AND CLEANING THE AIRBRUSH
The key factors in properly spraying an airbrush are
operating air pressure, amount of material being released by the airbrush, and
the distance the airbrush is being held from the surface being sprayed.
For fine lines the airbrush should be held as close as
possible to the surface with a small amount of material being released, for
broader spray coverage the airbrush should be held 4” to 6” from the surface
being sprayed with a larger volume of material being released.
NOTE: The airbrush will produce overspray. This is the “fuzz” of dots that sprays
outside of or around the spray’s desired focal point. If a sharp edge is desired, a masking medium
(stencil, frisket, low-tac masking tape, spray shield, etc.) must be utilized
There are some simple learning exercises that can be
practiced to help develop skill, comfort, and confidence in using the airbrush:
creating a grid of dots (on a blank sheet) with your airbrush – then going back
and connecting the dots, drawing figure eights, and/or simply writing your name
with the airbrush. These are all basic,
but effective, airbrushing exercises. To
practice airbrush technique on three dimensional objects, paint items such as
scratch plastic/metal, pop cans, shampoo bottles, or other contoured items that
are of little or no value.
ONLY THING THAT CANNOT BE TAUGHT RELATED TO USING AN AIRBRUSH IS PRACTICE.
The key to keeping an airbrush clean is to not let material set up (dry) in
it. This can be done by spraying the
appropriate cleaning agent through the airbrush with reasonable frequency (when
changing colour and when setting the airbrush to rest for any period of time). Two important things to remember: 1. Material
dries as fast in an airbrush as it does on the surface it is being sprayed on
to. 2. Anything you think will take 2
seconds will take 2 minutes, and anything you think will take 2 minutes will
usually take at least 20 – so spray the cleaner.
Should material set up (dry) in the airbrush, it may be necessary to back flush
the airbrush. This is done by
suffocating the air flow of the airbrush at the nozzle by carefully “pinching”
a soft cloth or paper towel over the nozzle’s end. This will deflect the air back into the
airbrush chamber and loosen any dried material, sending it into the cleaning
bottle. If done correctly, the cleaner
will bubble during back flushing. It is
advisable to spray fresh cleaner through the airbrush after you have back
Step three: On
what should be rare occasions it may be necessary to disassemble some parts of
the airbrush for more thorough cleaning.
This should only be done if the user has neglected to do step one of
regularly spraying cleaner through the airbrush, and/or step two of back
flushing is unsuccessful in getting the airbrush to spray properly again. If disassembly is required, it should be only
of parts that come in contact with the sprayed material; from the material’s
point of entry into the airbrush and forward.
The included parts for disassembly are the nozzle assembly and the
needle. To thoroughly clean the nozzle
assembly, use an ultrasonic cleaner or denture cleaner (yes, denture cleaner –
follow the directions on the package).
The needle should simply be wiped down with a soft cloth saturated with
the appropriate cleaning agent. If
residue on the needle is still apparent it may be removed by gently rubbing a
fine steel wool over the residual deposit area.
While the needle and nozzle are removed from the airbrush it is OK to
run a pipe cleaner saturated with cleaning agent through the chamber of the
airbrush, following the same path as sprayed material, and out the airbrush
front. For bottom feed airbrushes that
is up the stem and out the front, for gravity feed airbrushes it is down the colour cup and out the front. Only do
this when the needle and nozzle are removed as forcing anything through the
nozzle will damage it. After using the
pipe cleaner, blow out the airbrush to remove any pipe cleaner “fuzz”. After all nozzle/needle cleaning steps are
complete the airbrush can be reassembled and will be ready for use. This disassembly process should be rarely
necessary if steps one and two are followed, but it is recommended if storing
your airbrush for an extended period of time.
OTHER AIRBRUSH RELATED EQUIPMENT, MATERIALS, AND
Air Sources –
- A unit that generates at least 30 PSI
is recommended to start airbrushing.
Some applications, such as T-shirt painting or other fabric painting,
may be more efficiently done at higher pressures (up to 65 psi). Other applications, such as finger nail art
and illustration may be more effectively done at lower pressures (as low as 10
psi). For applications requiring higher
and lower pressure it is recommended to use a regulator (described below).
CO2 (or other
inert pressurized gas) -
A pressurized tank of inert gas can be used to operate an airbrush. A CO2 regulator is required to connect the
air hose and moderate the air pressure.
- A compressor filled air tank (or spare
tire of a car) can be used for short term project oriented airbrush
- A can of air that enables one to spray
an airbrush for 5 to 15 minutes (dependent on can size) can also be used to
operate an airbrush. This is best for
beginners and those not certain they will continue airbrushing after trying
it. Rule of thumb – if you pay for ten
cans of Propel you have paid for half of a compressor – start looking for one!
