How to Troubleshoot an Airbrush Gun: My Ink Does Not Come out

By Jamie Rankin
Airbrush guns use an air source to spray liquids such as ink and paint. If your gun won't spray, there could be several causes.

An airbrush, or airbrush gun, is a small tool that looks a bit like a pen with a trigger. It uses a compressed air source to spray liquids such as paint, ink and, in some cases, even self-tanning solution. When the trigger is pressed, the gun sprays a combination of air and fluid. If nothing comes out when you press the trigger, the problem could have one of several causes, most of which are easily remedied.

Check your airbrush gun to be sure it is not out of ink. You simply may need to refill it.

Tighten the gun’s air cap, and make sure neither it nor the head assembly has been dented. They control the size and pattern of the spray, so if they are dented or the air cap is loose, the airbrush will not spray properly. A dented air cap or head assembly will need to be replaced. They can be bought at an art supply store.

Examine the airbrush gun’s spray tip. If it is clogged with ink, gently insert a slender, pointed tool called a cleaning reamer into the tip of the gun, rotating the reamer as you do so. Remove it and repeat until all of the dried ink has been worked out of the spray tip.

Check your needle to see if it is bent. The needle is the part that runs through the body of the airbrush gun and controls the rate at which the ink flows. Sometimes, when the needle is removed for cleaning and then replaced, the thin, sharp tip can bend and keep the gun from spraying correctly. It can sometimes be fixed by rolling it against a flat piece of metal, but if done too often, the tip can break. Fortunately, needles are easily replaced and can be purchased at any art supply store.

Clean your airbrush gun. If none of the above steps gets it back in working order, your airbrush may be dirty. You can clean it by spraying a solvent or cleaning agent through your gun, the same way you would spray the ink through it. For a more in-depth cleaning, commercial kits are available, or you can do it yourself by taking apart your gun and wiping it with cleaning solvent applied to a paper towel or soft cloth.

Tip

Clean your airbrush after every use to avoid many of the problems caused by allowing ink to dry in the gun.

When taking out the needle for cleaning, pull it forward so that you do not get paint in the back of the gun.

Warning

When removing the needle for cleaning, be careful that the trigger and/or the back lever do not fall out of the gun.

Be very gentle when using the reamer so that you do not damage the metal inside the spray nozzle.

Do not tighten the air cap too much, or you could break the seal inside and cause a leak.

About the Author

Based outside Pittsburgh, Jamie Rankin began her career as a professional writer as a news and sports journalist with the "Daily Courier," a subsidiary of the "Pittsburgh Tribune-Review." Her work has appeared in both publications. Rankin, who holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism and communications from Point Park University, has been writing sports and pet-related articles online since 2004.