If you want to create art with an airbrush gun, you won’t be able to avoid the question of which colors are the best. Besides the basic question of which colors are suitable for an airbrush, there are several well-known manufacturers to choose from. We tell you which airbrush colors are the best, whether you should buy them individually or rather an airbrush color set and which airbrush colors are suitable for model making.
- 1 Which Airbrush Paints are the Best for your Art?
- 2 Best Airbrush Paint
- 3 Guide for the Application of Airbrush Paint
- 4 Notes on the Application of paint-based airbrush paints
- 5 Frequently asked questions and answers
Which Airbrush Paints are the Best for your Art?
The choice of the right airbrush paints is crucial for every artist, because these colors have a considerable influence on the resulting art object. For the airbrush technique, normal colors are usually not suitable because they contain too much pigment. Therefore, highly pigmented colors must be chosen.
In general, all colors marked as airbrush can be used for airbrush guns. In addition, there are airbrush colors with acrylic for every imaginable purpose. These are often optimized for a special art form or a certain underground:
- Some manufacturers attach importance to good adhesive properties, especially in the field of custom painting.
- The airbrush paint used in model making must, in addition to optimal adhesive properties, generally have a high brilliance as well as easy application. This is especially important in the area of the tabletop, as here the smallest details have to be worked out. An exception to this are airbrush colors for model making in the military sector, because here the colors should be particularly matt.
- Food-safe airbrush colors are particularly suitable for the design of cakes and pastries and have been very popular for years.
- For body painting, dermatologically tested airbrush colors and therefore their high compatibility are indispensable.
- Nail design using airbrushes has also been experiencing a boom for some years now. Here the artist uses water-soluble acrylic paints, which have to be shaken well beforehand in order to mix the pigments optimally. One differentiates between transparent and opaque, thus covering, nail art colors, whereby transparent colors require a primer.
Apart from the special subdivisions, there are two different color bases:
- Water-based airbrush paints are basically acrylic paints based on an acrylic binder diluted with water and plastic or acrylic resin dispersion. They also contain inorganic or organic pigments or effect pigments. After the application of the paint the contained water evaporates so that the paint layer dries. For cleaning the airbrush gun, water as well as special cleaners from the same paint manufacturer can be used.
- Solvent-based airbrush paints are those that work with the help of a solvent. If you use such paints, you must clean your airbrush after use with acetone or nitro thinner, as these are also solvent-based.
By the way, airbrush paints are usually available in pipettes so that you can dose them optimally. If you are unsure, you can also buy suitable airbrush paint sets. If you’re new to airbrushing, the airbrush sets often already contain paint.
Best Airbrush Paint
If you want to buy airbrush paints, you should put emphasis on quality. There is hardly anything more annoying than putting a lot of work into an art project which then fails just because you used inferior paint. Alternatively, you can make or mix airbrush paint yourself. We will explain to you later what you have to pay attention to.
In this chapter you will learn which airbrush paint is best suited and which airbrush paint manufacturers are the most common.
Recommendation: Createx airbrush paint kit
The airbrush paint set Color Professional by Createx contains 18 bottles of 2oz each as well as a cleaning agent. As a small goodie, a learning DVD is included.
The advantages of the set are obvious:
- The paint is easy to dose
- High color brilliance and optimal spraying results
- The colors have a high opacity
But there are also disadvantages:
- The quality of the product is right, but the price is not the cheapest of all paint
Price performance tip: U.S. Art Supply
- 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
If you are looking for really powerful yet affordable airbrush paints, you should take a second look at U.S. Art Supply Airbrush Basic Color Set. It consists of 36 bottles of 1oz each. The paints are not considered to be harmful to health because they are water-based. They are perfect for an introduction to airbrushing, as their price-performance ratio is unbeatable:
- We have already mentioned the favourable price
- These colors are perfectly suited for model making
- They are considered non-toxic
- The dosage is simple
- The opacity is high
- Applicable on many different surfaces
Unfortunately these colors also have a disadvantage:
- The spray pattern can sometimes vary slightly
Guide for the Application of Airbrush Paint
Beginners may shy away from using an airbrush because they think it is very complicated to work with. Basically, this is not correct – all you need is a little practice and the right basic knowledge. Of course, we will be happy to help you and tell you what you need to know about airbrush color processing.
Airbrush Dilute paint / Media
Even if a paint is marked as airbrush, it should still be thinned a little so that you can spray it optimally. Diluting offers you many advantages:
- Fewer splashes occur during work, which means that your work has fewer defects; in addition, many an annoying cleaning of the surroundings is no longer necessary
- You can create more detailed works of art because you need less pressure when handling the gun and can work closer to your artwork
- The color used is not so granular
- Errors are easier to correct or do not occur at all
- The viscosity of your ink is reduced so that its flow properties are improved
However, it should be noted that dilution reduces the pigment content of the ink. This also reduces the luminosity of the ink.
Media with which you can dilute the colors are either distilled water or suitable fluid media. However, distilled water is only recommended in very small amounts and should only be used in emergency situations, for example if you want to airbrush paint yourself but find out at the last moment that you lack a high quality fluid medium. Distilled water is not a binding agent and in high doses can cause the paint cover to crack open. More suitable is definitely a good commercial fluid medium.
This is nothing more than a binder that lacks pigments. Usually you don’t need much of it, because such fluid media are rather thin-bodied. It is important that you use a suitable medium, because there are also media available that thicken the paint instead of diluting it. The quality of the fluid medium and its influence on the drying time should also be considered. It is better to use a high-priced but high-quality product. It would be a great pity if you put hours of painstaking work into a work of art only to find that it contains flaws because of the wrong fluid medium.
