Learn the Basics of Airbrush Technique Part 1:  Introduction Quick Course With Video for the Novice

Airbrush: A small, air-operated tool that sprays paint.

It resembles, and is held like, a pen.

Today, airbrushes are used in painting for a multitude of applications. Artists who use the airbrush will generally have several different types (external or internal mix) as well as styles (gravity- or siphon-feed) on hand for a variety of uses. Considerations are based on the type of effect desired (coarse or soft spray), size of area to be painted and type of material to be sprayed.

Become familiar with the following terms:

internal mix—a type of airbrush where the paint is atomized inside the airbrush tip. (All IWATA airbrushes are internal mix, including the new Eclipse.)

external mix—a type of airbrush where the paint is atomized outside the airbrush tip (SprayCraft Airbrush ).

single action—a method of activating an airbrush whereby depressing the trigger delivers both air and paint simultaneously (SprayCraft Airbrush ).

dual action—a method of activating an airbrush whereby depressing the trigger delivers air and drawing back on the trigger releases paint. (All IWATA airbrushes are dual-action,excluding the new Eclipse SA.)

bottom feed—a siphon-feed system where paint is drawn up from a reservoir (jar or color cup) mounted underneath the airbrush (IWATA HP-BC and BE, Eclipse, and LPH95 ).

side feed—a siphon-feed system where paint is drawn from a reservoir (color cup) mounted on the side of the airbrush (IWATA-HP-SB and Custom Micron SC).

gravity feed—the system where paint is drawn into an airbrush from a reservoir mounted on top of the airbrush (IWATA HP-C, HP-A, B and C, Custom Micron B and C, RG-2, LPH94 and LPS2-1).

Choosing an Airbrush

External Mix – In external mix airbrushes, such as the SprayCraft Airbrush, the air and paint are mixed outside the tip, giving a coarse (stippled) spray. The external mix airbrush is ideal for spraying large areas to develop flat, continuous color. It is also handy for spraying thick or high viscosity materials, such as acrylics or varnishes. In addition, this is the least expensive airbrush and the simplest to operate. Most painters who use airbrushes will have one handy for a variety of applications.

Internal Mix – Internal mix airbrushes produce a very soft spray that mimics the dot pattern of a photograph. These airbrushes, originally developed for the commercial art field, are used in fine art to develop sharp focus realistic paintings or abstract illusionistic works or wherever a soft, delicate spray is required. Many painters have different types of internal mix airbrushes on hand for different job requirements.

A gravity feed, internal mix airbrush, such as the IWATA Model HP-C, is utilized in acrylic painting for fine-line work (and it is acrylics that most artists use when working on canvas). With a gravity feed airbrush, the paint is loaded into a top-mounted color cup which enables the spraying of extremely fine lines at a fairly low air pressure—15 to 20 pounds. The lower the air pressure, the slower the artist can move his hand; and the slower the artist moves his hand, the more control he has over the spray. Also, because of the design, this airbrush cleans quickly for fast color changes.

When working larger and needing more volume of paint, e.g. background work or murals, the artist may choose to work with a siphon- or bottom-feed airbrush, such as the IWATA Models HP-BC or Eclipse. This airbrush is adaptable to various size jars that plug into the bottom of the airbrush and enable the artist to work with a large volume of paint for extended lengths of time with the convenience of only periodic refills. Since the jars plug easily into the bottom of the airbrush, quick color changes can be made. When using a bottom-feed airbrush, the artist can lay out his or her palette in a variety of jars. The colors are ready to be sprayed, and one jar is filled with the appropriate cleaner. (When airbrushing acrylics, use Medea Airbrush Cleaner.) In this way, the artist can spray one color, plug in the cleaner to flush the airbrush and then go to the next color quickly and with ease.