What is an Airbrush?
The airbrush is an instrument widely used in the world of design, especially in industrial design. Among its qualities, it stands out the lacquered, glossy, and realistic finish that it allows. It became popular in North America in the ’70s, known as radical realism (directly related to hyperrealism and photographic realism).
One of the most outstanding hyperrealist artists for his use of the airbrush is Don Eddy for works such as this airbrush drawing:
Seeing this car body painted on a canvas, it is inevitable to mention artists who use airbrushes to paint car bodies and covers of all kinds of vehicles or furniture. The materials for this case are quite similar to those we will use for the realization of this tutorial. But in these cases, surface preparation plays a vital role, and it is necessary to finish with specific fixatives.
How to Use an Airbrush?
Before starting, it is essential to protect well all around us because the airbrush paint can be scattered anywhere and is not easy to clean if we give it time to dry. We recommend to be careful with the working place and also with the clothing!
Materials to Use Airbrushes
- Laminated cardboard or watercolor paper
- Knife, cutter style
- Airbrush paint, which can be acrylic, watercolor, or acrylic ink. The difference is that the more opaque paints are easier to use because they cover more easily, while the more transparent inks need a deeper study of the color.
- Stencils, you can buy ready-made ones or create them yourself for each work with another piece of watercolor paper or gray cardboard.
- Airbrush, with its respective compressed air (gas or compressor).
Step By Step
To paint with an airbrush, it is important to be clear about the tonalities and shapes were chosen for each section. After sketching the work, we cut the templates with the shape we need, paying special attention to intersections.
Determine the order in which we will proceed to paint each segment. Writing it down on a separate piece of paper is useful because this work is not usually finished in a single day, and we likely forget the order.
Once you have determined the first area to be painted, use the masking fluid to protect the adjacent sections. You can use the razor blade to help you to delimit the regions more accurately.
Start gassing with the chosen paint.
Repeat all the steps for each of the sections. If we want to give reflections afterward, we can work with the airbrush as a glaze.
Tips for Using Airbrushes
1. Practice the color
The application of the color depends as much on the speed of the stroke, as on the distance that you place yourself from the support, as on the control of the exit of the air. Therefore it is necessary to rehearse these three variables before starting a new work.
To acquire skills, we recommend you to start by:
- Making parallel lines, varying color, air output, speed, and distance from the support.
- Degrade the color imitating recognizable objects such as geometric shapes of which you know the tonal variation of each of its edges. It is also useful to practice making gradations representing spherical objects.
2. Cleaning the airbrush
Keep in mind that airbrushing needs cleanliness and hygiene. Most of the problems that arise with airbrushes are due to not cleaning them properly:
An airbrush can be an instrument with a very long life if the necessary attention is paid to maintenance. It is important to clean it right after use, especially if we use acrylic paint. The ideal is to clean it with purified or distilled water. The problem with using normal water is that they can remain lime or salts in the interior. Using some hydrochloric solution or solvent could alter the tonality of the following painting to use.
3. Protect the work environment
Controlling an airbrush is difficult, especially at the beginning. For this reason, it is recommended that you wear gloves and an apron when you are going to paint with an airbrush and protect the areas you do not want to stain.
What Paint to Use for Airbrush Painting?
Now that you know how to use an airbrush, we want to dig deeper into the paints you can use. Contrary to what you may think, there is a wide range of paints ideal for airbrush painting. We recommend that if you are going to start airbrushing, use water-based paints. These are simpler to clean up and easier to use. Here are some of them:
Amsterdam acrylic ink:
Amsterdam acrylic ink stands out for its highly pigmented colors and lightfastness. A water-based paint that can be used alone or mixed with other colors. In addition, the advantage of this ink is that the brand uses the same range of colors for all its products. For this reason, you can mix this technique without problem with acrylic or markers.
Vallejo Premium Acrylic:
Another recommended range for airbrush painting is the Vallejo Premium Acrylic range. This line of non-toxic water-based airbrush paint stands out because it is suitable for all surfaces. This paint has optimum adhesion on metals, polyethylene, fiberglass, Lexan polycarbonate, slot, or radio control bodies.
Vallejo liquid watercolors:
Unlike those mentioned above, Vallejo liquid watercolors are completely transparent and stand out for their brightness and intensity. These watercolors are diluted in water and mix perfectly with each other without losing quality. They are perfect for airbrushing as they do not contain additives that may clog the airbrush valve.