How Can Airbrush Manufacturers Profit by Avoiding Making Knock Offs

In a rush to make a lot of money “the quick way” some of airbrush manufacturers make a lot of mistakes. What do I mean? It has been said here many times already. Some manufacturers think that making the product cheaper will bring more sales but they are forgetting about the quality. (For example – master airbrush or paasche talon).

The manufacturer’s first intention should be to bring the value and allow those who appreciate that value to pay more for it.

You see, for single artist to pay $100 for airbrush is more than enough, especially when he is just starting. But for someone who works for a big company paying a few more hundreds won’t be much of a problem. I’m sure he will reach for Iwata.

It’s strange for me to see that on the Hi-End side of airbrush niche there is practically no competition for Iwata for the particular price range. They dominate the market and people are still buying their product even if you consider the high price. It is for lack of demand from customers if not for any other reason that they are not producing airbrush models such as Custom Microns anymore.

Those Chinese knock offs which are selling for $20 are far from a quality product.

It’s hard to make a good profit selling that lowTweet this

So, what’s the point?

If I told you that I’d have an airbrush for sale for price of $80 and I will compare it to some other more expensive airbrush which price I don’t have control over – for example airbrush of a famous brand in a beautiful case with additional hose and couple of needle-nozzle set, which costs around $200.

Suddenly the $80 for single airbrush in a cardboard box sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?

Placing second offer on the market with a different price completely changes the whole situation.

Watch this, by adding even more, for example a video course or a book (i.e how to airbrush for beginners) the price increases even more.

A week ago I read a story about similar situation. One website quoted some pieces from William Poundstone book “Priceless: The Myth of Fair Value (and how to take advantage of it)

People were offered two kinds of beer: premium beer for $2.50 and bargain beer for $1.80. Around 80% chose the more expensive beer.

Now a third beer was introduced, a super bargain beer for $1.60, in addition to the previous two. Now 80% bought the $1.80 beer and the rest $2.50 beer. Nobody bought the cheapest option.

What an influence! The seller has actually lost a lot because of introducing a cheaper alternative.

Third time around, they removed the $1.60 beer and replaced with a super-premium $3.40 beer. Most people chose the $2.50 beer, a small number $1.80 beer and around 10% opted for the most expensive $3.40 beer. Some people will always buy the most expensive option, no matter the price.

As you can see and it’s easy to calculate that by changing option for more expensive, the seller increases his revenue. Alright, that’s all just a theory. What if we apply that into our airbrush niche?

Can airbrush manufacturer gain something by applying theory described above in the real world? Well, for us consumers, the quality is probably the most important, so I think it is worth of thinking about it. As to myself I would probably be among the middle group of buyers.

Also I’ve found out that giving too many choices may cause the confusion and people will leave without buying anything. So in that beer example they recommended to keep the offer at three or less, max four.

We were simulating a real situation with 3 options of airbrushes and here are results. Which one will you choose? Please let me know in comments.

airbrush gun votes2

Please share. Cheers.

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14 Comments on “How Can Airbrush Manufacturers Profit by Avoiding Making Knock Offs”

  • I chose the iwata because of availability of parts and service(and of course the quality and reliability). Supply of airbrush items in Australia is very limited and most of the time you have to buy from overseas websites. Iwata(any autopaint place can get iwata airbrushes as well) is probably the easiest to get parts for, then Paasche and then Badger. One thing i noticed however iwata offers a 5 year warranty to US customers and only a 1 year warranty to us Australians, is this the same in all countries? I know now that i will never buy a knockoff airbrush again(two when i first started) it causes way too much grief!

    • Thanks Steven. I don’t actually remember what warranty I have for my Iwata. Will check and post it later

  • sergej do not forget iwata has a cheap Chinese knock off also.

    • Yep, but it is not Iwata, it’s just a copy made by some Chinese company and sold for ridiculous money

  • Iwata does not have a cheap Chinese knock off. if you are talking about the Neo for Iwata, it is manufactured in a Taiwanese company for Iwata with Iwata standards and it has the 5 years worldwide warranty that Iwata gives.
    Iwata is reputable as it has a wide product range with 70% of them over priced.
    There are many brands like Badger who does great products and has a more reputable customer service than Iwata whose parts are available but over priced!
    Bottom line customers are buying more of the brand name than than the product itself and a Kustom Micron in the hands of a beginner will mean nothing to him, as great arts are done by the artist and not the guns…the tools are only here to complete his talents and make him better.

    • and in many cases make the life easier ;)
      Thanks Bryan

  • Have a look at the below link to a forum where customer service is discussed between Badger and Iwata and see for yourself.


  • I feel that a lot of manufacturers overprice for more profit. Is that profit reasonable? No, in some cases it is way over the top. If it costs 50 bucks to produce an airbrush, retail ready of course, then I think 100 bucks is a decent profit margin. In order to promote the airbrush industry we need to introduce bargain priced brushes. Then if the consumer grows in ability he then will want to move up. If he doesn’t then he is not out 400 bucks. I want to know who started right off the bat with a top of the line Iwata brush to learn from. If you did then you were blessed, but most of us didn’t have that kind of dough to put out for one. When I was a kid I had a single action Badger. Dreamed of getting the Pashe VL, which was at that time totally out of my price range. Now I have a lower model Iwata and I am looking towards a Mike Learn Mojo. My point is that If not for the cheaper knock offs of today, there may be less sales of the Top of the line later. The knock offs are an investment to encourage more people to by an airbrush to begin with. It is true. you get what you pay for. If some manufacturers are gouging the profit margin, then they are losing sales. Take a decent profit and sell more product. Putting your product in more hands, if it is a quality product, will only encourage more sales. By the way, I own 3 Peaks and an Iwata. If not for the Peaks then I probably wouldn’t have the Iwata. Just sayin.

