Airbrushes are one of the most common tools for painting, used for murals, car parts, and even 3D prints. One of the best ways you can use an airbrush is to paint miniatures, those super-small, heavily-detailed 3D prints.
Airbrushes are super useful for painting 3D printed miniatures because they allow for super precise control of paint flow, which is key for a good paint job on a small part. Additionally, airbrushes provide super even coats of paint so it’s easy to avoid any paint blobbing or dripping.
If you want to use an airbrush to paint miniatures, I strongly recommend the Iwata-Medea Eclipse HP CS. It’s a high-quality airbrush, with a dual-action trigger, that makes it super easy to paint small features on all your 3D printed miniatures.
But, if you’re new to airbrushes, an airbrush kit, like the Gocheer Airbrush Kit will contain everything you need to get started, including a dual-action airbrush tool, a 40 PSI air compressor, and more!
Want to learn more about the best airbrush for miniatures? Just keep reading!
Table of Contents
- Best Airbrushes for Miniatures At A Glance
- Best Airbrushes
- What is an Airbrush?
- How Does an Airbrush Work?
- Why Use an Airbrush?
- How to Use an Airbrush for Miniatures?
- What Size of Airbrush is Best for Miniatures?
- How to Clean Your Airbrush?
- Considerations for Buying an Airbrush for Miniatures
- Types of Airbrush
- Accessories Needed to Start Airbrushing
- Airbrush VS Paint Brush
- What PSI Should You Use?
Best Airbrushes for Miniatures At A Glance
Below, you’ll find a list of the best airbrush products for painting 3D printed miniatures. I’ve personally reviewed many of these products, and have drawn on my own experiences, as well as thousands of unique reviews, to provide you with a good overview of each airbrush.
First up, is the airbrush kit from Gocheer. Gocheer is a Chinese Amazon brand, and, while it’s not a company known for making airbrushes, their products aren’t terrible and they’re decently affordable too.
The kit we’re going over today comes with an airbrush tool, an air compressor, three paint cups, a hose, a humidity trap, two extra needles and nozzles, cleaning tools, and a few other accessories. With all of this included, you can buy just this product and get right to painting your miniatures!
The airbrush tool included with this kit features a double-action trigger, meaning you can control both the airflow and paint flow with a single finger. In my testing of this product, I found that the trigger mechanism could get jammed sometimes. But, don’t worry, because pulling the trigger a few times usually did the trick to fix it.
As for the airbrush’s painting abilities, I was able to achieve some pretty precise paint jobs without much tuning. And, on this note, the Gocheer airbrush is very easy to adjust with a fluid adjustment knob integrated into the back of the tool. Plus, changing the needle and nozzles was super easy!
The air compressor that came in the kit was also decent. While it’s only capable of 40 PSI, this air pressure is definitely enough for miniature painting and I didn’t have a problem with it.
So, if you want a good kit for painting miniatures, then definitely consider the Gocheer airbrush kit!
Second, the Master Airbrush G233 is a decently high-quality airbrush tool that’s perfect for anyone looking for a good bang for their buck. The G233 doesn’t come with a compressor or too many other accessories like a full-on airbrush kit, but the actual airbrush tool is impressively reliable and still costs under $50.
The Master Airbrush G233 features an integrated paint cup, a dual-action trigger, and an adjustable fluid knob. And, the airbrush has a standard hose coupler, so you can use whatever air compressor you want with this tool.
After testing the G233, I found the tool was very capable when it came to miniature painting, and you can use any of the three nozzle and needle sizes that the product comes with depending on how large of a surface you are painting. I stuck with the 0.3-mm nozzle, but, for even more precise paint jobs, you can disassemble the tool and swap to the 0.2-mm needle and nozzle.
So, if you want a high-quality airbrush under $50, I strongly recommend the Master Airbrush G233. It functions just like a high-end airbrush, like one from Iwata, but it’s a way better bang for your buck.
Next, the Iwata-Medea Eclipse HP CS is one of the best airbrushes on the market. And, with a decently small 0.35-mm needle and nozzle, this airbrush is perfect for painting small features on any 3D printed part.
The Eclipse HP CS has a dual-action trigger and a built-in, non-removable paint cup that can hold a ⅓ oz of paint. As such, you probably can’t use this airbrush for painting super large surfaces, but, for the purpose of painting miniatures, it’s perfect.
