I’m looking for an airbrush so I’ve been scouring the Internet reading reviews and suggestions. Airbrushes from Badger, Iwata, and Paasche are mentioned a lot as being good choices, with Badger being mentioned the most. I figured I can’t go wrong with any of those.
But which model to choose? There are so many models and when I read about so many of them, over and over, the specs start blurring together.
I decided to narrow my search to Badger, mostly because they are so common that it should be easy to get parts for them anywhere.
While searching for information I ran across this nice summary of their airbrushes posted by user daniel_leavitt2000 in one of TheRailwire’s forums. (I fixed a few typos.)
My airbrushes always seem to gunk up quickly. I batch my work by colors and will do half a dozen models at a time. By the end, there is a lot of paint on the needle and nozzle areas, even after running water and airbrush cleaner through it. I can usually go two sessions before breaking down the airbrush and putting the parts in a paint stripper or alcohol bath, let soak for an hour or two, run a pipe cleaner through the parts and you are ready to go.
I never really saw this as a major annoyance.
Right now I have the following brushes (all Badger):
250 — cheap money… 3 for $12. Work great for painting backdrops, and paint/glue mix for scenery. About as basic as you can get. External mix, single action and no paint flow adjustment.
350 — A good learning airbrush. At about 1/2 once, it is very lightweight, which I hate. Adding a paint cup or siphon bottle makes the front very heavy. The handle is hollow so I may add lead putty to even things out. Body is polycarbonate. If you sand down the parting line along the center of the brush, it becomes much more comfortable to hold. Currently $18 shipped with siphon jar, hose and propellant adapter.
200 — My first airbrush and one I still use occasionally. Single action, internal mix and made of metal. This brush has been around in various forms for over 40 years. I use it only with a siphon jar as I never liked the metal-on-metal seal with the siphon cup. I actually use this brush more for other projects—car, and house painting projects. The all brass construction has a great balance and weight to it. currently under $60.
155 — My first dual action internal mix brush. I purchased this for $65 during one of those half off sales at AC Moore. Back then (2003/2004), parts were easy to get at the local store. The chromed brass construction has good weight, but I don’t think it is quite as well balanced as the 200. Siphon cup fits like a glove. Set also came with a siphon jar and several bottles along with a hose. Until recently, I thought this was the best price/performance brush on the market. If you want a gravity feed brush instead, the Patriot 105 is the same brush with a gravity cup instead. Currently about $80.
360 — My most recent purchase. At $80, this all metal dual action, internal mix brush is a steal. Gravity cup can swivel to become a siphon feed for larger projects. Balance is near perfect. Nice and heavy in the hand. I like the 90° hose connection which means the hose will not crimp in the palm of your hand like the 200. The siphon connection is further forward than on the 155, which lets you rest a finger between the hose and the siphon jar. Trigger action, like the 155 is damn near perfect. No “fingernail on a guitar string” feeling like you get with some Paasche brushes. But cleanup can take longer. Newer models use a dumb rubber cap instead of a metal one and packaging is either a blister pack or a cardboard box rather than a nice plastic clamshell like on my 155. Still, this is a stellar deal and probably the best mixed-use brush on the market.
Omni-Matrix — I bought this one for $60 when the Badger garage sale went live. This is basically a 360 with a finer paint head, needle and nozzle. The trigger has adjustable tension which is neat (I like a very stiff trigger pull). This was one of the first brushes Badger put out after absorbing Thayer and Chandler’s line. As such, it is a bit of a Frankenstein. First, the handle is aluminum and the rest of the body is brass. This makes the brush EXTREMELY front heavy. Second, the cap does not attach to the butt of the handle like other badger airbrushes. This led my to losing it. It does have a finer spray pattern than the 360, but the tip will clog faster and you need to thin paint more. Its not a bad brush, but it wouldn’t be my first choice. Right now I use it for weathering and fades. Incidentally, Badger seems to have addressed the major issues with it. The handle has been replaced with brass and the cab is now the same as the rest of the badger line. Currently $110.
It was helpful to see all the choices right next to each other, even though it was basically the same information I had been reading elsewhere. Since this was going to be my only airbrush (for now) and I’ve always believed you should buy the best tools you can afford, I narrowed it down to the Badger Universal Model 360.
I read some more reviews about the 360, just to make sure it was what I wanted, and then I ordered one.