Air Hoses –
hoses are the most common and most durable type of airbrush
hose. A braided air hose can handle over
100 psi (more than enough for any airbrush application). Braided air hoses are available with in-line
moisture traps and quick disconnects.
hoses are best for airbrushing in environments where
in-line moisture or contaminates may be a concern, because the user can see any
material passing through the hose before it reaches the airbrush. A clear air hose can handle up to 50 psi and
airbrush applications performed up to that pressure. Clear air hoses are
available with moisture traps.
hoses are best for small work area airbrushing, because
they stay out of the way. Recoil air
hoses handle up to 60 psi and can be used in airbrush applications performed up
to that pressure.
hoses handle up to 40 psi and are primarily for use with
propel. Vinyl air hoses are not
recommended for compressors.
Regulators and Moisture Traps (attachable
to air compressors) –
WITH A GAUGE allow the airbrush user to set air pressure to
exact psi levels with a dial setting.
REGULATORS WITHOUT A GAUGE allow the airbrush user to adjust
air pressure based on a “trial and error” setting process.
TRAPS capture moisture produced by a compressor when air
cools. They are desirable in high
humidity areas to prevent moisture from flowing through the air hose and out
the airbrush on to a work surface.
REGULATORS WITH A GAUGE AND MOISTURE TRAP combine the
two items described above.
cutting knife is used to cut custom stencil designs in stencil film
(described below) and acetate.
needle lubricant helps prevent paint from drying on the
nozzle/needle tip, reducing related airbrush clogging.
holder provides a much needed a place to set your airbrush when you’re not
using it. That need is usually realized
when your holding your paint filled airbrush looking for a place to set it down.
adaptors connect the jar to a bottom feed airbrush. The FastBlast one piece siphon tube design is
much easier to clean and is available in a variety of jar mouth sizes. Many professional artists put an adaptor on
each color they’re using.
filters slide over the jar adaptor siphon tube, preventing
un-sprayable particles from entering and clogging the airbrush.
A paint mixer
should be used to properly prepare and mix paint for airbrushing. It is always best for paint consistency to
mix it rather than shake it, or better said “stirred not shaken”.
kits, which consist of a small cup and stir sticks, can be
used to mix colors, creating new colors.
Masking Mediums –
are pre-cut design masks used to aid in the creation of an image. Stencils make airbrushing easier for
beginners, and are an excellent tool for producing recurring designs time and
cost effectively. They are available
with and without adhesive backing.
is a low tack adhesive backed film used to cut and mask designs or cover a
specific area of an airbrush image to prevent sprayed material from going on to
it. Frisket film is available in gloss
or matte finish. The matte finish
enables the artist to draw on the frisket film. There is also “liquid” frisket
for easier masking off of contoured shapes.
an uncut (usually non-adhesive backed mylar) film used to create custom masking
designs for airbrushing.
Paints - The rule of
thumb for preparing paints (or other materials) for airbrushing is to reduce
them to the approximate visual viscosity of 2% milk. Varying paint types and materials, including
proper viscosity acrylics, lacquers, enamels, urethanes, inks, water colours, dyes,
stains, cosmetics, and food colors can be applied with an airbrush. And airbrushing can be done on canvas, paper,
textiles, plastics, metals, wood, etc.
Even the human body (skin/nails) can be airbrushed.
on general usage and/or specific technique provide excellent instruction for
the aspiring airbrush artist.
AIRBRUSH APPLICATIONS / RECOMMENDED
SA=single action, DA=dual
action, IM=internal mix, EM=external mix, BF=bottom
feed, GF=gravity feed, SF=side
TYPE OF AIRBRUSH
SURFACE CUSTOM FINISHING DA,
IM, GF (or SF)
NICK & SCRATCH TOUCH-UP SA,
HOBBY FINISHING SA,
SCALE DETAIL MODEL FINISHING DA,
IM, GF (or SF)
IM, GF (or SF)
BOOKING and STENCILING SA,
COATING & GLAZING (CERAMICS,
WOODWORK, TAXIDERMY, ETC.) SA, EM, BF
AND SMALL BAKERY CAKE DECORATING DA,
BAKERY DECORATING DA,
FINISHING & ANTIQUING DA,
BASECOAT APPLICATIONS SA,
IM, GF (or SF)
FISHING LURE PAINTING SA,
SMALL SCALE PRODUCTION APPLICATIONS SA,
VOLUME SPRAY PRODUCTION APPLICATIONS SA,