The 10 Best Airbrush Kits
This wiki has been updated 31 times since it was first published in February of 2015. Whether you're creating works of art or just looking for a new way to apply makeup, one of these airbrush kits can provide you with a new application method. They're ideal for crafting, face painting, decorating cakes, customizing motorcycles and cars, and more. We've included models that can handle fine details down to 1 millimeter through to units capable of blowing a three-inch-wide spray. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
July 30, 2020:
It was a fairly straightforward round of updates, with our only new omission being the Badger 360-7, which we removed due to availability issues. In its place, we added the Kopykake Airmaster C3500R — a compact unit that works well for decorating cakes.
A few things to look for in this category:
Compressor: While small models – like the Art Of Air Professional and Gocheer Mini Dual Action – can be a convenient option, by virtue of their portability, their infinitesimal size means that they don’t have room for an accumulator tank, which means that they will run constantly while you’re working — so count on a chronic humming noise that can get to be quite irritating. Tankless compressors are also prone to pulsing outputs that lead to intermittent inconsistencies in the way your airbrush handles, which is another concern.
For the most part, bigger compressors – like the 1/5-horesepower units that come with the PointZero Dual Action and Master Multi-Purpose Professional – give you more options, in terms of their possible applications. Just make sure to look out for models like the Iwata-Medea Deluxe Set that don’t include a regulator, which takes away your ability to throttle their output when you’re working on small projects with fine details that require finesse, like nails and makeup.
Airbrush: Your choice of airbrush probably has a lot more to do with restricting/releasing your creativity than your choice of compressor does. Internal-mix airbrushes (AKA: top-feed airbrushes and gravity-feed airbrushes) typically have finer points, making them better suited for precise detailing, while external-mix airbrushes (AKA: bottom-feed airbrushes and syphon airbrushes) tend to have larger points, as well as larger reservoirs, making them better suited for large projects.
Options like the PointZero Dual Action and Master Multi-Purpose Professional come with an assortment of brushes, allowing you some creative flexibility while you work, and models like the Paasche Single Action include a selection of spray heads, allowing you to achieve various results with a single brush.
Extras: While the compressor and the actual airbrush(es) involved make up the most important part of this purchase, many of these kits are loaded with useful extras that will allow you much more versatility from your equipment, and save you considerable cash up front.
While we’ve already mentioned how some models come with multiple airbrushes, there’s also bonus educational materials – like the guidebook that comes with the Master Multi-Purpose Professional and the tutorial DVD that comes with the PointZero Dual Action – to consider. The Art Of Air Professional comes with a selection of makeup, the Master Cake Decorating Set comes with an assortment of a dozen food-grade dyes, and the Iwata-Medea Deluxe Set comes with 10 colors of paint. The Paasche Single Action and Gocheer Mini Dual Action both come with cleaning brushes.
August 22, 2019:
The only model fit for removal since our last visit to this category was the Photo Finish set by Advanced Skin Care, which had a lot of durability problems, particularly in its gun. We replaced it with a very basic, but well-regarded option from Gocheer, which can serve as a great backup or replacement for your main set, especially if your work volume has a tendency to put your equipment to the test. The Grex GCK03 moved its way up to the top of our ranking on the strength of its outstanding compressor, and its lightweight, yet durable gun. Where most other brushes ask you to balance them on the side of your hand almost like a pool cue, this gun features a dedicated pistol grip, reducing the strain on both the user and the gun's connection point with the air tube connecting it to its compressor.
It's also important when evaluating these kits to consider its intended use, as some of these come with things like makeup samples or food-safe paints. People knowing exactly what they want from their kit can buy something specific, while others can either avoid spending the extra money on materials they won't use, or can make note of what a given set comes with and make sure to buy other materials as needed. A user who intends to apply their airbrush to a wide range of purposes should keep an eye out for a model that either comes with cleaning tools like thin wire brushes or cleaner and reducer, or one that comes with multiple guns and hoses so they can safely switch from decorating a face to decorating a cake without worry.
