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AirbrushTalk is  for airbrushers all disciplines, all levels. You will find articles on airbrush techniques, supplies, tools and applications. For beginners there is a 12-part basic airbrush lesson on how to use an airbrush. There are pages of info for illustrators, fine artists and craftspeople that include fine art painting, custom auto graphics, temporary tattoos, figure and pinup art, body art and makeup applications including tanning. Discover how to work on a variety of surfaces: paper, artist canvas, board, fiberglass, metal, T-shirts, shoes, automobiles, motorcycles, cakes, license plates and more. Read about history, news, museums, workshops, galleries, schools, retailers, wholesalers, competitions, exhibitions and new books and products in the marketplace. Learn about the use of compressors, spray guns, stencils, frisket film, brushes, airbrush color and airbrush paint (ink, watercolor, acrylic, gouache, lacquer, enamel, epoxy, etc.) and other airbrush equipment, supplies and materials in the design and creation of artist paintings, crafts, pottery, landscapes, portraits, sculpture and other artworks. Lists of art material manufacturers and retail supply stores help you find airbrush and art supplies for your studio.

Know Your Airbrush Terms

In the realm of airbrushing, there are many words or phrases used that may be unfamiliar to a person who is just learning or investigating the technique. To help you fully understand explanations/instructions, following is a discussion of basic terms:

Single action refers to an airbrush in which the air and paint are turned on simultaneously by just depressing the trigger. A set amount of paint is sprayed.

Dual action (also called double action) refers to an airbrush where the artist first depresses the trigger for air and, while the trigger is depressed, pulls back on it to release paint. This type of triggering provides the most versatility because you can regulate the amount of paint sprayed by manipulating the trigger.

External mix refers to the type of airbrush where the air and paint are mixed together outside the airbrush tip or externally, resulting in a spray that is coarse in appearance.

Internal mix refers to the type of airbrush where paint is mixed with air inside the tip of the airbrush, which results in the appearance of a soft spray.

Gravity feed refers to the type of airbrush where paint is drawn down and flows into the airbrush from a color cup that is mounted on top of the tool.

Side feed refers to the type of airbrush where paint is drawn into it from a color cup that is mounted on the side of the tool.

Bottom feed refers to an airbrush where paint is drawn up into it from a jar or color cup mounted on the bottom of the tool.

Air source is a device or unit capable of producing pressurized air, e.g. compressor, CO2 tank, or propellant can. It is the air provided by the air source that sprays the paint.

Psi or pounds per square inch is a measurement of air pressure. An airbrush is operated at a certain psi depending on the material being sprayed, the viscosity of the material and the manufacturer's directions.

Cfm or cubic feet per minute is the volume of air that an air source is capable of producing. As a rule of thumb, an airbrush usually uses 1/2 cfm at 30 psi to spray properly.

Air Regulator is a device that is attached to an air compressor or other air source that allows the user to regulate the psi flow of air to the airbrush.

Frisket film is a transparent self-adhering stencil material with a peel-off backing that is used to create individual stencils directly on the surface of artwork.

Airbrush templates are usually reusable manufactured stencils of a pre-cut design (not self-adhering) that are used to develop images in airbrush technique.

Overspray is the sprayed paint that drifts above and below the intended area in which the airbrush is directed.

Dagger stroke is a sprayed line used in freehand airbrushing that goes from narrow to wide to narrow in one pass. It is used commonly in lettering, T-shirt design, automotive graphics and freehand portraiture, etc.

Stippling is a technique that is the controlled spraying of large simultaneous dots that results in a textural appearance. This is usually achieved by lowering the pressure on the regulator to 1 or 2 psi, which in turn causes the airbrush to spray larger than normal dots.

It's important to understand these key terms when learning airbrush technique. See for more helpful hints.


NEO CN Airbrush Kit_Open_s

Item # IW 120

Kit Includes:

  • NEO Air for Iwata Air Compressor With International Plugs And Airhose
    3 speeds (4-15 psi / 0.3-1.0 Bar / 0.03-0.10 MPa) for small, general airbrush applications
  • NEO for Iwata CN Gravity-Feed, Dual-Action Airbrush With 2 Cup Sizes
    Fine to medium spray performance, for small to medium sized projects
  • 3 Bottles of Medea Com-Art Colours (1 oz)
    Airbrush-ready, non-toxic, water-based acrylic paint
  • Medea Airbrush Cleaner (1 oz)
    Ready-to-use, water-based cleaner
  • Online Practice Exercises
    Selected exercises from the book, “Basic Airbrush Techniques A Complete Course”
    by Robert Paschal

