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Airbrush Troubleshooting

Airbrushing comes with some inherent issues, these problems and troubleshooting them vary and can be experienced at any time no matter how experienced the user, here are a few.


Bubbling in the gravity cup or suction bottle.

Can be caused by air pressure entering the paint reservoir. There are several reasons, most common are.

  • An air leak in the air cap or nozzle area.

    • Solution – Tighten the loose Air Cap or Head.

  • Needle tip dry is dry and has blocked the nozzle.

    • Solution - Clean or Replace the Tip Dry or Blocked Nozzle.

  • The air cap or head is loose.

    • Solution – Replace worn or damaged nozzle seal.

  • The airbrush nozzle has a split.

    • Solution – Replace the Split Nozzle.

The spray pattern is off-centre.

Normally caused by a bent needle tip. The paint or fluid exits the airbrush and follows the bend on the tip of the needle.

  • Straighten the Needle Tip – This can be achieved with a flat sharpening stone or two pieces of 1” x 2” wood. I use a SharpenAir, which is a hand-held device designed specifically for repairing bent and damaged airbrush fluid needles.

  • Replace the Needle.

Airbrush does not spray paint.

There are a few that can cause this, the most common are.


  • A blocked nozzle often caused by poor cleaning.

    • The solution for a Blocked Nozzle is to soak and clean the nozzle.

  • For a loose needle chucking nut when the needle is not moving with the trigger action.

    • Solution - Check and tighten the needle chucking or locking the nut.

  • The paint consistency is too thick.

    • Solution - Thin paint with appropriate thinner, reducer, water to a milky consistency.

  • Inappropriate low air pressure.

    • Sometimes the paint can be slightly too thick, and the pressure is too low to atomize. Increase the air pressure accordingly.

Airbrush sprays paint when the trigger is depressed for air.


Caused because the needle is not sitting flush inside the nozzle or you have the wrong nozzle attached for the size of the needle.


Otherwise, if the airbrush only sprays a blob of paint when the trigger is depressed then follow the Air On – Air Off method - first depress the trigger, then pull the trigger back for paint flow and then after spraying return the trigger forward before releasing the trigger/airflow. Shutting the paint flow off before the airflow will spray any residue paint off the tip of the needle.

  • Unscrew the needle locking nut.

  • Gradually push the needle forward until it rests inside the nozzle.

  • Tighten the needle-locking nut.

Air pressure remains on when the trigger is released.


Often due to many several reasons, like residue paint or solvents entering the air valve and affecting the air valve seal to swell or become sticky. A slack air valve closure or guide screw will not compress the air valve spring enough to fully return and shut off airflow.


  • Disassemble internal air valve components and lubricate with airbrush lube and re-assemble.

  • Replace air valve seals if they appear eroded by solvents.

  • Tightening the air valve closure or guide screw will compress the air valve spring and shut off airflow.

Poor spray or splattering of paint.


There are several reasons, ranging from.


  • Paint consistency.

    • Solution - Reduce to a milky consistency.

  • Low air pressure.

    • Increase air pressure until paint atomizes.

  • Damaged needle.

    •  Replace needle or repair using the SharpenAir device.

  • Tip dry or a partially blocked nozzle.

    • Remove the needle and clean with a Q-Tip or cloth dampened using an airbrush cleaner (always wipe away, airbrush needles are very sharp).

  • Residue paint build-up in the needle cap, nozzle, or air cap.

    • Clean and replace if indicated.

Spray Spidering.


  • Often caused if the paint has been over-thinned.

    • Solution 1 - Add paint to the mix or reduce air pressure.

    • Solution 2 - Do not draw the trigger back so far or increase the distance from the surface.

  • Also, caused by spraying the paint too heavily on a non-porous surface.

    • Solution - having the air pressure too high. Solution - Add paint to the mix or reduce air pressure.

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