If you don’t keep your airbrush clean, there are all sorts of problems you can run into. Airbrush manuals will often talk about these problems, but here’s an overview.
- Thick Paint
- Fast Drying Paint
- Bubbling Reservoir or Seals
|notice I'm blocking the nozzle with my finger|
Sometimes the bubbling will be coming out the sides of your various layers of nozzle parts.
This can also be due to poorly sealed (loose or dirty) or damaged nozzle and tip parts.
- Inconsistent Spraying
So I'm in the process of testing out some of Blogger's monetizing features - bear with me and I hope this isn't tacky or annoying. That said, I had to dig around on eBay for some of these products, now the leg work is done for you.
- Airbrush Cleaner
Avoid Ammonia based cleaners, which can eat the metal.
Avoid Acetone (most nail polish remover) as it's a possible cancer agent as well as causing serious nervous system and organ damage through prolonged / often exposure via inhalation (breathing) and blood contact. (open wounds... like on a finger) Yeah, that's right - most nail polish remover isn't actually safe for removing nail polish.
I'll have to revisit this in the future and see if there are cheaper generic brands of cleaner - I'm thinking my Simple Green should work wonders.
- Cloth / Paper Towels
I use the blue shop towels you can find at hardware stores because they're much more absorbent and don't shred and come apart as easily as normal paper towels.
- Cleaning Brushes
While you’ll use it super-sparingly, normal machine or 3-in-1 oils still aren’t recommended because they’ll break down your paints if any of the lube makes it's way to the front of the airbrush. (Which some will, since you lube the needle.) Apparently a brand called “Super Lube” is suggested, but I’m sure most hobby stores that carry airbrushes can suggest another brand. Generic brand “glycerin” lube from a drug store sounds like it usually does the trick, but may dry out sooner than airbrush lube. They come in different viscosities and the thinner, more water-like, ones seem to be too runny.
I found my bottle of Glycerine at a drug store in the same area as rubbing alcohol and iodine. The bottle says for dry and cracked hands, so you might find it with hand lotions and creams. Ingredients show “100% Glycerine”.
Not to be confused for “glycerine suppositories” in the laxatives section (which seems to trip up a lot of hobbyists looking for this stuff - and when I asked store staff for glycerine, they were only aware of the suppositories) or “other” lubes that drug stores sometimes carry.
I’ve read a few places that say oil can be used, but ONLY on parts that won’t come in contact with the paint or air. You’re better off avoiding oil if you can.
- Cleaning Pot
I can see one of these in my future, but I'm not rushing to get it.
1. Repeatedly run water through the airbrush to get rid of as much colour as you can.
2. Use q-tips to rub off any extra paint from the reservoir. Usually a Q-Tip and some airbrush cleaner does the job.
When you clean off the paint, watch for flakes. You’ll want to remove these from the airbrush using q-tips or tweezers. (If you use tweezers, don’t scratch your airbrush)
If you run the airbrush with chunks of dried paint floating in the water, IT WILL clog your airbrush. Careful, because these dried pieces may have sunk to the bottom and be settled around your needle, just waiting to clog your tip.
3. Put airbrush cleaner in the reservoir, spray a little through, then let it soak briefly to eat at the paint before spraying it out.
4. Use q-tips again if you need to.
5. Repeat as necessary until there’s no colour left.
Airbrush cleaner can be expensive, so use water on most of the steps, and airbrush cleaner to finish it off.
If you're painting similar colours and/or shades, you don't need to clean it out as thoroughly. A little paint left will just blend the new colour a little closer to the previous one, which can be a nice thing.
1. You should always remove the needle first, so you don't damage it while removing the rest of the nozzle.
Notice the needle will need some cleaning too.
If paint's dried enough to clog the nozzle, it's probably dried enough to stick to the needle.
Wipe from the body of the needle to the tip. You don't want to apply pressure and damage the fragile needle.
2. Take the nozzle section fully apart.
Use q-tips or brushes soaked in airbrush cleaner to remove paint from these parts. A little gentle force with the cleaner should be enough.
If you can’t disassemble everything, DON’T FORCE IT. Soak the parts that are stuck in your airbrush cleaner until the paint comes apart.
4. If need be, soak these parts in the cleaner for a while and / or repeat.
The inside of the airbrush can end up with caked or dried paint, flakes, and so on.
While a Q-Tip and some airbrush cleaner is usually enough, you can also break out the brushes for this too.
If you’re having trouble removing really caked on paint, try a stronger cleaner or use a rubber or plastic pick (like those dental picks) to scratch away the paint without scratching the chrome finish.
If you're using a stronger cleaner, don't go too strong. Ammonia based cleaners can damage your airbrush. Start with dish soap, Simple Green, Alcohol (Isopropyl, not Rubbing) etc.
1. Remove the needle.
2, Place a few drops of lube behind the trigger.
|I just used a tooth pick to get some from the bottle. Other lubes will come with a fine spout.|
3. Lubricate the needle – I’ve read a few different suggestions for how to do this:
|Dip the first inch of the needle into the lube. If it’s too thick or too runny, wipe off the excess.|
|Use a cloth to rub lube on the whole needle, then wipe it all off. A little will be left, which is all you need.|
4. Run the needle back into the airbrush and spray some air and a little water through the airbrush to get rid of any extra lube.
Airbrushes have rubber o-rings at certain places to create nicer seals.
Don lose these, because they trap the air inside your airbrush to create a proper pressure system. As they get old or dry-out, they can become brittle. You can find replacements at not only hobby stores, but also plumbing and hardware stores too. (Just be sure to get the right size and thickness replacements, which your airbrush manual should state)
[update] As commenter Asmodai points out, and part of the reason I keep suggesting you make sure you're using proper Airbrush Cleaners and not stronger solutions, is that many chemicals eat rubber. This will destroy your o-rings and you'll lose your seal. (First sign of a bad o-ring is usually cracking or ridging.)