·         NEO Kit Exercises – English

·         NEO Kit Exercises – Chinese

·         NEO Kit Exercises – French

·         NEO Kit Exercises – German

·         NEO Kit Exercises – Italian

·         NEO Kit Exercises – Japanese

·         NEO Kit Exercises – Spanish


New for the art educator who wishes to teach/introduce students to airbrush technique is AIRBRUSHtalk for Art Educators, published three times a year by Anest Iwata-Medea, Inc.: info@iwatamedea. com. Also, inquire about Iwata’s Workshop Equipment Program for Schools.

Spray Guns in the Studioå­¥rous Art Applications

A spray gun can be simply described as a large airbrush that can be used in the artistà³´udio to apply a variety of paints, varnishes, gesso, ceramic glaze and metal patinas for sculpture.  It also can be used for painting murals, automotive and metal surfaces, signs and large canvases.  Once youå µsed a spray gun, its many possibilities will soon become obvious.

You can find a variety of spray guns in your local art supply store, and two types are usually carried襠conventional spray gun and the HVLP (High Volume Low Pressure) spray gun.  The HVLP spray gun is fairly new to the market and was developed to allow the user to spray volumes of paint with a minimum amount of overspray.

The artist should be familiar with two terms when purchasing a spray gun:  psi (pounds per square inch), which refers to the amount of air pressure that is delivered to the gun by the air source (normally an air compressor); and cfm (cubic feet per minute), which is the volume of air that is consumed by the spray gun.  Both of these settings are regulated by the air source.  The psi is adjusted with the air regulator, whereas the volume of cfm is determined by the size of the air compressor.  Higher horse power equals higher cfm.

Depending on the gun used, a compressor with high horse power will propel either a large or a small spray gun.  However, a small compressor is designed to propel only an airbrush.

The conventional spray gun delivers paint at a high air pressure.  This results in more overspray (the amount of medium that drifts into the environment), which can be a health and environmental hazard, and can inadvertently coat objects in the studio, so itࢥst to keep the psi as low as possible.  The HVLP spray gun is the opposite of a conventional spray gun in that it doesnà·¯rk at a high psi.  Ten psi is its maximum, but it consumes a much higher cfm than the conventional gun.  A minimum 2-1/2 HP compressor is required to develop the cfm required to propel an HVLP spray gun.  Because you are spraying at such a low psi, the HVLP transfers 80% of the paint onto the surface. This saves on the amount of paint used and also reduces the overspray.  The HVLP produces a silky smooth, highly atomized finish that is perfectly suited for custom automotive painting or working on metal surfaces, e.g., sculpture.

Spray guns are available in different sizes from mini壨 as the Iwata RG-2ï ¬arge production guns壨 as the Century Series W-200/LPH-200 Siphon-Feed Spray Gun.  Like airbrushes, styles include side feed, bottom feed and gravity feed.  All spray guns can be attached to external pressure pots for very large projects.

Maintaining the spray gun is basically identical to that of the airbrushìµ³h between color changes and clean thoroughly before storing.



Airbrush History Trivia

 â®¥r Peeler, of Webster City, IA, invented the airbrush in 1878.  Imagine, over 130 years    ago!  Abner, a professional inventor who tinkered with things such as screw machines, bicycles and typewriters, developed this painting tool⩧inally called a á©®t distributorã°¥cifically for photographic retouching.  The paint distributor, which was similar to today௳cillating internal-mix airbrush, had a wooden handle with metal parts and sold for the incredible price of $10.  The first such airbrush was sold to S. M. Thomas, and we know that the first painting completed with this paint distributor was a self-portrait of Peeler himself done by his wife on an enlarged photograph.

襠painter Man Ray (1890-1977) is probably the first fine artist to exhibit paintings done exclusively with the airbrush.  Ray, considered the only American Dadaist, learned to use the airbrush while working in an ad agency in New York City between 1917 and 1919.  His fine art airbrush renderings were shown in NYC galleries and called 岯graphs.p; Looking at them with todayà³´andards of what we consider airbrush painting, these works of art would be considered simplisticå´ at that time, totally new.  They consisted of images developed by airbrushing around found objects, such as paper cutouts, tools and paper clips that were used simply as stencils.  Man Ray worked flat on a table, allowing gravity to hold the stencils in place, and sprayed around them with black ink.  He repeated these images in both opaque and transparent ink and the end products lent themselves to the look of cubism. .Man Ray

It is said that Man Ray was primarily interested in producing paintings with a smooth machine-like finish.  And because the ink was airbrushed onto the surface, there were no brush strokes in the artwork, which imparted an industrial appearance.  An excellent collection of his works is held by and exhibited at The Art Institute of Chicago; and even viewed today, their simplicity is astoundingly modern.




