Many artists like to experiment, and sooner or later come across the subject of airbrushing. But what exactly is airbrushing? We show you how you can master airbrush art, what airbrush techniques there are, and what you should look out for when buying airbrush accessories.
- 1 What is Airbrushing?
- 2 This is why Airbrush Art is so Popular
- 3 You can use an Airbrush for these Applications
- 4 The best Airbrush Set for your Start into Airbrushing
- 5 Our Recommendation for a Beginners Airbrush Course
- 6 How to Airbrush – Tutorial
- 7 Take Care of your Health
- 8 Important Tips and Tricks
- 9 Frequently Asked Questions and Answers
What is Airbrushing?
Airbrushing was originally used in the car paint shop to create particularly even and brilliant colors. However, more and more artists are using the airbrush technique, because it offers many possibilities to let your creativity run free and is not difficult to learn. All you need are the right accessories, a steady hand, and patience.
But what exactly does airbrush mean?
Airbrushing involves spraying paint onto a surface with a spray gun, also called an airbrush gun. The necessary airflow is generated by a compressor. Different nozzle sizes are available for the gun so that everything imaginable can be painted, from tiny details and beautiful color gradients, to covering large areas.
For mastering the airbrush art, everything the artist’s heart desires is available, from single accessories to complete sets. In terms of price, there are great variations; low budget airbrush sets as well as real luxury airbrush kits are available on the market.
This is why Airbrush Art is so Popular
Airbrush art is enjoying growing popularity and for good reason. It offers the artist many advantages:
- In principle, airbrushing can be used on all surfaces and painting grounds, whether on textiles, car bodies, canvas, skin, fingernails, and even cakes and tarts
- The paint can be dosed infinitely variably, so that fine details, or impressive color transitions, or basically everything you can imagine can be captured on the painting surface
- The nozzle size is variable so that you can spray on point or fill up huge areas quickly
- There are almost no limits to the areas of application and the variety of paints used; hobby bakers and food designers as well as bodyworkers, nail designers and canvas artists benefit from the airbrush technique
- Most paints are suitable for airbrushing if they are highly pigmented enough
- The paints are compatible with thinners, so you can mix your own color variations
You can use an Airbrush for these Applications
As briefly mentioned in the previous chapter, the airbrush technique is suitable for almost all conceivable applications. This makes airbrushing incredibly versatile and changeable.
- Custom painting is probably one of the most well-known areas of application. Airbrushing creates photorealistic paintings on motorcycle helmets, cars, motorcycles, or other everyday objects. In this process, the airbrush can also create impressive color gradients.
- Many different types of body art are based on the principle of airbrushing. So there are make-up artists who prefer to work with spray guns. Tattoo artists who want to spray washable tattoos also benefit from the good grip and the application possibilities of an airbrush. Body Painting should have been a term for a long time – unbelievably impressive works of art have been created here. Another area of application is nail art: with the help of tiny nozzles and the skillful hand of a nail artist, these become unique paintings or achieve a simple but still impressive color brilliance. The entire body can be tanned with an airbrush gun and a large nozzle.
- In the Kitchen Art sector, airbrush guns are now often used when cakes or other pastries are to be decorated. Many professional or even hobby bakers use airbrush art to let off steam.
- Whether military, diorama, or other areas – model making is practically impossible without airbrush. By spraying, incredibly realistic representations can be created and the finest details and shades can be worked out.
Of course, the original place of application, namely industrial painting, should not be forgotten with this list.
The best Airbrush Set for your Start into Airbrushing
So, you want to buy an airbrush? We give you tips on how to find the perfect airbrush set for beginners. First of all, we will look at the price-performance ratio. Usually, it is not necessary to buy an expensive set. A medium-priced airbrush kit is best suited for most applications. For very cheap sets, however, the general rule is: If you buy cheap, you buy twice. Often the needle bends or the nozzle gets clogged the first time you use it.
Therefore it is better to stick to high-quality kits with a compressor:
- High-quality Airbrushing System with everything you need for Airbrushing
- Master Airbrush Model TC-320 Cool Runner II superior performance powerful 1/5 hp single-piston compressor with two cooling fans that allow it to run much cooler for a longer continuous running time without overheating.
