An airbrush is a painting tool that sprays paint in an extremely fine and highly controllable way. The concept dates back to the late nineteenth century and the atomiser, which sprayed watercolours, india ink, and very often perfume. The device is most useful for shading one colour to another, or fading a colour in and out on a surface. Some subtle and creative looks can be achieved with this technique, as can be seen by the more inventive inner-city graffiti, which are executed with spray paint. Aztek is a leading manufacturer of airbrushes.
Choosing an Airbrush
Because this airbrush costs less than many other brushes, for the beginner it's a good starter brush to learn on. There are other, more expensive models and makes, but the Aztek is cost-effective if you're not sure you want to make the outlay for a more expensive brush. This affordable tool is often accused of being difficult to clean, but with a little attention the drawbacks can be overcome. Some artists like the interchangeable nozzles, which come in sets of Fine Line, General Detail, and High Flow.
Though the instructions don't recommend dismantling the nozzle, that is the best way to make sure of getting all the paint out so that it doesn't clog. Also, using airbrush cleaner rather than water for acrylic paint seems to work well. Some users store their nozzles in airbrush cleaner, much the same way some artists keep their brushes in paint thinner.
With acrylic paint, most artists use water to thin with a ratio of 1:1 or 1:2, paint-to-water, but sometimes with an airbrush this causes clogging. Alcohol or Windex work well to thin paint. It should be about the consistency of milk. Care should be taken that it not dry out during use, because once dried, acrylic paint can't be thinned again. Test the paint on a piece of ordinary paper. If it bleeds in a web pattern, it's too thin. If the brush sputters, it's too thick or there's not enough air pressure. Too powdery? The paint is too thick.
Working the Brush
An airbrush has two controls, which vary the amount of paint and the amount of air in the spray mix. The lever on the front controls the amount of air, so pull back on it for a finer spray. The roller on the back controls the paint, so adjusting it can thicken the flow or decrease it.
Learning to Paint
In learning to use an airbrush, no instruction is as valuable as simply using it. Practice on the sort of surface you'll be painting on in your project. For instance, modelers should practice on a three-dimensional surface, and painters should practice on flat. An irregular surface will cause more overspray than a flat one. A porous surface will have more bleeding than a non-porous one. Modelers will want to practice on cheap throw-away models before attempting to paint something they want to keep. Practice adjusting the air pressure.