Airbrushing on Location

 The Iwata Studio Series Maxx Jet portable airbrush station (Item #15-1000).  Previously, the airbrush artist needed to gather all required equipment and materials in various containers to lug around to onsite airbrush jobs or assignmentsToday the Maxx Jet provides you with a self-contained unit with a powerful 1/6 HP compressor built in a case that has wheels for easy portability, a retractable handle for convenient moving, all necessary gauges and moisture traps and airbrush hoses¬ built into a strong, protective traveling case that can be either wheeled around or shipped.


This type of portability is highly important today because there are myriad types of airbrush applications in demand with the common denominator that you must take the airbrush to the consumer.  Simply by having access to various paints for a variety of applications, the airbrush artist can be outfitted to provide  spray tanning, T-shirt painting, temporary tattoos, body art, face painting and makeup, among others쬠from the convenience of one Maxx Jet unit.

This opens up a whole new arena for airbrushing.  Working either alone or with event planners, airbrushing is being utilized for unique act at a variety of social functions such as birthday parties, bar/bat mitzvahs, makeup parties, bachelorette parties, graduation parties, anniversary celebrations, family reunions, showers and more.  Either independently or using the event planner as your agent, you can secure bookings far in advance and show up with your Maxx Jet in tow to perform your show.

The protective Maxx Jet travel case has sufficient storage space for airbrushes, spray guns, a variety of paints, frisket film, stencils and accessories, and the case can be locked for security.  Have airbrush, will travelearn cash in the process!


Airbrush Workshops
Basic Airbrush Techniques with Robert Paschal, New Dates    

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Published  by The Paschal Group, Inc
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Body & Nail Art and more!

Silent Air Compressors


Airbrushing Guide
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Airbrushing FAQ
Answers to the Top 12
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For beginning, intermediate and advanced airbrush users.


Prince of Deceit

By Wes Hawkins
(Click on any photo for a larger view!)

Happy New year everyone!  I’d like to share with you a neat little bust that is no longer in production, entitled “Prince of Deceit.”  This is the smallest bust I’ve attempted to paint, but this is going to show you just how much you can do with the right tools.  In this case, I’d like to highlight the Iwata Custom Micron C+.

The head of this bust is about the size of my thumb, so the ability of this airbrush will become self-evident.  I wouldn’t trust any other airbrush to spray the hair thin lines I’ll be needing here.  I thin my paint at a ratio of ten to one thinner/paint and spray at less than 5 PSI.  It takes a lot longer to finish a project, but the benefit is that the thinned paint leads to more subtle effects and the low pressure prevents spattering.  One of the great things about the C+ is the micro valve at the front of the brush.  This allows you to lower the pressure of the air once it’s inside the brush and the paint is mixed.  This revolutionary feature allows for maximum control and I have yet to find any brush that can match the C+.

Here we have the primed bust.  You can see all the areas that will need shading and highlighting. Let’s get started!

I’ve decided to use only two colors on this bust.  This seems rather lacking, but once I get rolling, you’ll understand. Here I’ve base coated the bust in a dark red with the Custom C+.  The reflection from the overhead light helps indicate where the shadows and highlights will go.  Also, a word of note:  Do not plan on laying down your highlights and shadows in one pass.  Usually it takes me 20 or 30 passes before I have the shadows and highlights how I want them.

Here I’ve completed the shadows and misted the shadow color over the entire bust.  This helps soften the edge between the shadow and base color and helps in the transition.  You’ll see how the base color will finish this bust.


So, here we are with the horns added.  I’ve taken the shadow color and traced along the bottom of the horns where they meet the head.  This will help set off the color of the horns.

Next, I thinned down the base color and carefully sprayed the highlights.—again, making slow deliberate passes with the airbrush, building up layers until I had the highlights just right.  This takes patience and a clean airbrush, so after each color, I spray a cupful of thinner though the brush.

The horns were finished with a wash for the shadows and dry brushing for the highlights.  The eyes also were done by hand.

