Tool Review
Low Cost Airbrush Setup
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by: Rowan Baylis [ MERLIN ]

Finding an airbrush and compressor you're happy with is one of the most subjective - and potentially one of the most expensive - investments many modellers make at some stage. I was recently faced with something of a dilemma; how to set up a second workshop for occasional use on a limited budget so I could work on reviews etc. while away from my London base. I couldn't justify the expense of duplicating my Iwata / Evolution set-up but, without a car, I couldn't take it with me either. Without much hope of success I did a Google search for cheap alternatives.

My first thought when browsing Airbrush Pro's website was that there must be a mistake; surely there was a digit missing in the prices? A .3mm dual-action airbrush for less than £20 just seemed impossible. Similarly, a compressor complete with an air tank, regulator and moisture trap for around half what I'd have expected to pay... it had to be worth investigating.

An enormous box arrived at my family's home two days after I placed the order. Once I arrived I wasted no time opening it and found the contents were individually boxed and well protected by a generous filling of expanded foam chips. Airbrush Pro offer several ready-bundled packages, or you can put together your own setup from their extensive range. I did the latter and chose:

AS-186 compressor - £69.33
BD-130 airbrush - £19.92
BD-24 air hose - £5.82
BD-777 airbrush stand / cleaning pot - £11.69

Both the compressor and airbrush are quite anonymous - beyond the model numbers on the packets, there's no manufacturer's name or anything to indicate where they're made. On the product pictures on the company website, you can just make out the name "Fengda" - which appears to be a Chinese manufacturer which produces a wide range of hobby and craft products. This would certainly help explain the low price of the items.

The AS-186 seems well constructed and arrives ready fitted with a 3-pin mains plug. The compressor features a pressure cut-off, so it chuggs away reasonably quietly until it registers 55 psi on the regulator and then the motor cuts out. Pressing the trigger on the airbrush releases a smooth flow of air without the slight pulsing noticeable from compressors lacking an air tank. As the pressure drops, the motor kicks in again to top-up the tank. Very neat. The regulator / moisture trap is supplied separately within the package and a roll of sealing tape is provided to ensure an airtight fit. The instructions are basic but adequate and the build quality seems fine and at a fraction of the price of my Iwata Smart Jet Pro (which doesn't have an air tank), it seems a real bargain.

If the compressor was a nice surprise, the airbrush was quite amazing. I'd half feared it would be something of a turkey, but not a bit of it...the BD-130 is nicely designed and finished, is well balanced and performs way beyond what you'd expect from its price tag. It might not have quite the finesse of an Iwata or an Evolution, but then it's only about 1/5 of the price! In action I found it was easy to spray lines down to approximately 1mm width, while the large gravity feed cup also allows large areas to be sprayed with a single filling. This model features a screw-lock to pre-set the amount of paint released when the trigger is pressed, but this is easily disengaged for maximum flexibility.

The airbrush features a detachable nose-cap; this can be removed to facilitate very fine close-up work, but be careful - this does leave the tip of the needle very exposed and vulnerable. Again the instructions provided are pretty basic, but they do the job (although I have been using various airbrushes for 30 or so years, so I was able to easily fill in any blanks).

Airbrush Holder / Cleaning station
The airbrush holder consists of a large, heavy glass jar with a plastic lid fitted with nozzles, and it certainly seems stable enough to avoid accidental spills. For it to function as a cleaner, you partly fill the jar with water and spray the airbrush into the inlet nozzle. The outlet is fitted with a filter but, judging by the cloud of fumes that poured out from it, I do wonder how effective it is. True, the filter did show some discolouration from the paint and there was a dirty film on the surface of the water in the jar, but I'd still recommend using the cleaning station with plenty of ventilation.

Making the leap up to using a compressor and airbrush is something of a milestone for any modeller and the cost traditionally involved can make it rather a daunting decision. Anything that helps make the benefits of airbrushing more widely available must be welcomed and that's where Airbrush Pro's imports really score. With a range that includes spray guns for around £5 and simple compressors for £40, the low prices encourage you to experiment without the fear that it's the end of the world if it doesn't work out first time.

