Harbor Freight Airbrush

The Rocketry Forum

Help Support The Rocketry Forum:

This site may earn a commission from merchant affiliate links, including eBay, Amazon, and others.


Well-Known Member
Jan 18, 2009
Reaction score
I just got Harbor Freight #1500, their dual action airbrush. It isn't top-quality, but it looks ok. A question: Do most airbrushes have pressfitpaint jars, or are they threaded? Second, can you buy adjustable nozzles for this? It uses a needle (not needle valve, a 6 inch long needle) to adjust how much paint gets through.Can air also get through the hole when the paint is stopped, such as when I just pushed the plunger down and heven't pulled it back yet? Final question: are there any cheap compresors out there? i saw a mini one at Lobby Hobby, dunno how much it was or how good it was. It looked like a pencil sharpener.

I've looked over that brush while at harbour freight, it appears to be decient quality.

the majority of the bottom feed brushes are a press in fit

like most airbrushes you would probably have to change the needle and tip to spray different volumes of paint.The brush looks very simmular to other brands , mabey you can find parts for it from annother brand

when you press the plunger air will flow, you have to pull back to get paint flow.air will continue to flow as long as you press the plunger

cheap compressors can also be found from harbour freight.
the airbrush specific compressors(such as from hobby lobby)
are somewhat expensive considering most do not have a tank... the more tank you can get for the money the better IMHO.

the advantage of the hobby compressors is they are fairly quiet
Thanks for the reply....

How much are the HF compressors? I tried a bike pump cause the brush came with a 1/4" adapter to no avil, the pump fitting was bigger. WOuldn't have worked for actual painting anyway: "PUMP-psst-PUMP-pssssst-PUMP-psst"

Ahwell, i have a $20 cert to the hobby shop that sells propellant, mebbe i can get some paint while i'm there. I mostly got this for MMX models.

Styme is right, Harbor Freight has a small hobby compressor that I saw in the store near me on sale for like $50 at one point. I love that store, I just got a 1800 psi pressure washer for $89! I have been washing EVERYTHING!!!
for mmx rockets you could probably do ok with the canned air
atleast untill you can afford a compressor, or you could get just a tank for around $25 and take it to the filling station.or mabey a larger innertube.

$100 will get you a 8 Gallon compressor from Harbour freight.

It's noisy but great!
That's one thing I've been wondering about for an airbrush, using just an air tank.
I have a large (loud) compressor in my shop; so would a tank supply enough air to run an airbrush for a while?
I figure it will, but would like others opinions/knowledge.


depends entirely on what your spraying, with what needle. I can tell you most tanks will hold 100 to 120psi of air.. that will not run you brush very long before it starts spitting globs. What you might want to consider is a tank hooked away from your compressor in the garage or basement, which is what I do. LONG runs of air line drop the pressure and cause all kinds of moisture and oils built up problems in the lines. If you add a tank at the end of a long run it acts like a capacitor smoothing out the airflow preventing over/under pressure spikes in the air to the brush. Your compressor will kick in before your tank pressure drops below 45psi causing splater from your airbrush. My compressor is about 40 feet from the spary booths in the basement and over 120 feet from the outside spray area. My one tank can be hooked up with quick connects at either site in seconds. A tank is a fine addition to a spray system but will not do you much good without good quick access to a compressor. One of the cheap diaphrame type will work with an away tank, just takes longer to get the tank up to pressure so you can started.
Hope this helps.

I'm sorry you wasted your money on a dual action brush, I know there have been a number of theads on this issue in the last year. Since you've already plunked down your money You'll need to spend some time learning how to control both medium and air for the best results. This will take some experimenting. I'd suggest getting a bunch of old newspaper and a couple bottles of black watercolor to play with. Practice adjusting one than the other until you can control the flow. intensity and coverage to your satisfaction...this can take months. If your new to airburshing, dual action brushes can be very frustrating.. I'd strongly suggest buying yourself any single action airbursh, Paashe is best but anyone you find will do for model painting no matter how detailed you'ed like to get. If you take the time to learn how to use a dual action you may be able to put the dot above an i like on this page but you'll likely not be all than impressed with large area work. Over the years i've used some of the best and worst single and dual action air burshes on the market. For model rocket even Micro model rocket work I'll take a 35.00 - 50.00 old single action Paashe over any other airbursh or detail spary gun on the market today.

