Closing Summary

So to wrap this up theses are the components you need. An airbrush, a compressor (tank prefered), a hose and connections to match your brush, regulator, and moisture trap. Of course there is much more that you need in airbrushing such as cleaning supplies, thinners, and protective gear for you to wear during usage. We will go over these in the last part of this series, Getting Started Airbrushing – Accessories to Make Airbrushing Easy and Safe.

Want to see my recommendations for your first airbrush set? Help support MBG and follow the affiliate links bellow. It doesn’t cost you anything extra.

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