The airbrushes in this guide are the best you’ll find. Some are more suitable for beginners and others, are more for serious artists and professional use.
We’ve made this guide as simple to follow as possible so you’ll find it easy to choose which airbrush would best suit your needs. The two main airbrush types are divided into two sections below.
I just want to point out that if you’re just starting out, but want to invest in the best quality you can buy, you should just be aware that although in theory, it would be nice to have just one or two finest quality brushes on hand to last you through the years, the parts are pretty delicate and easy to break when you take them apart.
So you should be extra careful until you’re familiar with dismantling them for cleaning and adjustment of the needle and nozzle, or, if you want to be on the safe side, choose one of our budget airbrushes for your first one.
If you find this guide helpful, and you still need to choose an airbrush compressor you should head over to our best airbrush compressor guide next.
Our Top Picks for the Best Airbrushes
Best Siphon Feed Airbrushes
Siphon Feed Airbrushes are distinguishable by the bottle attachments that feeds the airbrush from underneath. For that reason, they are most suitable for using larger quantities of paint than the gravity-feed ones (which have a small color cup on top).
They’re ideal for using with pre-mixed paints giving you the ability to swap easily between jars of different ready-mixed colors. They are suitable for all kinds of airbrush paint from acrylics to solvent-based lacquers and automotive paints, or equally, make up for body painting too.
They’re used for all kinds of hobbies and by professional artists. Larger versions are even used to paint walls and other home and garden decorating projects.
You can jump straight to the siphon-feed airbrush section here.
|Editor’s Award||Ideal For||Brand|
|Our Top Pick||General use | 0.5 Needle.||Iwata-Medea Eclipse HP BCS|
|Our Alternative Top Pick||Finer details | 0.3 Needle.||Iwata-Medea High-Performance Plus BC|
|Budget Option||General use | 0.3, 0.5 & 0.8 Needles.||Master Airbrush S622-SET|
Best Gravity Feed Airbrushes
These are distinguishable by a small color cup that sits on top of the airbrush. These airbrushes use gravity to feed the brush from above.
That means they need less PSI (air pressure) to works and are suitable for fine and even ultra-fine details and for those who mix multiple blends of smaller quantities of paints.
You can jump straight the gravity feed airbrush section here.
|Editor’s Award||Ideal For||Brand|
|Our Top Pick||Hairline to 2″ pattern spray | 0.35 Needle.||NEO CN|
|Alternative Top Pick||Hairline to 2″ pattern spray | 0.35 Needle.||Iwata-Medea Eclipse HP CS|
|Best in Class||Miniatures and Artists | Ultra-fine 0.21 Needle.||Badger R1V Renegade|
|Budget Option||General use | 0.2, 0.3 & 0.5 Needles.||Master Performance G233|
The Best Siphon Feed Airbrushes
Our Top Pick Siphon Feed Airbrush: Iwata-Medea Eclipse HP BCS
Our Top Pick Siphon Feed Airbrush
If you use a palette of pre-mixed colors and you’d like the ability to swap easily between them, you should choose a siphon feed airbrush.
You can do everything right, and set the best PSI for your paint, etc. but the defining factor for a good spray pattern will still come down to how precisely the needle is centered in the nozzle. And this is the defining factor between an Iwata airbrush and a cheap Chinese one.
Iwata airbrushes are precision-made and each one is hand-tested for correct needle placement and spray pattern. This one has as 0.5 needle and drop-in self-centering nozzle which means it can cover larger surface areas for general use such as backgrounds, etc. but can handle fine details just as well. Its spray pattern ranges from hairline to 2″.
It’s a dual-action airbrush, which means that the trigger controls both the paint volume and the airflow. Push down for airflow and pull back for paint.
While other airbrushes out there are only single action (which is basically, push down to spray paint), a dual-action airbrush gives you much greater control over your artwork allowing you to achieve more depth and detail to your work. Dual-action airbrushes also have another useful advantage in that you can use them to just spray air to dry the paint between coats.
They may sound tricky to use but they’re pretty intuitive, so they’re easy to learn.
This one has a 0.5 mm needle, it’s ideal for those who need to push premixed or thicker solvent-based paints like lacquers and automotive paints through the brush or need good coverage over a moderately large surface area. For this reason, it’s best used with an airbrush compressor that is capable of higher PSI’s.
The cutaway handle design allows easy access for precise needle adjustment and easy cleanup.
What We Like:
- 0.5 Needle | For more coverage and easier paint flow for thicker paints.
- Very High-Quality Airbrush | While not as cheap as our budget option it’s a premium quality airbrush that will be with you for years. For the quality of it’s atomized spray alone, it’s more than worth the initial outlay.
- Siphon Feed Airbrush | It’s ideal for ready-mixed media, higher viscosity paints and quick change between jars of color in a set palette range.
