Airbrush cleaning 101

 

A typical airbrush

Today I’m going to tell you how to clean your airbrush. Now, you may be an expert at airbrushing and you know all the tips and tricks, but follow along anyway. For the new airbrush owners out there cleaning your airbrush is very, very important. I cannot stress enough how important cleaning your airbrush is. These are the steps that I’ve taken with mine.

It begins when I want to airbrush something. I put the paint in with a little thinner, crank up the compressor and spray. Oh crap, the paint is spidering all over the part. Ok, take the paint out of the cup, clean the cup thoroughly and check my paint. Uh oh, the paint is thicker than molasses and that’s why it didn’t go through the airbrush. I try again, less paint than before, a little more thinner, and what do you know, it still doesn’t run through!

At this point I put away the paint and look through my paint collection. I see nothing that looks like the other shade of paint. So I realize I must break down the airbrush for a thorough clean.

Ok, turn the compressor off, take out the set screw with the little hex wrench, dropping the set screw in the process, unscrew the cone tip, take out the needle. Soak the cleaning brushes in thinner and go to town on the needle, realizing that I should have put on gloves. This is messy.

Dry off the needle and make sure it looks good and clean. Spend five minutes looking for the set screw I lost earlier. Put the tip and needle back in place, tighten the set screw and drop the hex wrench. Hell, it’ll work this time.

Turn on the compressor, add paint and thinner, fiddle with the paint flow and air pressure for ten minutes. Turn the paint flow 5mm to the left, a little bit of paint comes out. Turn it a little more, nothing. Turn it back the other way, a little bit of paint. Turn it a little more, nothing. 

Then I look at the tip. Maybe it’s clogged. So I run a cleaning brush across the tip, eliminating a tiny bit of dry paint. Okay, I try again. No paint at first, then I turn the paint flow 5mm to the right, a little bit of paint comes out. Turn it a little more, nothing. Turn it back the other way, a little bit shoots out. 

Now I realize the needle and tip might be clean, but the intake from the cup might be clogged. Get the cleaning brushes soaked in thinner and clean out the cup intake. Really get in there deep and push the brush in really deep to clear the crud out. Bend the cleaning brush to an angle impossible to straighten out. I expect a lot of crud to come out, but very little does.

Now, after washing my hands and donning gloves, I put the airbrush back together (after finding my hex wrench.) Put a little bit of paint in the cup with a few drops of thinner, stir well. Okay, now is the big moment.

Turn the compressor on, adjust the air pressure, and slowly press the trigger. 

Nothing.

I turn the paint flow 5mm to the right, a little bit of paint comes out. Turn it a little more, nothing. Turn it back the other way, a little bit shoots out. 

I give up, put the airbrush away, grab a spray can and re-paint the part with a slightly different color. 

Voila!

NOTE: the preceding has been a work of satire. Cleaning your airbrush usually is not this difficult, so read all you can about how to clean it properly.