    • Thank Ken, decent explanation. In some point I totally agree with you. The most important is to prove the quality then we can explain the price. My main intention when writing that article was to prove that there will always be someone to pay more than usual and because of that seller will make more money. Of course the price should be in place for quality. And also I wanted to warn beginners not to buy all that is cheap.

  • Guess what we see is a result of a manufacturing that depend on huge quantities of rough cast items that is machined properly in a number of small workshops, collected and re sold. We all know what this mean in terms of low pay and lack of quality. CNC machines will not produce these low quality items but are they routed by such machines or by small local work shops ?

    I agree I am guessing here, but my experience with cheap Chinese airbrushes are They all need at least that you polish the needle,– at best a completely new quality one. For some cheap airbrushes this is enough to make them a reasonable tool.

    I know others will ask both new nozzle, needle, packings, and some probably would better be jettisoned from the start, but there are firms who offer completely reconditioned Chinese airbrushes with new needle, nozzle, packings and all and the cost is not that bad. Those firms advertise that this is their product and they can be found on Ebay where the cost of one of those airbrushes is about double or four times the cost of a cheap Chinese one. If you want to be sure you get a quality brush the price will indicate and I think you must pay at least $200 to be sure it is a good airbrush

    I can’s comment on Iwata or other brands mentioned here, I never owned a Badger but have good experiences with H&S, Efbe and the other small factories here in EU. Even also those often can profit from new nozzles, needle and fiber packings, when you find them second hand on Ebay In fact I will say that you should not buy an airbrush secondhand, unless you are prepared to recondition it. Beside how many airbrushes do one need ; 2 or 3 ? — what I mean is that if you invest in the cheap pieces you just end up with a load of defect brushes, if they are of different construction then on top you can’t cannibalize to make one of several, But to get back on topic, I think it is in the production the problem is, that if an airbrush is machined on modern equipment, then these problems will not occur — conclusion I guess is to stay with quality tools or look for those reconditioned ones, made from cheap brushes but added new needle, nozzle and packings — an airbrush is not that complicated and the cost of those I suggest is not that high.

    Sorry my spelling, English is not my prime language.

    • Thank you Per for your advices. Informative as always ;)

  • 24th January of 2013, decided to make another small round up. 82 votes. If all 82 were buying only one, cheapest gun because of no other option then seller makes $9430 but in case of offering more expensive options 18 buys Iwata and 29 Infinity then seller makes $21126. THAT’S a difference!

    The test does prove that this marketing works… People trust the quality and don’t bother to pay more…

  • Let’s start from something else:

    1. To develop good product takes time and money!

    2. Once the product is on sale manufacture needs to recover initial cost, than to make decent profit from it.

    3. If product is truly good builds the “name” for manufacturer.

    – NOW is up to manufacturer (original of product) WHAT they lill do!

    On open market are many opportunists who will STEAL someones work just to make money by them self.

    It is up to customer who’s product they will choose.

    Many names are bigger than life, hence not really measuring to the quality of product.

    My first Airbrush was some hobby, single action brush.

    This give me an idea and soon made me addicted to use metallic paints in my paintings.

    Second was an excellent Badger L1000 (?) that I use for illustration and NEVER for hobby (to expensive). Third was Paashe VL that I can use for it and for illustration.

    About 8 years ago friend of mine who lives in Poland send me a “cheap Iwata copy”. At that time Iwata was prohibitively expensive and since I needed airbrush for hobby not for work it was an amazing item for me.

    To bad I treated it like my old VL and practically killed it. – Bad habits die slow LOL

    That was at the time when Chinese were starting making copies and it was just marginally less perfect product. He is still using this same copy of HP-C w/o problems.

    Over two years ago on my business trip to Poland I purchased recommended by store “MAR AB 133 Zloty .24mm” airbrush – it was not cheap (about $70.00) but cheaper than compatible Iwata (about $130.00). The Polish importer insisted on real quality, and to prove it, airbrush was gold plated. It looks not like exact copy but based on various Iwata designs.
    – I use it very often for precision work and I’m happy with it.

    My Polish friends are reporting that since then this same product become equally bad as the rest of the rip-offs (I didn’t ask if price dropped down).

    – So, for the next brushes I got Infinity for precision work and Talon for large artworks (always shopping for good deal – I paid 1/2 of regular price).

    QUALITY, quality of materials, quality of design, manufacturing and so on.

    NO way to make something good priced at the manufacturing cost!
    Also it is stupid to sell with enormous profit (it will be a marginal market).

    Bottom line you get what you pay for!

    Some pay for quality product, some for the brand name, and some buy garbage and expect quality.

    • Hey Christopher, thanks again.

      I love when people share their experience and their own look on the problem because in all my articles I leave my subjective feeling or solution.

      Receiving advices from experienced artist is a big honor for me and also additional advice for my readers, Thanks