I should also point out that the trigger system on this airbrush is the smoothest I’ve ever seen. You can really tell that Iwata, one of the leading airbrush manufacturers, made this product! The fluid adjustment knob is also very well-designed, and you can rotate the knob easily to control the trigger limits for more control over the painting process.
On another note, the Iwat-Medea Eclipse HP CS airbrush doesn’t come with basically any accessories so you’ll have to use your own airbrush compressor and cleaning tools. This is kind of a bummer considering the relatively high price of this airbrush.
But, if you’re looking for the highest-quality airbrush on the market, with the best reliability and extreme painting precision, then the Iwata-Medea Eclipse HP CS airbrush is the one for you!
Another kit option on this list is by Fascinated; yes, that is the actual name of the company. Fascinated, like Gocheer, isn’t really known for making airbrushes, but, from my personal testing, I found their cordless airbrush kit to work just fine!
A cordless airbrush, as you can imagine, is an airbrush tool with a battery-powered air compressor that attaches directly to the tool (no hose required). This setup is typically not preferred when painting large items, but, for painting miniatures and other small 3D prints, it works perfectly! Furthermore, when painting some prints with this airbrush, I loved how there was no tube to get in the way and the whole assembly was so light and portable.
In all honesty, the hardware in this kit isn’t top-notch, and the airbrush tool clogged a few times while I was painting. But I should also mention that the tool was very easy to clean as you can detach it from the air compressor part so you can safely put some water (or airbrush cleaner) in it for cleaning purposes.
The airbrush tool is also double-action, which I love because it allows you to hold your 3D printed part in one hand and operate the tool in the other.
So, if you’re looking for a low-cost airbrush that’s not the highest quality on the market but doesn’t have any wires or hoses, then I strongly recommend the cordless airbrush kit from Fascinated!
Lastly, another airbrush product from the famed Iwata company is their Revolution Cr. The Iwata Revolution Cr is an all-metal, precisely-manufactured airbrush that’s perfect for miniature painting.
What I noticed most about the Revolution Cr is its reliability. Probably stemming from the high-quality, rigid metal body of the tool, this airbrush simply doesn’t have nearly as many clogging issues as any other airbrush I’ve used.
The airbrush, while it doesn’t come with a compressor or any accessories, has an integrated paint cup and a standard hose screw coupling (for attaching an air compressor hose). Plus, the tool features a dual-action trigger, which works super smoothly. No jamming here!
Another thing I should mention is that this product comes with a small bottle of airbrush lubricant, so you don’t have to buy your own. While this isn’t too significant a product detail, it’s the little things that matter!
So, if you want a high-quality airbrush and are looking to get really good at miniature painting, then the Iwata Revolution Cr might be for you!
What is an Airbrush?
An airbrush is a tool that uses compressed air to spray liquid paint (or other substances) as an aerosol. It’s basically a specialized spray paint can, but much more adjustable and you can swap the paint easily.
An airbrush typically consists of a small, handheld device (the actual airbrush tool) that is connected to an air compressor one on end and a small paint cup. There are many other parts that go with an airbrush, like the needle and trigger, but we’ll go over these in the next section.
Airbrushes have been around for a while, and they’re super versatile. Furthermore, you can use an airbrush for basically any type of painting, whether you’re painting a 3D printed part, coloring a banner, or writing something on a T-shirt.
Airbrushes can be used to create a wide range of effects, from soft, subtle gradients to bold, graphic lines. While airbrushes are commonly used for misting (applying light coats to an entire surface), with the right adjustments and some artistic ability, you can use an airbrush to paint very small and precise features.
How Does an Airbrush Work?
Airbrushes are surprisingly complex devices with many small moving features. But the simplified version of how they work is by feeding liquid paint into a small tube (needle) and then allowing fast-moving, compressed air to flow through the needle. When the liquid paint and compressed air meet, an aerosol form of the paint is sprayed out of the tube.
If you’re more of a visual learner, check out the simplified diagram of how an airbrush works:
Some other noteworthy features of the airbrush is the nozzle, which is the end of the needle where the aerosol paint flows out. On most airbrushes, you can adjust the nozzle size, just like on a 3D printer, to control the width of the paint outflow. For painting miniature 3D prints, a smaller nozzle size, like 0.2 or 0.3 mm, is best as it makes painting small features way easier.
Additionally, airbrushes usually have a screw, known as the fluid adjustment knob, on the back (right in the picture) that controls how far back you can pull the trigger. The more you can pull the trigger back, the more paint will flow out the nozzle when the compressed air comes in.
