Airbrush Not Spraying Paint: Quick Troubleshooting Guide

A man holding a silver airbrush midair to inspect it.

Airbrushing is a fun technique that can be used to create stunning results on all kinds of materials.

There are some common problems that you may come across when airbrushing, the most frustrating being when you go to spray your airbrush and nothing comes out!

How do I fix my airbrush not spraying? There are several different culprits that may be responsible for your airbrush not spraying. These include damaged needles or nozzles, paint clogs, using the wrong consistency of paint, blocked vent holes, and more. Fortunately, determining the cause is pretty simple once you know what you’re looking for.

If you’re having trouble with your airbrush, there’s no need to throw the whole thing away just yet.

This article will go over common causes behind an airbrush not spraying and what you can do to make your airbrush function smoothly again.

9 Causes and Solutions for Airbrush Not Spraying

There are several common causes for an airbrush not spraying, and luckily, they are pretty simple solutions! 

1. Damaged Needle or Nozzle

If your needle or nozzle is damaged, that can lead to your airbrush not spraying properly.

To check for damage, you will want to inspect the needle and nozzle to make sure that they are not bent. This is a common problem and can easily be remedied.


Remove and replace the damaged needle or nozzle. To do this, first make sure that you have the right size nozzle or needle to replace the damaged ones.

The needle size and nozzle size should match up exactly. 

Next, remove the tail casing of the airbrush. Then take off the needle crown and nozzle cap. Next, loosen (but don’t remove!) the needle lock chuck. Then inspect the needle tip. 

If the needle tip is bent but the nozzle is okay, then you can use a pair of pliers to straighten the needle tip, while taking care not to damage the nozzle.

Then unscrew the nozzle, and pull it off the tip of the nozzle. Push the needle through the front (nose) of the airbrush to avoid damaging the inside of the airbrush. 

If both the needle and the nozzle are damaged, you will loosen the nozzle and push the needle through the front of the airbrush. Then install the new nozzle and needle as needed. 

2. Paint Clog

If the nozzle or another component of your airbrush is clogged with paint, it’s not going to spray. 


You will need to clean your airbrush completely. You will also want to check your paint condition and viscosity to prevent future clogs.

3. Loose Needle Locking Nut

A loose needle locking nut can prevent your airbrush from properly spraying.


Tighten the nut, and then test your airbrush to see if it fixed the problem.

4. Paint Too Thick

If your paint is too thick, it won’t spray out of the airbrush.


Thick paint can clog your airbrush. You will need to strain the paint out of the airbrush and thin it before using it again. Deep clean the airbrush to remove the leftover paint.

5. Low Pressure

Thinner paint requires less air pressure to atomize, while thicker paint needs more air pressure.

If your airbrush isn’t spraying, it could be a result of using thicker paint with air pressure that is too low.


Increase the air pressure.

6. Dry Tip

Dry tip is when the tip of the needle is clogged with paint.


If it’s just the tip of the needle that is clogged, you can solve this problem by pulling the trigger back until it sprays the paint off, and then clean the needle. 

7. Blocked Vent Hole

Not all airbrushes have vent holes. If your airbrush doesn’t have a vent hole, you will want to make sure to keep your paint cup open when airbrushing.

If it does have a vent hole and it is clogged, it can keep your airbrush from spraying.


Clean the blocked vent hole. 

8. Old Paint

Old paint can become thick and clumpy, clogging the airbrush.


Remove the paint and clean the airbrush.

9. Wrong Type of Thinner

Using the wrong kind of thinner for your paint type can lead to clogs and uneven sprays.


Match the thinner to the paint type you are using.

A man holding a red airbrush to spray a line of blue paint onto a beige wall.

Additional Common Airbrush Problems

There are many common airbrush problems that are simple to fix.


Bubbling happens when air gets in the paint channel and can be caused by a bad nozzle seal or a dry tip, among other issues.


Properly seal the tip thread, and clean the needle or nozzle tip.


Splattering can be caused by turning the air flow off before the paint flow.


Slide the trigger forward to stop paint flow as opposed to letting it snap back. 

Related Questions: 

How Do You Keep Airbrush Tips From Drying Out?

When paint isn’t properly thinned before being added to the airbrush, it can cause your airbrush tips to dry out.

To keep airbrush tips from drying out, you can use paint thinners, increase the ratio of thinner to paint, use flow improver, warm the paint, or lubricate or polish the needle tip. 

What Is the Difference Between Airbrush Thinner and Flow Improver?

Flow improver is used to change the chemical composition of the paint without affecting its color or finish. You can purchase a flow improver, or use a splash of dish soap to make your own.

Flow improver can keep the paint from drying too fast, which is especially helpful when blending. 

Airbrush thinner is similarly used to change the consistency of the paint and, depending on the type of paint being used, can be made from distilled water, acrylic medium, or mineral spirits.

Flow improver can create a smoother finish and can be used in addition to thinner to create desired results.


If your airbrush isn’t spraying paint, don’t worry; it’s a fairly common problem with simple solutions.

Just go through the common causes listed above until you pinpoint the problem. In no time at all, your paint will be flowing smoothly once again!

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I am a writer and an artist taking opportunities every day to transform my dreams into reality. I love learning new things and am always creating and innovating. I worked as an Art Instructor, teaching painting and art techniques to artists of all levels and ages. I have hosted countless paint parties and taught children’s art classes both in my home as well as an art teacher at a Montessori school.