What is the best airbrush to paint miniatures? Are you a scale modeler? Check out this review of the top 10 best airbrushes for painting miniatures and models. Whether you’re a beginner or veteran miniature painter, these airbrushes may fit your need.
Here are the recommended top 10 best airbrushes for painting miniatures and models.
- Badger Patriot 105
- Badger Renegade Velocity
- Iwata HP-CS
- Badger Sotar 20/20
- Harder & Steenbeck Evolution 2-in-1
- Harder & Steenbeck Infinity 2-in-1
- Grex Genesis XSi3 Side Feed
- Badger Renegade Spirit Side Feed
- Badger Patriot Xtreme
In a hurry? See the top 3 airbrushes! 🏆
In this article, I review (with pros and cons) the top 10 recommended airbrushes for painting miniatures and models, e.g., Warhammer 40k, Warmachine/Hordes, Age of Sigmar, and other miniature hobby games.
10 Best Airbrushes for Painting Miniatures and Scale Models
I’ve operated many airbrushes over the years as a commissioned miniature painter. I admit I spent way too much money on tools I didn’t need.
But, of course, I didn’t really know what I liked about each tool until I tried them (eBay has been a close friend). Here’s what my experience taught me about airbrushes.
Check out my review of the top 10 best airbrushes for painting miniatures and scale models.
1. Badger Patriot 105
The Patriot 105 is my favorite all-around airbrush. This is my first recommendation for anyone who isn’t sure they want to invest a lot into the hobby. This airbrush will handle almost any job you throw at it, except for more detailed airbrushing.
The Patriot 105 comes stock with a 0.5mm sized nozzle, and will not be ideal for smooth paint blending on small scale models. For grunt work, however, such as priming and base coating large swath of surface area, this is a fantastic airbrush.
It is not prone to clogging (with careful paint thinning) and proper usage. In fact, assembly and disassembly is super easy (e.g., you shouldn’t have to do this much).
For under $100, this is my top recommendation for a first, starter airbrush for beginners or veteran miniature painters.
- The Patriot 105 is my favorite do-it-all airbrush
- This is my first recommendation for anyone who isn’t sure they want to invest a lot into the hobby.
- This airbrush will handle almost any job you throw at it, except for more detailed airbrushing
- Easily Spray acrylics, varnishes, and primers
- This is my top recommendation for a starter airbrush for beginners
Rating (out of 5)
2. Badger Renegade Velocity
The Badger Renegade Velocity is an upgrade to the Patriot 105, but loses the barrel needle access. In return, you have a finer needle and nozzle (0.2mm size) and, in my opinion, better handling. The exposed needle at the tip makes cleaning up “tip-dry” a lot easier. The two prongs on the nose protect the exposed fragile needle from accidental damage.
Overall, I would place the same value on the Renegade Velocity as the Patriot 105 for painting miniatures.
But, if you’re looking for a finer spray patter for painting miniatures, I would recommend the Renegade Velocity over the Patriot 105. Just be aware that the finer needle and nozzle assemble will be more prone to clogging, and are a bit more fragile
(note: be careful the nozzle is tiny and not attached to the airbrush! It is held in place with the nose cone).
In terms of ergonomics, the airbrush is a similar weight and feel as the Patriot 105. As for specific features, the trigger assembly has a different feel than the Patriot 105, however; and is a tad more responsive (e.g., it has more spring or bounce when pulling back). Of course, the trigger pull tension is adjustable.
For more details/cost, etc., about the Renegade Velocity, check here.
- The Renegade Velocity is an upgrade to the Patriot 105
- This airbrush has a finer needle and nozzle assembly (0.2mm size)
- More suited for fine-detail painting
Rating (out of 5)
3. Badger Krome Airbrush
The Badger Krome Airbrush has the hybrid form of both the Renegade Velocity and Patriot 105 airbrushes. With the addition of the plastic grip under the trigger, which may improve ergonomics (or worsen it for some, but it can be removed), this airbrush includes all the advantages of the aforementioned airbrushes.
The Krome has a set-screw for limiting the needle pull, which helps you control how much paint you can maximally introduce into the airflow. This is useful for finer spray applications where you want to avoid overspray. For beginner, less experienced airbrush users, I would advise against using this feature.
Learning how to control the trigger manually is critical to any work you do.
