Airbrushing is not only an art, but it is also a technique. Abner Peeler invented the handheld instrument that distributes paint in the late 1890s.
The first-ever company to start selling airbrushes was Fountain Brush Company located in the United States.
Today, airbrushes are used in multiple scenarios. It can be used for applying makeup, tattoos, tanning, etc. It can also be used for painting miniatures or for painting on motorcycles or cars.
That being said, you can´t do any of that if your airbrush is not working properly. The most common problem with airbrushes is that the airflow is either not good enough or no air is flowing at all. So in this article, I will go over all the different reasons and possible solutions to this problem.
Your airbrush is not blowing air because either the pressure of your compressor is so low that not enough pressure can be build up or because something is hindering the air from flowing properly. Things like a wrongly installed valve; dirt, or old paint stuck inside the airbrush; a corroded hose; wrongly hooked up hose; and more could be the reason.
As you can see, there can be multiple reasons for poor or nonexistent airflow. And it can be a little hard to figure out which one of these issues is the one that is stopping the air of your airbrush to flow freely.
So I have created a little checklist, that you can go through in order to identify the problem fast and efficiently. I also provide a solution for all of the known issues.
How to Identify The Cause of Bad Air Flow And Fix Your Airbrush
This is going to be a Checklist.
So please work your way from top to bottom through the list and check each of the possible problems individually in order to identify the problem accurately. Keep in mind, that there might be multiple problems with your airbrush.
Check If Your Airbrush Is Hooked Up Correctly
This is probably something that only beginners do wrong but even if you are a veteran airbrush artist I would still recommend checking if you hooked up the air hose properly. Especially if you are using a new piece of equipment.
Check if your hose is connected to the “out” of your air compressor. Depending on the kind of compressor that you are using the out for the hose might be labeled differently.
It is best to check the instructions in order to ensure that everything is hooked up properly.
Well, the solution is pretty easy. Simply hook up the airbrush correctly and make sure that the hose is not bend to ensure a steady airflow.
Check If The Valve on Your Compressor is Set Correctly
Some Compressors have a valve that regulates the air pressure. If that valve is all the way open then chances are that not enough air can flow to the airbrush resulting in no air pressure being build in the airbrush itself.
This can actually happen if you are using a new compressor as some compressors come with an open valve right out of the box. So you have to close it in order to get some pressure flowing through the hose.
Check the instructions of your airbrush compressor and if it has a valve for regulating the air pressure then adjust it carefully.
Check If Your Compressor is Good Enough for Airbrushing
If you bought a cheap airbrush set online then chances are, that you did get a compressor that just isn´t strong enough to effectivly use it for airbrushing.
You need a compressor that can generate a stable 30 PSI at Least in order to use your airbrush properly. The 30 PSI are just a point of reference. Your compressor should output at least 30 PSI but there are a lot of airbrushes that actually require way more than that to function properly.
So Check the instructions of your airbrush to get an idea of how much PSI your compressor has to be able to constantly put out in order to use the airbrush properly.
If your compressor isn´t good enough for your airbrush then there really isn´t any way around buying a new one. Just make sure that the new compressor can output the required PSI consistently.
Also, keep in mind that you can adjust the pressure of most compressors at least to a certain degree.
Check if the Hose of Your Airbrush Is Damaged Or Corroded
This actually happened to me once and it took me quite some while to figure out.
If your compressor is working properly and it is putting out the right amount of pressure but nothing is reaching the airbrush itself then chances are that something is wrong with the hose itself.
Sometimes if the hose is old it can either start to leak air, which could lead to a massive drop in air pressure and therefore the airbrush not working correctly, or the hose could be corroded, at which point it could either start to leak or it could clog the hose.
To test if your hose is fully functional simply submerge it in a little bit of water and see if air bubbles are coming up anywhere where they are not supposed to.
If the whose has just a small leak and is otherwise fully functional then you can simply fix it with a bike tire repair kit.
But if your hose is already a bit older and has multiple leaks then I would simply buy a new one.
Check if Your Airbrush is Clogged
If nothing is wrong with your compressor or the hose then something has to be wrong with your airbrush.
At this point, there are several things that can clog your airbrush.
The most obvious reason for a clogged airbrush is dried paint. In order to check if there is dried paint that hinders the airflow in any way, you have to disassemble the airbrush.
So take it apart carefully until you get to the needle. The needle or the tip of the airbrush are the two parts where dried paint can hinder the airflow.
So if the needle or the tip of the airbrush is dirty then you have to clean them.
Depending on the paint or dirt that is in there you will need a different solution for cleaning.
Most of the time simple rubbing alcohol will suffice but sometimes you have to use something that is a little more aggressive.
So if rubbing alcohol doesn´t work then try using window cleaner.
Check if the Needle of the Airbrush Has the Right Size
If there is no paint on the needle or at the tip that could clog the airbrush then the size of the needle might be wrong for the airbrush or for the tip.
If the needle is too big then it might block the air from flowing freely. So make sure, that your needle has the right size for the airbrush and for the tip that you are using on the airbrush.
You can usually find information about the optimal needle and tip size in your airbrush manual.
Take your airbrush apart and take the needle and the tip out.
Then install a new needle that fits properly in the airbrush and install the matching tip as well.
Check if the Airbrush Button is Working Properly
The final thing that could be causing problems for you is the actual airbrush button.
So if the compressor is working, the hose is good, and the airbrush is nor clogged then pretty much the only thing that is left is that the button is not working properly.
The only thing you can do here is to check if you did something wrong when you reassembled the airbrush.
But if the button just isn´t working then you might need to get a new airbrush entirely.
Hi, I am a passionate maker and professional prop maker for the entertainment industry. I use my woodworking, programming, electronics, and illustration know-how to create these interactive props. And I share my knowledge and my experience on this blog with you so that you can become a maker yourself.