And I’m assuming you are here because you wonder one of these questions, or have a similar one.
Well lets discuss this in detail,
As a matter of fact when it comes to doing any sort of airbrush work, there is a level of pressurized air that is always required in order to operate the airbrush. Doesn’t matter if you are using a gravity feed airbrush, siphon feed airbrush, or side feed airbrush. All require pressurized air to operate.
Now, do all airbrushes require the use of a compressor. Well no, airbrushes don’t necessarily need a compressor to operate. However, they do need pressurized air, which can be acquired using pressurized air canisters, or by using a CO2 tank. But an air compressor is most commonly used.
Why The Airbrush Needs Compressed Air
Compressed air helps greatly in the Atomization process. Which is the process of breaking up the paint into much
Which is the basis of using an airbrush. Any other way of painting wouldn’t be considered “Air” Brushing.
Without the use of compressed air. The paint would basically drip out of the nozzle as you pull the trigger back.
I don’t know about you. But me personally, I would find it quite difficult using an airbrush if the paint only dripped from the nozzle, rather then atomized…
Though all airbrush makes and models require pressurized air,
The gravity feed airbrush got its name because it employ’s gravity to get the paint into the atomization chamber (Read this article about the gravity feed airbrush for further explanation).
Because of this it allows the artist to use less air pressure then they would if using a siphon feed or side feed airbrush. Simply because, siphon and side fed airbrushes require
I believe this is the main reason as to why some wonder if they can get away with airbrushing without the aid of compressed air? Due to some making the assumption that the gravity feed airbrush works off of gravity alone. But compressed air is always required, its just the amount of presser that
Do keep in mind the gravity fed airbrush is able to use the following compressed air options, simply because it requires less air pressure then the other airbrush options. Granted you could get the following to work with say a siphon feed airbrush. However, the air consumption will be significantly increased due to the requirement of more air pressure in order to operate.
Compressed Air Options Suited For Airbrush Use
First of all, its important that I explain the amount of air consumption that will be required from each airbrush type before we discuss the options, this way you can gain an understanding as to how much air will be consumed per airbrush type. Because when using air sources that are non-refillable (on their own) you will at some point run out of air.
- First is the gravity feed airbrush. It typically requires 15 – 30 PSI for operation.
- Second is the side feed airbrush. It typically requires 20 – 35 PSI for operation.
- Third is the siphon feed airbrush. It typically requires 30 – 45 PSI for
This basically says that the gravity feed airbrush will require
Based on the numbers above you can get a better understanding as to how long the following air sources will last per airbrush type you use.
Now lets discuss some alternative air sources you could consider:
- Airbrush propellant (Link To Amazon)
- Large CO2 tanks
Air(Link To The Air Compressor I Personally Use, and Recommended) compressor
Airbrush propellant can act as a replacement for an air compressor. But only for a very short duration of time. Air propellant cans are ideal for those who intend on airbrushing for a short duration of time (small projects).
Airbrush propellant cans are essentially like a can of spray paint, but instead of housing paint they house compressed air.
What makes airbrush propellant so desirable to some is the fact that it is so easy to transport, And provides the means to save money (on small 1 time projects). However, if you intend on doing more than just one simple project
Quick Side Note: Airbrush propellant can be difficult to take on airplanes. Many say it makes security edgy.
Airbrush propellant cans typically cost somewhere around $10 a can. Can be cheaper if bought in bulk. But that $10 cost can begin to add up if you intend on doing multiple airbrush projects using airbrush propellant cans. They typically only last about 10 to 15 minutes of average airbrush use, so essentially you are paying a dollar per minute to use your air brush.
Multiple decent-sized projects can easily add up to $50 plus in airbrush
If you intend on using your airbrush often, I strongly suggest you avoid using only airbrush propellant cans (Pressurized air cans). Simply because, in the long-term, the added cost up front of say a compressor will be far cheaper than the option of purchasing airbrush propellant canisters every couple days or
PROS Of Airbrush Propellant:
|Cheap – if you intend on doing only 1 small airbrush project|
|Quiet – no noise other than airflow|
|Easily Portable – light weight & small|
|No Need For Moisture Trap|
CONS Of Airbrush Propellant:
|Expensive – if you intend on doing multiple projects|
|Minimal Use Per Can – only 10 – 15 minutes of average airbrush use|
|Air Pressure Drops As The Canister Empties|
|Canister Gets Cold During Use|
Large CO2 Tanks
The major differences between using an airbrush propellant can, and a large CO2 tank is the fact of size, as well as the
Simply put, a 5 gallon tank can last anywhere upwards of a few days (of extensive use) or more depending on the amount of time spent airbrushing and pressure consumption
I personally have never tried using a CO2 tank as an air supply for my airbrush, however I have seen other airbrush artists employ this idea. Based on their experience, I believe using a large CO2 tank is a more viable
However, the major downside about using large CO2 tanks is the
PROS Of CO2 Tanks:
|Transportable – depending on the size of tank|
|Longer Use Time – when compared to airbrush propellant cans|
|Silent – no noise other than airflow|
|No Need For Moisture Trap|
|Cheaper Long Term Than Airbrush Propellant|
CONS Of CO2 Tanks:
|Larger & Heavier Than Airbrush Propellant|
|Added Cost Up Front – cost of tank, and regulators|
|Requires Re-fill Occasionally|
For more about using CO2 tanks check out the video below
Air Compressors – Best Option For Most
For most who have the intention of airbrushing often, I strongly recommend the use of an air compressor. Air compressors come in a
Now, given the fact that there is such a large variety of air compressors available on the market today, I find it most viable for the
Compressors for the most part are much cheaper long term, and with all the different options available today, you will most likely be able to find one that
PROS Of Airbrush Compressors:
|Much Cheaper Long Term|
|Variety Of Different Options Available|
|Easily Transported – small ones|
|Quiet – today they have compressors under 60db|
|Requires Minimal Maintenance|
CONS Of Airbrush Compressors
|Quiet Compressors Cost More|
|Added Noise – when compared to pressurized tanks|
|Heavy – depending on the size|
The reason as to why all airbrushes require the assistance of compressed air is simply to provide force to make the paint spray / Atomize rather than drip from the nozzle of the airbrush. That being said, as stated above, “gravity-fed airbrushes
But just because an airbrush requires pressurized air, does not mean it requires the assistance of an air compressor. Granted compressors are likely the best option for many, they are not the only option.
As listed above there are a few methods that can be employed in order to gain access to compressed air, and if you intend on using other methods then simply an air compressor. Then odds are, a gravity feed airbrush is likely going to be the best option, simply because it can operate on lower air pressure. Which means you will be able to get more use out of compressed air tanks then you would using a siphon feed airbrush.
Anyway, I hope you were able to find some value here! If you have any further questions regarding the airbrush do be sure to take a look around the website. Airbrush Insider is dedicated to helping all in the airbrush community!
This is Colt signing off!
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