Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Badger SOTAR 20/20 Product Review

by Novus

Someone on 40k For Grown Ups (a great Facebook group I belong to) linked the group to Amazon where Badger SOTAR 20/20's were being sold for $59.99.  To be honest, I didn't have much faith in a product that has an MSRP of over $400 and is being sold at an 85% discount, but I needed another airbrush to replace the one I accidentally threw away (never mount your airbrush holder over a trashcan).  At that price, I was willing to take the risk.

The Pros

The kit you see in the photo above isn't exactly what I got in the box when it arrived.  My kit also came with a hex key but it was missing the thumb rest.  A quick email to Badger about the thumb rest and they shipped one to me free of charge!  Great customer support!

SOTAR stands for State Of The Art Results.  And Badger ain't kidding.  This thing is awesome!  It's billed as an "illustrators" airbrush which means it's made for very fine detail work.  Mine came with two 0.2mm needle/nozzle sets which are about the smallest nozzles you can get for an airbrush.  I did swap out the flat nozzle (installed on the airbrush above) for the one with the prongs (the spare) because the prongs make it much easier to remove the nozzle for cleaning.

The way the needle assembly works is very interesting.  It's set up in such a way that you can remove the needle for cleaning without taking the back of the airbrush off.  Just loosen the needle chuck and pull it out of the back of the brush.  Super easy!  The needles are also color coded with plastic knobs on the rear end, black is the 0.2mm.

The paint metering mechanism (I don't know what the actual name of this feature is but it is the knurled cylinder just forward of the black needle knob) at the back of the airbrush has smooth action and is very finely threaded.  What it does is provide a way for you to meter the amount of paint that comes out of the airbrush by keeping the trigger/needle from traveling farther than you need, thus keeping you from spraying a giant gout of paint when you only need a tiny bit.  My Renegade Krome had it and I will never buy an airbrush without this feature; it makes your life sooooo muuuuuch easier.

One other great thing about this brush is that it's really easy to take completely apart for cleaning.  Badger provides a hex key and a wrench with the kit, which is handy.  The entire front of the airbrush can be removed using only the provided wrench and your thumb and forefinger!

How Is It To Work With?

It is a joy to work with, especially when painting vehicles.  Compared to my other airbrush experiences, the bar is set pretty high now.  The control this thing provides you is stunning!  Fine lines and perfectly metered paint made my pre-shading of a Manticore go super quickly.  There isn't anything else I can say.

Some Cons

I have a Badger Renegade Krome brush, too, and had a Master Airbrush G22 before that (the one I accidentally threw away) and this SOTAR 20/20 is a few levels of awesome above both of those.  But, it's still not a perfect airbrush.

The cup is hard to clean.  I think this is because of the black finish.  It looks nice, but it doesn't cover the entire brush, like the silver/chrome finish on my Renegade.  The Renegade has a very smooth cup (because the finish extends down into it).  The SOTAR doesn't, the finish stops about halfway down the cup and then gives way to bare steel.  The junction between the finish and the steel is where the paint tends to collect because there is a very slight groove there.  Not a deal breaker, but still a PITA.

Being able to remove the needle without taking the brush apart is very handy but the colored knob they put on the end means that you can't remove the rear housing of the brush without removing the needle.  Again, not a deal breaker but different from other airbrushes.  A minor thing that you get used to very quickly.

It came in a cardboard box.  My Renegade Krome came in a really nice case, like what you would see for a musical instrument, and it cost me 1/3 what a SOTAR would had I bought it at MSRP.  Had I paid the $400 for this airbrush, I would have been sorely disappointed it didn't come with a case.  But, for $59.99, this too can be ignored.


You can see my feeble attempts at fine line drawing with this airbrush above.  Keep in mind that the paint I'm using is GW paint thinned with Createx reducer.  If I used Minitaire airbrush paints, I could probably do better.  Mastering the meter feature and your distance from the target area seems to be the key.  Get those two things dialed in, and you are golden.

This airbrush is an amazing buy for less than $100, a great buy for less than $250, and a good purchase for a pro who can't find a deal for less than half MSRP.  It's a precision instrument and probably not for the n00b... in fact, I'm very likely not using it to its full potential.  The problems that I see with it are all small and can quite easily be overlooked based on what you pay for the thing.

I give it... five of five stars!

Here is a link to the current best-price at Amazon.


  1. This is the brush I use and I love it. I've had some issues trying to purchase upgrade parts, for example there are three different needle sets w component parts and it would be nice if they sold as a set.

    You are right bout the cleaning. I use makeup q-tips for the interior bit sometimes you just need a toothbrush and elbow grease for the black and chrome cup.

    1. I'm going to start using nail polish remover on a Q-tip in the cup. The airbrush cleaner I use (also createx) is good, but not great. I have to soak the walls of the cup for about on hour for the paint to loosen enough for me to get it out with a fingertip or Q-tip. The cleaning is the only issue with this thing, really. Other than that one thing, I love this airbrush!

  2. I just got one of these and it is my first airbrush... you are so right on getting the paint level and distance down. I am going to practice on some junk I have laying around before I try to use it on models or another fig. Not as easy as it looks.

    1. eah, Stephen, knowing your typical distance from target is vital. I've started dialing it in by turning the meter down until no paint comes out and then making small adjustments, opening the meter slightly each time, and testing on the back of my gloved hand between each adjustment. Works pretty good.

      Keeping it clean is another key item. Soaking the nozzle assembly in acetone (nail polish remover) makes cleaning it very easy. All sorts of crap came floating out in the short 5 minutes I soaked it.

      Another thing I've had trouble with is getting the GW paint thinned right. Sometimes I nail it first try and others it takes me 6-8 tries.

      Still love the thing!

  3. Thanks for the review, these are hard to find in the UK, but I'm looking to upgrade from my H&S Evo and the Sotar has definitely caught my eye.

    Your review is adding weight to my decision.


    1. Dave, if you can get it for the right price, it's a must buy. I haven't seen it on Amazon for $59.99 since I first bought it. Best was $89.99 when I posted... still a great price, IMHO.

  4. Sorry to revive this I know it's been years but I've been searching for this info everywhere and could not find an answer. Since you have the Krome and the Sotar, have you ever tried fitting the Sotar nozzle, needle and regulator onto the Krome? I know there's a plastic bit at the end of the needle that means you have to remove the Krome's rear end, but just wondering if Sotar bits are compatible to the Krome so I can get Sotar medium and heavy configs into my Krome brush lol thanks in advance!

    1. No problem! Happy to help. Well, I screwed the front end parts in OK but didn't get too aggressive with the tightness. They did seem to fit. SOTAR needle fit inside but, again, you can't put the tail of the Krome on with that little plastic ball on it. I didn't fire it up, but it did seem like everything fit pretty well between the airbrushes. I hope this helps. Good luck!


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