AIRBRUSH: Learn the Basics of Airbrush Technique Part 4:  Getting Started

AIRBRUSH: Learn the Basics of Airbrush Technique Part 4:  Getting Started
Many users of the airbrush are self-taught and have, in some cases, struggled to learn airbrush technique on their own. Some individuals are successful and some become frustrated. Getting started often gives the most difficulty. Here are suggestions for those who wish to learn airbrush technique on their own:

—Start with a dual-action airbrush, such as the IWATA Model Once you learn how to use a dual-action airbrush, you can use any airbrush.

—Start by using pre-reduced paints (Com-Art Airbrush Colors) or inks so that you can airbrush without being concerned about reduction formulas and properly thinned and strained paints. This eliminates the frustration caused by a clogged airbrush. These potential problems can be tackled after you feel comfortable with the airbrush.

Beginning Exercises―Getting Started

Materials List:

  • Internal mix airbrush
  • Airbrush hose
  • Com-Art Airbrush Colors – Opaques – Kit A
  • Pad of airbrush paper or illustration board
  • Frisket film
  • Frisket knife
  • Air source
  • #4H pencil

Get a pad of white, two-ply drawing or Bristol paper. Work achromatically on this paper with black drawing ink or paint (Com-Art). Just spray; don’t try to be creative and do a painting. Simply get the paint to come out of the airbrush. Learn the triggering mechanism—always down first for air and then back for paint (with a dual-action airbrush). Make lots of mistakes and learn from them.

Start with very basic exercises. Remember that the resultant effect is determined by how much paint is sprayed in conjunction with how close the airbrush is held to the work surface. A small amount of paint very close results in a fine line; a large amount of paint very close results in a mistake.

Begin by spraying little dots—hold the airbrush very close to the work surface and spray a quick “blast” of paint. Then practice airbrushing thin lines. (Anyone can spray wide lines!) These are achieved by spraying a small amount of paint close to the work surface while your hand is moving. Be wary of the “barbell effect,” which is globs of paint that appear at the beginning and end of a line when you are first learning. This is caused by hesitation or not moving the hand while paint is being sprayed. Remember, you must move your hand steadily.

Once you have mastered the dots and lines, move on to soft gradations, also called “vignettes.” This soft gradation of spray is used to give airbrush work a three-dimensional effect. It is achieved by spraying back and forth across the page in overlapping passes while holding the airbrush about 6″ from the work surface. Work slowly. This mist of spray, when done properly, will have the appearance of fog.

While going through these exercises, you will become familiar with the airbrush—how it used and what it will do. The key to airbrush technique is to work slowly. Don’t begin by immediately blasting a lot of paint. This defeats the purpose of airbrush—to achieve a soft, gradated effect, not an opaque blob. Remember you can always add more paint, but you will have a difficult time removing it. After you feel comfortable using the airbrush, you can move on to more sophisticated exercises, such as geometric shapes with the use of frisket film.