It’s worth pointing out that, today, there are tons of different airbrushes on the market. And, while they may all look different and boast seemingly unique features, the overall process of how they work is pretty much the same.
However, airbrushes tend to vary in two main ways, including how paint is fed into the tool and how the trigger works. We’ll go over the different types of both of these categories in later sections.
Why Use an Airbrush?
An airbrush offers a handful of benefits over other painting methods, such as using a paintbrush or even using a standard spray paint can.
First off, an airbrush makes it very easy to apply even smooth coats of paint on a surface. This stems from the fact that the paint comes out as an aerosol and you don’t have to use a brush, which can yield noticeable brush marks on the surface you’re painting.
Second, unlike a spray paint can, an airbrush is capable of applying paint in an extremely precise manner. With the right nozzle size, air compressor PSI, and fluid adjustment knob, you can paint super small features, which is great for painting miniatures as well as murals.
Another benefit of an airbrush is that it can be very cost-efficient. Spray paint bottles are typically more expensive than bottles of liquid airbrush paint. So, while an airbrush obviously requires an upfront cost, you’ll save money in the long run.
Lastly, an airbrush can come in handy for drying paint too. That’s because, when you empty the paint cup and pull the airbrush trigger, the compressed air will come out of the needle. I’ve found this is super helpful for expediting the paint drying process and it saves me at least 10-20 minutes each time I paint something.
How to Use an Airbrush for Miniatures?
Using an airbrush to paint 3D printed miniatures, whether it’s D&D figurines or War Hammer characters, is super easy and fun.
Start by removing your 3D printed miniature from your printer, whether it’s an FDM or resin machine. Make sure you remove any support material from the part and, if you can, sand down the surface so the paint can properly stick to the print. I also highly recommend applying a coat of primer before using your airbrush; you can buy spray primer online or at any local hardware store.
Once your print is ready for airbrush painting, prepare your airbrush by connecting the air tube, loading paint into the paint cup, and setting the fluid adjustment knob. Then, turn on the air compressor, and, pointing the tool away from the print, pull the trigger to check that paint and air are properly flowing through the tool.
At this point, if you’ve never used an airbrush before, I recommend practicing pulling the trigger and controlling the flow of air and paint. Even a few minutes of practice will go a long way in ensuring a high-quality paint job for your 3D printed miniatures.
Once you’re ready, position the airbrush towards the area on your 3D print that you want to paint. Make sure you’re holding the airbrush with proper form and that the tip of the tool is no closer than 6-8 inches from the surface you’re painting. Then, pull the trigger and get painting!
When painting a 3D printed miniature, patience, and precision is key. Make sure you’re not rushing through the process as this will result in a poorly-painted part. Instead, put on some tunes and pay close attention to your hand movements as one wrong slip could cause paint to splatter.
If you ever want to switch colors, pour the remaining paint from the paint cup back into your paint bottle. Then, load the new paint in, and hold the trigger down with the tool away from your print to let all of the old paint flow out. Once you see the new paint color coming out, re-position the airbrush toward the part you want to paint!
It’s that easy! In no time, you should have an excellent, precisely-painted 3D printed miniature that you can show off to everyone you know!
What Size of Airbrush is Best for Miniatures?
When it comes to airbrushing 3D printed miniatures, the best size for the airbrush nozzle will depend on the size of the part you’re painting. But, in general, smaller is better because 3D printed miniatures, as stated in the name, are mini.
Furthermore, a small nozzle size, between 0.1 and 0.3 mm, will allow for precise paint flow, which is exactly what you’ll need for painting 3D printed miniatures.
If you can, I suggest getting a pack of airbrush nozzles and needles with sizes from 0.1 to 0.5 mm. With a handful of size options, you can change the nozzle and needle on your airbrush depending on how much precision you need for painting a certain feature on a 3D printed part.
How to Clean Your Airbrush?
Cleaning an airbrush is one of the most important things that you should know how to do. If you don’t know how to clean it, then it will almost definitely clog, and you won’t be able to use the tool. I’ve provided some easy-to-follow, step-by-step instructions for how to clean your airbrush below:
- Start by disconnecting the airbrush from the air tube. Also make sure that the other detachable parts are removed, including the nozzle and needle.
- Rinse the parts under running water to remove any excess paint or residue.
