Why use the side cup airbrushes?

We all have our choice of airbrushes, and yet most of the top pros prefer the side cup Micron over the top-mounted C model. Why is this? 
I can't speak for other artists, but there are 8 reasons why I prefer the side feed over the top feed airbrush.
1. ease of cleaning. 
It's simple. The side cup is removable and can be cleaned independently of the airbrush. Yes, the paint passages are smaller than the top-mounted C model, but that is more than compensated by being able to take your cup to the sink without having to detach your airbrush.
Paint build-up at the bottom of a top feed airbrush is a little difficult to remove compared to the side feed, mainly because the side cup disassembles for easy access to every nook and cranny.
2. Tiltable cup. 
When working at weird angles, it's great to be able to adjust the cup to keep the paint from pouring out. 
3. Unobstructed line of site 
The airbrush should be held perpendicular to the surface at all times. The top mounted cup blocks the user's view when working detailed areas, forcing them to tilt the airbrush to the side when spraying. This compromises the line quality of the airbrush. Side feed airbrushes greatly reduce this obstruction, allowing a clearer view of the target area. 
The side feed cup can be located on the left or the right side of the airbrush. so whether you are right or left handed, you can keep your cup out of the line of sight.
4. Superior Control. 
The side cup enjoys a shorter distance from the trigger to the front of the airbrush, allowing finer control. Also the trigger mechanism is more precise than competing top-cup airbrushes. 
5. Nozzle size
The CM-SB/Takumi Micron comes standard with a .18 nozzle. The C model airbrushes can be fitted with a.18 nozzle, but the CM-SB /Takumi was designed around the finer nozzle. 
6. Gravity fed side cup. 
The single advantage the C models had over the side feed airbrushes was gravity feed. That is no longer an advantage since the Takumi now features a gravjty feed side cup. 
7 Paint Economy, 
The top mounted C models require at least 4 drops of paint to prime the airbrush, whereas the side cup requires just 1 drop. 
8.Trigger interference. 
A top-mounted cup limits optimal finger position. This interference prevents the trigger finger from laying across the first joint of the index finger, thereby limiting control of the airbrush. 

Why would you want to lay my finger across the trigger instead of putting the tip of my finger directly on the trigger?
Because when you move the trigger using your fingertip directly on the trigger, you use your whole finger to move the trigger. Those muscles are in the upper forearm and are less coordinated than other muscles. Laying your finger across the trigger allows you to control the airbrush simply by moving your fingertip up and down rather than using your whole finger. This allows you a much greater degree of control of your airbrush than the conventional finger position.
Of course, having said this, the hand that holds the airbrush is more important than the airbrush itself. :-)
For people who paint on a larger scale, or perhaps wish for their airbrushing to remain a hobby, the top-feed airbrushes are more than adequate for their purposes. Those who are looking for something allowing more control for detail work eventually gravitate towards the CM-SB/ Takumi side-feed configuration.
I hope this article was helpful. Best of luck with your airbrushing!

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Carlo Felicione

March 11, 2023

I haven’t attempted to try your triggering method on an airbrush, but having owned both the CM-B and CM-SB airbrushes, I’ve found the CM-B is a bit more convenient for cleaning. The reason simply being only a single item to flush out and wipe down between color changes. The side feds are nice when switching between multiple colors quickly, but it seems like I haven’t seen a whole lot of advantages between one platform over another.


March 11, 2023

Yes, these points are true. The Model C of the Iwata ranges do have an issue when it comes to finger control, the newer designs are indeed better than the illustrated Micron or HP-C models but the true advantage is that the side feed works better than the ‘old’ retouching type of airbrush, first it does have more paint, two it does not have the risk of having paint falling on the paint work if working flat. I know it sounds bad as I tend to use the C- model more than any other type but then when I paint I am working on the background most and then use B-models to complete the work and almost never use a Micron despite having some including a number of side-feeds – Micron and Eclipses and of course I had to have the Takumi cups they are just so better.

Joe Roberts

March 11, 2023

I really love and enjoy my CM-SB it seems to have a better balance and the trigger is so smooth and responsive and better than my eclipse not that I don’t love my eclipse also. I want to get a Takumi next I heard they are a great airbrush also. The only thing I use my Paasche VL for now is large backgrounds


April 16, 2024

Looking at the side-feed cup near the top of the article, it appears that the siphon tube is very high on the cup. Seems like that would require a high fill level to keep the airbrush topped off. Am I missing something?

Joe Johnston

April 16, 2024

Great info. I have the kustom CM and I love it. I want to try out the SB at the next visit to the studio! I really like the idea of one drop prime. I have been a multi-brush abuser with each brush having a color as I push and pull the work. My finger extends over the trigger and beside the cup now. I get a moderately fine control compared to artists that spend more time on the brush.

I need more hours in the day to get all the things done. ;)

Huge thanks to Dru and all the other artists that have taught me there is more to the art than just slinging paint. You, Fraser, Fitto, and Lavalle (rest in paint Mike) have been instrumental getting me to where I am.

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