Advice on airbrushes



hi everyone. I am pretty new at this airbrush thing and confused and frustrated. My hubby bought me a passche vl about four years ago...never done airbrushing or never thought of doing it so it was a huge surprise. Anyway as he had a huge compressor I was meant to use that but it was on the opposite side of the house to where I wanted to paint which meant I had a hose running through the middle of the house. You can imagine how much of a hassle that was so I didn't do a lot. When I used it I had so much trouble with spiders and blobs everywhere and so I just put it away after a while. Well two Christmases ago hubby bought me a little compressor to get me going again....only thing was that I accidentally had thrown my airbrush away thinking it was just an empty box..oops. So hubby bought me another on (yes I do have a good hubby). Same thing though lots of spiders and blobs. Just couldn't get pressure right or paint. I did ask for advice on here and got lots of feedback but could still never get it to work. So I thought I would do a class when I was in the city. (I live a 13 he drive from the city) and finally there was one which I went to last week for three days. I took my brush with me but the guy teaching had one look and said it is a symphony feed I don't use them so out it away and use this one. I used an Iwata hP-c plus I think at this course and did reasonable for a first go... (See photos attached). Beach scene day two and dolphins day 3. Anyway I came home all revved up as now I knew I could do it and bigger me if I still get spiders and blobs. I have tried the pressure from 10psi up to 30 in 2 psi difference...and changed the createx paint / water consistency from thick to difference. So now hubby is thinking maybe he will get me the Iwata the same as I had in my lesson. Any advice would be good please.... Is this the brush to get? Did we do wrong with the passche syphon brush


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The paasche siphon feed (VL) is a good brush in many respects, but it is older technology, especially by todays standards, and so it has some limitations that need to be considered if you want to try and use it for serious artwork. It can be done, just with more difficulty than a modern brush.

First, and perhaps most importantly, it has a fairly large nozzle compared to most modern brushes. The #3 needle on the VL is 0.7mm, compared to the Iwata HP-CS at 0.35mm. Even the smallest needle, #1, on the VL is 0.5mm, which is still much larger than the HP-CS. This means it requires much more precision control when pulling back on the trigger if you want to try and do fine lines or smaller details, and the smallest dot you can make would be notably larger than the smallest dot the HP-CS could make.

Second, its an air hog. I recently did some tests and found that my paasche VL uses about twice as much CFM of air as my Iwata HP-CS. This means you need a stronger compressor or larger tank to keep up with the airflow requirements of the brush, and it will drain your tank about twice as fast as the HP-CS.

Third, its a siphon feed. This means you essentially have to suck the paint up through a straw by creating an area of low pressure above it, which is done by running compressed air over the nozzle, creating a vacuum inside the nozzle that siphons the paint. In turn, this means that you will not be able to use pressures as low as you could on a gravity feed brush like the HP-CS.

Now, all that isn't to say that you cannot do some amazing work with the Paasche VL, you can! I've seen some brilliant work in my day, but after recently getting an Iwata HP-CS, I full well concede that the HP-CS has several advantages over the VL for fine art. It can do finer detail (meaning a smaller canvas and less stencils), its less stressful on your compressor, and it uses less paint.

As for why you spider so much, there are a few possibilities. Most of them are paint related. Which createx paint are you using? Createx Colors? Wicked? Auto-Air? Illustration? Also, it sounds like you mentioned using water to thin the paint. Most of the createx paints do not play well with water as a reducer. Lastly, the regular Createx Colors are made primarily for fabrics and won't do that well on paper/canvas.

If you decide to go with the Iwata, you probably guessed that I would recommend the HP-CS as a great versatile brush. If you are in the US, I also recommend buying at Micheals/Hobby Lobby and using their weekly 40%-50% off a single item coupon, letting you pick up the brush for around 130USD.
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which line of createx are you using ? the standard 'createx airbrush colours' are designed for large needle and high pressure (40-50psi) for textile work
createx wicked or illustration are for 'art work' or you could also look at Etac which is designed for artwork and also a water based paint
Wow Thanks for all that Amra... The paint I have just says Createx Opaque Airbrush colours. I was told to get this from someone and he does tshirts so that is probably why he recommended them.

I will have a look at the createx wicked jackeb. I am not really sure what I want to do as far as projects with the airbrush...probably landscapes or something similar on paper or board... also wouldnt mind doing something on steel cap work boots and hard hats.. (I live in a mining town)

Looks like I am going to get an iwata now after these responses. Thanks heaps
If you decide to go with the Iwata, you probably guessed that I would recommend the HP-CS as a great versatile brush. If you are in the US, I also recommend buying at Micheals/Hobby Lobby and using their weekly 40%-50% off a single item coupon, letting you pick up the brush for around 130USD.

Oh and I wish I lived in the US to use these discount coupons.. such a great idea... I unfortunately... or fortunately... live in a little mining town in the Northwest of Western Australia.. 13 hrs from Perth... 5 hours from the nearest kmart. lol
The paint I have just says Createx Opaque Airbrush colours.
Ah, those are great paints, but they are really designed for textiles. They work great for things like tee-shirts, just not as good for fine art. They are meant to be sprayed with a larger nozzle airbrush at higher pressure. If you want to do illustration/fine art, I would change paints for sure.

