In 1876, Francis Edgar Stanley patented the first airbrush in history, paving the way to the many different types of airbrushes we know today. There are airbrushes created specifically for art and illustration, makeup application, clothing, fingernail art, automotive, photo retouching, temporary airbrush tattoos, murals, food and wall decoration, and of course for, models and miniatures.
Airbrushing models and miniatures have been a hobby and profession for many people for centuries. It requires great talent, precision, and patience, and it can be fun, but as mentioned above, there are many different types of airbrushes to choose from, so what are the best airbrushes for models and miniatures?
If you are just getting started with learning how to airbrush models and miniatures and you have this question, do not worry. Our one-stop guide for everything you need to know about choosing the best airbrushes for models and miniatures is below!
You will also find other great useful tips and need to know information that will help you get started such as which paint to purchase, the differences between many different styles of airbrushes, and which type of brush are great to use when working on models.
The 10 Best Airbrushes For Models And Miniatures
Now to the fun stuff! Here is a list of the best airbrushes available on the market for models and miniatures. When going through this list, keep in mind all of the important factors discussed in this article.
Iwata-Medea Revolution CR Airbrush
With a 4.6 star rating on Amazon, the Iwata Revolution CA Airbrush is definitely one of the best airbrushes in the market. This is an internal mix, dual-action airbrush with a gravity feed. It is great for airbrushing models, and it is the perfect brush for beginners to transition to when they are ready for a more advanced airbrush. This brush has an overall great balance of value, quality, and performance, and it is considered an all-purpose brush.
Gocheer Professional Airbrush
If you enjoy painting miniatures or models, a good airbrush is a must-have. Not only does it make some of the bigger paint jobs a breeze, but it can help you to create some of those effects that feel much more professional than what you might be able to do by hand.
The unfortunate truth is that an awful lot of airbrushes out there just aren’t designed for miniature or model painting. While they can do the job in a pinch, there’s usually something about their design that makes them less than perfect. That’s why it’s nice to see something like this professional airbrush from Gocheer, which goes a long way to solving those issues.
One of the best parts about this machine is that it is truly portable. There’s no cord, no big machine to attach the unit to – attach your brush to the compressor and you are good to go. You don’t even have to worry about power because you can charge it with the same kind of USB charger that powers many of your other devices.
If you’ve already got an airbrush, this unit can still be a great buy because the compressor actually works with a host of other airbrush attachments. If you’ve been looking to leave behind the bulkier sets or you feel like your current compressor just isn’t working, this might be the right choice for you.
While this might not be the best airbrush out there for other professional needs, you’re not going to find many that are better when it comes to painting models or miniatures. If you are looking to get serious about painting, this is almost certainly the airbrush that is going to best fit your needs.
Neo CN Airbrush
This airbrush is also manufactured by Iwata and it is rated at 4.4 stars on Amazon. The Neo CN Airbrush is also a gravity-feed airbrush with a dual-action style. If fine details are important to you, then this airbrush may be the best choice for you. It performs at low air pressures allowing its user to create more details, and it also comes with a medium and large cup so that you can interchange them between small and larger projects. This is also another great airbrush beginners can transition to.
Iwata-Medea High Performance Airbrush
Badger Air-Brush Co. Sotar 2020-2F Large Gravity Feed Fine Airbrush
Another airbrush with a flexible nozzle, allowing for fine details while also expanding up to ¾ inch (19 mm) spray, the Badger SOTAR 2020-2F is a well rounded tool perfect for miniature models. Featuring a 1/12 ounce color cup, it will give you extended use before replacing ink. The gravity feed and dual action internal mix allows for professional level detail for intricate and precise applications.
In addition to the traditional airbrush functionality, the SOTAR allows for use of reduced paints, water colors, inks, low viscosity acrylics, and dyes. This will give you the ability to not only make use of this airbrush for multiple applications or projects, but will also allow unique and unorthodox methods of miniature model design and painting.
Iwata High-Performance +C Airbrush
Coming in with a 4.2 Amazon star rating, the Iwata High-Performance Airbrush is perfect for those who do not mind spending a little more to obtain high-quality performance. This is a gravity-feed and dual-action airbrush and worth the money. If precision, control, and fine atomization are important to you, then look no further. This airbrush is best for you. This airbrush is extremely durable and produces great quality work. It is also used among many professionals and it is easy to assemble.