- 5-Year Warranty | This is an impressively long warranty. It’s longer than other brands. Many don’t even have one at all above Amazon’s return policy, our budget option included.
Buying Factors to Consider:
It’s not a good option if you mix smaller quanitities of your own media. If that applies to you, you should consider a gravity feed or side-feed airbrush instead.
Check the latest price for the Iwata-Medea Eclipse HP BCS on Amazon.
Alternative Top Pick Siphon Feed Airbrush: Iwata-Medea High-Performance Plus BC
Alternative Top Pick Siphon Feed Airbrush
If you specialize in highly detailed work that requires precision, either using waterbased or solvent paints and you’d like to have a higher volume of paint to hand than the gravity feed airbrushes (with a little cup attached on top) would provide, then the High-Performance Plus B is for you.
Where a siphon feed (bottle feed) airbrush comes into its own, is in its ability to let you conveniently swap colors within a set palette range. For instance, if the piece you are working on uses a few different pre-mixed colors, you can easily attach and detach each individual bottle of color as required.
This airbrush is outstanding in its ability to handle fine details. It has an ultra-fine 0.3 needle and each steel-alloy screw-in nozzle is hand-tested for accuracy and correct atomization. Steel alloy is more durable and resistant to harsh chemicals than the standard brass nozzles than cheaper brands use.
What We Like:
- Very High-Quality Airbrush | This a premium airbrush for professionals or those who are serious about their craft. It may cost initially cost more than our budget option but it will last for years to come and it will only highlight (not hinder your natural skills) so it’s more than worth the initial investment that you make.
- Siphon Feed Airbrush | It’s ideal for ready-mixed media, higher viscosity paints and quick change between a set palette range of colors.
- 0.3 Needle | For Fine detail work.
- 5-Year Warranty | It’s Awata, so you get an impressively long warranty. Longer than other brands. Many don’t even have one at all above Amazon’s return policy, our budget option included.
Buying Factors to Consider:
If you mix smaller amounts of your own media, You should consider a gravity feed or side-feed airbrush instead.
Check the latest price for the Iwata-Medea High-Performance Plus BC on Amazon.
Budget Siphon Feed Airbrush: Master Airbrush S622-SET
Budget Siphon Feed Airbrush
If you are choosing your first airbrush and you’re not quite ready to invest in a top quaily one just yet, this is a nice affordable and highly versatile option to suit the tightest of budgets.
It’s a similar model to the Iwata Eclipse and the High-Performance Plus we have looked at above. But you get 3 different needle sizes in this one kit.
It comes with a 0.3, 0.5 and a 0.8 mm needle so it’s perfect for finer details up to base-coating or larger surface applications. It has a pattern spray up to 2″.
It’s suitable for a wide range of hobbies from temporary tattoos, to cake decorating, t-shirt painting, auto-motorcycle graphics and more.
This one, like our last two picks, is a dual-action airbrush so you’ll have maximum control over the spray.
It’s most suitable for those who work with high viscosity or premixed mediums but it’s suitable for low viscosity paints too.
What We Like:
- Three Needle Sizes Included | It includes 0.3, 0.5 and 0.8 mm needles for finer details to base coating and wider coverage up to 2″.
- Air Hose Included | It comes with a free 6 feet braided air hose with 1/8″ Ends.
- Dual Action Airbrush at a Low Price | You’d expect to only get a single action one for this price (press down for spray and air). Dual-action airbrushes give you more control over your artwork.
Buying Factors to Consider:
If you were to compare quality and the way this one feels in your hand and the spray consistency of this airbrush against those of our previous two picks above, you would be able to tell the difference, but then you would expect that to be the case given the difference in price. They are more for serious artists and professionals, and those airbrushes may be higher-quality than you actually need.
This is a great starter kit for those just getting into airbrushing and the 3 needle sizes allow you to experiment because you’re basically getting three airbrushes for the low price of one.
Check the latest price for Master Airbrush S622-SET on Amazon.
The Best Gravity Feed Airbrushes
Our Top Pick Gravity Feed Airbrush: NEO CN Gravity Feed Dual Action Airbrush
Our Top Pick Gravity Feed Airbrush
The Neo is a great low priced airbrush by the high-end brand, Iwata. But there’s nothing too budget about the quality and that’s why it made our top pick.
If you’re a beginner or hobbyist and you want to add fine details to models and miniatures or indeed any hobby or artwork, this is a great airbrush to pick.
Gravity feed airbrushes work well at lower PSI’s (air pressures) which allow you to get more detail. The Neo has a 0.35 needle and nozzle combination and works best between 5 and 35 PSI so it’s ideally suited to that purpose.
It’s great for custom mixing smaller quantities of paint so you can easily add shading, depth and more subtle color changes to your project.
