Gravity feed is a common spec when it comes to an airbrush. Here’s what it means, why it matters and what are the pros and cons.
A gravity feed airbrush is a type of airbrush that uses gravity to supply paint to the airbrush nozzle. It is called “gravity feed” because the paint reservoir is located on top of the airbrush, and the paint flows down into the nozzle due to… you guessed it: gravity.
Pros of a Gravity Feed Airbrush
Let’s look at what makes gravity feed airbrushes are the tool of choice for miniature painters.
Efficient Paint Usage
Gravity feed airbrushes tend to be more efficient in paint consumption compared to other types of airbrushes. Since the paint goes straight in the airbrush, you can spray with as little as a drop of paint. This allows you to mix only what you need.
Gravity feed airbrushes allow you a wide range of thickness for your paint. This allows you to thin paints less for things like base coats, or almost as thin as water to glaze and tint only. Once you master paint thinning, you are able to use your airbrush for advanced techniques, as well as the basics.
Easy Color Changes
Gravity feed airbrushes allow for quick color changes. The paint reservoir can be easily emptied and cleaned, making it convenient to switch between different colors or media without significant downtime. You can even mix your colors directly into the cup if you are working on shading or highlighting.
Similar to the ability to change color quickly, cleaning a gravity feed airbrush is a very fast and straightforward affair. Of course, you still need to be thorough, but the process is very simple and hassle-free, because the cup is easily accessible, and makes the nozzle also easier to access with thinner.
Cons of a Gravity Feed Airbrush
Despite what some painters may claim, gravity feed airbrushes do come with some drawbacks.
Gravity feed airbrushes tend to be more expensive than other types of airbrushes. This is because they almost exclusively come with the dual-action feature, which is a complex mechanism. Of course, even with advanced tools, you can find some budget-friendly options.
Limited Paint Capacity
Gravity feed airbrushes typically have smaller paint reservoirs compared to other types. This means that you may need to refill the reservoir more frequently, which can interrupt your workflow, especially for larger projects.
This is a necessary drawback, because with the cup being open, too much paint would start to dry in the cup before you’d have a chance to use it. And dry paint in your airbrush only leads to problems.
Because they come with the dual-action trigger, gravity feed airbrushes can be susceptible to all kinds of problems. Clogging, speckling, and more commonly dry tip. “Tip dry” occurs when the paint dries at the nozzle tip, causing clogs and affecting or downright blocking the spray quality.
Regular cleaning and maintenance solves 90% of airbrush spraying problems.
Thinning Learning Curve
Using a gravity feed airbrush effectively will require some practice and skill. Achieving optimal control over paint flow and mastering techniques like shading and blending may take time to develop. This is the price to pay for an advanced tool. The golden rule when learning paint thinning is: Too thin is better than too thick. This is because thick paint will clog your airbrush. Thin paint won’t work either, but at least it will spray through.
Despite the cons, gravity feed airbrushes are the most popular among hobbyists due to their precise control, efficiency, and versatility. Of course, the choice of airbrush ultimately affects the results you get out of its gravity feed.