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Step-by-step airbrush instructions

Updated March 23, 2017

Airbrushing is a technique used primarily for painting that involves spraying a mist of dye, ink or paint through an air-propelled unit. Airbrush artists use a specialised paint gun to control the flow of the paint to create works of art. Here are some steps and techniques you can use to begin your airbrushing projects.

Tools of the Trade

You'll need an airbrush gun (with various size nozzles), an air compressor to operate the gun, and paints in your basic airbrushing tool kit. Some artists work freehand with the airbrush while others use stencil patterns. You can use any type of paint for airbrushing, though the versatile acrylic is a good choice for beginners. Consider using paints made specifically for airbrushing if you can. The finer grind of pigments in paint made for airbrushing makes allows the airbrush gun disperse the paint more evenly. You can find them at hobby and craft shops.

Painting surfaces can include everything from a canvas to T-shirts and even fingernails.

Basics of Airbrushing

The first step in getting the hang of the airbrush is to learn to match the air pressure to the thickness of the paint you use. The thicker the paint, the more air pressure you will need to get the coverage you desire. Keep paper scraps handy to spray your paint on. This will allow you to check for colour balance and proper density before you attempt to work on your project.

Use a cleaning solution regularly to keep your airbrush tips clean and to clean when you switch colours. You can purchase cleaning solutions specifically for airbrushing, but Windex works just as well.

Airbrushing Techniques

One of the hardest techniques for beginners to master is detail work. Getting fine lines with an airbrush is a matter of practice. You need the right air pressure and tight, steady wrist control. The second hardest technique beginners face is getting various textured looks with their airbrushes. Hair, rock, metal, and other textures can be achieved with the proper air pressure and stencil work. You can use pieces from a broom to create a stencil for grass, or cut slits in a piece of cardboard that will give you wooden effects. There are all sorts of stencils you can cut yourself, or you can use stencil kits available in hobby craft shops.

Airbrushing letters and designs also takes practice. You want to work on overall control of your gun and learn which way to turn your wrist to change the thickness of your lines. You'll use traditional paint colour techniques to create shadows and depth. The main thing is to keep a proper distance from the object you're painting (6-8 inches), keep your hand steady, and control the pressure of your air, adjusting it when you need to change the viscosity of the paint application.

Airbrush Projects

There are many ways to use your airbrushing talents. If you do enough good work, word of mouth might even turn your hobby into a business. Some artists showcase their work on designs and logos on T-shirts and motorcycle helmets. You can do traditional canvas work as well, or even airbrush a bedroom wall graffiti style. Airbrushed wooden signs are fun projects that also make excellent gifts and can bring in good money at flea markets. Airbrushing is a versatile medium that allows you to create designs on almost any surface you want to use.

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About the Author

Carl Hose is the author of the anthology "Dead Horizon" and the the zombie novella "Dead Rising." His work has appeared in "Cold Storage," "Butcher Knives and Body Counts," "Writer's Journal," and "Lighthouse Digest.". He is editor of the "Dark Light" anthology to benefit Ronald McDonald House Charities.