Iwata Eclipse HP
The Iwata Eclipse HP Airbrush is also a dual-action and gravity-feed airbrush. With a high Amazon star rating of a 4.4, this is the best airbrush for those who love airbrushing trains and terrains or any other models and miniatures that require thicker paint. If you are working with a miniature that has real fabric attached to it, then you should consider using this airbrush. This airbrush is also great for creating fine lines and specific details. It is also very versatile. It has the ability to spray different types of paints.
Grex Tritium TG3 Gravity Airbrush
The Grex Tritium TG3 is a dual-action styled pistol with a gravity-feed. With a 4 star Amazon rating, its paint is mixed internally and is great for users who desire precise control and fine detailed work. This model is also made with a stainless steel needle, and it is patented with interchangeable top mount reservoirs. Just like many airbrushes on this list, it is also versatile, so you are able to use this brush for many purposes such as body painting and more.
GSI Creos Gundam Marker Airbrush
A great entry level airbrush for novices, the GSI Creos Gundam Marker Airbrush is a specially designed airbrush intended specifically for model painting. Advertised towards the Gundam models, which are a popular mecha themed collectible from the anime series of the same name, this is aimed directly at the tabletop gaming crowd and customizing their own miniatures.
Built to function in conjunction with “Gundam Markers”, which are specialty paint markers directed for the use on plastic Gundam models, this will allow for airbrush style painting and fine detail while not straying away from these popular painting products. In addition, you will have the option to swap out alternate nibs, giving you a smoother and cleaner final product.
Tamiya 74545 Spray-Work HG Airbrush III
A great middle of the road airbrush, this is another entry level tool similar to the aforementioned Gundam Airbrush, but alternatively allows for traditional paints and materials for your miniatures or art projects. Featuring a fine 0.2 mm nozzle, this will give you hair line precision in a simplistic but durable build quality. Designed with an all-metal form factor, it features a removable paint cup with the option to replace with larger plastic paint cups.
Airbrushing Tips For Beginners
Because airbrushing involves the addition of compressed air into a “spray” painting pattern, the control and technique involved to achieve a smooth and aesthetic application of paint may not come as intuitively as more traditional paints and materials. We’ll break down some of the key tips when first dipping your toes into airbrushing models and miniatures.
Knowing The Right Air Pressure
Because your spray pattern will be greatly determined by the air pressure applied to the brush itself, knowing the outcome of the pressure variability will help when trying to achieve a certain consistency with the paint. When it comes to the airbrush droplets, air pressure affects it in these ways:
- More Intense Air Pressure: Smaller droplet of paint, which gives you a dry and rough spray texture
- Less Intense Air Pressure: Larger droplet of paint, which gives you a more saturated and smoother spray texture
If you are looking to apply thick layers of paint, which may be necessary for models or figurines, here are the rules of thumb for properly saturating the canvas:
- With increased air pressure, you will have a decrease in saturation of paint on the surface
- With decreased air pressure, you will have more paint being applied to the surface of your model
Additionally, the type of paint you use also should be taken into consideration when you are choosing the right air pressure:
Thick paint: Requires a more intense air pressure to pull the liquid
- Runny or thin paint: Requires a smaller amount of air pressure to pull and apply the liquid
Tips For Spray Patterns And The Painting Process
- Airbrushes paint in a cone shape, with a smaller spray area coming the closer you are to the canvas
- Always paint in a circular spray pattern, with the airbrush pointed directly down on the canvas and not at an angle
- The build up of paint will happen quickly if you are close to the surface, with slower saturation the further you are away
- Always wear some sort of mask or respiration device, as airborne paint can cause serious health risks when continuously exposed
What to Look For When Choosing the Best Airbrush for Model and Miniatures
The first thing you should do is determine what type of models you will airbrush the most. When determining the type of models you will be working with, factor in what material it is made from. Models could be made from wood, plastic, rubber, metal or any other material. When choosing your airbrush, it is important to choose one that is fit for the material you will be working with, because landscaping and terrain airbrushing may require something different than airbrushing aircraft or train models.
Another factor to consider is your experience level. Would you consider yourself a beginner, intermediate, or expert? If you are an expert you most likely don’t need advice, so assuming you are at a beginner or intermediate level, make sure to choose an airbrush that suits you until you become more experienced. You do not want to get an airbrush system that is very complex. You will only have to spend more money to buy a new one and that we want to avoid.