- Fill a small container with airbrush cleaning solution and soak the disassembled parts for 10-15 minutes.
- After soaking, use a soft-bristled brush to scrub the parts gently. Be careful not to damage the delicate parts of the airbrush.
- Rinse the parts again with clean water to remove any remaining cleaning solution. Then, dry the parts thoroughly with a soft cloth or paper towel.
- Once the parts are dry, reassemble the airbrush tool carefully, making sure that all parts fit together snugly.
- Before using the airbrush, test it by spraying some clean water through it to make sure that everything is working correctly.
Following these steps should ensure that your airbrush tool is clean and usable the next time you need to paint something. I suggest cleaning the tool after every use as leaving paint remnants inside the tool could cause permanent damage to the airbrush.
Considerations for Buying an Airbrush for Miniatures
When purchasing an airbrush, there are a handful of factors that you should keep in mind. I’ve gone over the most important ones in the sections below.
Type of Airbrush
First, you should consider the type of airbrush tool you’re getting. As we’ll go over later, there are three main types of airbrushes, each different in their trigger system. In general, dual-action trigger airbrushes are the most favorable (and also the most popular), so keep this in mind.
Nozzle and Needle Size
The nozzle and needle sizes control how precise and sharp your airbrush is. A smaller nozzle and needle size will make it easier to paint small features, like text and eyes, on parts. On the other hand, a larger nozzle and needle size will be much more effective for spraying large coats of paint onto a surface.
Before you buy an airbrush, be sure to check the nozzle and needle size.
The cup size is how much paint the airbrush can hold at one time. Most airbrushes have a screw-on cup, meaning it’s possible to swap to a larger cup size. Check how large the paint cup is before buying your airbrush.
Types of Airbrush
There are a few different types of airbrush tools out there, and, while they all look similar, they function slightly differently and offer different benefits. I’ve gone over the types of airbrush tools, in terms of their trigger systems, in the sections below:
A single-action airbrush is an airbrush tool where you can only control the flow of compressed air. How much paint flows through the tool is dependent on a knob, separate from the spray trigger. With this type of airbrush, to spray paint, simply pull the trigger and it should come flying out.
A dual-action airbrush is perhaps the most common type of airbrush tool and my personal favorite. With this type of tool, the trigger moves both up and down and back and forth. The up-and-down motion controls the airflow while the back-and-forth motion controls the inflow of paint into the system.
This type of airbrush makes it much easier to control how much paint you want to come out of the airbrush at any given moment. While it can take some practice to get used to using a dual-action airbrush, it’s still pretty simple to use.
Finally, a pistol trigger airbrush is an airbrush tool with a squeeze handle trigger. This type of airbrush is more popular in the automotive sector as these airbrushes tend to support higher paint and airflow. To use this type of airbrush, simply squeeze the handle, and air will flow through taking the paint with it, which comes out at a fixed rate (set by a knob).
Accessories Needed to Start Airbrushing
Besides the actual airbrush tool, there are a handful of other accessories needed to get started. I’ve briefly gone over the main ones in the sub-sections below:
The second most important part of an airbrush is the compressor. The compressor is the electronic part responsible for compressing air and sending it, usually through a hose, to the airbrush tool.
If you get an airbrush starter kit, then a compressor is most likely included. Most require their own power source, but some, like those in portable airbrushes, are battery-powered.
It’s also worth noting that not all compressors are the same and they vary in their PSI, which is how fast they push air to the airbrush tool. In general, anything above 25 PSI should effectively allow for the paint to flow out the airbrush tool, but the higher PSI your compressor can handle, the better. Personally, I’ve found that 40 PSI works great!
Obviously, if you want to use an airbrush to paint something, you’ll need some paint. But not just any paint works with an airbrush.
As we previously went over, an airbrush turns liquid, non-aerosol paints into sprayable paint using air compression. As such, you’ll need liquid paint to use with your airbrush. I strongly recommend using water-based paint, like acrylic paint, as these make it easier to clean your airbrush tool. But there are many options you can use!
Airbrush cleaner is a special liquid solution that’s meant for clearing out dried paint and any other contaminants that may have snuck their way into your airbrush tool. When I first got an airbrush tool, I chose not to get some airbrush cleaner and, within just a few days of using the tool, the tool clogged and I had to buy some anyways. As such, I strongly recommend adding some to your cart next time you’re on Amazon or at the store.