Also, the diluent should not contain alcohol as a base. This allows the airbrush paints to dry too quickly, so that the nozzle of the gun will clog relatively quickly.
By the way, normal acrylic paint is conditionally suitable for spraying with an airbrush, if you dilute it correctly. However, you must make sure that you use highly pigmented acrylic paint, otherwise the nozzle of your airbrush gun can become blocked.
Airbrush Mixing your Paint
Airbrush colors are mixed together to create color gradations and transitions. You should proceed very carefully, because usually an extremely small amount is enough to make a clear difference. It is better to approach the right color slowly. This is especially important if you want to create gradients and keep the transitions between the different shades very subtle.
You can do this by stirring the colors in the paint container of your pistol, for example. If you are unsure about the color shade, mix the paint in a cup and spray a trial run onto a piece of paper before you start working on your real art object.
If you want to switch between different colors, you should always clean your airbrush gun so that the fresh paint does not mix with the residues of the paint you used before.
To mix paint with a medium, you also use a pipette. Mix both medium and paint until the correct consistency is achieved. You can recognize this by the fact that when the paint flows in the transparent container, it does not leave any drops, but a transparent smear of paint.
Select suitable Nozzle Size
Which is the suitable nozzle size cannot be answered in general. This depends on the type of your project. In general you can distinguish between fine, medium and thick nozzle sizes, whereby fine nozzles are used for very filigree details and large nozzles for flat elements. The exact sizes and designations are as follows:
- Fine: XF bzw. F; 0,8 – 25 mm
- Medium: IL bzw. M; 1,5 – 38 mm
- Thick: HD bzw. L; 3,2 – 50 mm
Clean Airbrush after use
When you are finished, you should clean your airbrush, otherwise the nozzle will clog. But you also have to remove the previously used paint every time you change the color, otherwise there is a risk of unwanted mixing. Cleaning is part of working with the airbrush gun and should be ritualized so that you don’t forget it. This way you increase the life span of your tool.
First, the remaining paint is poured out of the container. Then you use a suitable airbrush cleaner and cotton swabs to remove the paint residue. Repeat this step until the cotton swab no longer discolors. By the way, the cleaner should not contain ammonia, otherwise there is a risk of damage to the nozzle of your gun in the long run.
Now pour some more of the cleaner into the container and spray with the airbrush as if you were working with it. If it sprays only clear cleaning fluid, your gun is clean. Now you can remove the remaining cleaner from the container and dry it. You should also continue to operate the gun until no more liquid is sprayed.
- Easy-to-use, insert one of the included filter pads in the filter tube
- Heavy glass jar; prevents the weight of an airbrush and hose from tipping over the pot
- Add solvent to your airbrush's color cup and spray through the rubber port in the cover, flushing the pigment from the brush and into the pot
- This clean pot also can be used as an airbrush holder
Notes on the Application of paint-based airbrush paints
If you want to work with airbrush paint, you should pay attention to your safety. There are some things to consider here.
Airbrushing produces two potentially harmful substances, namely particles, so-called aerosols, and gases. The latter are mainly contained in paint-based paints. The tricky thing is that they are invisible. Some people therefore believe that they do not need a respiratory mask – although this should be compulsory.
What kind of respirator should be worn when airbrushing depends on the paints used as well as auxiliary materials such as the fluid medium and other additives. If you want to be on the safe side, use an FFP3 respirator, because this protects you in principle against all harmful substances. Make sure that the leakage is as small as possible. This means that the mask should fit as tight as possible.
The inorganic pigments contained in airbrush colors are not broken down by the body and therefore accumulate over time. For this reason, a breathing mask and protective goggles should be worn. Ensure adequate ventilation during work and preferably use gloves. But make sure that these are thin and do not hinder you in your project, because of course airbrushing requires a good portion of “feeling” when regulating the pressure.
Frequently asked questions and answers
What are known manufacturers of airbrush paints?
Well known and renowned airbrush paint manufacturers are the following:
- Schmincke: Schmincke offers the artist everything he needs for airbrushing. Meanwhile several dozen colors and shades are available on the market. Schmincke offers natural colors as well as colors with effects. Furthermore, there are many different aids available, such as primer, textile medium, finishing varnish and airbrush cleaner.
- Vallejo: The company Vallejo offers the user a wide range of colors for almost every area. So model makers get their money’s worth as well as do-it-yourselfers who work with different materials like metal and plastic.
- Liquitex: Liquitex is also a well-known company when it comes to the distribution of airbrush colors. Liquitex offers not only the latter, but in principle everything else that an artist’s heart desires.
Which Colors to use for Airbrush?
In principle, all inks are suitable that are highly pigmented enough and do not dry too quickly. Acrylic paints that have been specially developed for the airbrush technique are best suited. These have very fine pigments and dry in a reasonable time so that the nozzle does not clog.
Whether your paints should be lacquer or water-based, you have to decide for yourself based on your planned project. If you are in the modelling business, you will need different colors than if you are a passionate cake maker.
Besides, a lot of things are a matter of taste – while some people prefer the colors of Schmincke, others prefer those of Liquitex or Vallejo. As a beginner you might have to try several manufacturers until you find the one that suits you best.
Airbrush paints are therefore somewhat special if you look at the requirements more closely. Exactly which of these are suitable for your purposes depends on your project. We hope that we have been able to give you a small overview in our Airbrush Colors Guide.