The next thing to consider is what style of airbrush is best for you. This could be a single-action or a dual-action airbrush. Be aware these two styles have to be factored in with which paint feed and atomizing method you be best for you.
Another thing to consider when choosing which is the best airbrush for models is the airbrush system. There are a variety of airbrush systems and each system may not be compatible with airbrushing the model you intend to use.
For example, you may find an airbrush that fits everything you need but its system is best for using ink and not paint, so you want to be sure your airbrush system meets the requirements needed for it to use acrylic and enamel paints. We will go further into detail about paint choices later.
Last but certainly not the least important, consider is an airbrush kit. Some people purchase an airbrush kit, but if you do not plan to purchase a kit, be sure to purchase or borrow an airbrush compressor. The compressor is used to power your airbrush system, and it alone is one of the most important components of the equipment needed.
Also, factor in the cost of paints and add it to your budget. The good news about this is, among all of the different varieties of airbrushes, an airbrush for models is amongst the most affordable airbrushes. You can typically find a well-qualified airbrush system for under $200. Some of the most popular brands for airbrushes are Iwata, Badger, Harder and Steenbeck, Paasche, and Grex. We will go further into which brands you should look for when choosing the best airbrush for models.
Styles and Types of Airbrushes
As promised, here is detailed information regarding which is the best airbrush style to choose when deciding which airbrush to purchase. It is important to know that the different styles determine how you will use your airbrush.
The three components that will determine this are how the airbrush is controlled, how the paint feeds into the nozzle and how it goes out, and how the paint is mixed or atomized with air before it is applied to your models. An airbrush is manufactured to combine each style, control, paint feed, and mixing or atomizing method.
Single-Action Compared to Dual-Action
A single-action or dual-action determines how your paint and airflow are released by the button or lever located on the top of your airbrush. This will establish how much control you will have when you are painting your models and miniatures.
A single-action airbrush does not give its artist the most control, but it is typically the best style for beginners. This airbrush style allows the artist to only control the airflow and not both airflow and paint. It is less complex to use as its artist is to only press the button or trigger at the top of the airbrush. This style does not require many instructions or movements.
A dual-action airbrush gives its artist more control. Its user will be able to control both paint flow and airflow. Using this style of airbrush is a little more difficult as the artist has to first press the button located at the top of the airbrush which allows air to flow through, and then the user must slide the button back allowing the paint to flow through the airbrush.
This style of airbrush allows its artist to make real-time adjustments to the paint flow, whereas the single-action airbrush does not. The artist must stop painting to make adjustments when using the single-action airbrush. The dual-action airbrush requires its user to practice more often if he or she wants to perfect using this method which is why it is not recommended for beginners.
As mentioned prior, when choosing the best airbrush, deciding which paint feed is best for you is also important. You will choose from two methods, the gravity-feed airbrush or the siphon-feed airbrush. This determines how the paint is delivered.
The gravity-feed method delivers the paint from the top of the airbrush. The paint cup sits at the top of the airbrush and gravity pulls the paint into the airbrush atomizing chamber. This allows a lower working air pressure, and this also allows its user to have more control when painting finer lines and achieving greater details on models.
You will also avoid over-spray. The only con to using a gravity-feed airbrush is the amount of paint you are able to store is very limited. The paint bowl at the top of the airbrush is very small, and depending on your project or the size of your models and miniatures, you may have to refill your paint compartment multiple times, so you may want to consider this.
A siphon-feed airbrush has its paint supply at the bottom of the airbrush. There is a tube that is connected to both the paint supply and the mixing chamber. This allows air to pass through the tube into the mixing chamber, and once that takes place, it siphons the paint in.
Unlike the gravity-feed airbrush, the siphon-feed airbrush typically allows users to store much more paint. This is perfect to use on bigger projects that require more paint such as an aircraft or a large battleship. The only downside to using this method is, it requires more paint to use. Cup sizes can range from 0.9 ml to 15 ml, and it can take longer to clean. Other than that, it is perfect for you to use on bigger models.
Internal Vs External Mix Airbrushes
These two methods determine where the paint will be mixed or atomized. This will also determine what effect each method will have on the finishing of the paint.
Internal Mix Airbrush
If you desire to have smoother and finer finished models, than this method may be best for you. This method occurs when paint goes into the chambers and is mixed with air. This method may produce more favorable results, but it also requires the most steps to clean up which still are minimal. This should be considered when choosing the best airbrush.