I enjoyed this project and I hope you enjoyed this article. Please feel free to email me with any questions/comments here. Thanks for reading!


Airbrushing Water-Based Artist Colors:  Watercolor, Gouache and Acrylic Paint

Water-based paints are well suited for use in the airbrush for several reasons:

  • They are easily reduced for spraying.
  • They are low in toxicity when sprayed as opposed to solvent-based paints.
  • They dry fast, allowing artists to work quickly, specifically when utilizing frisket film, stencils and masks.
  • In most cases, they are colorfast for permanency, making them the paint of choice in the fine arts.
  • They are easy to clean from the airbrush with a simple solution of soap/water or airbrush cleaner.

Artist watercolors were the first mediums employed in airbrush technique.  Early in airbrush history, they were used for photo retouching and illustration; and today they are used in both of these applications as well as fine art painting.  Watercolor is especially good for use with the airbrush because it doesn’t tend to clog the tip.

Both pan watercolors and those in tubes can be thinned with water for airbrushing.  When using pan watercolors you can lather the paint with a paint brush and then transfer it via the brush to the airbrush color cup (or reservoir) for spraying.  Tube watercolor, the type most commonly used, can be thinned with water in a cup or jar and then poured into the color cup.

Beware! Watercolor in pans or blocks can easily turn into “mud” when intermixing colors.  Mixing and thinning tube watercolor in a container makes cross-contamination of colors less likely.  Once the watercolor is dry in the container, it can easily be reconstituted by adding water, so there is little waste of paint.

Gouache was originally the name of a painting technique using an opaque watercolor.  Gouache is made of the same materials as transparent watercolor with the addition of precipitated chalk, which makes it opaque.  Today the term gouache refers to the medium rather than the technique.  This paint was preferred by illustrators and photo retouchers alike and years ago it was handmade by artists.  It’s a somewhat easy paint to make and at first was not necessarily designed to be colorfast or permanent.  Illustrators were primarily interested in the speed of application rather than the longevity of their artwork, since the artwork was to be reproduced and not exhibited.  However, years later many renowned illustrators regretted doing renderings that had become valuable over time in a less than permanent medium.


It is said that Today, the commercial brands of gouache are referred to and known as designers’ gouache, still manufactured for the commercial field but also as a fine art medium.  Contemporary gouache is lightfast and very durable with a brilliant, extremely opaque color range.  Like watercolor, gouache is easily reduced with water.

Artists who incorporate airbrush technique in their work prefer artist acrylic colors when working on canvas.  Unlike oil paint, acrylic paint dries very quickly.  Therefore, artists are able to easily work with all the different types of stencil materials.  Acrylics are also fairly easy to clean from the airbrush (but not as easy as watercolors) with the use of soap/water or commercial water-based paint airbrush cleaner.  In addition, they are also low in toxicity and somewhat waterproof when dry.  And, like oil paints, acrylic paints are colorfast.  They are also ideal for working on paper, illustration board, acetate, Claybord, etc.

Most artists working in the fine and commercial arts who utilize an airbrush in part—if not all—of a rendering, will use water-based artist colors.  See your retailer and ask for Academy Acrylics, Academy Watercolor and Finest Watercolor by Grumbacher and Horadam Watercolor and Gouache by Schmincke; and visit .


Airbrush Painting on Gessobord

The airbrush artist is always searching for the ideal surface on which to paint. Depending on the size of the painting, Ampersand's Gessobord is one of the ideal surfaces on which to airbrush (maximum size available is 24" x 36"). Manufactured by the same company that gave you Claybord, Gessobord is comprised of a tempered hard board that is coated with high-quality gesso.


The hard board is unique; rather than being impregnated with the thick tempering oils normally used in hard board manufacturing, Gessobord contains a plant resin. The hard board is sealed with two applications of acrylic emulsion, coated with gesso, and then sanded to an even surface with a light tooth that is suitable for all types of painting techniques. Gessobord is durable and long lasting and, because of the plant resin, it eliminates the leaching and adhesive problems associated with traditional tempered hard board such as Masonite.

Although Gessobord is ready to use, some artists may elect to re-gesso the surface for their own particular purpose--high impasto, eggshell smoothness, etc. Unlike brush painting, the airbrush artist must work on a surface that is durable enough to hold up to repeated masking with self-adhering stencil materials such as frisket film and drafting or masking tape. When the masking material is removed from the surface, you don't want the adhesion to lift or pick the surface as is common when working on paper.

