The nozzle is a crucial part of your airbrush. Here’s how it works, and what different models and sizes change in your airbrush.
At the tip of every airbrush lies a critical component known as the airbrush nozzle. In this blog post, we’ll delve into the intricacies of nozzles, exploring their purpose, types, and the role they play in your airbrush.
The Basics of Airbrushing
Before we dive into the details of airbrush nozzles, let’s briefly review the fundamentals of airbrushing.
Airbrushing involves spraying a fine mist of paint onto your model using compressed air. This spray shoots out through the nozzle. Combined with the needle and trigger, how much paint and air sprays depends on the nozzle of your airbrush.
Understanding Airbrush Nozzle
The airbrush nozzle is a small but crucial part of the airbrush, responsible for determining the spray pattern, paint flow rate, and overall performance of the tool.
It is the conduit through which the paint and air mixture sprays onto your model. The size and shape of the nozzle play a pivotal role in determining the characteristics of the spray.
The shape refers to the hole at the end of the piece, which will impact the spray pattern. For most things, including miniature painting, the nozzle is circle-shaped, and will produce a cone spray pattern.
If you’re doing a lot of terrain, you might want to look into fan shaped sprays, that cover a wider area, and even then. This is a classic case of ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’.
Airbrush nozzles come in a variety of sizes, typically measured in millimeters. This is the same as a needle size, for obvious reasons.
The size of the nozzle determines the diameter of the spray pattern. Smaller nozzles create finer lines and detailed work, while larger nozzles are better suited for covering larger areas.
For miniature painting, you can use these as rough guidelines:
Fine detail airbrushes like the Sotar are 0.2mm
Standard ‘All Purpose’ airbrushes like the HP-CS or Patriot are between 0.3mm and 0.35mm
Spray Guns and some generic airbrushes are 0.5mm, a size for terrain pieces and primer almost exclusively.
Paint Flow Rate
The nozzle also regulates the flow rate of paint. This is a little bit tricky to figure out, you won’t find this spec listed anywhere.
The flow rate depends of how much paint can fit in the nozzle at any one time. This is loosely based on the shape of the piece and how it connects in your airbrush. A larger nozzle piece allow you to spray a higher volume of paint, while a smaller nozzle restricts the flow.
Types of Airbrush Nozzle
There are primarily two types of airbrush nozzles:
- Screwed On
- Dropped In
Screwed in is exactly as it sounds: the nozzle screws into the airbrush and that’s how it’s locked in place, and sealed with (usually) a small O-Ring. You’ll need a small key to tighten it properly, and the danger here is screwing it too tightly, which can damage both the O-Ring and the nozzle.
Dropped in is, again, much like it sounds. The airbrush and nozzle are not tied together, and are locked in place by the needle going through it, and the front cover sealing it in.
Full disclosure, I don’t really understand how dropped in is better or why brands that offer it on their airbrushes claim it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread.
It’s easier to clean for sure, but since your needle and nozzle need to be aligned to begin with, the added value of ‘self-centering’ is lost on me. But don’t overlook how important ‘easier to clean’ is. You’ll spend most of your cleaning time cleaning the nozzle.
Cleaning, Breaking, and Troubleshooting
Airbrush nozzles are the unsung heroes behind airbrushing. They are also the cause of many frustrations and problems; the nozzle is where paint gets clogged or dried up..
Nozzles are fragile and delicate, and it’s best to get familiar with how they work and how they fit in your airbrush before problems arise.
It’s also important to check what metal your nozzle is made from, as it is usually different from the rest of the airbrush. The material will impact what cleaning solution you should use, and whether or not you can and should let it soak in.