|Too... many... features! Source|
Before we get started I have one quick side trip that is relevant to our interests. Lauby over at Int'l House of Paincakes wrote an excellent article that reinforces a point that I did not explicitly mention but intended to imply in the previous Adventures article: saving money by not buying a crappy starter setup. I mentioned the features that you absolutely want to have in an airbrush and Lauby's article gives an excellent example of why you want to start with the right setup so you don't waste money on a fancy paperweight that shoots paint at stuff. If you are reading this article then you are probably thinking about or researching airbrush purchases, in which case I highly recommend that you read Lauby's article (and more Adventures in Airbrushing of course) before jumping head first into an expensive mistake.
Now that we have that out of the way, let's get to to creamy center of this delicious confectionery egg of airbrush features. Of course we have the necessities, double action and gravity feed that you must have if you want to do anything other than using a very expensive tool just to base coating your army. Now let's look at the optional stuff.
|You would not believe how difficult it was to find a picture of this book cover.|
This is something that you really want to be able to do. Smaller needles are good for finer detailed work while larger needles will let you throw a lot of paint at your models very quickly for the simpler tasks like priming and base coating. If you can buy an airbrush that lets you change sizes and can throw a little extra cash at it, this is an excellent feature to go for since it makes your expensive toy much more flexible.
Cutaway handles with pre-set stops - Very useful for those of us without superhuman levels of precision in our manual dexterity
Yeah, that was kind of a mouthful but it is a very fitting description. Unless you are some type of super mutant or a cyborg, chances are you will not be blessed with the ability to get the exact same amount of paint flow every single time you pull the trigger part way open. The pre-set stop allows you to set the maximum distance that you can pull the trigger back, ensuring that you get a consistent paint flow every trigger pull with minimal effort. In other words, you can set the stop so that when you mash the trigger all the way in and back you get the amount of paint flow you want instead of the full blast effect. It makes your airbrush easier to handle with precision and consistency. I wonder if I've repeated myself enough in this section. The pre-set stop does not necessarily have to come with the cutaway design but it usually does. Some airbrushes have a dial on the end that performs the same function but without the visual assurance that the cutaway gives you.
Quick Disconnect - You want this. Period.
Not specifically an airbrush feature but if your airbrush does not come with a quick disconnect you will want to get one. They are dirt cheap and allow you to disconnect your airbrush without un-screwing the air hose and letting all your pressure bleed out into the air. Good for quickly switching between multiple airbrushes or just to let you change paint colors more easily. You can get by without one but I really don't recommend it.
|That should say "Features Optional." Please keep your clothes on.|
This one is pretty self-explanatory. It allows you to take the paint cup off your airbrush for easier cleaning, changing colors faster, etc. You can use a large cup for big batches of base coats and small cups when you are doing detail work and just need a couple drops of paint.
The ability to switch between gravity and siphon-feed - Useful if you have a specific need for that feature
The Badger 360 Universal, to the best of my knowledge, is unique in its ability to switch between top feed (gravity) and bottom feed (siphon). Siphon feed gives you the option of mixing larger batches of paint in separate cups and then just swapping cups when you want to change colors. Siphon feed also lets you put out a higher volume of paint which is great for large batches but that same ability to throw out a lot of paint is a detriment for anything other than those large batches and you will waste paint trying to use a siphon feed for more detailed work. Siphon feed also suffers from a lack of consistency since the paint has to travel upward to reach the needle and can come out in bursts or sputter sometimes. If you want to base coat 10,000 points of models all at once, this could be a great feature for you. Having a larger gravity feed cup and larger needle/nozzle, however, can also handle larger batches at once even if it cannot match the sheer volume of the large siphon fed pot. If you want that versatility then go for it, but it is hardly a necessity and will not be useful for everyone.
Air control valve - Used only for occasions where you want a certain effect
I pointed out Iwata's MAC (Micro Air Control) valve and similar features on other brands but did not cover exactly what it does. Essentially, it lets you change the spray pattern of your airbrush. You can adjust the pattern from the standard fine mist atomization to something like a splatter effect. This is not something I would see myself using all the time but it could be useful for things like blood splatter or similar patterns. I'm finding it difficult to find the exact words to adequately describe this feature but I think it's good enough to get the point across. It could be useful but don't go out of your way to get an airbrush with this feature unless you really want it.
Ability to switch caps for different spray patterns, etc - Used only where you want a certain effect
Much like the air control valve, different end caps can produce different effects. They can change the spray pattern of your airbrush to make it more spread out, more concentrated, fan patterns, or other effects. The Harder & Steenbeck Infinity Two-in-One includes a distance cap that allows "accuracy and optimum viewing of work." In essence, it is basically a halo that goes around the tip of your airbrush to let you keep a uniform distance from what you are painting. I only see this working well on flat surfaces so the uses seem a bit limited. Some of the other caps can be useful for a number of situations but the distance cap seems very specific in its use.
|Nothing more to see here. Source|
I think that covers most of the major features that you can get with your airbrush. If I missed anything, let me know in the comments and I will add it to the list. The next installment will go over compressor types, features, and things to keep in mind when deciding what compressor to buy. Until next time, this is Chaosheade signing out. Catch you on the flip side.