Can You Use Acrylic Paint in an Airbrush? Best Types & How To

A person using a red airbrush to apply white paint to a model airplane.

Are you new to airbrushing? One of the most important tools you’ll use is paint to give style and colorful personality to your projects! There are many paints, one being acrylic.

Can you airbrush with acrylic paint? Yes, acrylic paints are nontoxic and well suited for use with an airbrush. The main consideration with airbrush painting is consistency. You want thinner paint flowing easily through the airbrush. The higher quality acrylics allow for thinning down without losing the color saturation. A smaller pigment size will give a cleaner finish. 

Acrylics are great for airbrushing. The colors are bright, and mixing them can bring so many other colors to life as well. Let’s explore acrylics a bit more. 

Which Acrylic Paints Can Be Used for Airbrushing

Now that you’ve chosen acrylic paint, which type should you use? Remember to expect to get what you paid for. I’ve included sets I’ve used.

Acrylic Airbrush Paints

Acrylics are great for many different types of hobbies. This versatility is at the top of the benefits list. Airbrushing with acrylics leads to a faster dryer time and they require less supplies than other types of paint.

Acrylic airbrush paints are designed specifically for use with airbrushes, and many of them are ready for use right out of the box without having to add any thinners or flow improvers.

Here’s a set to start with.

Recommended: Vallejo Acrylics

This set comes with a range of basic colors. The colors range from white to black with your primary colors and some offshoots of green, yellow, and some browns.

It is sold as an airbrush set, so the paint will be a bit thinner than the normal acrylic paints. You may still need to thin it in any case. Because it’s an airbrush set, clogs and dried paint on the needle should occur less compared to other acrylic sets.

High-Flow Acrylics

The high-flow part of the name lends itself to the ink-like consistency that it has over other acrylics. It applies quickly, dries quickly, and is versatile. One of its specific uses is airbrushing!

Recommended: Golden High-Flow Acrylics

Sale
Golden High Flow Acrylic, Assorted 10 Color Set,...
  • Set of ten- 1 oz bottles
  • Compatible with Golden Acrylics and Mediums

This set comes with 10 colors rather than the 12 from Vallejo. The high flow boasts being able to be used for multiple applications including airbrushing, pouring, and marbling.

With this set, you can build up the colors to exactly where you want them, and the dried paint is more durable.

You’ll get 10 classic colors (1 fluid ounce each) that blend together beautifully. With a bit of thinning, you’ll love how they flow through the airbrush.

Golden also has a large selection of colors with their High-Flow products, so if this set doesn’t give you everything you want, there are more options available.  

Professional/Artist Grade Acrylics

Let’s now talk about the higher grade acrylics.

The downside to lower quality acrylics is that they don’t offer as many colors. With professional grade/artist grade acrylics you get more color choices.

That’s not where the positives stop! The pigment of the paint is greatly increased, and the quality is evident.

If you really want your products to pop with color, professional grade is the way to go!

Recommended: Winsor & Newton Galeria Acrylics

Sale
Winsor & Newton 2190518 Galeria Acrylic Paint,...
  • High quality acrylic which delivers professional results and is ideal for artists who want good...
  • Galleria enjoys a good to high level of pigmentation, which gives artists from beginner to...

This set has all the basic colors you need for unlimited color creation.

Colors included are crimson, Winsor blue, cadmium yellow, cadmium red hue, phthalo green, burnt sienna, titanium white, raw umber, and yellow ochre. 

The set also comes with a gloss gel to give the satin finish a little bit of shine. The shades are vibrant due to the large amount of pigment used in the formulation.

The Galeria Acrylic line has a total of 57 shades available, so there is much more to explore if you enjoy the set!

Student Grade Acrylics

Student grades are great for those looking for quality but are just starting out and don’t want to pay for premium paints just yet.

The manufacturers sacrifice some of the pigment and also mix pigments within their colors, but the student grade is lightfast, which means the color won’t fade. That’s nice!

Recommended: Liquitex BASICS

Liquitex BASICS 6 Tube Acrylic Paint Set, 118ml
  • WHY BASICS? - Liquitex invented artists' acrylics back in 1955 and we've specialized in acrylics...
  • HIGHEST QUALITY PIGMENTS - Basics uses the the same high quality pigments and rigorous manufacturing...