- Includes also airbrush painting and Quick Start Guide and airbrush holder
What should a good airbrush set for beginners contain? First of all, of course, the gun, the necessary accessories such as the hose and connections and of course the airbrush compressor. Three to four different nozzle sizes should also be standard, so that you can spray different works of art right from the start and, in the long run, improve your skills.
Tip: A compressor with a built-in water separator is recommended. This component with the somewhat strange name ensures that no water drops caused by condensation are thrown out by the airbrush gun, because these would dilute your colours and leave unsightly speckles on your creation. Also make sure you have a pressure gauge to help you regulate the pressure as much as possible, as it saves you a lot of effort. If you want to buy an airbrush, of course, you also need to pay attention to the maintenance of your tools. If you don’t have a cleaner in your set, you should definitely invest in a separate cleaning set consisting of small brushes and a high-quality cleaner. The care of your tools is the most important thing.
The Airbrush Gun
Generally speaking, there are two different operations of airbrush guns: Single Action and Double Action. Both have their advantages and disadvantages:
The Single Action has two different controls. With their help, you can not only control the pressure and thus the airflow, but also ensure a constant flow of paint. If you are still a beginner and want to buy an airbrush, you can use this type of gun, because for simple work it is completely sufficient.
The Double Action, on the other hand, is especially suitable for artists who want to develop their skills over time. It has only one button to regulate both air and paint volume. It is therefore not as easy to use as the Single Action, but offers the user greater possibilities for development.
The name compressor basically tells you exactly what it does. A compressor compacts the air so to speak, so that a constant and strong, but adjustable air pressure is created. Put simply, when the pistol button is pressed, the compressed air flows out of the pistol and pushes the paint in the container out with it.
The most important thing when airbrushing, apart from choosing the right paint, is the constant air pressure with which the paint is sprayed. Therefore, when buying a compressor, you can be a little choosy, because it should perform well. The pressure at which you work when airbrushing should be between 1.5 and 2.2 bar, otherwise unwanted streaks or paint splashes will occur.
Another important factor that significantly influences the work with the gun is of course the choice of the right airbrush paint. Which paint you choose depends on your project. If you want to decorate cakes, the airbrush paint used must be food-safe. For military modeling, you should choose matt colors; green and muddy brown shades are particularly popular. Airbrush paint for nail art should be highly pigmented so that it can be sprayed with a very fine nozzle.
Apart from these factors, a distinction is made between lacquer-based and water-based paints. The former is potentially hazardous to health and should therefore only be used whilst wearing a respirator. After using them, you will need acetone or a suitable cleaning agent to clean your gun. Water-based paints, on the other hand, can also be removed with clear water from the airbrush. They are not considered hazardous to your health, but you should nevertheless take care of your safety when working with these paints.
The following airbrush paints are recommended
- Get every color you need - 12 Primary Opaque Colors, 12 Secondary Opaque Colors
- Colors are ready to spray out of the bottle and have outstanding airbrush flow characteristics
- All colors are made with high quality light-fast pigments. Colors are non-toxic and meet ASTM D-4236 standards
- Water based, thinner and extender are inlcuded
- Wicked Colors are transparent colors which are very high pigmented, usable out of the bottle
- Lightfast pigments have been used, paintings are also usable outdoors
- Water based and made in the U.S.
When you are deciding on a paint, you should also keep in mind the nozzle size. Paint with large pigment particles is not suitable for a very fine nozzle. The nozzle can quickly become clogged when you use it. It is therefore worth buying a relatively large range of paints, as well as using high-quality paints. If an artist goes to great lengths to create a work of art, only to find that the colors lose their brilliance after a while, it is extremely annoying.
Useful Airbrush Tools
Apart from the paints and technical aids such as compressor and gun, there are other useful tools for airbrushing. In the following, we will introduce you to the most important of them.
- Respirator: Always think about your safety when working with an airbrush. A respirator is a must, especially when working with lacquer-based paints. Depending on the type of paint you use, you may need a particle or gas compatible respirator with minimal leakage.
- Cleaners: The type of cleaner you use after you finish your work depends on the paint you use. We recommend that you use paints and cleaners from the same manufacturer if possible.
- Masking film: Masking film, or tape, is a stable yet flexible film that is adhesive on one side and which allows you to spray on sharp corners and edges, but also various other shapes.