If you’re trying to paint a logo, border, or anything else that requires straight lines or a decent level of precision, then painter’s tape is a must. Painter’s tape is that blue tape you probably see in stores that you can put over parts to prevent paint from settling in that area. You can purchase painter’s tape online or at basically any hardware or even a grocery store!
A pipette is another great airbrush accessory and it makes adding and removing paint from your airbrush tool’s paint cup a breeze. All you have to do is stick the pipette into your desired bottle of paint, squeeze it to let the paint flow into the pipette, and then squeeze it again inside the airbrush paint cup. If you don’t already have a pipette, you can get one for very little online or at a hardware store.
If whatever airbrush you purchased doesn’t come with them, then it’s practically a must to get some airbrush cleaning tools. Cleaning tools for an airbrush typically include a set of small brushes, pics, and needles, and they are essential for properly cleaning and maintaining your airbrush. They’re also super inexpensive, so it’s not a purchase that will break the bank!
Airbrush lubricant is another accessory worth getting. Over time and after a lot of use, some of the moving parts on your airbrush might start to become more resistant to movement. Applying airbrush lubricant around the tip of your airbrush’s needle can help ensure that the needle moves back and forth every time you pull the trigger.
Plus, airbrush lubricant is super inexpensive and a single bottle will last months. With this in mind, I strongly recommend getting some online or at a local hardware store if they sell them!
Gloves are super helpful when using an airbrush because they keep your hands clean. Of course, you don’t need gloves, and, to be honest, I never use them because I use acrylic paints with my airbrush and these come off the skin very easily. But if you’re skin is very sensitive, then I recommend wearing gloves every time you use an airbrush.
Finally, if you’re painting in a poorly-ventilated space, a respirator or other type of filtered mask is strongly recommended. That’s because, every time you use your airbrush, paint particles will get in the air. And, if the room you’re painting it doesn’t have good airflow or an active filtering device, these unhealthy particles will get in your lungs, which is a big no-no.
Airbrush VS Paint Brush
While they might have similar names, an airbrush, and a paint brush are two very different things.
An airbrush, as we’ve explained, is a tool that uses compressed air to spray liquid paint as an aerosol. On the other hand, a paintbrush is a physical brush, with bristles, that is meant to be dipped in liquid paint and then brushed on a surface.
An airbrush is much better than a paintbrush if you want to apply thin, even coats of paint to an object. Additionally, because no brush is involved with an airbrush, you won’t see any brushmarks or unevenness in the paint like you would if you used a paintbrush.
However, a paintbrush is better for painting small features, like the eyes of a 3D printed War Hammer character. That’s because, with a steady hand and a small brush, it’s much easier to paint very small areas with a paintbrush compares to if you were using an airbrush with a small nozzle and needle.
As such, you might want to familiarize yourself with both painting techniques and tools to achieve the best, most well-painted projects!
What PSI Should You Use?
PSI is the measurement of air pressure (it stands for “pounds per square inch”) and knowing what PSI to use for your airbrush air compressor is very important.
The rule of thumb for airbrushes is that 30 PSI is the minimum air pressure for using an airbrush. Anything less than 30 PSI might not be enough to properly push paint through the airbrush tool. As for the upper limit, most people like to use no more than 65 PSI as anything higher could potentially cause issues with painting with the airbrush.
For painting 3D printed miniatures, but really just any part, I’ve found that 40-50 PSI works perfectly. Of course, you might want to experiment with higher or lower air pressure values to see which ones you like best. But, in general, 40-50 PSI should provide a good mix between air flow for paint and painting precision.
Overall, an airbrush is a great tool for painting parts, especially small ones like 3D printed miniatures.
If you want to paint minis, whether it’s War Hammer characters or generally-small models, then you should definitely consider getting an airbrush. They can lay down very even layers of paint, yield no brush marks, and work with basically any water or oil-based liquid paint.
If you’re looking for a good all-around airbrush, the Gocheer 40 PSI kit is a great option. It’s one of the best airbrush kits out there, and it comes with everything you need to get started painting miniatures! While some clogging and jamming issues might occur, it’s an overall reliable airbrush.
But, if you’re already an airbrushing pro and want an airbrush that can handle super precise paint jobs, the Iwata-Medea Eclipse HP CS airbrush is the one for you! The Eclipse HP CS has a hefty price tag and doesn’t come with an air compressor like airbrush kits do, but it can handle super precise painting, which comes in handy when you’re painting miniatures!