Build quality is excellent in the Badger Krome. The entire airbrush weighs close 10-12 ounces (or close to 350 grams), which is quite heavy. The internal structure is machine brass, coated in a chrome finish, as to the airbrush’s namesake. The Krome has a softer trigger pull than the Patriot 105, giving you more resolution in trigger-paint control.
The underbody finger rest I mentioned is made of plastic and does add some comfort despite some reviewers who did not like it. The plastic grip is remove-able.
The Krome is a 2-in-1 kit, which means it comes with two nozzle/needle assemblies: a fine (0.3mm) and an ultra-fine (0.2mm) sizes. This adds to the versatility of the airbrush.
Overall, the Krome airbrush is certainly an upgrade to the Patriot 105 and Renegade Velocity. It has several more features that you’ll likely take advantage of as you gain experience painting miniatures with more control.
- The Krome Airbrush is Badger’s flagship airbrush model
- The Badger Krome has a set-screw for limiting the needle pull, a more advanced feature (not recommended for use in miniature painting)
- Build quality is excellent
- The Krome has a softer trigger pull than the Patriot 105
- Removable ergonomic finger rest
- The Krome is a 2-in-1 kit that comes with two nozzle/needle assemblies: a fine (0.3mm) and an ultra-fine (0.2mm)
Rating (out of 5)
4. Iwata HP-CS Airbrush
The Iwata HP-CS is the modern version of my first airbrush. It literally shines in every regard for the airbrushing enthusiast.
It is a gravity fed, double-action airbrush with all the bells and whistles you would want for painting miniatures. The Iwata HP-CS is a direct competitor with the Badger Krome (shown above), albeit a bit pricier at over $150. What you get for this higher cost, however, is a much more refined airbrushing experience.
For example, the paint cup comes with a metal cap (Badger airbrushes provide a soft, cheap plastic cover), which fits snuggly. The whole airbrush oozes quality: from the feel of the trigger, to the exterior chrome plating, and the integrated barrel-chassis.
Be careful when you disassemble an Iwata, the precision built into this airbrush also means that parts within do not leave room for error (trust me, I know). Unfortunately, replacement parts are more expensive than comparable Badger components (up to 2x more expensive).
On the other hand, if you’re someone who is careful with their equipment, an Iwata will return your tender attention with a pleasurable airbrushing experience.
The standard 0.35mm sized nozzle makes this the most versatile airbrush you can buy for painting miniatures. Not too small or big, the nozzle in this airbrush is sublime for less clogging, fine paint atomization, and permits thicker paint spray along with thin inks (without splatter).
This is a professional level airbrush in many ways, and to get the most out of this airbrush for painting miniatures will require you to learn the nuances of how this tool works.
- The Iwata HP-CS is the modern version of my first airbrush
- A classic starter for any airbrushing enthusiast
- A direct competitor with the Krome, but more refined quality (and more expensive)
- Stainless steel is the major build material, instead of the cheaper brass in lower end airbrush
- The standard 0.35mm sized nozzle is versatile for painting miniatures, e.g., detail and large surface spraying
Rating (out of 5)
5. Badger Sotar 20/20 Airbrush
The Badger Sotar 20/20 is my second favorite airbrush for professional miniature painting (i.e., the Patriot 105 is my workhorse).
Badger produces this airbrush as a direct answer to compete with the Iwata fine detail professional airbrushes, e.g., Iwata hi-line series. This Sotar 2020 model includes a nozzle/needle (0.2mm nozzle) assembly that will spray a “pencil” thin line to a 1.25″ (30ml) wide spray pattern.
The paint cup is a great size for allowing visibility to your miniature or model’s surface.
The cup holds 1.5 ounces (or about 15ml) of paint, which allows you to paint for a somewhat extended time without having to refresh the paint color.
As ergonomics of the brush are similar to other Badger airbrushes. It has a hefty, solid feel, with a forward balance toward the nozzle. Note the grip is located near the paint cup and directly under the trigger. This helps give you more fine hand-motor control over the spray pattern, as it is applied to your working surface.
In my experience, I love the control this airbrush gives me.
The exposed needle also helps with precise airbrush application. Just be careful, as with any airbrush needle exposed like this, the needle is prone to damage.