Unlike paper, Gessobord does not buckle with the application of wet paint. It will not tear or crease, although--as durable as it is--you would not want to drop it and damage an edge or corner. Gessobord has a neutral pH and will not yellow and gives extremely good adhesion for paint applications with acrylics, oils, and tempera or casein artist colors. The surface can be worked back into (scumbling), scratched through (scratchboard) and erased without damage.

A finished painting on Gessobord can be varnished or clear-coated for both oils and acrylics. And the end product is easy to frame, since it is available in several standard sizes. If collage is incorporated into the artwork, the board surface is receptive to gluing. Gessobord is easy to store because it is thin and flat, which also makes it convenient to ship artwork.

See your retailer and try airbrushing on Ampersand Gessobord. You'll find it to be a suitable and reliable surface for airbrush painting. Visit for more information.



Basic Handling and Care of the Airbrush

To most artists, airbrush maintenance basically means keeping the airbrush clean so that paint flow is uninterrupted. But another aspect of maintaining the airbrush deals with proper handling and care to prevent damaging the components of this highly sensitive tool. This can occur when the airbrush is dropped, mishandled, or sometimes lent to a friend. Let's look at the parts of the airbrush and how they apply to its proper performance.

Airbrush Needle

All internal mix airbrushes have needles that run through the body to control the flow of paint. These are honed to an extremely sharp elongated tip that, if bent, will result in an undesirable spray pattern. The harder the material of which the needle is made, the harder it is to bend the tip. (The most durable needles are made of stainless steel.) Damage can occur to the needle during the cleaning process when it is removed from the airbrush. Upon replacement, it can accidentally press against metal parts, thereby "hooking" the very fine tip. This may be remedied by rolling it between two flat metal objects, gently twisting the needle to straighten it. Be aware that if straightened too many times, the result will be tip breakage and replacement will be necessary.

Head Assembly/Tip

 If this part which controls the atomization of the spray becomes dented, the performance of the airbrush will be compromised. This can occur if dropped onto a hard surface (and this will bend the needle, too). If dented, it must be replaced, and the parts are readily available at art supply stores. When the head assembly is replaced, it must be seated properly and tightly. Years ago airbrush tips were sealed with beeswax, and then they were sealed with metal "O" rings and after that with PTFE "O" rings; and today there are self-seating tips and head assemblies. No matter which type is being replaced, it must be seated tightly so that there is no air leak; otherwise, the airbrush will have a pulsating spray. However, be careful not to over-tighten a head assembly or the threads might break off inside the body of the airbrush. This would necessitate the tool being sent back to the manufacturer for repair.


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Art bridges for painting and drawing with soft and wet mediums. Safety non-slip rulers, and cutting mats for use with art and utility knives and rotary cutters. Low-tack film for airbrushing, illustration and fine art. Airbrush templates for illustration and graphics. Body art and finger nail art accessories and paint. Manufacturer of innovative art materials, tools and airbrush accessories for fine art, illustration, T-shirt art, body and finger nail art, sign and automotive art and graphics. Artist Bridges, Cuttingrails, Freehand Airbrush Templates, Friskfilm, Artool Cutting Mats, Body Art and Nail Art supplies.

Trigger/Back Lever

On some airbrush models, when the needle is removed for cleaning, the trigger is susceptible to falling out of the body, and the small spring-loaded return mechanism located behind the trigger can fall out or drop down into the body of the airbrush. This can be a real nuisance, but everyone who has ever owned an airbrush has been faced with this problem and been successful in replacing the parts. Once the mechanism is back in place and the needle is reinserted, be sure that the trigger and back lever are aligned properly so that the needle can slide through without the tip being bent.


Anywhere that objects are threaded together on the airbrush you must be cautious of cross threading, e.g., where the air hose attaches to the airbrush and where the head assembly screws into the body of the airbrush. Otherwise, an air leak may occur.


There are a number of types of airbrush handles, and in many instances artists work with the handles removed. These were designed to cover and protect the needle and the inner-workings of the airbrush. If you work with one of the new handles in which the needle can be removed from the back of the handle or if you work with the handle removed, there is a strong possibility that at some point you will hit the back of the needle against something and either wedge the needle or split the airbrush tip. Because of this, it is best to work with handles that cover the needle completely.

The airbrush is a durable, precision instrument. But, as with any precision instrument, it is susceptible to damage if handled improperly, so handle it with care.