- Suction system: This is used to suck off the spray mist created during airbrushing. An airbrush suction system is not absolutely necessary, but definitely useful, as it reduces – in addition to the respirator – the health risk in artistic work.
There are also some utensils that are not absolutely necessary but practical:
- Various small glass containers with tightly closing lid for storing self-mixed paint
- Airbrush paper is a thick paper used specifically for airbrushing
- Pencils to sketch your work
- Cutting knife for cutting the masking film
Our Recommendation for a Beginners Airbrush Course
How to Airbrush – Tutorial
Airbrushing does not require a lot of previous knowledge, only practice, time, and patience. First, prepare everything you need. Always having to rummage around for accessories not only costs you valuable time, but gets on your nerves and breaks concentration, since you are constantly being pulled out of your flow. Once you have prepared your materials, you can start.
Putting the airbrush equipment into operation
First you connect the gun and the compressor. Then connect the compressor to the power supply and fill the paint cup of the gun. You should have already mixed the paint before. It is also recommended that you dilute paint developed for airbrushing a little to achieve better paint results. In addition, the nozzle size must be used to match the paint. Low-pigmented paint should not be sprayed with a fine nozzle, otherwise it will quickly clog.
Now you can already start coloring your sketched work. With downward pressure you adjust the air through the gun. Then a gentle pull to the back takes place. In this way you regulate the amount of paint used. The more you pull and the longer the pistol stays in one place, the stronger the sprayed paint becomes. When you are finished with a spot, you must first stop the addition of paint and then stop the air flow. Otherwise, ugly splashes of paint will appear on your art object.
The most important airbrush spray techniques
In principle, airbrush techniques can be divided into three different categories:
Using an airbrush is not so easy when you just start working with an airbrush gun. An even line is applied with a steady hand. But a steady hand when airbrushing is not everything: you should also make sure that the paint supply is not too high so that the line does not run. Pay attention to the gloss: If the sprayed paint on the picture is shiny, it is too wet and you have to regulate the paint supply.
Achieving an even surface when airbrushing is not as easy as it sounds. With some practice, however, this challenge can be mastered well. A steady hand is also needed here so that the surface does not become stained. Your hand should not cramp. Before filling in large areas, you should think of doing a few loosening exercises.
A trick that works well is the use of serpentines, or S-shapes. Spray paint evenly, first from the top left to the top right and then diagonally towards the bottom left of your painting surface. Then fill in the remaining area, also in serpentines, and always use flowing movements.
Color accentuations need one thing above all: practice. You have to find out for yourself how you want to create the incidence of light on your painting. If you notice that your shades are getting too dark – which makes your picture look hard quickly – dilute the paint in the paint container. Water-based paints can be thinned with a little water if necessary, while lacquer-based paints require a special medium. However, never use too much water to dilute the paint, as too much could lead to the paint cracking when it dries.
If you want to paint light accents, there are three different possibilities:
- Apply white paint
- Do not spray a full covering, so that the white painting ground shines through
- Use a plasticine rubber and remove a little paint afterwards
How to Airbrush – instructions to master your first airbrush art
Before you start your first real work, we recommend that you first try your hand at a few simple forms. Take a sheet of sturdy printer paper and alternatively spray thicker and finer lines and even larger areas. Spray circles, squares and triangles. Take your time and develop a solid basic feeling for your airbrush gun. Also experiment with different distances to the painting surface. See how the intensity of the paint changes the longer you spray at a certain point and think about how you can use different shades of paint for your later work.
If that works out well, you can start with your first piece of art. Follow our step-by-step airbrush instructions:
- The sketch: It is best to make a pencil sketch first, or use ready-made stencils such as airbrush templates. This way you already have a good idea of what the picture would look like later. Use a hard pencil and not too much pressure. Better draw loosely from your hand.
- Masking tape: To spray the edges as sharply as possible, you can use special masking tape. This is cut to size and glued to certain areas of your picture to protect them from the sprayed paint – you “mask” the picture. You can also use masking film over the entire image and then cut out certain areas. Stick the masking film on first and then cut it to size with a sharp knife, for example a cutter knife. Be careful not to damage your image. If you want to get blurred edges, you can work without masking film, because spraying always creates a fine mist anyway, which blurs the edge. If you peel off the pieces you have cut, don’t throw them away immediately, because you might want to reuse them for further processing of the picture.
