So I’ve been pondering over the Gravity vs Siphon question since a few weeks now. Since I actually discovered that there are “X” versions of the Harder & Steenbeck airbrushes that I’m having at home and since I’ve seen at the Brussels Games Festival how useful a suction feed can be with pre-made (=thinned) painting bottles you just have to switch to conveniently change your colors.
Which type is best? Of course, the answer is neither. It depends on what you prefer and need. If you ask on one of the modeling forums, a bunch of people will advise a gravity fed airbrush. So what are the differences? After using both for a while, I can tell you what I think.
Gravity fed airbrushes will do finer lines: Well, yes, but the difference is minor. The main controlling factors are needle and tip dimensions. However, siphon fed airbrushes don’t generally come with really fine needles and tips. If really fine lines are important to you, a gravity fed brush is the way to go.
Gravity fed airbrushes can spray with less pressure: Yes again. But again, it’s not a big difference. The Anthem sprays fine at 15psi with a side cup, and the Patriot needs about 10.
Gravity fed airbrushes waste less paint: Maybe. Yes, you can put a couple of drops of paint in a gravity cup, and it will all spray except for the little bit that coats the inside of the brush and cup. With a siphon fed airbrush, you have the additional paint path of the siphon tube, plus whatever paint doesn’t get sucked up. But, with the design of the Badger paint cups, almost nothing gets left in the cup or the tube. I can put 2 drops of paint in the cup, and most of it gets used. Plus, I’ve found that, with a gravity fed airbrush I have to pre-thin small amounts of paint before putting them in the cup, or they won’t mix well. So that means using a separate mixing container, with some waste there. With a siphon cup, I can get a good mix right in the cup. So, I don’t think this is a major advantage. One reason people might use more paint with a siphon fed airbrush is that this type usually comes with a larger nozzle. This makes it easier to spray a lot of paint, whereas with a smaller nozzle you might tend to be more careful.
Gravity fed airbrushes are easier to clean: A little, but we’re talking less than a minute. Both types have a cup to clean. The only real addition is the siphon tube, and that just takes a quick swab with a pipe cleaner.
The cup on a gravity fed airbrush blocks the view: Potentially, you get used to it so fast, it isn’t worth mentioning. With a little practice, you can tell where the paint is going to go.
The cup on a siphon fed airbrush gets in the way: Maybe. With a bottle, yes, but you don’t normally use a bottle when you need to get in close. Maybe with the standard straight Badger cup it could be awkward, but the -483 cup with a curved stem tucks in under the brush, and is pretty much out of the way. I guess it depends on how you paint, so it could be a factor.
A gravity fed airbrush won’t hold as much paint: Well DUH! The gravity cup is probably about 1/3 oz. and you can put a pretty big bottle on a siphon fed brush. No doubt this is an advantage if you paint large objects. But for most plastic models, this is not a major issue. 1/3 oz. will cover a pretty big area. Just don’t forget the cap.
A gravity fed airbrush has faster response: This is something I read on one of the airbrush forums, and I admit I have seen it a bit when trying to do fine lines. Because of the longer paint path of the siphon fed brush, there is a little more hesitation when the trigger is pulled back before paint sprays. It’s so minor that you have to look for it, but it is there.
According to Wikipedia, a siphon is a tube that allows a liquid to flow over the edge of a container without external power as long as the exit end is lower than the surface of the source. My copy of Webster’s New World Dictionary agrees with Wikipedia. Anyone who has used a piece of tubing to drain an aquarium has seen this. If you raise the output end above the aquarium level, the flow stops. There is some disagreement as to whether this is due to atmospheric pressure difference or gravity, but the source is always higher than the exit.
Obviously, this isn’t what is happening in a siphon fed airbrush. The source, whether a cup or bottle is lower than the nozzle, and the liquid is drawn up by a vacuum. It is really a vacuum pump. It would probably be more correct to say the airbrush is bottom fed, and I have actually seen that term used occasionally. But, as long as you and I know what it really is, who cares? There is also a biological use of the word siphon to mean a tube in general. But, an airbrush is not biological as far as I know!
I am in a training mode with Atelier de Hutif where I’m trying to finish off Arcadia Quest miniatures in a 4 hour time. I remembered I viewed a useful video from Miniac is explaining his speed painting technologies without losing “too much” quality. Worth watching again.
While you’re on the Miniac Youtube page, I can only encourage you to also watch this 20 minutes video about Non Metallic Metals that is mindblowing. The best video I’ve watched on this topic since a long time.
Back to the basics with some Color Theory given by the Citadel guru Chris on WarhammerTV. One of the first time GamesWorkshop actually speaks about theory and the color wheel in one of their Youtube videos published on May 2nd 2018.
Tired of a flat game mat? Well, Killing Fields Terrain has a solution for the gaming community with this great new grassland creation, go take a look at their grass matt.
You’ll find another good source of quality decors via Printable Scenery. If you have specific needs for custom decors don’t hesistate to contact Fee Gurine on GORK Factory. He’s flexible and doing great work.