External Mix Airbrush
In this method, the paint does not enter into the airbrush but instead, is mixed when the paint flows outside of the nozzle and is met with air when it exits the nozzle. This leaves your models with a flatter finish. It is not as smooth as the internal mix airbrush but by experimenting with your paint mix you may get the desired look you are going for.
What Airbrush is Best for Miniatures?
When airbrushing a miniature, people tend to use a gravity-feed airbrush versus using a siphon-feed airbrush because airbrushing miniatures do not require the extreme capacity the siphon-feeder gives. Choosing a gravity-feeder will also come in handy when choosing your airbrush compressor because it has built-in air pressure.
Another thing to consider is the needle size. When working with some miniatures, you may need to use thicker paint and sometimes your miniature may come with real fabric so you want to make sure you choose the best needle for your airbrush.
The size of your needle determines how fine your airbrush will spray. It also determines the texture quality your airbrush leaves on your finished models. The smaller your needle is, the finer your airbrush will spray. When choosing a needle that is best to airbrush miniatures, you should stay in the 0.2 to 0.5 range. If you plan to paint lager miniatures such as cars, aircraft, and planes, then an 0.5 needle will be the better choice, but if you plan to airbrush miniatures that require greater details, then a 0.2 size needle will be more suitable, but typically most people find themselves acquiring a needle size that is somewhere in the middle range.
As mentioned earlier, you do not need an airbrush compressor that has extreme power. Having that in mind, choosing the best compressor for your airbrush narrows down quite a bit. You now just have to decide whether you want the compressor for you miniatures to come with a tank or be tankless.
The difference between the two is, tank compressors fill its tank with air that will power the brush. This allows the airbrush to get more constant streams of pressure when spraying. This limits the “pulsing” motion you would receive if you were to use a tankless airbrush compressor. A tank compressor is perfect for those who are planning to spray for a long period of time. This will give you a smoother experience, but it is the more expensive choice.
A tankless compressor, on the other hand, is a lot cheaper and is best used when spraying for a shorter period of time. This compressor is also smaller which is great for storing, but it will turn on more often to keep your airbrush supplied with air during each session. With that in mind, here are some of the best airbrushes for miniatures. We will go into further details about some of the airbrush specifications, pros, and cons later in this article.
- Iwata Eclipse HP-BS and HP-CS
- Badger Patriot 105
- Harder and Steenbeck Infinity Solo
- Badger Sotar 20/20
- Harder and Steenbeck Evolution CRplus
- Badger Renegade Krome
- Ultimate Apex
- Grex Tritium TG
- Iwata Custom Micron CM-B
- Harder and Steenbeck Infinity CRplus
The Best Airbrush Brands
Choosing the best airbrush brand is essential. You want to make sure you choose an airbrush that is manufactured by a reputable company. Many people have been conned into investing their hard-earned money into a brand that serves cheaply made airbrushes. Here is a list of credible companies that make long-lasting and great quality airbrushes. In no particular order:
Iwata is a reputable brand that is known amongst many airbrush enthusiasts. This brand hand tests and custom tune each Custom Micron airbrush model they produce to give it superior atomizing performance and great details. They design each of there airbrushes with a specific “spray performance” and “spray scale” in mind.
They also focus on five different aspects when creating an airbrush to fit each artist. Those five aspects are absolute precision, total control, versatility, effortless coverage, and full finish. If you desire absolute precision then its Iwata Custom Micron series may be best for you, but if you prefer more control, then you should consider its Hi-Line and High-Performance Plus series.
For versatility, the Iwata Eclipse series is perfect but for effortless coverage, the Iwata Revolution and Neo For Iwata series are best. Lastly, the Iwata G-Series and Anest Iwata are great choices if you want a full finish or desire to spray wide coverage areas.
Badger is another brand that is well-known among airbrush enthusiasts. This brand is known for its high quality, great value, and superior service. Badger’s airbrushes are also, carefully assembled by hand and tested to ensure its performance quality has been met.
This brand focuses on exceeding its customer’s expectations, and they continue to do this because they have developed a group of airbrush consultants who specialize in giving them feedback on their products. This allows Badger to continue to excel in providing a high-quality airbrush that will meet any users’ needs.