- Preparation of the tools: Now you can connect your gun to the compressor and adjust the pressure you need for the chosen nozzle and paint. It is best to follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Now fill the paint container of the gun with the paint that you have diluted with the fluid medium. Do not fill the container to the brim, otherwise the paint may drip out and spread unintentionally on your object or clothing. A few drops are enough.
The more layers of paint you spray on top of each other, the more opaque and darker the colours become. We advise you to experiment without expecting too much. Let your imagination run wild and see what you can do with the paint and how different spraying techniques will work on your painting. Also try out color gradients and different mixtures.
- The first application of paint: Now comes the actual artistic creation, where you can be really creative – you fill your picture with color. An even application of paint is very important here. Above all it is one thing: a matter of practice. So don’t despair if this part doesn’t work very well in the beginning.
- Further masking: If you are finished with the first application of paint and want to keep some areas darker than others, you can apply masking tape again to protect parts of the picture. This way you can also apply nice shades without creating annoying speckles.
- Speaking of shading: With these you can effectively set your picture in a scene by spraying black paint lightly over certain areas at the end. Pay attention to the incidence of light: For example, if your light source is supposed to be in the upper left corner of the picture, there can be no shadow there.
Your project is finished when you are satisfied. Just try yourself and always remember that airbrushing is above all a question of experience. Don’t give up so easily; with a little practice you too will create a great piece of art.
Take Care of your Health
The health risks of working especially with lacquer-based paints, should not be underestimated when airbrushing. Many of the substances contained in the paints are inhalable. Therefore you should always pay attention to safety and wear a respirator. Which one you need exactly depends on the paints used. The FFP3 mask is definitely the safest, but not necessary for most paint manufacturers. A mask with less protection is usually sufficient.
If you want to be safe and take absolutely no risk, use both a respirator and an exhaust system. The latter ensures that toxic fumes in your environment are filtered from the air. In addition, you should always ventilate your workplace well. As with all paints, if airbrush paints come into contact with your eyes or mucous membranes, wash them out well for several minutes and consult a doctor immediately. Take the packaging of the paint with you to show it to the doctor.
Important Tips and Tricks
As with all art forms, there are of course also tips and tricks for airbrushing, with which you can achieve a good result even as a beginner:
- Your painting ground should be free of dirt, that goes without saying. But even clean fingers leave dirt behind, namely the skin’s own grease film. This can impair the paint properties. It is therefore best to use thin cloth gloves when handling the painting ground.
- Small models can be placed on a stand where they can stand freely so that they can be sprayed from all sides. This way, you don’t have to hold them in your hand to turn them; this leaves no fingerprints and you can work better.
- If you discover errors in thin and fine lines, remember the needle of your gun – check whether it is still intact or bent.
If your gun does not spray cleanly or you notice that air is escaping from its paint cup, the nozzle may be affected. See if it is clogged or damaged.
- If you want to spray accurately drawn edges, you must use airbrush templates, otherwise the sprayed edges will always be a little blurred.
- Make sure you have a steady hand and a smooth swing when working with the airbrush. This is the difficult part of this art form. But as I said: Airbrushing is mainly a matter of practice. After some time you will get the hang of it.
If you are more sensitive to noise, look for a compressor with an air tank, because it only has to fill the tank once – very loud! – and then it is quiet. So you have more peace and quiet during your work.
Frequently Asked Questions and Answers
Which airbrush set to buy for beginners?
Which airbrush set you want to buy depends on the area of application and your ambitions. If you just want to spray a little bit every now and then, a cheaper set with few accessories is sufficient. However, if you have the ambition to develop yourself into this art form, you can invest in a higher priced airbrush kit with some accessories.
How often to clean an airbrush?
Clean your airbrush thoroughly after each use and also after each paint change, otherwise the next paint will mix with the previous one used.
Airbrushing is therefore not as difficult to learn for beginners as you might think. It is, on the contrary, a great way to let off steam artistically while honing your skills. We hope we could help you with our instructions and wish you good luck with your first airbrush project!