I get questions regularly on what hardware I use in my airbrush setup. Below I’ll show you what I use and some alternatives if you want to save a few bucks. I’m linking to various vendors; however, I don’t get any payment for these items, so buy where you’re most convenient.
Air Brush – I have two, and I like the cheaper one better
- Iwata HP-C Plus – this was my first brush. It is better made than my Neo; however, I use the Neo day in and out for the reasons I will explain below.
- Iwata Neo CN – I bought this brush locally on sale for about $40. You can get it on Amazon for under $55, and close to $40 at Dick Blick right now.. This is a great brush that will take you from beginner to experienced intermediate and perhaps beyond.
The Neo is a workhorse. It has a 5 year warranty, but I’m not sure how easy it is to use. We’ll see if I have more issues in the future. The material is not as high a quality as the HP, but it sprays every bit as nicely for miniatures in my experience. There are a few known issues, the most common of which involves the threaded cap letting in air, because there is no seal. You can use thread tape sparingly, or grease/chapstick to plug any air that gets in. Mine started doing this recently – whatever you use you’ll have to reapply after you tear down the brush for cleaning. It is rumored that the needle is not as finely polished as nicer brushes (you can polish with a very high grit sand paper). All in all, at 25% of the price, I like this brush, especially with a removable paint reservoir. I use it without either hopper in place.
Air Brush Accessories
I consider both of these items to be mandatory:
- Quick Disconnect – allows you to take the brush off the line without loosing pressure. Win. If you want to equip a 2nd brush, you just need this part.
- Air Hose – I specifically like this air hose because it is light and doesn’t weigh down the brush.
These are nice to have, but you can accomplish the same thing other ways:
- Cleaning Station – allows you to rest your airbrush while not in use and clean out the brush into a contained pot without adding particulates to the air.
- Spare Needle and Nozzle – I would also recommend having a spare needle and nozzle on hand so that when you accidentally damage one you won’t be out of action for a few days.
- Needle Lube – while this is not 100% necessary, I would recommend getting this, or another needle lubricant. Apply it at the beginning and ending of any session. Just a small dab on the needle and then use your fingers to spread it along the top half of the needle.
- Crown Cap – I have one, and use it on occasion, but I generally go without a cap at all. It’s good protection for the needle while still providing access to the needle for cleaning.
You have to have one. What kind you gets depends on where you paint and how much tolerance for noise you have. I paint in my office, down the hall from my daughter’s bedroom. I need a quiet compressor. If I didn’t need quiet and I painted in my garage I’d just use one of my loud tool air compressors with a water trap. I previously had a compressor from TC-Global. It was a good compressor, but it burned itself out from heat after 2 years. I think this was due to a slow leak in my air brush hose. I would have bought the compressor again, but I needed one right away and had to buy locally.
- TC-20T – You really want a tank. It helps stabilize the air pressure and reduces pulsation from the compressor motor. Under $100 this is a good buy.
- Badger TC-910 Aspire Pro – At twice the price (>$200) I’m sure you don’t get twice the value. I like the case and handle. I’ve never used the brush holders. It does feel slightly better made, but I’d probably go with the TC model and replace after a few years for less than one of these.
If you’re on a real budget you can get a compressor from harbor freight. It will work, but I don’t know how happy you’ll be with detail work. I’ve also heard that you can buy a semi-truck inner tube and fill it with air and use it for just a few bucks. Hmmm…