How to Airbrush a Sheet Metal Effect

Written by alex smith
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How to Airbrush a Sheet Metal Effect
Create the illusion of riveted sheet metal. (Ablestock.com/AbleStock.com/Getty Images)

Sheet metal is an easy and fun texture that you can apply to canvas, car bodies or other surfaces. By using an airbrush, you can create details that are soft and realistic, even when viewed up close. You will first airbrush the basic metal appearance, then add rivets to make it appear three-dimensional. The result is a metallic surface that appears riveted in place.

Skill level:
Moderate

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Things you need

  • Airbrush
  • Compressor
  • Air hose
  • Airbrush paint
  • Painter's tape
  • Paint brush
  • Razor blade

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Connect the airbrush to an air compressor with an air hose.

  2. 2

    Add airbrush paint to the paint reservoir. You should use white paint if you want the metal to appear brighter or black if you want it to appear darker. This will be the base coat.

  3. 3

    Cover any areas of the surface that you do not want to paint with blue painter's tape.

  4. 4

    Spray the area with the base coat colour, passing the airbrush back and forth in long, steady strokes. Continue applying the paint in thin layers until you've applied a solid coat.

  5. 5

    Empty any remaining paint back into the bottle, then fill the reservoir with solvent appropriate to the kind of paint that you are using, then spray into a paper towel until the solvent comes out clear. Empty any remaining solvent.

  6. 6

    Allow the base coat to dry. The drying time is typically fast, and depends on the surface material as well as the type and amount of paint used.

  7. 7

    Spray a second base coat, this time silver, onto the surface, following the same procedure as the first base coat. Allow this layer to dry as well.

  8. 8

    Spray another silver base coat. Before it dries, use a clean, dry brush to apply long brushstrokes for a subtle texture. All brush strokes should follow the same direction.

  9. 9

    Cut circles in pieces of painters tape to simulate rivets using a razor blade. Keep these circle cut-outs, as you will need them later.

  10. 10

    Apply the pieces of tape with holes parallel and at regular intervals along the sheet metal surface.

  11. 11

    Spray a small amount of black paint across the top of each exposed hole, then a small amount of white. The tape protects the area around the circle, causing the paint to simulate a raised rivet catching a light source from above. Allow the paint to dry.

  12. 12

    Peel off the tape, then apply the tape circles over the painted rivets.

  13. 13

    Spray a soft semicircle of black paint along the top of each tape circle, and a soft white semicircle along the bottom of each. This will simulate an indentation -- as though the rivet dented the metal slightly when it was punched in place. Allow this paint to dry.

  14. 14

    Carefully remove the tape circles, exposing the painted rivets.

Tips and warnings

  • The solvent you use will depend on the base for your paint. For example, distilled water works best for water-based paint. Check the paint's label for the correct solvent.
  • Airbrush paint is thin, and can drip if you spray too much paint at once. Always work in thin layers.

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