Airbrushes cost some serious dollars and are filled with tiny parts, each looking more fragile than the next. But it needs not to be this scary. It’s easy to learn where airbrush parts go and what they do!
The first thing you do when you get your airbrush should be to take it appart and put it back together a couple of times. More-so if it’s your first airbrush.
The reason behind this is the obvious bonus of feeling like a badass marine putting his rifle together really fast. But, more importantly, it’s to learn how the various pieces should fit on your new toy and how everything should be.
You are much better doing this when it’s brand new and clean, rather than the first time it clogs up with paint lodged in nooks and crannies and paint drying in, on, and everywhere around your airbrush.
Taking apart your airbrush demystifies a lot of the inner working, and helps you familiarize with the various pieces and how they interact in your airbrush.
Once you get to understand how everything fits together and get a sense of what does what, you will instantly feel a lot more confortable handling the airbrush.
I strongly recommend you do this over a deep cardboard box to catch pieces you might drop when you are examining and fidgeting with them.
The number one rule of airbrush pieces
The words Finger tight needs to be carved in your brain whenever you are fidgeting with your airbrush. You should not be using a pair of pliers, a pipe wrench or any other tool for that matter to screw in place parts of your airbrush.
Airbrush Parts Breakdown
Here’s a written down version of the various parts found on most airbrushes, with a detailed account on how they fit and how they interact with each other.
For simplicity’s sake, we will split the airbrush in 3 parts lenghtwise, front, middle, and back, depending on where they are from air intake. The parts are all listed in the order in which they come off ( if you’re putting it back together, reverse order this step by step )
The back is 3 or 4 parts, plus the needle (which goes through the full length of the airbrush) The needle is included in the back parts because it secures a lot of pieces in the airbrush, so it need to be removed early in the process.
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.
The Spray Regulator
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. Giggidy. 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. Needles require a matching nozzle, so you should not try to mix and match here.
This part is actually a block of other parts that push and pull the needle when you move the trigger. This piece screws into the airbrush’s body and has a spring action. Sometimes the spring is inside this piece, sometimes it’s separate. The spring makes the action mechanism return to the forward position when the trigger is not pulled.
This is 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. This piece is sometimes attached to the action mechanism. This piece is the most frustrating to put back in place. Take a good moment to understand how it fits.
The trigger is the T shaped piece that is used to make the airbrush work. 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.
The air intake
This is a part best left alone. Because the paint never really goes anywhere near its inside, 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.
Usually on 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, or connected from under the body if you are using a suction fed airbrush. The cup is what you pour your paint it. Inside suction-fed cups, you will find a straw that connects to the lid of the cup. The straw is the suction part of suction feed, and is quite mandatory. There is no straw in gravity-fed airbrushes, because gravity does the work by itself. Bully!
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 to make sure they will roll far out of sight should/if/when you drop them.
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.
The needle guard
This piece is not found 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.
The front cover
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. This 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 unusable. Some airbrushes, this part screws in the front cover, otherwise it just rests on top, secured by the needle going through it. Even if the screw-in version requires a small tool, the pinger tight rule still applies, you don’t need to over do it.
O Rings are rubber rings that create an air tight seal between 2 pieces. Almost all airbrushes have O-rings in them, but 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.
High-Tech Batman-esque Gear Problems
OMG, my airbrush has this piece and this article says nothing about it! What gives?!
Remember that the parts listed here are more like a catchall, not a model specific inventory of parts. So, different brands and models might have extra pieces.
Step one: do not panic.
Step two: look at the airbrush’s manual and look for the parts description. This sheet is usually in your airbrush’s box under the foam tray. If it’s not in the box, look online for it.
Step three: compare the description of each piece and find what your newly discovered life form replaces or ties/screws/embeds with.