What Exactly Is Airbrushing?
Airbrush tools can achieve a level of detail that hand-done work simply cannot, and they can produce a soft look with zero visible brush strokes.
An airbrush might sound like an intimidating tool, but it’s really just a small air-operated device that resembles a pen. An airbrush can spray out fluids ranging from ink to food dye and can be used to paint on a number of media. Depending on what type of work you are doing, you'll need your air source to send out air at different PSI. Professionals that work in all industries where coloring a product is necessary — like tattoo work, cake decoration, and makeup artistry — can benefit from using an airbrush kit.
Airbrush tools can achieve a level of detail that hand-done work simply cannot, and they can produce a soft look with zero visible brush strokes. That’s one of the reasons airbrush makeup can achieve an incredibly natural-looking end result, in which you often can’t even tell the person is wearing makeup. You can airbrush literally any surface from skin to wood, so long as the ingredient you are spraying is compatible with the surface. In other words, don’t spray paint on a cake — you’ll make your diners sick.
An airbrush must be plugged into an air source to function. When you pull the trigger on the airbrush, it disperses both air and the material you put inside. Most airbrushes have an internal mixer that ensures a balanced ratio of air and your other material comes out evenly, so you never have any thick areas of paint or other substance in one area.
The History Of The Airbrush
This genius little device wasn’t always called the airbrush. The first version of the airbrush was called the paint distributor. A man named Abner Peeler invented the earliest version of the tool, and ended up selling the patent to brothers Liberty and Charles Walkup. He had no idea how popular his invention would become.
After taking their company public, the Walkup brothers used money from stock sales to form the Rockford Manufacturing Company.
The paint distributor was made up of a “wind-wheel” and a needle. The placement of the needle — closer to the center of the wheel versus closer to the outer edges — determined how quickly the wheel moved. The needle was linked up to an air blast tube, and in the original model, all of the parts were operated separately.
After the idea had passed through a couple of owners and a couple of engineers, it transformed into what today is called a double action airbrush. In a double action brush, both the air supply and the paint supply are controlled by the same trigger, which allows for one-handed, continuous operation.
After taking their company public, the Walkup brothers used money from stock sales to form the Rockford Manufacturing Company. Rockford eventually changed to the Airbrush Manufacturing Company. Liberty Walkup and his wife — a photo retoucher by trade — promoted their product at various photography exhibitions around the world, and soon enough, major photography companies were ordering the product in bulk.
What A Complete Kit Should Come With
You can’t achieve that perfect airbrushed look with just the airbrush pen alone. You’ll need a few more items to get started. Your most complete airbrush kit will include items that cover everything from your artistic needs to your safety needs. The really well thought out airbrush kits will come with a respirator to protect your health while you’re working closely with toxic materials like paint. If you are working with items meant to be consumed like food dye, you probably don’t need to worry about this.
Just like a case for your phone or iPad, a holder for your airbrush will protect this very expensive tool if you drop it on the ground.
The most basic of kits should come with an airbrush hose. You can’t screw your airbrush tool directly onto your air source, nor would you want to because that would put a lot of restriction on your arm movements. This is where the hose comes in. The hose attaches on one end to your airbrush, and on the other end to your air source. Not every hose matches every airbrush, which is why going with a kit where the items have been preselected for each other is a good idea.
The air source that the other end of your hose attaches to is an air compressor, which converts power into potential energy that is stored as pressurized air. There are different types of compressors; you can find your standard compressor at a big buy store like Lowes or Home Depot. These are best for working on larger items like t-shirts or bicycles. If you need a more precise compressor for work like makeup jobs, go to an arts and craft store — they’ll have compressors designed for more delicate jobs like nail art.
One final item you should look for is an airbrush holder, which is exactly what it sounds like. Just like a case for your phone or iPad, a holder for your airbrush will protect this very expensive tool if you drop it on the ground.