Ideal PSI for Airbrush Compressor – Miniature Painting and More

Airbrushing requires a pressurized air source, typically an electric air compressor.  The compressor should have a pressure gauge on it that can be adjusted.  Some airbrushes also have a MAC valve on the airbrush itself to regulate air pressure.

What PSI should I use on my Airbrush Compressor?  The ideal PSI range for a dual action gravity feed airbrush using thinned acrylic paint is between 15 and 35 PSI.  Beginners should start with 25 PSI and adjust as needed.  Lower pressure (PSI) will allow for finer detail and less overspray, however it can lead to more frequent clogs.  Higher Pressure (PSI) will give a finer paint spray and reduce clogging, however paint may dry quickly on the tip and internal mechanism.

When I use my airbrush for miniature painting I have the compressor set to roughly 25 PSI for the majority of tasks.  Many miniature painters will mention “2 bar” which equates to right around 29 PSI.  Ultimately as long as you keep within a basic range you won’t have much issue with air pressure.  

Bar is roughly 14.5 PSI and is a unit of measure based on the average atmospheric pressure at sea level.

I’m giving you a few perspectives here.  My airbrush use over the years, which is obviously based on my experience with the compressor and airbrushes I own and use.  In addition, I wanted to share what some of the other painters I follow have to say on the topic of airbrush pressure settings.  Finally, I gathered up some of the most popular airbrush manufacturers and shared what they believe the ideal PSI is for their products.  

PSI I use on my Airbrushes when Miniature Painting

When I am airbrushing I keep my pressure set to right around 22-25 PSI.  I’ll leave it there for my most common activities like priming, base coating, and varnishing.  Even touching up some areas with the airbrush, I’ll keep the PSI around 25. 

When I am doing something requiring very thin paint, and fine detail, I’ll go ahead and turn down the PSI to maybe 18.  This is for things like small highlights, where I just want a nice light pulse of paint on a very specific spot or two.

When I want a very smooth application of paint, I will turn up the PSI to around 29 or 30.  An example would be applying a layer of transparent paint, or adding a thin layer of highlight over a fairly large area (like a Space Marines shoulder pad).  In that case it is a situation where I want a very smooth look.  The higher PSI will atomize the paint into smaller particles, and give a smoother finish.  

What PSI do the Airbrush Manufacturers recommend for their products?

The Badger Patriot 105 is my most used airbrush, and I recommend it highly for anyone getting started with airbrushing.  Badger recommends the following PSI based on airbrush type:

GRAVITY FEED Less air pressure (as low as 8-16 PSI) is required to operate this type of airbrush.

BOTTOM FEED At least 20-30 PSI to operate properly.

SIDE FEED At least 20 PSI to operate.

For the Badger Patriot 105 specifically, Badger has this to say:  “The Patriot airbrush will operate at 30 PSI, as well as lower pressure settings (10-15 PSI) and is ergonomically balanced for hours of comfortable airbrushing.”

I also own an Iwata HP-CS Eclipse.  It has a smaller needle size of .35.  I tend to keep it at 25 PSI but here is what Iwata has to say:

For the Iwata HP-CS and Eclipse series in general, Iwata has this suggestion:
“Adjust the air pressure to between 25 and 35 psi.”

Harder and Steenbeck recommend 2 bar or 29 PSI for their Infinity series brushes.  Up to a maximum of 4 bar (58 psi).  I use their Infinity CR+ 2 in 1 and I tend to stick to my 25 PSI.

What PSI do other Miniature Painters use on their Airbrushes?

Miniac doesn’t have a specific range in mind but recommends between 25 and 30 for projects like base coating or priming with a thicker paint.  Roughly 8 minutes in.

Lyla Mev also suggests a mid 20’s range of PSI, and lowering it for thinner paints and inks:

Finally, Airbrush Assylum suggests 30 PSI for the Iwata HP-CS:

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