The BASICS set is Liquitex’s student-grade set for everyday use.

Liquitex uses the same amount of pigment in its student-grade paints as its professional grade, making it a good preview of what’s to come when you up your paint quality.

This particular set comes with six primary colors ranging from white to black. There are sets going up to 48 different shades.

While only six colors, the price point isn’t too hard on the wallet. 

High-Quality Acrylic Craft Paint

High-quality acrylic paint falls in a similar category as professional/artist grade, if not slightly below.

Compared to standard craft paints, the benefits are more pigmentation, better resistance against fading, and smoother consistency.

Recommended: Caliart Acrylics

Sale
Caliart Acrylic Paint Set With 12 Brushes, 24...
  • Acrylic Paint Set With 12 Brushes: Premium paints glide on smoothly, dry quickly and stay as...
  • High Quality, Rich Pigments, Certified Safe & Non-Toxic: No need to worry about toxicity with our...

This set definitely reminds me of being in art class as a kid. It has 24 shades, giving you a couple different options for your basic colors, and it gives some opportunity for mixing.

It can be layered on to level up the vibrancy of your minis and models. They are water based and nontoxic, making them safe for children.

Caliart also has a pastel acrylic set for a bit more cash in case you want to give a fantasy vibe to your projects. 

Thinning Acrylic Paint for Airbrushing

Acrylics are too thick to use on their own when airbrushing, so you’ll need to thin them.

Some have used water for thinning their paints. While acceptable, you sacrifice pigment and consistency.

If you choose to use water, you may notice loss of color saturation and vibrancy. This is where thinning products come in. These will allow for a sharper color and better consistency.

Best Thinners for Airbrushing Acrylics

There are a couple of options as far as the products I personally use in airbrushing. I’ve been really happy with them!

Golden Airbrush Thinner

This 4-ounce bottle helps to make your paint last longer. The thinner also will help prevent clogs and any dried paint on the needle.

It will also even out the flow of your paint from the airbrush, avoiding inadvertent heavier applications in spots.

The manufacturer does state that it shouldn’t be used with high-flow products as it will lengthen dry time and make it harder for the paint to stick to the product. 

Liquitex Professional Effects Medium

Sale
Liquitex Professional Effects Medium , 237ml...
  • A liquid medium incorporating an acrylic polymer.
  • Specifically formulated to thin acrylic colors for airbrush application.

Liquitex has an entire line of mediums for varying uses. While formulated specifically for airbrushing, this medium also can be used with a brush.

This medium will maintain the integrity of the paint after mixing, so you won’t see much of a sacrifice in the shade.

It also reduces paint buildup and clogs and can be used in dry and hot climates. 

How To Thin Acrylic Paint for Airbrushing

Thinning is quite simple. Your options are water, rubbing alcohol, or thinners. All three will work. It’s up to you.

Start with a 1:1 approach, aiming for a final consistency of that of skim milk. You can always add more.

Applying Acrylic Paint With an Airbrush

Once you’ve mixed your paint and thinner, pour the mixture into the paint cup, make sure your hose is connected to the compressor, and pull down on the trigger!

It will take a few seconds for the paint to work through, but you will really see the color coming through!

Related Questions: 

Can You Use Acrylic Pouring Paint in an Airbrush?

Yes, you can use acrylic paint designed for paint pouring in an airbrush. High-flow acrylics are used as a pouring paint for many artists, but they can work equally well in an airbrush.

While these acrylics may be thinner than others, you may still need to thin them a bit before applying. 

Can You Use Alcohol To Thin Acrylic Paint?

Yes, you can use alcohol to thin acrylic paint. It’s a very cheap and effective way to thin your paint.

If you don’t want to buy a thinning product, then that would be the way to go! Stick with the 1:1 ratio at first.

That’s All Folks!

We covered a lot of ground, but now you have enough to make an informed decision on what acrylics you’d like to use and how to use them correctly. 

When it comes down to it, the choice is completely yours based on your budget and desired results.

Last update on 2022-09-25 at 08:28 / 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!