*This article is written for those who would like to begin freehand, illustration airbrushing; the only style of airbrushing shown on this site.
‘My Airbrush Won’t Work!’
One of the most common messages I receive from people crying out for help is sorely repeated – my airbrush won’t work!!
I’ve seen people leave airbrushing entirely, with a digital airbrush suicide note explaining why they’re giving up on the hobby and how much frustration they’ve gone through.
The cause of these issues?
Poor/ low-cost equipment of course.
The top image is very similar in appearance to the image immediately below, there’s one minor difference; the price.
While the top airbrush you will find from e-commerce stores such as ebay or packaged with cheap airbrush kits and retailing for a price of around $22USD, the below airbrush by Iwata is available from online retailers for around $540USD.
To make an airbrush so cheap there must be a few price cuts – the materials used in the process, the design, and the manufacture. If you are lucky enough that the cheap airbrush functions as an airbrush, I guarantee it will be short lived.
This inequilibrium appears to work both ways however, as writing this article I hop on ebay to look for examples of cheap airbrushes and come across this:
A MasterG22 airbrush, with a no name oilless compressor without a tank – a less than ideal combination of tools for illustration airbrushing. All this for the not so bargain price of 455€ or around $620USD. This could buy you some top end equipment.
While there are many instances in life where we are simply being ripped off and can often find cheaper solutions that work just as well- in my humble opinion; the airbrush industry isn’t one of these (except in the case of the picture immediately above).
I do see success stories of people finding bargains and i do see people buying cheap equipment and saying that it works great, however I also see alot of ‘it was working really well..’ or worse when the item doesn’t work as it should out of the box.
Why are some airbrushes more expensive than others?
An airbrush is an extremely sensitive, highly engineered, fine-tuned product.
The amount of coils in the trigger spring, the finishing material to plate over the brass (or other material) body, the material for a solid, fine-tipped, non-wearing needle not to mention the precision required to create such a straight point. 2mm threads, teflon seals in place of rubber, cut away handles, side feed cups that stay in place – all facets of the engineering process.
Take a look at some of the energy put into the research by Zsolt and co. here on the design of a ‘super micron’.
An absolute mountain of design and research goes into the making of an airbrush and good, consistent build quality needs to follow in order for a product to be successful in the market. The higher the quality of the materials used and their method of manufacture (tampering, plating etc) all contribute to the final production and hence sale cost of an airbrush. You get what you pay for.
The Sad Truth.
Unfortunately due to economic instability in the world, this hobby is only available to a lucky few. Because of this, some companies produce airbrushes aimed at those in a more challenging economic position. I receive messages saying that help is needed because paint is bubbling into the cup, no paint is coming out or the trigger action is extremely rough. Upon asking what brand of airbrush has been purchased i’m told it’s a generic brand, purchased from a reseller of a large e-commerce site.
Instead of even looking at these airbrushes, I would encourage people to wait and save. In my opinion, if you can afford $20USD this week for a cheap airbrush, then your best bet is to save that $20USD until you have between $80USD and $120USD for a good quality entry level airbrush as recommended by myself in the links below.
Recommended beginner airbrushes based on quality and affordability:
What is the most popular airbrush brand?