Airbrush assembly is a key skill in airbrushing. With all these tiny parts, it can look intimidating, but it’s actually very simple.
In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through the step-by-step process of assembling an airbrush, ensuring a smooth and efficient setup.
Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned artist, assembling and disassembling your airbrush should be the first thing you learn when you get a new airbrush.
An important note is that every brand and model as some minor differences. This guide is a catchall that covers 95% of all dual action gravity feed airbrushes, with 5% being a different piece or part at a certain step. Where possible we’ll include some of the common variations you might come across.
So, let’s dive into making short work out of airbrush assembly!
Gather the Required Tools for Airbrush Assembly
Organizing your workspace and having all the tools within reach will save time and frustration during the assembly process. The good news is that there are very few tools you actually need.
One box or lid of any kind, to assemble and disassemble over and put pieces, so they don’t roll around as much.
Small key, depending on nozzles. Most the cheap airbrushes have a screw on nozzles, and are supplied with a miniature wrench.
This really is all you need if you’re just doing this for academic purposes. If you’re deep cleaning your airbrush, you’ll need two more items.
A cleaning solution of your choice. There are plenty available, from simple green to isopropyl alcohol, everyone has a favorite.
Paper towels, because it gets messy and wet.
Notice that there are no pliers or metallic brushes in this list.
Here’s why, in a bold one sentence that is all you ever need to remember about cleaning your airbrush: If you need pliers to put pieces apart or a metallic brush to dislodge dried paint, your problem is not now, it was a while ago.
Airbrushes are for the most part delicate tools, and anytime strength is required you risk running into problems. Whether it is shoving a metal brush in it to push through paint residue or twisting pieces with pliers, the take away is don’t let hit get to that point; not moderation is key.
Familiarize Yourself with the Airbrush Components
To assemble an airbrush correctly, you must understand its key components.
Recognize how the parts fit together and work in unison. Understanding the purpose and functionality of each component will enable you to assemble and disassemble the airbrush effortlessly. Here’s a breakdown of the most common pieces and their uses.
For simplicity’s sake, we will split the airbrush in 3 parts lengthwise, front, middle, and back, depending on where they are from air intake.
The back is 3 or 4 parts, plus the needle ( which goes through the full length of the airbrush )
This is the long piece that covers the back of the airbrush. It can be full or open, and comes in various colors. This has exactly 0 mechanical uses: If you take it off, your airbrush works exactly the same. This piece is there to protect the back of your needle from damage. So despite its non-mechanical use, this piece is quite important.
This piece is found on some airbrushes, mostly those designed for fine work. This piece screws in the cover, and stops the trigger mechanism from pulling back further than a point of your choosing.
This allows more control when you want to do super fine work. Much like the cover, you can remove this piece entirely without affecting how your airbrush works.
Although the needle goes through the entire length of your airbrush, it goes in through the back. The needle is the most fragile part of the airbrush, and determines the size of your spray. The needle goes through the action mechanism, and is held in place by a nut screw on the action mechanism.
This part is actually a couple of other parts that push and pull the needle when you move the trigger. This piece screws into the airbrush’s body. It features a spring that pushes the needle to the forward position when not in use.
While I have disassembled this part for my own edification, it was never a necessity to do so for cleaning or fixing.
This is the body or the frame of the airbrush. all other pieces are fixed around or in this section.
This bent piece goes between the action mechanism and the trigger. It pushes the trigger to the forward position when it’s not in use.
The trigger is the T shaped piece that is used to make the airbrush spray. When you press it down, it pushes to open the air intake. On dual action airbrushes, pulling on the trigger will drive the needle back, allowing more paint to go through the nozzle.
Unlike the back pieces, the lever and trigger are removed from the top and are only held in place in the airbrush by the needle going through them.
This is another group of part best left alone. Because the paint never really goes anywhere near it, there is really no point into ever taking it a part. The hose is screwed to this part to allow the air to flow in the airbrush when the trigger is pressed.
On most gravity fed airbrushes, the cup is built into the body of the airbrush, so it’s not a part in itself. But on some models it can be screwed on. The cup is what you pour your paint it.
This is where working over a cardboard box comes in handy. These are the pieces you will handle most, and most of them are incredibly tiny, as well as round. They are designed like that to make sure they will roll far out of sight if and when you drop them. Editor’s note: Maybe not, but scanning the floor on all fours to look for a nozzle will make you question many a life choices.
