Airbrush Safety

Airbrushing is a cost effective way to get amazing painting results on your models and miniatures and gain more control over your painting process.

However, it is also potentially dangerous if not done safely and responsibly with the correct PPE. You are going to be working with hazardous chemicals. If you don’t like this idea, then unfortunately airbrushing may not be for you. However, it is very easy to arm yourself with the right know-how and materials to keep the discerning hobbyist painting, which is what this guide aims to do!

Below we will cover some safety materials and PPE that are designed to help you stay safe while using your airbrush.

General Safety Information

Firstly, and most importantly, these paints are toxic. While different types of paint (acrylic, enamel, lacquer) have different toxicity levels, it is a moot point if you are inhaling them.

Airbrushed atomize paint into tiny particles that, if not properly vented and guarded against with PPE, will coat your lungs. For instance, airbrushing with acrylic paint will result in filling your workspace with microscopic polyurethane particles... which, I'm sure you can understand, isn't good for you! Thinners are also toxic, and the fumes released when sprayed are also harmful. Remember to be considerate. If you have pets and other people living with you, you’ll want to protect them from unnecessary health risks.

You may be asking, "how does anyone do this safely?" and the answer is: very carefully! It is important to wear PPE when painting at all times. We'll outline PPE below.

Pick the Right Respirator

A proper dual cartridge respirator is essential to your airbrushing process. Dual cartridge respirators are designed to filter out both fumes and particulates, which are both produced when airbrushing.

Ensure replacement cartridges are available for your respirator! Common hardware store respirators often come in and out of stock, and you can be left with a respirator with spent cartridges. It is recommended to buy two sets of cartridges, one for use now and another later, unless you've been reassured that your cartridges will be there in store when you need them to be. A respirator with spent cartridges is about as useful as holding your hand over your mouth and nose, which obviously isn't an effective way of maintaining safety.

Replace these cartridges as needed depending on how much painting you do.

Do not assume that any face mask will be up to the task of protecting your health!

Ventilation is Key

A wise band called The Offspring once sung "You gotta keep it ventilated." At least, we're pretty sure that's what they said. Anyways, now that we're talking about it, this is a great time to mention how important ventilation is to airbrushing.

So you've got your dual cartridge respirator. That's great! You're well on your way to airbrushing safely, but there is one other critical component. If you guessed "ventilation," then we'll know you read the previous paragraph. The idea is to suck up the fumes and particulates that will float around you while you paint and spit them outside. You know, away from your lungs. Most often, this is done with a spray booth. Spray booths can be purchased or built DIY-style if you know the requirements. The spray booth we offer is a self-contained unit by Paasche (a well respected North American airbrush brand) that comes with:

  • Integrated rear-mounted 110CFM fan
  • Retractile power cable.
  • A fibre fabric paint filter. Replacement filters are also available.
  • Clouded plastic sides (for light diffusion) that can be folded under the unit if desired.
  • A rotating painting base.

DIY Spray Booths

If you want to make your own spray booth, then more power to you! Just follow the guidelines below For DIY spray booths:

  • Most ergonomic fan placement is at the top or the back of your spray booth.
  • Attach the back of the fan to a tightly fitted dryer hose that leads out a window. You can use a C-clamp for this.
  • Use a good filter to reduce the speed at which you clog your fan. This does not prevent clogs, and it is a good idea to periodically clean out your fan to ensure your booth is working at peak capacity at all times. You can extend the life of your filter by washing it (if it is made of washable material), but eventually you will need to replace it.
  • Ensure your fan will move at least 100 cubic feet per minute. Bathroom and kitchen fans are good for this, but sometimes very large.
  • Spray directly at the filtered fan while painting. If your filter is clean, this will ensure the maximum flow of fumes away from you.

The Quick Version:

Hey. We get it. While this is definitely something you'll want to pay attention to if you're looking to get into airbrushing, maybe you just need a quick refresher course. In that case, below are a few important things to consider before airbrushing. Be sure to ask yourself the following:

Where will I be putting my spray booth?

- Place your spray booth somewhere near a window.

- You can toss your hose out that window to vent harmful vapors away from you.

Do I have a way to ventilate my spray booth?

- Ventilation is key to avoid inhaling harmful fumes.

- Using a fitted duct from the back of your spray booth fan out a window is a good way to stay safe.

Do I have the proper Personal Protective Equipment?

- A dual cartridge respirator - to prevent fumes and particulates from getting into your lungs.

- Safety gloves - to keep your hands clean.

- Safety goggles - to prevent fumes and particulates from getting in your eyes.

What precautions have I taken to ensure the safety of my family & pets who share a home with me?

- Anyone not wearing a respirator in the immediate vicinity is at risk of inhaling fumes and particulates. This means anyone in the room with you must be wearing the same PPE as you.

Have I cleaned my filter, fan and spray booth lately?

- Dust and paint particles will clog your spray booth fan and prevent it from working at peak capacity. Clean it accordingly to mitigate health risks.

Where'd I put my gloves?

- Disposable Nitrile gloves are perfect for use with airbrushing. Other materials sometimes react with paint or thinning agents and can melt.



Interested in getting into airbrushing? Check out Liam's "Intro to Airbrushing" videos on Liam's Hobby Room!