Suction 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 suction feed airbrush is a type of airbrush that uses suction to draw paint or other media into the nozzle. In this design, the paint reservoir is located below the airbrush and is connected to the nozzle via a suction tube (or straw).
Pros of a Suction Feed Airbrush
Suction feed airbrushes are often snubbed in favor of the gravity feed alternative, but they offer a lot of advantages.
Large paint capacity
Suction feed airbrushes often have larger paint reservoirs compared to gravity feed airbrushes. This allows for longer continuous spraying without the need for frequent refills, which is advantageous for larger projects like terrain, primer, or whole armies.
Suction feed airbrushes tend to be more affordable compared to gravity feed airbrushes. They are often considered more entry-level or beginner-friendly options, making them a suitable choice for those on a budget or new to airbrushing.
Ease of cleaning
Suction feed airbrushes are generally easier to clean and maintain. The paint reservoir is detachable, allowing for quick and straightforward cleaning. The paint is also stored outside the airbrush, making the nozzle easier to clean as well.
Suction feed airbrushes are often better suited for spraying thicker paints. This is great since thinning paint properly is one of the hardest part of airbrushing. It makes suction feed airbrushes perfect for primer, base coats, varnishes, and metallic paints.
Cons of using Suction Feeds
It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, of course. There are a few limitations with suction feed airbrushes as well.
Suction feed airbrushes may provide slightly less precise control over the paint flow compared to gravity feed airbrushes. This means some techniques will be much harder, if not impossible to achieve because of the thickness required.
Requires More Paint
Since the paint is drawn up from the reservoir, it relies on the pressure created by the air supply, which can be less consistent and result in variations in spray pattern and paint flow. Even if you recycle the paint and use it later, it remains an issue for smaller project.
Due to the suction mechanism, suction feed airbrushes can generate more overspray compared to gravity feed airbrushes. This is not a big con, but it’s something you need to be aware of. It means you have to be careful on how you organize your setup. And avoid leaving your models close to where you spray, otherwise they will get dusted with overspray.
While a suction feed airbrush are less prone to clogging, when it does clog, it is much more tedious to unclog. This is because what it takes to clog them is usually not a small issue. This means you can’t just spray through with thinner, you need to stop and clean your airbrush thoroughly.
It’s important to note that while these pros and cons outline general characteristics of suction feed airbrushes, there are variations in performance and features among different models and brands.