When you use your airbrush, paints goes in, around or through all of the front parts. As such, they will often require special cleaning, and are more likely to clog than any other parts.
This piece is not on every model, or often comes as an option to the front cover (see below). The needle guard as no mechanical use other than to protect the tip of your needle from being exposed. Because a bent needle is practically unusable, this piece is quite important.
Unlike the back cover, the front cover is mandatory, as it screws on the body to create an airtight seal and locks the nozzle in place.
The nozzle is a conic piece that should fit snuggly around your needle. It goes in the body of the airbrush, and is kept in place by the front cover, which wraps over it when it is screwed on. The nozzle is where most clogs happen and is super fragile. If the smaller end gets damaged, your airbrush becomes practically unusable.
O Rings are rubber rings that create an air tight seal between 2 pieces. They are in multiple parts of your airbrush, usually. Their size and placement differ. In most cases, there’s one sealing the front cover with the airbrush’s body, and one on the action mechanism, again, to seal off the body. If your nozzle screws in the body of the airbrush, there’s usually an O ring there as well.
O rings deteriorate over time and with the exposure to the various chemicals involved with airbrushing. You can buy a bag filled with O-rings that will last you a lifetime for only a couple of dollars in any local hardware store; it’s quite common in plumbing.
Step-by-Step Disassembly Instructions
Because airbrushes are (usually) already assembled when you get them, it’s smarter to look at these steps in disassembly order first.
My general rule is to remove as less pieces as possible, unless I want to break down my airbrush fully.
- Disconnect your airbrush from the hose first
- Remove the back guard by unscrewing it. I usually leave the flow regulator on the guard at all times.
- If the cup screws on, unscrew it and remove it.
- Remove the needle. Unless you are breaking down your airbrush entirely, or are cleaning the needle itself, I prefer to leave the needle through the trigger and lock it in place there. This means the trigger won’t fall accidentally through the manipulations, and the needle won’t be in the way with the front pieces.
- If you remove the needle fully: Remove the trigger and lever. Pull on the action mechanism to remove the lever, it’s usually pressed forward. Fair warning, the lever is the most tedious part to put back on.
- Unscrew the action mechanism. This is usually three pieces including the spring, I tend to keep them all together.
- Unscrew the needle guard and the front front cover. Be careful here as on some models this is the only thing holding the nozzle in place, and it will fall when you remove the front cover.
- Remove the nozzle. If yours screws in, keep an eye on the O-Ring that’s usually on there.
The reason I prefer this order is that the most important parts (the front end pieces) stay locked in the airbrush at all times, until the very last moment.
Step-by-Step Airbrush Assembly Instructions
This is almost the same as before reversed, but with different pointers for specific pro-tips or brand differences. But if you are following along with airbrush parts in hand, this should make your life easier.
- First, put the action mechanism together and screw it on the back of the airbrush
- Place the trigger on the air intake
- Place the lever between the trigger and the action mechanism. Pull on the back of the action mechanism to give you some more room. The reason I prefer to do it this way rather than screw the action mechanism after putting the lever in place is that the level is not stable or secured on its own. More often than not, it will move while you screw in the action mechanism and you will need to start over.
- Slowly and partly insert the needle through. Lock it in place with the nut. Slowly because if pieces are not lined up, you don’t want to bend it. Partly because we will assemble the front before pushing it through completely.
- Next, put the nozzle in place. Tight but not too tight is the key with the screwable ones. For conic nozzles, I like to push the needle forward a little bit to hold it in place, but not so much that the needle’s poking out.
- Screw the front end of the airbrush, sealing the nozzle in.
- Screw in the needle guard and the cup if those pieces are detachable on your airbrush.
- Put the needle in place correctly and completely.
- Screw in the back needle guard and flow regulator.
- Give your airbrush a test run with water, cleaner or thinner.
Final Tips & Tricks
As you work my way through airbrush assembly, try it out to make sure the 2-3 last pieces you put are working, before moving to the next step.
A good strategy until airbrush assembly becomes second nature is to print out these steps. Put them next to your airbrush, and then write down the steps and pieces specific to your airbrush as you go.
Last but most certainly not least: make it a priority to disassemble and assemble a new airbrush. Don’t wait until its clogged with paint and it becomes a necessity to do it. If and when that point comes (and it usually does) life is slightly better with prior knowledge of what goes where in normal conditions.