Friday, September 27, 2013

WORKSPACE: Sub $100 airbrush setup

Using an airbrush is essential to bringing your hobby painting to the next level, but many people put it off because they think it's prohibitively expensive, or too difficult to master.

I've included links to the exact setup I use... and it costs less than a new battleforce!

Simply put, if you are serious about the hobby, you need to use an airbrush. Even if you aren't painting a lot of vehicles or scenery, an airbrush will allow you to paint entire squads in half the time it takes with a brush, and will produce results that are finer, and maintain more model detail than traditional techniques ever could. Honestly, it's so fast and easy that it feels like cheating.

The two major roadblocks that keep people from taking the next step and purchasing an airbrush are: 1. that they're too expensive, and 2. that they're too difficult to use. Both of these are total misconceptions, and I'll dispel them here.

1. They're too expensive
Not true. Many name brand airbrushes and compressors ARE expensive, but like most things, you can find inexpensive alternatives that work just as well for a fraction of the price. Buying your first airbrush is like buying your first car or motorcycle - you don't go out and get a Porche. You buy the crappy beater because you're learning.

A basic airbrush setup has four parts:

1. The airbrush.
This is the exact model I use. It's a Master G25 dual action, .2mm nozzle GRAVITY FEED airbrush. you can find it HERE on for $24 new. It's amazingly low priced, and is an exceptional, entry level airbrush. the results you get from this brush are comparable to name brand brushes 6 - 8 times the cost.
COST $24.00

2. The hose.
This connects the airbrush to the compressor. Grab one online for $3.85!
COST $4.00

3. The compressor.
An airbrush is nothing without a source of air. Many, silent tabletop compressors sell for $150 - $250. While the noiseless compression is nice, they actually have a downside - they heat quickly, and introduce the heat into the air line, causing the paint in the airbrush to act strangely. This budget compressor from HARBOR FRIEGHT is $55. While it is INSANELY LOUD, it only needs to run for 4 minutes, and stores enough air for 20 minutes of continuous airbrushing.
COST $55.00

4. The stand
You need someplace to put the airbrush when you are not holding it. This combination stand and flush tank can be found on for $10.50 or at Harbor Frieght for $9.99. It is essential that you have someplace to flush out your airbrush between colors, and this tank is perfect.
COST $10.00

While not a main element of the setup, you will also want to pick up a set of cleaning brushes for maintaining the airbrush and clearing clogs. You can find it at HARBOR FREIGHT for $1.99!


For less than the cost of a battleforce, you can have a complete airbrush setup, and move your hobbying to the next level.

2. They're too difficult to use/master
There are literally THOUSANDS of airbrush tutorials on youtube that cover the basics of airbrushing. Through my own experience, I can tell you that all you need is 1 youtube tutorial and half an hour practicing on a piece of blank paper to master every technique you will need to understand how to use an airbrush, and begin painting your armies and vehicles.

Mastery comes through practice, and the more miniatures you paint, the more capable and confident you'll become. Within the first hour, you'll realize how much faster, finer, and easier painting with an airbrush is, and you'll kick yourself for not switching sooner!

Do you have a favorite airbrush setup? Have an tips or tricks for beginners? Add them in the comments below!


  1. Make sure you get the hose that matches your airbrush! They come in at least 2 main sizes. They should all be the same diameter on the compressor side, but the airbrush side can vary.

  2. this is true! On the upside, the appropriate sized adapter can be purchased at Harbor Frieght for $1.50!

  3. Where would you get the paint hoppers for the Airbrush?

  4. Not sure which part you are referring to.

    1. My friend's airbrush has a pot to hold his paint. I didn't see where the G25 would hold the paint.

  5. Oh! It goes in the little cup that's built into the top if the airbrush. You can see it towards the front end. This allows you to use small amounts of paint appropriate for miniatures painting.

    Your friend probably has an airbrush with a large glass container connected to the bottom of the brush. This is called a siphon feed brush, and isn't really appropriate for miniatures painting because you have to use a large quantity of paint to make it feed properly.

  6. Dude this is a very nice article for beginners. Only one thing though. Never ever ever use the brushes to clean the airbrush. PERIOD. It actually voids the warranty. The interior of the airbrush is micro-shaped and even the smallest blemish/scratch can ruin it. The brushes are a trick to get more money out of you for a product that you don't need and shouldn't use. To clean clogs just shoot cleaner through the airbrush. If you never let paint dry inside you will never even have to dis-assemble the brush let alone destroy it with the brush. Check out this video on Wargamer's Consortium

    It is very long but it is the gospel truth about airbrushing, by the owner of Badger, a man who makes some of the finest airbrushes out there. Anyway that's just the input of somebody who has been airbrushing for a very long time and has destroyed a fair amount of paintguns....

  7. Interesting. I can't say I've suffered any ill effects from using the cleaning brushes, but then, my air bushes are all $20 Chinese brands from amazon, and not high-end instruments like badger etc.

  8. Absolutely brilliant video, by the way. Thank you very much for sharing!

  9. Do you have to airbrush upright or can you do with job flat?

    1. Generally, you want the piece you are painting to be upright. In fact, it's important to mount the piece you are painting on a stick or other base (like an old, empty paint pot) so that you can rotate the piece as you are painting it.

  10. I'm looking into getting an airbrush. a year and half later, is this still what you're using? any updates as things have worn out over time or not?

    1. We've both upgraded our compressors, but there's still nothing at all wrong with this setup for a beginner. The compressor is a little loud and might occasionally put a little water in your line, but that's what happens with a sub $100 setup. The airbrushes are Chinese made and fairly low quality, but you can get a ton of use out of them before they crap out. And when they do, you can replace them quickly and cheaply. In the meantime, you'll learn a lot about what you like/dislike.
      You can absolutely work with this rig and upgrade parts one at a time as your experience and budget improve.