It comes with two interchangeable color cups – a large, 1/3 oz, which to be honest, is the size you’ll most likely leave on, and medium 1/16 oz size. For the large of the two, there’s a lid. This is a useful addition that many airbrushes don’t have, and it’s great for working on 3d objects or on anything where you might turn your hand – the lid simply prevents you from spilling the paint and ruining your work.
It’s a dual-action airbrush whereby the trigger controls both the paint volume and the airflow. Push down for airflow and pull back for paint. While it’s obviously not as easy as just pushing down to spray, it really isn’t hard to pick up. And the difference is akin to using kids’ crayons to draw with or using colored pencils to add depth and shade.
Dual-action airbrushes also have another useful advantage in that you can use them to just spray air to dry the paint between coats.
So what’s the deal?
Neo airbrushes are very good quality airbrushes and ideal for beginners. The difference between the Neo series and Iwata’s own brand airbrushes is that Iwata’s Neo range is sourced by Iwata from Taiwan. Those made in Japan at the Iwata factory are of finer quality and have the highest attention to detail in their craftsmanship. As you’d expect, Iwata’s own airbrushes do cost considerably more but unless you are at a professional level. A high-end Iwata is probably more than you need.
What We Like:
- Two Interchangeable Cups | Many airbrushes have just one cup that’s attached. Having a choice of two is easier for cleaning and the smaller one helps you see your artwork more easily as it won’t get in your line of vision. That said I think most will prefer the larger cup.
- Best Bang for Your Buck | This is a super low price for the quality of airbrush you get. For a beginner, it’s by far your best choice.
Buying Factor to consider:
The delicate 0.35mm needle and O-ring nozzle are very easy to break. Especially if you’re a beginner and not sure what you are doing. Extra care should be taken when cleaning or adjusting the airbrush.
Check the latest price for the NEO CN Gravity Feed Dual Action Airbrush on Amazon.
Alternative Top Pick Gravity Feed Airbrush: Iwata-Medea Eclipse HP CS
Alternative Top Pick Gravity Feed Airbrush
There’s very little obvious difference between this one and our top pick. It does cost more, however, and that’s why it’s our alternative pick. But for the extra money, you get an exceptionally high-quality Iwata airbrush that will last you for years to come.
This one comes with a 1/3 oz color cup and a fine 0.35 needle and nozzle combination like our top pick but unlike the Neo it also features a cutaway style handle for easier needle adjustment and cleanup.
Iwata recommends this one for heavier acrylics and medea textile colors, and that’s something that the cheaper Chinese ones would struggle with.
Precision engineering and in particular the precise centering of the nozzle and needle in this airbrush makes the atomization of all airbrush media a breeze. Iwata hand-test every nozzle for accuracy and correct atomization.
It has a spray pattern ranging from hairline to 2″ so it’s suitable for fine details to base coating or larger background areas.
It’s a true favorite among advanced artists and professionals. And if you are serious about your art, the investment will pay off in the sheer quality of workmanship and the perfect atomization you get with this choice.
Check the latest price and color options for Iwata-Medea Eclipse HP CS on Amazon.
Best Gravity Feed Airbrush for Miniatures and Artists: Badger Air-Brush Co R1V Renegade
Best Gravity Feed Airbrush for Miniatures and Artists
The precise “smartcenter” needle and nozzle alignment of this American-made Badger Airbrush, makes the R1V an ideal choice for those who work in super-fine detail.
The precise placement of this 0.21 mm needle and nozzle combination will give you a crisp super-fine hairline to a 1″ spray pattern. So it’s ideal for professional artists, taxidermists, and fine-scale modelers, etc.
Like all our recommendations so far, this one is a dual-action airbrush which is essential, especially when you are getting down to this level of detail, to give you maximum control.
And this one also features a “stopset” trigger which provides an accurate recurring spray pattern memory so you can repeatedly apply the same spray pressure whenever you need to.
It can easily handle all types of airbrush paints including acrylics, lacquers, urethanes and more.
It’s not super expensive in comparison with some. If you need a fine airbrush for detailed work, you should steer well clear of the cheap Chinese ones anyway. They just aren’t made with enough care and precision to handle a needle and nozzle that small without problems.
Its sleek gunmetal finish gives it an ultra-cool vibe and it performs just as well as it looks. It’s a great investment that will stay your trusted companion for years to come.
What We Like:
- SmartCenter Needle and Nozzle Alignment | The precise alignment of this US-made Badger Airbrush, allow you to work in superfine detail without overspray or spider-webbing.
- Fine 0.21 mm Needle | It will give you a crisp, super-fine hairline to a 1″ spray pattern.
- Stopset Trigger Feature | This provides you with an accurate recurring spray pattern memory.