There is no adapter that you can use to cover the exposed needle on the Sotar 2020. So, I don’t recommend the Sotar 2020 as a starter airbrush to new miniature painters.
- The Badger Sotar 20/20 is my second favorite airbrush for professional miniature painting
- This Sotar 2020 model has a nozzle/needle (0.2mm nozzle) assembly that is great for detail
- Ergonomic feel is excellent for fine motor control
- I don’t recommend the Sotar 2020 as a starter airbrush to new miniature painters, e.g., fragile, exposed needle
Rating (out of 5)
6. Harder & Steenbeck Evolution 2-in-1 Airbrush
The Harder & Steenbeck Evolution 2-in-1 Airbrush is an airbrush I would have purchased if I didn’t already have the Iwata HP-CS. Functionally, the Harder & Steenbeck Evolution is similar to the Iwata I mention above with all the same features, except for one big difference.
The Evolution has a 2-in-1 system where the kit comes with an interchangeable paint cup size.
Switch between 2 and 5ml paint cups, depending on how much miniature or model painting you plan to be doing. This also happens to make clean up for the cup area much easier than the integrated system of the Iwata.
Additionally, the Evolution airbrush comes with two needle and nozzle assembles: a 0.2mm or a 0.4mm nozzle size setup. Included in the purchase with the airbrush, this lets you swap out the nozzle sizes for your particular purpose. Are you base-coating? Use the larger 0.4mm nozzle. Then, switch over to the 0.2mm nozzle for finer spray control.
So instead of the standard 0.3 to 0.35mm nozzle sets that come with most airbrushes, get a more refined setup with a 2-in-1 Evolution airbrush kit. Of course, this airbrush costs more, but in my opinion, it’s worth the cost if you think this additional flexibility is useful for your work.
Ergonomically, the Evolution balances evenly with the larger paint cup, front to back, and is very comfortable for long painting sessions. With the smaller paint cup, it has a back-weighted feel, making the airbrush feel a tad more “twitchy”. Fill your paint cup with paint and the weight shifts yet again.
If you don’t airbrush much, you may not notice these subtleties, but I mention this for the power users. Sometimes those small things that bug you can become huge issues after a lot of use.
Overall, this is a fantastic airbrush for painting miniatures. Scale modelers will love the flexibility of the nozzle/paint cup interchangeable feature.
- The Harder & Steenbeck Evolution 2-in-1 Airbrush is an average airbrush in terms of cost-to-feature value
- The Evolution has a 2-in-1 system
- Switch between 2 and 5ml paint cups
- Sold with parts for a 0.2mm or a 0.4mm needle/nozzle setup
- Scale modelers will love the flexibility of the modular design
- For a slightly higher cost, you may want to consider the Infinity (#7)
Rating (out of 5)
7. Harder & Steenbeck Infinity 2-in-1 Airbrush
The Harder & Steenbeck Infinity 2-in-1 Airbrush is the airbrush many professional, veteran miniature painters may recommend to serious painters looking for an upgrade. In a nutshell, the entire design of this airbrush (inside and out) is similar to the Harder & Steenbeck Evolution (see #6). Almost all of the internal parts are the same and interchangeable, even the needle and nozzle. Both airbrushes also comes with parts to interchange the needle/nozzle size and the paint cup. Even the trigger assembly is the same as the Evolution.
It would, in fact, be easier for me to point out the differences between the Evolution and Infinity.
The Infinity uses an open-needle design, whereas the Evolution uses a closed-needle nose assembly. This gives the use of the Infinity a lot more spray control, as well as needle access to keep it clear of debris. This, of course, exposes the needle to additional risk for damage. But, if you’re careful this open-needle design is a significant advantage for painting miniatures and small scale models.
Moving toward the back of Harder & Steenbeck Infinity airbrush, you’ll notice the exposed set screw for handling the trigger tension and needle-lock nut. I’ve found this extra access useful for when I need to make fine adjustments to the trigger (e.g., giving me more or less snap to the trigger pull for handling the paint mixture). If you’re just starting out in miniature painting, you may not appreciate this ability.
But, as you gain more experience and “feel” over how the paint-spray behaves, you’ll enjoy having the ability to easily change how the airbrush operates internally with small adjustments. In the Evolution, you would have to unscrew the entire back end of the airbrush to access the trigger tension set screw.
