Basic Airbrush Techniques

An airbrush is a hand-held paint application tool that uses compressed air to propel paint onto a surface. An airbrush can be used to apply acrylic paint, watercolor, oil paint, lacquer, water-based or alcohol-based ink, dye, urethane, or any other wet paint and media.  

There are many ways to paint with an airbrush and they are all dependent on the effect that you wish to accomplish. An airbrush can be used to paint perfectly flat finished surfaces or highly detailed intricate subjects. Airbrush painting is most effective at making things look like they are 3-dimensional forms because of the way shading and blending can be used. 

If you would like to learn to paint with an airbrush, you need the following tools: dual action airbrush with hoses, bowls, buckets, compressor or compressed air tank, interchangeable airbrush needles and tips, thin-blade utility knife, frisket masking film, clear lacquer, assorted fine brushes, and the paint and media that you wish to use. Attach the airbrush to the compressed air tank by the airbrush hose. Load the brush with paint medium and practice painting small and large areas by adjusting the paint needles and tips in the airbrush. Here are a few basic airbrush techniques: 

  • To Control an Airbrush - To control an airbrush, hold it in your dominant hand with your thumb and fingers on the main airbrush body and your index finger on the application trigger. Press straight down on the trigger to release compressed air and pull back on the trigger to release paint in varying degrees with the compressed air. 
  • To Mask an Area - To mask an area to protect it from paint spray, cut a large sheet of frisket masking film and apply it to your surface. With a thin-blade utility knife, carefully cut through and remove the frisket in the shape of the area where you wish to apply paint. With a small brush, paint clear varnish on the edge of the frisket where the shape was removed. This will seal the edge from any paint that may be sprayed on it. Paint the unmasked area with the airbrush including the edge of the frisket mask. When the paint is completely dry, remove the frisket mask carefully by pulling it away from the painted area. 
  • To Clean An Airbrush - To clean your airbrush when changing colors, wipe out the paint cup with a clean soft cloth. Add a few drops of painting medium to your airbrush and pull the airbrush trigger back to release the paint medium onto a piece of scrap board. Do this a few times until your airbrush sprays only clear medium. Reload your airbrush with the next desired color. To deep clean your airbrush after you are finished painting, take it apart and soak the cap, nozzle, needles, airbrush body and paint cup in isopropyl alcohol for few minutes. Wipe the needle and all other parts with a clean soft cloth and allow to dry. Reassemble your airbrush. 

Perfect control of your airbrush by using different paints and media to successfully render metal, wood, cloth, plants, rocks, glass, ceramic, clouds, landscape, air, animals and humans. The more you paint with an airbrush, the more control you will have and the more successful your results will be. Painting with an airbrush is an art that will give you enormous satisfaction and will become the most fun you can have with paint. 

Click here for more info about things that can be done with airbrush painting.