Buying Factors to Consider:
Just be careful when you break it down for full cleaning, the needle is super-fine. Other than that, if you need a super fine brush, go for it.
Check the latest price and color options for Badger Air-Brush Co R1V Renegade on Amazon.
The Best Budget
If you’re just starting out and you’d like a good all-round airbrush that’s suitable for general use while still allowing you to work on the finer details, the Master G233 set is a good choice.
You’re basically getting three airbrushes in one for a super low price because it includes three different needle and nozzle sets. You get a super fine 0.2 size, a 0.3 and a 0.5 mm needle for backgrounds and general use.
It’s great for leather painting, t-shirt spraying, ceramics, modeling and more.
Buying Factors to Consider:
These low prices airbrushes do lack the quality of craftsmanship that you get with the high-quality branded ones, but that doesn’t mean you won’t get a good result and at this price, they’re great for practicing with.
Frequently Asked Questions
What pressure do you need for airbrushing?
Generally speaking the thicker the viscosity of paint you are using, the higher the PSI (air pressure) you will need.
Gravity feed airbrushes that have a small color-cup on the top, work well at lower PSI’s (air pressures) simply because they use gravity to help pull the paint through. A lower PSI is ideal for finely detailed work. For this type of detail, a PSI of 10 – 25 is generally used.
Syphon feed airbrushes have a bottle that feeds the paint from the bottom. They are generally more suited for base coating or spraying larger areas like backgrounds. They are great for using pre-mixed acrylics, solvent-based lacquers or automotive paints, etc. These types of paints need a high PSI of between 40 to 60 PSI to push the paint through.
What can you use an airbrush for?
Airbrushes are used in all types of hobbies and crafts including model painting, t-shirt spraying, nail painting, makeup, leather and ceramics, taxidermy, automotive and motorcycle graphics, cake decoration, body spraying and more.
They are also used by professional and amateur artists for painting, fine art, and illustration.
They can be used with stencils or masks to get crisp, sharp edges or they can be used to paint freehand with as much detail as required.
Airbrushed artwork tends to have a soft, blended natural look.
What kind of paint can I use in my airbrush?
The kinds of paints you can use will depend on what you are paining.
Water-based acrylic airbrush colors are great for beginners and professionals alike. They come in a wide range of colors that can be easily custom mixed. They are suitable for paper, card, canvas, fabrics, plastics, leather, wood, metals, and ceramics.
For body art, you should always use non-toxic, FDA compliant, waterbased paints specifically designed for skin. They ‘re easy to apply and wash off with soap and water.
For cake decoration, you will need edible airbrush food colors. These come in pre-mixed bottles in a variety of colors including metallics and they can be mixed to achieve custom shades. U.S. Cake Supply has a good range.
Do you need to thin paint for spraying?
Many pre-mixed paints don’t require thinning. But you’ll need to use a higher PSI and they’re not best suited for fine nozzles.
They’re most suitable for heavier coverage. Ideally, they should be thinned a little for higher paint flow.
Generally speaking, paint should be the consistency of milk or thin cream. Choosing a good thinner for reducing airbrush paint will give you the best results.
Good quality water-based acrylic paint reducers contain acrylic-based binders to prevent you from losing any paint quality.
You can also get solvent-based thinners for enamels.
Other Ones We’ve Reviewed:
These are the products that didn’t quite make our top picks, but they’re still pretty good so you might like to take a look.
And if you need somewhere to store your acrylics and inks, hop over to our craft storage guide and head to the bottom on the page.
2 in 1 Airbrush
This one comes with two-needle sizes. If you’re a beginner and break one at least you’ll have a spare.
- 0.33 mm and 0.21 mm needles for more versatility.
- It has Badger’s distinctive style.
- Comes with a hose adapter.
Single – Action, External Mix Airbrush
That means that the paint comes up through a feed under the airbrush to the nozzle where it collides with the air which comes out through the brush. This It’s easy to use, as you only have a sing button to press.
- An inexpensive option for backgrounds and general use.
- Spray pattern range from 1/16-inch to 1-1/2-inch.
- 0.45 mm needle for good coverage.
Side Feed Airbrush
These also have a color cup but they are attached to the side. They’re most handy for close high-detail when you don’t want a cup in your line of vision.
- Right-handed cup.
- Spray pattern range from 1/32-inch to 2-1/2-inch.
- 0.5 mm needle for good coverage.
Value Set of High-Quality Airbrushes
You get a highly versatile range with these three brushes.
- One gravity feed, one side feed, and one siphon feed airbrush.
- SmartCenter needle and nozzle for precise alignment
- 0.21 to 0.33 tips.
Single-Action for Beginners
Art of Air Professional
This one is easy to use if you want a single-action airbrush. Press the trigger for spray.
- 0.4 mm needle for general use
- Very low price.
- Hairline to 2.5″ spray pattern.