There is not much that is more frustrating than getting a new airbrush, putting everything together, mixing and filling the paint in, and then the airbrush just doesn´t spray any paint at all. I have been there and it is really frustrating so I decided to write this article in the hopes of helping everyone out there to avoid as much of this frustration as possible by telling you the most common reasons for an airbrush not feeding any paint and how to fix it permanently.
If an airbrush is not spraying paint try if the airbrush sprays pure water, if it does then the paint was too thick. If the needle isn´t moving when the trigger is pulled back then either the needle isn´t tightened properly or the needle is stuck. If nothing helps then chances are that the airbrush is clogged or the needle has the wrong size.
As you can see there are several reasons for an airbrush not spraying any paint.
If you have an airbrush that is not feeding any paint then simply check each potential problem listed below one after another until you find what’s wrong with your airbrush.
I have put them in order from the most common problems to the least common. So I would recommend going through them in the order I presented them here.
The Paint is too Thick
Believe it or not this is actually the most common reason for an airbrush not dispencing any paint.
If your airbrush is blowing air out but no paint comes out then chances are your paint just isn´t thin enough to be sprayed properly.
Testing if too Thick Paint is the Issue
To test if this is the case simply empty your paint reservoir and clean in thoroughly.
Then fill the reservoir with either plain water or an airbrush thinner or airbrush cleaner.
Then see if the airbrush is spraying that.
If the airbrush is indeed feeding the liquid then your paint was simply too thick.
Hot to Fix it
To fix this issue simply thin down your paint a little more until it is thin enough that the airbrush can spray it properly.
You should also clean the needle of your airbrush and the reservoir thoroughly to make sure that non of the thick paint is hindering the flow of the new thinner paint in any way.
Your paint could also have lumps in it in which case you should either use another paint entirely or you should mix it properly when thinning it to make sure no lumps are getting inside of the system of your airbrush at all.
You can also increase the air pressure slightly to help with the dispersing of slightly thicker paint.
Needle Stuck or Needle Chuck is Not Tightened
This is one of those problems that you spent hours on finding and when you finally do discover it you are actually mad at yourself for not finding it earlier because it is so obvious.
Testing if Your Needle is Moving
Simply pull back the trigger of your airbrush and see if the needle is moving or it is static.
The needle has to move back in order for the paint to flow through the nozzle.
If the needle is not moving then no paint will come out of the airbrush but air will still blow out.
How to Fix it
There can be several reasons for a needle not moving.
The most common one is simply forgetting to tighten the needle chuck.
This is easily fixed by simply tightening the needle chuck properly when the trigger is in the neutral position.
If the needle is properly fixed but it still won’t move then disassemble the airbrush and check if the needle is either stuck from dried paint or if the needle is straight.
If the needle is just dirty all you have to do is cleaning it properly with some alcohol or airbrush cleaner. Then reassemble the airbrush and you are god to go.
If the needle is bend then you have to get a new one. I tried bending airbrush needles back again in the past and it never turned out well. So just get a new needle and spare yourself the hassle of bending a needle straight again.
The Nozzle is Plugged
This one is not as common but I had it happen to me in the past a few times. So it is worth checking if the previous points didn´t help you with fixing your airbrush.
Testing if the Nozzle is Clogged
Sometimes you can see if the nozzle is clogged right away. If bubbles appear in the reservoir when you pull back the trigger then something is defiantly clogged somewhere.
If you are getting a little bit of paint flow when you move the trigger back and forth but it stops suddenly after a while then chances are that something is clogged.
How to Fix a Clogged Nozzle
Unfortunately, you have to take the airbrush completely apart in order to fix this properly.
Take the nozzle and see if you can blow air through it. If you are not able to or if only a little bit of air gets through then you have to clean it.
I would recommend cleaning the reservoir and the needle too when your are already at it.
Clean the parts with rubbing alcohol or with an airbrush cleaner.
You can also mix some rubbing alcohol with a little bit of water and submerge the nozzle it is overnight in order to clean it thoroughly. Just make sure, that you don´t submerge any rubber inside of the alcohol solution.
Then reassemble the airbrush and try if any paint is being dispersed now.
Check if the Needle is the Right Size
This one is actually kind of hard to notice right away.
If the needle of your airbrush is too big then no paint will be able to get through it or not enough paint can be dispersed.
How to Check if the Needle Has the Right Size
First, you have to disassemble the airbrush at least partially.
Then check if your needle has the right size for your nozzle. There will usually be engravings on the nozzle that will tell you the exact size of the needle that this nozzle can be used with.
If the needle you are using is too thick then no or very little amounts of paint can get through.
How to Fix it
Simply use the right kind of needle in combination with the nozzle.
If you bought your airbrush as a set this won´t usually be an issue because it will be fitted correctly from the start.
But if you bought a used airbrush or if you bought your airbrush parts separately from each other then just make sure, that the needle fits the nozzle and the make sure that the airbrush supports the size of the needle as well.
And if it doesn´t simply buy the right sized needle. You can refer to the size from your airbrush or from the engraving on the nozzle.
Check Your Siphon Bottle or Paint Cup Lid for a Vent Hole
There should be a vent hole in your reservoir or you should leave your paint cup open when using the airbrush. If there is no vent then a vacuum will form that can hinder the paint from being picked up by the air.
So make sure, that your vent hole is not clogged and that one is there. Especially some very cheap airbrushed sometimes either don´t have one or it is very small and therefore it gets clogged easily.
If you are unlucky then a leaky needle seal or a leaky bearing can cause a vacuum too.
You can test this by turning the airbrush upside down. If it works fine while it is in this position then you need to either reseal the damaged seal or bearing or you need to replace the damaged parts entirely.
Are You Using a Double Action Airbrush
This last one is probably the least common issue but I still see some beginners wondering why their airbrush is only spraying air and no paint while handling a double-action airbrush wrong.
Double action basically means that the trigger can perform two separate actions instead of just one.
One action is pressing down on the trigger. This will release air from the tip but no paint yet.
The second action is pulling the trigger back while pressing down on it. By pulling the trigger backwards the needle inside the airbrush is being pulled back basically releasing more and more paint the further the trigger is pulled back.
Only after pulling the trigger back while pressing on it paint can actually be sprayed out of the airbrush.
So if you have a double-action airbrush (which is very possible because they are very commonly used) then you may be only pushing the trigger down instead of pulling it back. Thus only releasing air but no paint.
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.