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Air Brush Basics

Male hand holding Iwata Gravity feed dual action Eclipse CS airbrush while spraying

An Airbrush is a tool used by makers and creators to apply color to a surface. Airbrush users spray acrylics on plastic, makeup on skin, watercolor on paper and so much more.

When connected to an air compressor, an airbrush breaks a liquid into tiny droplets. This is called atomization. Atomization produces seamless blends, coatings and gradients a standard paint brush can only dream of.

Iwata Airbrushes are known for superior atomization and spray excellence. We combine thoughtful design with finely crafted components and top quality raw materials to make the best creative tools.

Some of our airbrushes are best for highly specific uses while others are multi-taskers. We categorize our airbrushes into 5 Ways to Spray, each with an abundance of feature options. So you are sure to find an Iwata airbrush that's right for you.

The Main Parts of an Airbrush

Diagram of gravity feed airbrush showing main parts of an airbrush

Key airbrush terms you should know...

Feed Styles

This refers to how the paint or spray material is “fed” into the airbrush. There are three types of airbrush feed styles.

Diagram of three airbrush feed styles including gravity, siphon and side feed

Gravity Feed:

Iwata Eclipse CS Gravity Feed Dual Action Airbrush with C cup

In a gravity feed system, paint is drawn into an airbrush from a color cup (also called a fluid cup) mounted on top of the airbrush. It is called gravity feed because the force of gravity helps spray material move through the airbrush. This allows the airbrush to spray at lower air pressures.

This feed style requires smaller amounts of paint and utilizes every drop, making it economical to use and easy to clean. Gravity feed is the most practical choice for most applications. Most gravity cups include a secure lid, which prevents paint spills.

C Style Cup

Most larger gravity cups include a secure lid, which prevents paint spills. Called “C cups” in Iwata models, these cups are ideal for holding several oz of paint and for painting 3d objects where the airbrush will be tilted at various angles.

Iwata Eclipse BS Gravity Feed Dual Action Airbrush with small B style cup

B Style Cup

Smaller fluid cups, which usually don’t include lids, are preferred by users working with small amounts of color at a small spray scale. In Iwata models these are called B Cups.

Neo for Iwata BCN Siphon Feed Airbrush

Siphon Feed:

In siphon feed systems paint is drawn up from a jar or color cup from underneath the airbrush. Unlike gravity feed, in a siphon feed airbrush, the air compressor must do all the work. This means more air pressure is required to spray material.

Siphon feed is preferred when using larger amounts of spray medium. This style is sometimes referred to as bottom feed or bottle feed.

Iwata Takumi Side Feed Airbrush

Side Feed:

Side feed systems draw spray material from a color cup or bottle through the side of the airbrush. Side feed cups and bottles are available in a wide range of sizes and may be attached to either the left or right side of the airbrush.

Some users feel that the side feed style gives them better visibility of their work, especially when painting details.

Dual action and single action

Dual Action and Single Action:

Dual action (sometimes called double action) airbrushes allow you to control both air and paint flow at the same time. Pressing down on the trigger releases air and drawing back on the trigger releases paint or spray material.

Pull back the trigger slightly for a little bit of paint and pull back farther to release more paint. Dual action airbrushes give you much better control and can create more dynamic spray patterns. Nearly all Iwata airbrushes are dual action airbrushes.

Single Action airbrushes have independent controls for air and paint. The trigger only controls air. A dial on the handle sets how much paint is will be released when the trigger is pressed.

Single action airbrushes can be good choice for a production environment when a spray pattern needs to be repeated exactly same again and again. Sometimes single action is recommended for those just learning but new users quickly outgrow single action and desire more control.

We only offer a few single action models, like the Revolution SAR.

External or Internal Mix

External Mix: when air and paint are released through two separate apertures and are mixed together outside the airbrush. While sometimes easier to clean, external mix systems produce coarser atomization and less even spray patterns than internal mix airbrushes.

Internal Mix: here air and paint are mixed together before leaving the airbrush. This produces superior atomization and even spray patterns. This is why all Iwata airbrushes are designed as internal mix airbrushes.

Two Iwata airbrushes showing the difference between Trigger and main lever models

Main Levers and Triggers

Most airbrushes are controlled by a top lever.

We also offer models that use a trigger style similar to what you would find on a spray gun. People who are used to spray guns might prefer this style. It is also favored by those with arthritis or who have difficulty using the most usual lever. Trigger style airbrushes like the HP-TH and Neo TRN1 are dual action.

Extra Features

Iwata Airbrush with Micro Air Control Valve shown with example of stipple spray pattern

Micro Air Control (MAC): enables incremental control of airflow for a fine to medium spray and creating stipple effects. The Hi-Line series within our Total Control spray category all feature a MAC valve.

Quick Flush Cutaway Handle Airbrush Feature

Quick Flush Cutaway Handle: The cutaway handle reveals the needle chucking nut. Pull the needle chucking nut back and push main lever down and back when flushing cleaner through airbrush.

Iwata Airbrush with Preset Handle

Preset Handle: Some Iwata airbrushes are equipped with a preset and/or cutaway handle. The knob on the preset handle limits how far back you can pull the main lever allowing you to set a specific line width each time you spray.

Fluid Cup: also called a color cup or bowl, these hold paint in gravity, side-feed and sometimes siphon feed airbrushes. Most fluid cups include lids, but some that are made for using small amounts of spray material do not.

All About Airbrush Parts

Airbrush Parts Breakdown

An airbrush isn’t a real Iwata without genuine, precision crafted, Iwata parts. Use our Part Finder to make sure you are ordering the correct replacement part for your airbrush.

If you have already done some reading about airbrush you may notice that here at Iwata we do not talk a lot about needle and nozzle sizes. This is because a focus on the size of these parts gives an incomplete picture of what makes an airbrush perform the way it does and what makes it the right choice for a particular application.

Diagram of Airbrush Parts Breakdown

Nozzle: Sometimes called a tip or cone, the nozzle is one of the most important parts of an airbrush. Like needles, nozzles wear out over time and will need to be replaced.

Easy to clean Compression Fit Nozzle: Our Eclipse series airbrushes feature compression fit nozzles which have the advantage of being easy to install and clean and capable of spraying more viscous material without clogging.

Iwata Airbrush needle

Spring Steel Needle: a durable material that resists breakage.

Iwata Airbrush disassembled to show packing screws

Solvent Resistant Needle packings: for increased durability using solvent-based materials.

Custom Micron Matched Head System showing each part

Custom-Matched Hand-Tuned Head System: Exclusive to Iwata Custom Micron Series, these Head Systems are hand-tuned and hand tested to rigorous performance standards for precision spraying.

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