Have you ever noticed some veteran airbrush users don’t even reassemble the barrel on their airbrush?
They simply leave it open so they have full access to the rear needle. You won’t need to do this with the Infinity.
The knob at the back of the airbrush functions similarly to the Badger Krome. It limits the pull on the airbrush needle, so you don’t overly mix paint into the air mixture. This is an advanced-user feature for the most part, but could come in handy if you’re painting a delicate portion of your model and want to control over-spray.
- The Harder & Steenbeck Infinity 2-in-1 Airbrush is a highly respected among professional painters
- Similar to the Evolution (see #6), but has more refined features that are useful for painting miniatures
- Uses an open-needle nozzle design, which is advantageous for painting miniatures and fine scale models
Rating (out of 5)
8. Grex Genesis XSi3 Side Feed Airbrush
The Grex Genesis XSi3 0.3mm Nozzle Side Feed Airbrush is a unique and recent product on the airbrushing market (relative to others on this list). In fact, there are several Grex products now, all of which are fantastic additions for the airbrush painter.
In terms of build-quality and constructions, I rate this close to Iwatas. Mostly stainless steel components, the internal parts are durable and easily repaired/replaceable.
Grex has made some interesting and practical innovations to the ergonomics of the airbrush.
First off, the hand grip section of the airbrush may be more comfortable to some who have larger hands. The larger surface area of the airbrush grip may also provide better control and stability (though I never noticed a big difference). However, everyone has their own preference for handling.
The airbrush is fairly light and well-balanced.
More importantly, this airbrush is setup as a side-feed. Paint enters into the airbrush from a side-attached cup (or even bottle-siphon bottom-feed hybrid system, details here). The side-cup lets you hold the airbrush with more visibility of your working surface.
Of course, you may not be able to feed paint into the internal mix as reliably at very low air pressure as you can with a gravity feed system. But, again, this may be okay depending on your intended application. Grex has a similar airbrush with a gravity feed design without the capability of using the side cup and bottle system. See the gravity-feed version.
This airbrush comes with a standard sized 0.3mm nozzle assembly. However, if you prefer, you can easily upgrade this with conversion kits to nozzle sizes between 0.2mm to 0.7mm!
Literally, paint anything.
The needle hidden in the nose cap, but as with other Grex airbrushes, there are different parts that will modularly change how your airbrush function. Simply get the part you want, e.g., open needle nose cone, and attach them onto your airbrush chassis.
Trigger pull tension and needle limiter are located on the back of the airbrush for finer control over your spray pattern.
Overall, the Grex side-feed Genesis XSi3 is an innovative addition for miniature painters who are looking for a different way of doing things that work just as well (or better depending on your need).
- The Grex Genesis XSi3 0.3mm Nozzle Side Feed Airbrush is a unique airbrush for painting miniatures due to its side feed design
- Mostly made of durable stainless steel
- Ergonomic design, including rubberized grip and trigger
- Light weight and center-balanced
- Side-feed cup design provides better visibility (gravity-feed version)
- Standard sized 0.3mm nozzle assembly is versatile and modular
- Closed-nozzle design in default configuration (can be upgraded)
Rating (out of 5)
9. Badger Renegade Spirit Side Feed Airbrush
The Badger Air-Brush Co R2S Renegade Spirit Side Feed Airbrush is essentially the side-feed version of the Badger Renegade Velocity (#2 on the list). This airbrush uses all the same components with those advantages as the gravity feed version.
The Badger Renegade Spirit Side Feed Airbrush is an upgrade to the Patriot 105 for painting miniatures. The finer needle and nozzle (0.2mm size) and more solid handling give you a lot more control for finer detail airbrushing miniatures.
Modelers who need more visibility of the their work will love the side-feed system.
The exposed needle tip (with dual prongs) allow for cleaning up tip-dry, while maintain some level of protection for the needle tip.
Ergonomically, the weight and balance of the airbrush are similar to the Patriot 105 and Renegade Velocity. A screw-limiter at the rear of the airbrush for the trigger/needle will come in handy for those who are looking for a hard-fast way to prevent excess paint from entering the internal air mixture.
