Airbrush Splattering: 11 Causes & How To Fix the Problem

A woman making a series of straight lines with an airbrush.

Airbrush splatters are large droplets forming spray patterns on your surface.

It happens when the airbrush doesn’t atomize the paint properly, meaning the paint fluid isn’t turned into tiny droplets.

It’s crucial to find the issue and fix it before using your airbrush again. 

What causes airbrush splattering? Airbrush splattering is caused by issues like paint thickness, air pressure, dry paint buildup, damaged parts, excessive moisture, loose fittings, improper technique, and poor-quality airbrushes. These problems are easy to fix by cleaning, adjusting pressure and paint ratio, or additional maintenance. 

If you’re looking for ways to solve airbrush splattering, take a look at our list of the common issues, how to fix them, and tips to prevent splattering in the future. 

11 Causes & Solutions for Airbrush Splatter

There are several reasons why airbrush splatter happens, but many of the causes are easy to fix if you know what to do.

1. Paint Too Thin

To make sure an airbrush doesn’t splatter, the paint mix must be just right. If the paint is too thin, it may bleed onto the needle from the nozzle and burst out when you spray.

This happens when your paint mixture has too much water or is extremely reduced. 

Solution

The general guidance is to keep your paint mixture at a 1:1 paint to thinner ratio. However, depending on the paint and what you plan to airbrush, you may need to reduce it more or less. 

2. Paint Too Thick

If you use more paint than the reducer, it may be too thick in your airbrush. The thickness may clog your airbrush and cause splattering or other irregularities.

Solution

Make sure your paint doesn’t feel too viscous but has enough liquid to easily go through the nozzle. 

3. Pressure Too Low

When the pressure of your airbrush is too low, the paint won’t receive enough airflow to atomize properly.

You’ll know the pressure is too low if the paint comes out looking like it came from a spray bottle rather than a smooth airbrush fade. 

Solution

You can increase the air pressure using the regulator valve.

A good rule to follow is setting it to 15 psi and testing it to see if you need to increase or decrease the air pressure according to the paint type. 

4. Pressure Too High

When the air pressure is too high, your airbrush will spray the atomized paint with excessive force and create paint splatters on the surface.

It will continue to splatter if you hold down the trigger and try to paint with it. 

Solution

Generally, your air pressure should be at least 15 psi and no more than 20.

You can tweak the pressure using the regulator valve on your air compressor. However, the best psi depends on the application. 

5. Buildup of Dried Paint

Airbrush splatter can also happen if paint builds up and clogs the nozzle. Dried paint can plug the airflow stream over time if it is not cleaned out.

This is a common problem for airbrushes, but you can avoid it if you regularly and thoroughly clean your airbrush after every use. 

Solution

You can clear out a clog by running an airbrush cleaner (I highly recommend this one) through it and removing the dried paint with a cleaning kit.

However, be very careful not to damage the fragile parts of the airbrush, such as the nozzle tip. 

Iwata-Medea Airbrush Cleaner (8 oz.)
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  • Works well on all models of airbrushes, synthetic and natural-haired paint brushes, and is excellent...

6. Nozzle/Needle Damage

If you have a damaged needle, it may cause blobs of paint to form even before you press the airbrush trigger. Those blobs lead to paint splatter when the trigger is activated.

Solution

A bent needle can create rough sprays and turn into airbrush splatter if it is not corrected or replaced. If the needle is bent, you can either bend it back or replace it if it is not repairable. 

7. Moisture From the Compressor

Any moisture from the compressor can affect the quality of your airbrushing. It results from water vapor turning into tiny droplets that mix into the paint.

Solution

This is easy to fix by simply using a water trap. 

8. Water Trap Problems

If you are using a water trap for your airbrush, you can pull out most of the water from the airstream.

However, not emptying the water trap regularly can cause excess droplets to mix into the paint.

Solution

It’s important to make sure you empty the water trap regularly. 

9. Loose Fittings

If the fittings aren’t on tight enough, pressure can escape and create a low-pressure environment inside the airbrush.

That means it may not have enough power to spray the paint out evenly but instead drip or spit out. 

Solution

Before spraying, double-check that all the fittings are tight on your airbrush. It just needs to be tight enough that no air will leak out. 

10. Spraying Technique

Improperly spraying your airbrush is one of the easiest ways to splatter paint.

Solution

Ensure you first push down on the trigger before you pull it back. This will allow the paint to atomize properly before the air pressure pushes it out to create a nice spray. 

11. Poor Quality Airbrush

If you’ve tried to troubleshoot your airbrush using all of the steps above and your paint is still splattering, you may be using a poor-quality airbrush.

An airbrush of poor quality does not create enough air pressure properly and may require higher pressure than a high-quality airbrush. 

Ideally, you want to create atomized paint at a lower pressure, which only higher-quality airbrushes can do.

You may find it more difficult to atomize paint properly and consistently with a low-quality one. 

Solution

If you’re sure that the airbrush itself is causing the problem, investing in a higher-quality model is the only thing to do.

If you need a nudge in the right direction, Paasche airbrushes have an excellent reputation.

Paasche Airbrush TG-3AS Gravity Feed Airbrush
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  • TG Airbrush: Includes .25mm, .38mm & .66mm heads - Plus fan aircap

Tips for Preventing Airbrush Splatter

Now that you’ve discovered what causes airbrush splatter and how to fix the problem, here are some tips on how to prevent splatter again in the future. 

  1. Clean your airbrush and needle after every use. 
  2. Use the correct paint type designed for your airbrush, and make sure you thin your paint enough, so it doesn’t splatter or clog the nozzle. 
  3. Check the psi of your airbrush compressor before spraying. 
  4. Ensure your fixings are on fairly tightly. 
  5. Spray the nozzle properly by pushing the trigger down and then pulling it back. 
  6. Use a water trap, and empty it regularly. 

Related Questions:

Here are answers to some of the most common questions about airbrushes. 

Why Is My Airbrush Splotchy?

A splotchy airbrush is when the paint looks misty or foggy on the surface.

If you find your airbrush creating splotchy colors, you may be pulling the trigger too hard or not enough or pointing the airbrush too close to or too far from the surface. 

Move the airbrush to an appropriate distance away from the surface, and test it to see if the splatter improves. If it doesn’t, your airbrush may be having one of the issues mentioned above. 

Can I Use a Shop Compressor for an Airbrush? 

Absolutely! Many types of compressors can be used for airbrushing.

However, a shop compressor’s regulator may not be precise enough for airbrush work. Having an additional regulator can be beneficial to maintain better control for finer paint jobs. 

Conclusion

Airbrush splatters are frustrating to deal with when all you want to do is paint.

However, the solutions are as simple as adjusting the air pressure, thinning or thickening your paint, and cleaning your airbrush properly. 

Sources:

https://www.megahobby.com/blog/how-to-clean-an-airbrush-properly/

https://acrylgiessen.com/en/thinning-acrylic-paint-for-airbrush/

https://www.airbrushmodeler.com/what-pressure-should-airbrush-at/

https://airbrushes.com/compressors.php

Last update on 2022-05-18 at 22:38 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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Rich

Rich

I'm a hobby enthusiast with a real love for painting miniatures. I also happen to run this site and write the majority of its content!