I'll say this again so possibly others won't make this same mistake. Model rocketeers or Hobbiest of anykind will NEVER EVER NEED a dual action airbursh. Single action medium adjustment is all you'll ever need. You can now get size 0 needles that CAN take the properly thinned media flow down to as fine a line or dot as most dual action bushes, for a third of the cost. Even a Harbor Freight bargin isn't much of a bargin if you never get to use the tool as intended.
i agree, dual action is extremely difficult to begin on. single actions are a lot better for just doing a good old paint job. unless you like shading, a single action is the way to go. i sold my HP-BCS dual action a couple weeks after i got it in favor of a single action i picked up at the hobby shop. me likes it a lot.
Meh. i should have asked before i bought. Oh well, I can practice. i've been spraying water thru it, I can control that pretty good but my aircan valve's leaky so i have to take it back... I bought this mostly for painting micro's. For $20, it'll do just fine.

The water is a good thing to practice with untill you get the hang of it.

Try "painting" a piece of cardboard with the water.
You bought it for painting Micros?? Blue! All but one or two of my micro models were painted with spray cans. Some are detailed with lettering brushes and Greysquirrel Quills, but I don't think I've used an airbrush for anything other than weathering effect on a PMC or two!
Ah, so I bought it for painting micros. I wanted a little more detail than can be had with a spray can. I'm getting the hang of using this quick.
Thanks for the info Micro.
That's a much better idea to keep a tank connected, but at a distance. Although the distance from my home to my shop is a bit farther than I'd like to buy lines for.
I'll have to see if it's worth it, versus just buying a small compressor, but thanks for the suggestion.

I'm in the process of creating a thread showing a complete paintjob
not a bible or guide ... just how >I< do it .with what I have

I use the double action Paasche Vl... It can be set to work like a single action, just pull the needle back slightly before tightning the needle retainer nut... when you depress the button you get both paint and air.

with a #5 needle and tip, it can easily spray a wider pattern with better coverage ,than a can of Krylon.

I've started airbrushing an Ezi-65 and have been taking pics and notes for yet annother airbrush thread.. I'm going from Primer to clearcoat
heres a test panel I did early on to put in the thread
all patterns were sprayed at the same rate ,and same distance
I sprayed on a seperate piece to make sure all paints were fully

The Paasche vl is set up as described earlier.
sorry got trigger happy heres the pic

left to right
Duplicolor black (with adjustable nozzle)
Krylon black(standard nozzle
Paasche Vl(black acrylic)
Paasche H(black acrylic)
Originally posted by stymye

I use the double action Paasche Vl... It can be set to work like a single action, just pull the needle back slightly before tightning the needle retainer nut... when you depress the button you get both paint and air.

That's how mine is. It doesn't spray all the much paint even at the farthest-back adjustment the thumbscrew can do, but it's fine. If I really need to I can get a single action.
Good job Stymye:
Let me say dual action airbrushes were designed and intended to do fine detail work in very highly thinned media. Sure they can be bulled into some moderately heavy work but the purchase cost, learning curve, and longer spary time to get the same coverage as a single action are reasons not to waste the time & money on something most will never use for it's intended purpose.. fine art detail. I'm not suggesting Dual Action bushes aren't worth the money, As I've said I made a living with these tools for many years. but for the average hobbiest, especially those finishing model rockets painted in a couple colors Duals are just to Slow, extra expensive to buy/repair and take longer than needed to learn to use.

Stymye a "this is what I do" thread may be helpful. I do hope you will include a paragragh or two on just how long it took to get to a point you felt comfortable using your dual action airbrush, and be sure to let people know Duals are unnecessary to obtain the type and degree of finish you are showing in the thread. Otherwise there are going to be a lot of unhappy frustrated people purchasing equipment that is more than they needed.
Originally posted by rokitflite
Styme is right, Harbor Freight has a small hobby compressor that I saw in the store near me on sale for like $50 at one point. I love that store, I just got a 1800 psi pressure washer for $89! I have been washing EVERYTHING!!!

Scott, if you could stop by my house and pressure wash it to get rid of the green mold/mildew/algae that's growing on it, I'd really appreciate it. That stuff is a major headache here in Houston.
I went and got a better hose (stupid harbor freight pressfit) and a better valve for my aircan. I practiced a bit with some tempera, I can draw a really fine line, and make and dot an i. Normally I suck at any artform but this is seems so easy. Any more things to do for practice you can recommend? I can do really thick to really thin (i dunno, maybe 3mm or so?) lines. This should be good for putting contact info on a rocket.

I really do need to get a compressor though, MAN this airbrush propellant smells. And if there's a leak anywere in your line, you're wasting a $10 can.