I hesitated a little to call this a Buyers Guide post…I don’t know *everything* there is to know, so this is the Guide based on what I know as of now! Which is better than nothing – I’ve found little on the web with enough detail to help me make my own decisions about what to buy. So at least this is a start! I’ll edit it in the future if I find out I’ve maintained more misconceptions.
Watch the video and then read on for lots more written info:
In addition to the explanation in the video, here’s a bit of additional information as well—in text that won’t fly across your screen in video!
First, the way I came by all this information…I wanted a couple sets of airbrush equipment to use for classes. I definitely wanted to have some of the air can types to show folks, and a couple of compressors. I knew it was possible to “share” compressors, but it took some effort to figure out what I needed to purchase to have matching sets of everything that would work for my classes.
Some misconceptions I had been under…
- That the designation of ABS1, ABS2, and ABS3 for the airbrush kits was the order of expensiveness/extensiveness of the kits. Not so.
- That it was super easy to step up from one kit to another.
- That the info on all this was going to be in a simple place somewhere on the interwebs. LOL. Why would we think that? Heehee!
Granted – the info IS on the Copic site when you know where to look. I didn’t find it in an easily comparable place or in words that I could follow, however, since I didn’t even know enough to know what questions to seek out. I ended up emailing the amazing Marianne Walker with a gajillion questions, some of which she had to figure out answers for as well. I think she’s probably really happy that I lived through my Airbrush 101 class last week and am now “set” with equipment for future classes! Thank you Marianne!
The three kits
Which kit is right for you? It depends on what you want to do with it. Light-use airbrushers can do fine with the ABS2, while more invested folks will want to consider a compressor – by the time you purchase a few cans of air, you could already own a compressor. See the samples at the end of this blog post to see what I mean by “light” or “heavy” uses. I personally chose to go the compressor route right away. As many of you can attest to, I wasted so much money buying my markers one-at-a-time and could have saved a ton by waiting til I could buy big sets. But no, I didn’t do that —-so when it came to my next investment, I decided to go big at the start instead. And can say I’m glad I did.
- ABS2 – The least intricate kit. It comes with the Air Grip (the thing you put the marker in) and the can of D60 air. That air lasts 4-5 minutes- some places it says 7-8 minutes, but I mentioned 4-5 to be on the really conservative side. In either case, it’s not a lot of airtime. I’d recommend this for folks who just want to do a little spritz here and there. Replacement costs for the cans are $12-15 depending on where you get them.
- ABS1N –The middle of the road kit. It comes with the Air Grip, can of air called the 180 that contains 30-45 minutes of air, plus an air adaptor, hose, and foam piece to hold the air can. More airtime here, and the replacement cans run around $20.
- ABS3 – This kit goes with the compressor. That’s what I have. It’s got the Air Grip and air adaptor, and if you get the Copic compressor it comes with the one hose you need. Best thing – air is now free!
While the compressor is an investment, it also means you don’t have ongoing costs for cans of air. That’s important to me since I like to really spend time working on stuff, and if I was working with “gas gold” in an air can, I’d be wayyyy more conservative with what projects I took on.
To step up from one kit to the next, you should know a few things.
- If you start with the ABS2, the only part you have in your possession that you’d need for the others is the Air Grip. If you want to move to the ABS1N, you need a bunch of new stuff: air adaptor, hose, air can 180, foam holder. If you want to go to the compressor system, get the air adaptor and compressor with the hose and you’re done.
- If you start with the ABS1N, stepping up to the compressor is easy. Just get the compressor with the hose! You have everything else in the ABS1N kit.
The hose that goes with the compressor runs around $30ish – and you need that specific hose. I wouldn’t recommend trying to find one “like” it necessarily; by putting the wrong hookups on your system, you can ruin an air adaptor or grip. As for non-Copic compressors – I can’t speak to that intelligently at all, really! Compressors are complex, they have things like PSIs and all kinds of numbers. Oily, oilless, I’m just not qualified to speak to any of that. That said, I’m trying out a non-Copic compressor to see if it works, but I’m going into it lightly; it doesn’t have some of the bells and whistles I see on my Copic one, and I think it needs more maintenance since it’s not the same kind. Until I have a lot more experience with it (and see if I explode any air guns!) I’ll just keep my two cents worth to myself. BUT – please know that the high price of the Copic compressor DOES include the $30 hose that you need, so if you find another compressor to try, add he $30 to the cost to see if it’s actually worth a “deal.”
What the systems look like
See the video for realistic kits, of course – and the Copic site and packaging will have lots of info for you in detail. But here’s my little doodles of the three systems so you can see them by comparison. Not to scale, just sayin’! Click to download one that’s printable (not as horizontal of a format, but easier to print out). So there you have my initial assessment of the Copic Airbrush kits for all of you who’ve been asking! You can probably see why it took me a while to get it all together – I wanted to be sure to have my own questions cleared up before passing on misinformation. Below are some samples of what I mean by usage levels, so hopefully that will illustrate for you what you might be interested in!
These are samples of what I would call heavy airbrushing. The backgrounds are full of color and large enough to require a good amount of time to airbrush; you could easily use the whole 30minutes of a can of air on one, especially if you’re learning and take a lot of time to build layers slowly.
This first card is a new one here on my blog – using the new Lawn Fawn “Love You Smore” set. One layer on that paper, cool eh??
This is yesterday’s card here on the blog – click on the image to read a little about how I made it. It’s not entirely airbrushed in the background, but enough overlayering of airbrush that I’d put it in the “heavy” airbrush category as far as the time it took to overspray with color.
I dug through my airbrush samples (you can check them all out by sorting my blog by the Airbrush Category) to find light airbrushing, and I do have just a couple samples of what I mean. This first card is light since it’s a tiny area of coverage in the window scene, though it does take a little more time to create rainbow looks. As above, click on the image to get to a blog post about the card.
This card has a small panel of airbrushed color behind a diecut – this can be achieved with just a little air.
The swoosh in the background on this image was created with a quick swoosh of airbrushing, and then stippled with dots of color.
And finally, this is one of my earliest tries at airbrushing, where I airbrushed above torn paper masks to create light clouds.