If you were looking for something that gave you more room to see what you’re doing, a bit more versatility in handling larger volumes of paint, I would highly recommend this airbrush. Note that spraying a low pressure may give you problems with a side-feed airbrush. This is particularly true if you tend to tilt the airbrush toward the paint cup.
As with any Badger, the Renegade Spirit is a durable airbrush that will last years with regular maintenance and care.
- The Badger R2S Renegade Spirit Side Feed Airbrush is the side-feed version of the Badger Velocity (#2 )
- Provides a fine spray pattern for painting miniatures (uses 0.2mm needle/nozzle)
- The side-feed system allows more visibility to the working surface
- Open needle tip is useful for detail work
- If you were looking for something that gave you more room to see what you’re doing, a bit more versatility in handling larger volumes of paint, I would recommend this airbrush
Rating (out of 5)
10. Badger Patriot Xtreme
The Badger Patriot Xtreme is a combination of the best features found on the Badger Patriot 105, the Krome, and the micro-air-valve (MAC) found on the much more expensive Iwata Hi-Line airbrush (not shown in this list, but see the Iwata Hi-Line here).
I call this the budget-professional airbrush.
Similar features as higher-end airbrushes, but with less refinement and cost. The airbrush is not pretty, but functions as intended.
Take the ruggedness, the purist form of the Patriot 105 and mix in the grip of the Krome under the trigger, you’re more than half-way to understanding how this airbrush functions. This airbrush is designed for miniature painters who want ultimate control.
Look at the trigger. It is nearly twice the height as the normal triggers found on any other airbrush on this list. The longer trigger upgrade included with the Badger Patriot Xtreme provides much more index finger resolution for controlling paint input. Note: you can buy this trigger upgrade (known as a “high roller trigger”) separately for the other Badger airbrushes.
The MAC valve located near the nose of the airbrush is a mini air regulator. Presumably, it functions like the valve on the Iwata Hi-line airbrushes. The knob controls the amount of air that flows out from the nozzle near the front of the airbrush. This tiny change in air pressure gives you real-time control over your paint atomization and spray pattern.
It’s a small connivence that you may find useful over time. There have been reports that this knob often stops working, gets clogged, or doesn’t reliably adjust air. Your mileage may vary.
However, given the cost of this airbrush and the available features compared to other airbrushes, the Badger Patriot Xtreme may fit the bill for painting miniatures for most people.
The standard kit comes with the standard 0.3mm sized nozzle, which is the most versatile nozzle size for painting miniatures and scale models. You can change the needle/nozzle to fit your needs, however, as with the normal Patriot 105.
The exposed open needle design is interesting on airbrush like this, but should give you some more visible control over where you are spraying.
With the other moving components in this airbrush, there is some more nuanced maintenance you’ll need to consider. But, if you’ve already owned and used other Badger airbrushes, there’s not much need you will need to learn to keep this tool running well.
- The Badger Patriot Xtreme is a combination of the professional features found on the Krome and the micro-air-valve (MAC) found on the much more expensive Iwata Hi-Line airbrush (not listed)
- This is the budget-friendly professional airbrush
- Similar features as higher-end airbrushes, but with less refinement and cost
- Tall roller trigger upgrade comes standard (note: you can buy this trigger upgrade for other Badger airbrushes)
- Features the MAC valve near the nose of the airbrush, e.g., finer air regulation
- Default 0.3mm sized nozzle is versatile for many painting applications
Rating (out of 5)
What is the best airbrush for painting miniatures?
My recommended top 10 best airbrushes for painting miniatures and models:
|Image||Model||Rating (out of 5)||Key Features|
|Badger Patriot 105||5||User friendly, versatile for pros and hobbyists|
|Badger Renegade Velocity||4.5||Fine detail painting, durable|
|Badger Krome||4||Professional all-around use|
|Iwata HP-CS||4||Mid-tier starter or professional painter|
|Badger Sotar 20/20||4.5||Fine detail painting|
|Harder & Steenbeck Evolution||3||Modular design, flexible and versatile|
|Harder & Steenbeck Infinity||4||Professional features with modular design|
|Grex Genesis XSi3||3.5||Ergonomic, innovative design, side-feed paint cup|
|Badger Renegade Spirit||3||Budget friendly, side-feed paint cup, medium-fine detail|
|Badger Patriot Xtreme||3.5||Professional features, budget-friendly package|