What Airbrush Nozzle Size Should I Use For Painting Scale Models?

The airbrush nozzle size you choose will be determined by your skill level and also the level of fine detail you wish to paint.

A mid-range nozzle size, typically 0.35 mm, is an excellent all-rounder for the novice airbrush user, however there will inevitably come a time when you want better paint coverage and results on large model parts requiring a larger nozzle size, or the ability to do high quality find detail work, and that’s where smaller nozzle sizes really start to bring you into pro level work.

Let’s get a quick understanding of the how and why of different nozzle sizes and their workings, then we’ll dive into examples showing where you will absolutely benefit from using different nozzle sizes than you’re used to.

What is an airbrush nozzle and what does it do?

The nozzle is the opening at the end of the airbrush, and will be filled (or blocked) by the airbrush needle.

When you pull the trigger on the airbrush it will allow the compressed air from your compressor to pressurise the airbrush and the trigger action will also move the needle to create a small opening in the nozzle.

The more you pull the trigger, the bigger the opening at the nozzle, and the greater the quantity of paint you will spray.

In basic terms, if you have a smaller sized nozzle then you will have less paint spray out of your airbrush, and you will get a finer line or spray pattern.

If you have a larger nozzle size, then you will have a greater volume of paint being sprayed and a wider spray pattern.

On some airbrushes operated by a skilled user a fine line can still be achieved to some degree even with a big nozzle, however this does take some skill and the potential for errors in the job do increase if you get a bit “fat fingered” and accidentally allow too much paint to flow (very easy to do!).

So ultimately, if you want to speed up your model building and improve your results significantly overall, investing in different nozzle sizes is something you should strongly consider.

What Is The Best All-Rounder Airbrush Nozzle Size For A Beginner?

Many airbrushes will ship with a 3.0mm to 3.5mm nozzle and associated needle, which is a great all-rounder size and perfect for the beginner.

It gives very satisfactory results for either large area painting and detail work, and is excellent for everything in between.

However the reality is that the novice airbrusher and modeler will not likely be doing a large amount of very large area spraying or fine detail work (unless you’re painting miniature figures perhaps) and so there’s little reason to change nozzle size right at the outset.

There are also a number of popular airbrushes that ship with the larger 0.5 mm nozzle and needle set, and from personal experience I can confirm that you’ll be able to get virtually every airbrushing task done to a high standard when building models using this needle size.

It’s only when you want to get finer lines from your airbrush, or be able to spray tiny parts without blowing them away, that you’d want to move down to a smaller nozzle size.

As your model building progresses though there will come a time when you do wish to expand your arsenal of specialised equipment to get much more professional and time efficient results, and that’s where differing nozzle and needle sizes start to come into their own.

NOTE: nozzle and needles essentially come as a pair, and when talking about nozzle and needle sizes the terms can usually be used interchangeably.

For more details specifically on needle sizes and how they impact your model airbrushing results check out this article. 👍

What Is The Best Airbrush Nozzle Size For Fine Lines And Detail Painting?

Airbrush Modeler 2
1/144 Revell FA-18

If airbrushing super fine detail is called for then start off with a 2 mm or 2.5 mm nozzle and needle.

It’s rare that this level of detail will be called for but when your skills and desire to create a truly professional and detailed piece of work with your model building arises this is the nozzle size that will deliver the goods.

Just bare in mind that they are quite specific to fine lines and detail work and don’t lend themselves particularly well to spraying over large areas, but if this will be your second nozzle set or airbrush then you’ve already got the larger areas covered with your original equipment.

What Is The Best Airbrush Nozzle Size For Painting Bigger Areas Or Large Models?

Airbrush Modeler 1
1/20 Tamiya Leyton House CG901B

0.4 mm to 0.5 mm nozzle sizes are the best for painting larger areas as they allow a greater volume of paint to flow over a wider spray pattern.

This will give you much quicker coverage but also more even coverage over large spaces rather than leaving streaky lines that may occur with the more narrow spray pattern of smaller airbrush nozzle and needle combinations.

Think about trying to paint a large scale military ship hull with a small nozzle that only provides for a thin line of paint… it’s not hard to understand that this will take a very long time and may lead to striping in the paint if your coverage is not perfect.

If you tend to build large scale models that have bigger and generally flatter parts, then going up in nozzle size to 0.4mm to 0.5mm can certainly benefit you.

Recap On Airbrush Nozzle Sizes For Specific Paint Jobs

Needle DiameterBest Usage Application For Scale Model Building
0.15mm or lessUsed for very fine detail painting. Can often be the most expensive needles.
0.2 to 0.25mmStill provide very fine spray patterns, and would likely be the smallest needle size you would want for scale model painting. EXAMPLE USE: pre-shading of panel lines on a military jet or panel edges on a tank.
0.3 to 0.35mmGeneral purpose painting where fine detail is not required, but rather full coverage base coating and top coating of kit parts that are not overly large. EXAMPLE USE: priming or top coating a smaller scale armoured vehicle, engine parts of a 1/12 scale motorcycle.
0.4 to 0.5mmProbably the most popular airbrush needle size, it lends itself very well to priming and top coating of medium to large kit parts, but will still give very acceptable results on small parts or fine detail. EXAMPLE USE: painting a 1/32 military jet, or a large scale naval vessel hull
What Pressure Should I Airbrush At

Do I Have To Change My Airbrush Needle Size If I Change My Nozzle Size?

Typically, yes.

It’s always best to get nozzle, needle and aircap set for the specific size you want that matches the brand and model of your airbrush.

Not all airbrush accessories are interchangeable, and if they are interchangeable you may still find that they do not necessarily give the quality of results that you would get by using accessories designed for your exact model.

RELATED: What Do Different Airbrush Needle Sizes Do? Explained!

Do I Need To Use The Same Brand Nozzle As My Airbrush?

This is a similar question to the one posed above and has a similar answer…

…typically, yes.

Many airbrush manufacturers have stated that their airbrush equipment and accessories should be kept consistent, and not only from manufacturer to manufacturer, but also from specific model to specific model.

Airbrushes, at least the higher quality versions, are very detailed and well-engineered pieces of equipment, and using a different brands’ accessories on your airbrush may give unintended results – or may not fit or function correctly at all.

Unless a manufacturer states specifically that their accessories are compatible with a specific brand and model of airbrush, play it safe and stick only with the same brand you’re already using. 👍

Will I Have To Get A Brand New Airbrush To Get A New Nozzle Size?

In many cases, yes.

More often than not an airbrush will not have an option to simply change nozzle and needle sizes.

As mentioned, airbrushes are very finely engineered pieces of equipment and will usually be manufactured to work perfectly with a set nozzle and needle size, where changing this size might impact the spray quality as the remainder of airbrush isn’t perfectly optimised for a single specific nozzle and needle set.

If you find that this is the case for your particular airbrush after looking at the manufacturer information, and you’re not able simply swap in a new nozzle size, then you now have the joy (no sarcasm!) of shopping for a new airbrush…

…and who of us doesn’t love shopping for airbrush and/or model related items! 😎

So have you figured out what new nozzle size you need to enhance and improve your future airbrush work?

Make a choice, take the plunge, and see the improvements!

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