In fact, with prices like these, it's tempting to think of having several different airbrushes dedicated to different tasks - i.e. one for enamels, one for acrylics etc. I must admit I came to the products half-hoping to find problems, if only to justify my much more expensive existing set-up. Suffice to say I haven't been able to fault either the compressor or airbrush and am seriously tempted to try a few more airbrushes from the range. On the basis of the results so far, I can recommend it as a good value entré system for intermediate modellers looking for the next step up from a simple spray gun, while modellers who already have a full set-up may well find it useful as a low-cost back that's still capable of producing fine results. Recommended.
Highs: The price - or rather the lack of it! Both the compressor and airbrush represent excellent value for money.
Lows: I'm not convinced by the cleaning pot - well I had to think of something...
Verdict: Surprisingly good performance from such relatively low priced products.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: Other
  Mfg. ID: See text
  Suggested Retail: See text
  PUBLISHED: Aug 12, 2007

About Rowan Baylis (Merlin)

I've been modelling for about 40 years, on and off. While I'm happy to build anything, my interests lie primarily in 1/48 scale aircraft. I mostly concentrate on WW2 subjects, although I'm also interested in WW1, Golden Age aviation and the early Jet Age - and have even been known to build the occas...

Copyright ©2021 text by Rowan Baylis [ MERLIN ]. All rights reserved.


I saw these in 'JADAR' shop in Warsaw about 6 months ago..I gave the model 180 a good look over and was pleasantly surprised.The obvious resemblance to a certain high end airbrush makers product struck me straight away. The price was just too good,even cheaper than the UK price by the way. I have always used a medium tip set up with no probs'..I'm not a 1/72nd person I wanted to see how the .25 tip would perform.. All I can say.....Get in there now..They may be copies but they are very well made copies..The tip adjustment screw allows a serious amount of control if you have a reasonable compressor & tank...Been using it exclusively with it's easy strip down and my friends at TORA TORA allowed me to see if that other companies spares,nozzle/needle/head etc would fit and they do??? Maybe they are made by this Chinese company and then branded by others??? Not beyond the realms of possibility.
AUG 18, 2007 - 08:21 AM
The shipping is pretty expensive if you are in the us....I was curious so I put together a fake order and my order total was 80 pounds and the shipping was 75!!! sucks to be in the US sometimes
AUG 18, 2007 - 09:51 AM
Hi there I'm not really surprised; my package was enormous and heavy! But try a search among US suppliers for "Fengda" airbrushes and compressors - I'm pretty sure they are the Chinese manufacturer behind these products. They're definitely worth checking out... All the best Rowan
AUG 18, 2007 - 10:11 AM
Ok,did a little search and found the company.... LINK all the details and contacts there.They should be able to tell you if they have distributors worldwide. On made in China .com they have page with business details. 500.000 brushes a year. Quality awards,etc etc.
AUG 18, 2007 - 09:05 PM
Hi I bought this kit on the basis of this review, so no pressure then. For those that have this set up and bearing in mind i've never used an Airbrush before do the cleaning instructions tell all or is there anything else I should be wary of before I start spraying in anger. Thanks update mine seems to be the wrong way round too, well the guage was upside down when tight. I think ive buggered the seal as its leaking air and i can only get 20psi. :-( update:update Wasn't the wrong way round. I've resealed and no air is leaking. I could only get up to 40psi. It appears the plunger on the regulator wasn't being fully engaged. Now fixed and everything is working as it should. For the numpty / first time user I would say the instructions are a bit light. Once you know what you are doing its a very cheap piece of kit
SEP 13, 2007 - 06:32 AM
Hi Gary As we've both noted, the instructions are pretty basic. I didn't have any trouble cleaning the airbrush - I sprayed through clean thinners until any trace of paint in the spray-pattern ended and checked there was no dried-on paint left in the paint cup. I also always take the precaution of removing the needle from any airbrush at the end of a session to double-check it's totally clean (be careful not to damage the tip), because there's nothing worse than to have paint dry inside. (If it does happen, it's not the end of the world, because you can soak things free and clean everything up - but it's a real pain in the a*se than can be avoided by a few moments spent making sure airbrush is properly clean before you put it away). All the best Rowan
SEP 15, 2007 - 11:39 PM
Just read the review on the BD 777 airbrush. I would like to buy one, but I can't locate a dealer selling it here in the U.S.A. or elsewhere. Could you advise me who to contact relative to same. Is it known by a name other than simply, BD777? Thanks in advance for your help. Clarence De Barrows [email protected]
SEP 02, 2010 - 10:38 AM
if you have a Harbor Freight near you give them a peek. They have a DA airbrush for aound $15. Their compressors are low priced too.
SEP 02, 2010 - 02:14 PM
Thanks for putting this review up. I had been looking at proper airbrushes and compressers for ages but couldn't justify spending £200+ to make little plastic tanks. Anyway I took the plunge and bought one more or less the same set up as the review and have just tried it out and it is wonderful. I have only ever used the cheap spray gun type that draw paint from a glass jar and air from a can. I agree that the instructions are rather brief and I have a bit to go to use it well, but for someone who would like to take their hobby just a bit further without breaking the bank this gear is perfect.
JAN 21, 2011 - 01:35 AM

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