Airbrushing Techniques

Here are some Airbrushing Techniques for Double-Action Airbrushes:

Basic Airbrush Strokes:

  • First practice on a scratch piece of material, keep the Scrap material handy always, be sure its the same material as the surface you will be airbrushing
    • Adjust the paint flow regulator knob at the back of the airbrush to allow only the amount of paint you need for the line or area you are currently working on – adjust it for every different area or line you will be working on – always test all adjustments on your scrap material first
      • Allow more paint for a heavier coat & darker color
      • Allow less paint for a lighter coat & lighter color
    • Move your airbrush closer and further away until you get the right line thickness, remember the exact distance you decided upon
      • Move the airbrush closer for a thinner, finer line
      • Move the airbrush further away for a wider, thicker line
    • Use the paint Flow Regulator Knob in conjunction with Distance to keep the same coverage and coating on the line and only increase its thickness
      • Move the airbrush further away from the surface while Increasing the paint flow
      • Move the airbrush closer to the painting surface while Decreasing the paint flow
    • Decrease Air-pressure at the Regulator/ Water-trap for smaller lines at a closer distance or for delicate surfaces such as sand, tiny scale-models, etc..
      • Too high of pressure at close distances can damage the surface, even on heavy art paper
      • Lower the pressure by 5 psi, test, and lower again, until the distance you are to spray is delicately covered with paint, without over-spray or surface stress.. you can go as low as 5 psi
    • Increase Air-pressure at the Regulator/ Water-trap for larger lines sprayed from a further distance
      • Useful for wide-areas for greater coverage
      • Raise Air-pressure in increments of 5 psi until you get the reach and coverage you need, no greater. you can go as high as 40 psi, but not really much higher..
    • Measure the cm or inches per second your hand is moving to get the paint coverage you desire, and remember the count.
  • Put your body in the middle of the painting.
    • Practice your range of motion along the line, without any air or paint, from one side of the painting to the other, and from top to bottom, and from upper corners to opposing lower corners, and from lower corners to opposing upper corners
    • Get comfortable with how your body, legs, hips, waist, shoulders, & arms will need to move around the surface
    • Try using one hand, and supporting your wrist with your free hand as well
    • Most Importantly, check to see that the nozzle of your airbrush is the exact same distance from the paint surface no matter where on the surface you move your airbrush to.. adjusting as you go.
  • Push Down to Start the Air coming out, several cm away from where you want the line to begin
    • Try keeping the air on all the time while painting by keeping the button pressed down, to give you continuous airflow, if your air supply permits
  • Start Your Hand Movement in the Direction you want the line to go
    • Keep your Hand Steady
    • Support your wrist with your free hand to make it more steady
    • Practice the movement a few times before spraying paint
    • Count how many seconds it should take you to complete the line, and the cm/ inches per second you are moving, remembering which number count you were on at various turns and corners, etc..
  • With your air fully flowing, and your hand moving in the right direction, slowly begin to release paint at the point you want your line to start.
    • Pull the nozzle back to the where you set the adjustment knob to stop at
    • Keep the paint spray even
    • Keep your arm movement even
    • Keep your Speed Even
    • Keep your count of the seconds, and be sure its the same as on your practice run
    • Keep the distance from Nozzle to Surface even
  • You can also:
    • Start a tiny bit of spray in a stationary location at the start of your line, first
    • Then slowly increase paint flow until the desired spray level has been reached
    • Then move forward along the line from there, same as int he method above
  • To Finish Your Line:
    • Keep the Air flowing and your hand moving
    • Release the needle to stop the paint flow at the end of your line
    • Don’t stop your hands forward movement until several inches/cm beyond the end of your line, in the continuing direction
    • Leave the air running on full, ready for your next line
    • You can also:
      • Slowly ease up on the paint at the end of the line
      • Hold the airbrush over eh last part of the line until the full coverage has been reached at the same time your paint completely ends
  • To cover a large area:
    • Start the paint-flow on the left
    • Move the Airbrush to the right, evenly
    • Stop the paint flow, leaving the air on
    • Repeat, Making overlapping passes in the same direction
    • As you gain more skill, after finishing on the left, you can stop the paint, then restart on the left and move back to the right, stopping the paint again
      • Be sure your counting is the same going backwards as it was forwards, so your speed will be identical both directions
      • Be sure the Distance from Airbrush Nozzle to Paint Surface is the exact same when reversing directions as well
    • Pay attention to the distance to surface.. a small pipe-brush or bent wire held between your fingers can work as a guide, dragging along the unpainted surface to be sure your distance remains the same
    • Count at a certain speed and be sure it takes the same amount of time to make each pass
    • Make all passes the same length, if possible
    • DO NOT hold the paint spray on and simply move back and forth across the surface without stopping the paint between passes
  • Spray in Coats
    • Spray a thin coat on the full area
    • Let it dry out a while
    • Then spray on another coat
    • Repeat until the desired covering is achieved
    • Spray on several thin coats, rather than one thick coat all at once, for a more even application

Special Techniques:

  • Masking Tape:
    • Use 1″, 1/2″, 1/4″, 1/8″, or 1/16″ masking tape to tape off areas you don’t want to paint, then spray the surface & remove the tape to reveal clean edges
    • Put the tape over lines you’ve already painted, then paint over the area with another color, then remove the tape to reveal clean, crisp lines in the under-colors
  • Masking Tape Cut-outs
    • Small Shapes, special edges, and things which are too small to hand-hold, etc.. Can also be cut out of masking tape with an Exacto Knife
    • Use a pencil to draw your shape on the Wide masking tape while the tape is still on the roll, if possible
    • Remove the piece of wide Masking Tape and stick it directly onto your cutting mat
    • Cut out the pattern with an Exacto-Knife
    • Carefully remove the borders, and use the Exacto-Knife to lift your pattern up off the cutting mat
    • Lightly adhere the tape to your surface, and carefully spray over
    • You May want to slightly moisten the sticky part after cutting, to reduce its stickiness and make it easier to remove after painting, especially if using on paper or other delicate surfaces
    • Stick the Negative & Positive Cut-outs on a smooth plastic card for later use (tape a piece of clear plastic over the card to help keep them in place)
    • This technique can also be used with larger rolls of sticky-paper, for larger detailed cut-outs, but be sure to wet the surface to reduce its tack so it can be easily removed
  • Masking Fluid
    • Paint on Masking Fluid, then paint over area, then use an Exacto-knife to scrape off the masking liquid and reveal the colors below or an uncolored surface
  • Masking Paint
    • Spray over your entire surface
    • Allow to dry
    • Draw your design over the top
    • Cut around & Peel off desired design elements as you go – cutting out and painting in the most logical order
  • Spray-Guard Shapes & Patterns
    • Make some cut-out cards from heavy, shiny, water-resistant art paper of different shapes:
      • Different sizes of Rectangles & Squares
      • Different size & Radius Circles & Ovals,
      • Different Angles of Triangles, etc.
      • Different types of Trapezoids
      • Crescent Patterns
      • Wavy Patterns
      • Sine-Wave Patterns
      • Circle/ Shape within a Circle/Shape Patterns, linked by a small piece of the material not cut out
      • Any Patterns you find useful
    • Save all the Spray-Guard Patterns you make in a box for later use
    • Hold the Spray Guard over an area to mask it out and create a sharp line, then Spray over it, spraying slightly on the guard as well
    • Remove the guard and add softer fading spray for a different effect
  • Positive Image Patterns
    • Cut out the Negative Space in a duplicate of your image, then fix it to the image and spray over it, then remove it, to give you a detailed shape with sharp lines
  • Negative Image Patterns
    • Cut out the Positive Space in a duplicate of your image (the shape you want to paint), then affix that to the paper and spray over it, then remove it, to give you a clear “ghost” outline of your object surrounded by the color you used
  • Positive-Negative Cutout Pairing
    • Cut out the Positive Pattern in your Image Element, being careful not to destroy the Negative Space Cutout as you complete it, so both sides of the scissor cut are identical and intact
    • Spray the Background first, by using the Positive-Space Card
    • Put the Negative space card exactly on the same line, covering up your background, and spray your positive space image color
  • Color Fading & Blending
    • Spray one color over 2/3 of the space, from darker to lighter, by adjusting the paint flow knob & distance to surface
    • Spray the second color over the first color starting at the clear and and spraying the opposite 2/3 of the space, lightening as you move towards the other color, by adjusting the paint control knob & distance to surface
    • Paint white on 2/3 of the surface first, if going from one color to white, rather than leaving an unpainted white surface
    • The first color can also be painted on the entire surface, and the second color used to fade…
      • Also, the 1st color can be painted just to 2/3 without a fade, and the second color can begin its fade after reaching that color.. unless the first color is too dark, which would leave a noticeable line..
  • Paint-Brushing
    • Fine Details & Other Elements can also be easily done with a fine Paint Brush & some of the non-thinned paint type you are using
  • Other Media
    • Other Mixed Media can be added to Airbrushing to great effect, such as:
      • Oil Pastels
      • Charcoal
      • Ink
      • Pencil/ Graphite
      • Chalk
      • Water Color
      • Oil Paint
      • Acrylic paint
      • Gouache
      • Colored Pencils
      • Markers
      • Glued Sand
    • Airbrushing can also be added to/ used with a variety of Media
      • Shattered Glass Mosaics
      • Shattered Ceramic Mosaics
      • Ceramic Tile Mosaics
      • Ceramic Tile Murals
      • Stone & Concrete Work
      • Brick Murals
      • Metal Art
      • Sculptures
      • Fired Ceramics & Pottery
      • Fired or Blown Glass Work
      • Wood Work
      • Interior Decorating
      • Clothing
      • Bags
      • Footwear
      • Musical Instruments
      • Sporting Goods
      • Vehicles
      • Garages
      • Driveways & Sidewalks
      • Cakes & Foodstuffs
      • Human Hair
      • Face & Body Paint/ Make-up
      • Finger & Toe Nail Painting
      • Special Effects Make-up
      • Pet Hair
      • Toys
      • Hobbies
      • Crafts
      • etc
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