How to Use Oil Paint in Airbrushing

Written by maxfield carroll
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How to Use Oil Paint in Airbrushing
Most paints can be thinned for use in an airbrush. (paint image by Allyson Ricketts from

Oil paint is prized for the rich, luminous effects it gives to artwork. Although most oil colours are thick and opaque, they can be thinned to a transparent state that will work well in an airbrush for rendering crisp, precise images.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Double-action airbrush
  • Compressed air source
  • Pressure regulator
  • Moisture trap
  • Air hoses
  • Face mask
  • Spray booth
  • Oil paint
  • Turpentine
  • Linseed oil
  • Masking tape

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  1. 1

    Connect an airbrush to a supply of compressed air with a moisture trap and a pressure regulator as directed by the manufacturer. Wear a face mask and work in a spray booth or a well ventilated area.

  2. 2

    Mix 1 part of oil paint with 1 part of a thinner, such as refined turpentine or mineral spirits. If necessary, add more thinner to give the colour greater transparency and to prevent the paint from clogging the airbrush.

  3. 3

    Add 2 or 3 drops of a drying agent, such as cold pressed linseed oil, to the paint. This will reduce the waiting time involved in layering techniques. Add the paint to the airbrush colour cup.

  4. 4

    Draw your design with charcoal or oil paint on the working surface. Oil colours may be used on canvas, wood, ceramics or glass. Mask off areas of the design as needed with tape or frisket.

  5. 5

    Spray the paint over the design. Allow the paint to dry before spraying a new layer on top. Change colours and reposition the masking as required. When finished with the rendering, protect the paint with several coats of varnish.

Tips and warnings

  • Do not airbrush oil paint onto paper. The varnishes and solvents used with oil paints can damage and stain the paper.

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