Paasche has been around for over 100 years and is still one of the top well-known brands when it comes to purchasing an airbrush. They continue to provide newly tested and innovative products for airbrush enthusiasts. They have even partnered with airbrushing schools to help educate its users on getting the most out of their products.
This company assembles their airbrushes by using a machine and like their competitors, they also see the value in and testing their airbrushes before releasing them to the public. This brand is perfect for airbrushing models.
Harder and Steenbeck Airbrush
If environmental protection is a top priority for you when choosing the right airbrush, then you may want to consider Harder and Steenbeck Airbrush. Their mission statement is to only use exclusively high-quality raw materials from Europe.
These materials are nickel silver, brass, aluminum, and stainless steel. They also recycle a huge amount of materials that are used while creating their airbrushes. They even recycle the oil and grinding water from their production. They ensure unsafe water mixtures are disposed of properly under the regulations given by the “Waste Recycling and Management” law.
They also refrain from using electricity that is powered by coal-fired and atomic power stations. They are proud users of green energy that is generated by natural resources such as solar and hydro and wind power stations. Not only do they care about the environment, but they use the same amount of thought, planning, and action when producing their high-quality airbrushes for models.
Last but certainly not least, Grex is definitely among being one of the most popular brands to consider when choosing an airbrush for your models. They have been around for a little over 20 years, and their main focus is to provide great customer service and creating innovative products that will differentiate their premium products from their competitors.
They provide great customer service by providing its customers with the opportunity to have their airbrush serviced and repaired at one of its many service locations. They are known for their affordable pricing, and providing best class ergonomics, performance, and build quality.
Which Paint Brands for Models and Miniatures?
Now that you know which airbrush brand and style is best for you, here are some things you should consider when picking which paint brand is best for your models and miniatures.
To decide which type of paint you will need, determine whether your models are made out of plastic, metal, or other materials. If you have a plastic miniature, an acrylic based paint is best used. It can also be used on plastic models. Acrylic paints have become popular over the years and are now compared to the performance quality of oil-based paints.
Some of the benefits of using this type of paint are it takes less time to dry, and you are able to change the flow of your paint with ease and without diminishing the color saturation. Also, without affecting the consistency, you are able to change transparency. Acrylic paint is also easy to clean and is non-toxic.
Oil-based or enamel paint was once the most popular choice, but with the drastic change of quality in acrylic-based paint, it is now the least chosen but it is still great for airbrushing a metal miniature as well as metal models. Oil-based paints are mixed with a drying oil, usually linseed oil, as a binder. This gives the product a hard finish. This is great because this makes the paint on your models a lot more durable. It can also leave your models with a glossy shine. The huge downside of using oil-based paints is the cleanup can be difficult, the dry time takes longer, and the paint is quite toxic. Also consider the top 4 paint color conversion charts for miniatures.
Here is a list of paint brands you should consider purchasing.
- Testors Enamel
- Army Painter
- Liquitex Professional Soft Body
Well, there you have it. A one-stop guide to finding everything you need to know about airbrushes, airbrush systems, styles, and types, which brands to choose when looking for an airbrush perfect for models, and which paints to use to best fit what you are looking for. This guide will provide everything you need just to get started on your new hobby or profession of airbrushing models and miniatures.
Here are some last few tips you should be sure to take away as you start your new journey. Remember airbrushing models and miniatures require a lot of practice and patience, so do not be too hard on yourself when you mess up. Give yourself time to grow into your hobby or profession. Be sure to choose an airbrush that is best for your level. If you are a beginner, do not worry, you will be able to use the more advanced and complex airbrushes in no time.
Most importantly remember to have fun. This is a great hobby that can turn into a profession when done right. The more fun you have, the easier you’ll be able to transition into a profession. Thank you for reading. Have fun!
Recap: The Top 10 Best Airbrushes for Models, Miniatures and Tabletop Games
- Iwata-Medea Revolution CR Airbrush
- Gocheer Professional Airbrush
- Neo CN Airbrush
- Iwata-Medea High Performance Airbrush
- Badger Air-Brush Co. Sotar 2020-2F Large Gravity Feed Fine Airbrush
- Iwata High-Performance +C Airbrush
- Iwata Eclipse HP
- Grex Tritium TG3 Gravity Airbrush
- GSI Creos Gundam Marker Airbrush
- Tamiya 74545 Spray-Work HG Airbrush III