The Createx Wicked brand paints are really good, but they do need to be reduced (minimum 1:1, but some people do really high reductions like 6:1 and higher). Its worth noting that these paints do not play well being mixed with just water, you really need to use a proper reducer for good results. They also dry pretty quickly and don't erase easily, but they are colorfast and don't fade much over time. Trade-off's. :)

On a side note, you might see if you can get E'tac paints where you're at, most of the people on this forum love them and rave about their performance in fine art. They can be a bit difficult to get in the US where I am, but they might be more accessible in Australia. I plan to order some soon. They are supposedly able to spray well straight from the bottle, have minimal tip dry, and are much better for scratch techniques and erasing, which is important when you start going for photo realism. They are also suppose to be much more forgiving in terms of drying inside an airbrush. I've literally heard nothing but good things about them on this website.
Everything I have read and watched makes me think your biggest problem is not enough air. Gravity feed ya use lower pressure cause gravity helps. But with siphon you need the air to force the paint out of the bottle and into the brush that's why so many use 50psi
I have the same passche I need the syphon feed for larger work. I use a tiny compressor for it. I'm no where near a pro but I could manage thin lines and no spiders, mind you I want using it for that I was doing big fades, but to prep the machine and get it ready I would do tiny lines. I would guess some of your problem is lack of experience. No disrespect but the airbrush can be tricky. Stick with it your beach scene looks like your well on your way.
So the problem you may have had with the really long hose is that the pressure it said it was putting out at the compressor, probably would have been lower by the time it got to you, and as stated a siphon brush needs much more air anyway compared to a gravity brush. You say your Hubs got a different compressor, but what did he replace it with? If it is tankless (or only has a tiny tank) then it probably won't be able to keep up with the demand for air (even with a gravity fed brush, they should stop selling them as they are not fit for purpose IMO) and could be pulsing, which means you will not be able to get consistent results.

Definately change the paint. If you are not sure what kind of painting you want to do, then I would go for an all rounder/multi surface paint. I do this as I like to do different types of painting and love the Wicked paints. They are great for everything from fabric to automotive and everything in between, they are lightfast and the colours are super bright. But the downside is to get that great colour they are heavily pigmented, which means lots of reduction. It can take some getting used to, but once you get it, they are awesome, and the reducer has lots of other benefits apart form just thinning the paint that makes it worth using. . The equivalent all rounder in E'tac is the private stock line, lots of guys prefer E'tac and these can be reduced with water. If you only want to go the fine art route, then Createx ilustration or E'tac would be better.

As for the airbrush, I am an Iwata fan, and IMO you can't go wrong. However if you are wanting to paint on different surfaces, I would suggest the HP-CS. It is the ultimate all rounder and very similar to the hp-c+, but it has a self centering nozzle and one piece trigger assembly, which makes maintaining a little easier, the nozzle is .35 as opposed to the c+'s .3, so not much difference, just a little more forgiving in the paint reduction department but capable of the same fine lines, and also has up to 2 inch coverage for larger areas. The HP-Cs doesn't have the pre-set handle, however I have never seen the point of them (just my opinion), you need to learn to adjust your control on the trigger as you go along. Apart from that I blieve they are very similar, but the HP-CS is a little cheaper. So may be worth thinking about - either way def a great brush.

Even if you do get everything upgraded (it really will make it much easier to learn) you may still not get immediate perfect paint flow. The conditions in your class, even if you replicated them exactly, may not give you the same results at home. There are so many variables to take into account and even the weather/humidity can affect things. Everyone needs to find their own sweet spot for paint/reduction/flow, that's why there isn't a magic formula where everyone uses the same mixture and psi. However with the suitable equipment it becomes much easier to do. You just need to start with a base for example 1 paint :3 reducer @ 20 psi, and either add more or less reducer drop by drop until you get a smooth line, and larger areas look satiny smooth witout grains. Just remember more reduction = less pressure. Another tip is that possibly 90% or more of paint flow issues can be caused by dirty nozzles. Even the tiniest speck of old paint or a large particle can really throw things off. Even if you think your nozzle is clean, even if you just cleaned it, and it looks spotless, if it isn't spraying right, then it probably isn't clean. Make sure you have some restorer, or cleaner (make sure it doesn't affect any seals, although the Iwatas should be ok as they are teflon) handy. Once you get your sweet spot dialed in nozzle blockage becomes a rare issue.

Getting good equipment and getting your ratios down is 2/3rds of the battle won, and is often the most frustrating. Once that is sorted you can concentrate on technique, and as your class showed you can amaze yourself in a relatively short time with practice.

I have a very similar story to you, I had the wrong/bad equipment, tried ABing and decided I coukldn't do it. Then returned some years later with proper gear, and more info and managed to get somewhere. I am still trying to get somewhere, but it is happening slowly but surely. If I can do it, you can do it, good luck!