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Purchasing an Airbrush
Once the artist has decided the primary uses for the new airbrush, the quest for one that meets the artist's requirements begins. There are over a dozen airbrush manufacturers, each with several airbrushes for the most exacting applications. Some manufacturers have in excess of 40 models from which to choose.

As overwhelming as this may be, keeping focused on one's individual criteria narrows the choices. The two trade magazines available to the American market, Airbrush Action® and The Airbrush Magazine®, have frequent product reviews and buyer's guides that can aid in making a decision. Prices range from approximately $50 to $500: this may also play an important role in buying an airbrush. See our airbrush category.

Seek Professional Advice
The best source for a beginning airbrusher can be to ask artists who currently do airbrushing professionally. They can offer insight on how to get started and what equipment they prefer. After all, they too were beginners at one time, and know exactly what one goes through making these decisions. Personal acquaintances, art teachers, and local professionals will usually give free advice and may even know of local classes that offer beginning airbrush lessons. Airbrushing magazines have many articles and artist reviews that cite what equipment they prefer. Keep in mind that these professionals have very exacting requirements and typically use several airbrushes to meet all of their spraying needs.


Single-Action vs. Double-Action Airbrushes
"Single-action" and "double-action" refer to the way the air and paint flow of the airbrush is controlled. Single-action means that it sprays much like an aerosol can: just push down the trigger to get it to spray. The amount of paint that comes out is controlled by twisting a knob or screw located near the tip. This type of airbrush is also referred to as an "external-mix," because the air and paint actually mix in front of the needle. There are fewer moving parts that need cleaning, therefore it is an easy airbrush to maintain. The single-action airbrush does not have the precise control offered by a double-action; however, a single action is a great beginner's brush that will always have uses no matter how advanced an artist becomes. Smooth gradations are easily accomplished, and for many artists, this will be the only airbrush they will ever need.

A double-action airbrush offers much greater control and is essential when producing fine lines and thick-thin strokes (the classic "dagger stroke"). These are also known as "internal-mix" airbrushes because the air and paint mix inside the nozzle. The double-action airbrush has two trigger movements. As with the single-action, airflow is controlled by pressing the trigger down; however, the amount of paint can also be controlled by pulling the trigger back. The farther the trigger is pulled back, the more paint comes out. T-shirt lettering is much easier with this type of airbrush. Experienced, "freehand" (painting without the aid of masking materials) airbrushers can control a double-action to produce photo-realistic artwork.

Siphon-feed Vs. Gravity-feed Airbrushes
These terms refer to how paint is supplied to an airbrush. Although this feature does not directly influence how an airbrush performs, it does indicate the paint capacity allowed before refilling.

Siphon-feed means that the color-cup attaches from underneath the body of the airbrush. Air suction pulls the paint from the cup to the nozzle area, where it comes in contact with the air. This type of airbrush is useful when spraying for extended periods of time because the color-cup (typically 1/4 ounce capacity) can be taken off and a bottle can be attached, normally with a capacity of 3 fluid ounces or less.

Gravity-feed essentially means that the color-cup is on top of the airbrush body. Most models have an immovable color-cup. Although larger models can have paint reservoirs of 2 ounces, gravity-fed airbrushes are made for detail, where small amounts of paint are applied at one time. Because the paint is in an open color-cup, some models offer a separate cap to keep paint from drying out in the color-cup. They have a tiny hole in the center of the cap to prevent a vacuum from developing. It is essential that this hole be open to maintain proper paint flow. Siphon-feed bottles also have this hole on the cap for the same purpose.
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