Understanding your Airbrush
Frequently asked Questions
Q: How does my airbrush work?
A: An airbrush works by forcing a jet of accelerating moving compressed air through the airbrush creating The Venturi effect which is the reduction in fluid pressure that results when a fluid flows through a constricted section of pipe. This creates in the immediate close area a loss in air pressure creating suction that allows paint to be drawn from an a joining vessel a jar or cup at normal atmospheric pressure. The high velocity of the air atomizes the paint into incredibly minuscule droplets as it jets past a very fine paint-metering section. The paint is propelled onto a subject or other surface. The airbrusher controls the amount of paint using a gradual trigger action which opens more or less a very fine tapered needle that is the control part of the paint-metering section. An incredible fine degree of atomization is what allows an airbrusher to create such realistic shading effects using the airbrush.
Q: Which Airbrush is best for me?
A: The Bottom Feed airbrush is best for general and production applications. The bottom feed airbrush facilitates the use of more material without having to frequently fill the material reservoir. The bottom feed airbrush also allows (or causes) the artist to work at a brisker pace, enabling faster spray application when desired.
The Gravity Feed airbrush, alternatively, allows the artist to slow down. Gravity pulls material into the airbrush, so the airbrush can be operated at a lower pressure for improved airbrush control. This makes it easier to do finer detail work as the finishing process can be done at a more deliberate pace. Gravity feed is usually the best choice for detail airbrushing.
The Side Feed airbrush allows the user to work with a swivel side cup which allows more flexibility for airbrushing in difficult to reach areas or on contoured pieces. Many artist prefer side feed airbrushes for detail applications because the side feed cup also eliminates any sight line obstruction to the needle tip when doing “close in” intricate detail work.
Q: What is the difference between internal-mix and external-mix?
A: Depending on its design, the single action airbrush may be "internal mix" or "external mix" double action airbrushes are of "internal mix" Internal mix simply means that the paint flow and the air flow mix "inside" of the airbrush, hence internal mix. "External Mix" means just that, the paints and the air flow mix together outside of the airbrush at the tip.
Q: What is meant by dual-action and single-action?
A: These are two different types of airbrush triggers. Single-action airbrushes are activated by simply depressing the trigger; a pre set amount of paint is automatically sprayed. To change the amount of spray, you must stop airbrushing and reset the needle adjustment screw. These are recommended for students because they are less expensive than dual-action. With the more sophisticated dual-action airbrushes, when the user depresses the trigger, only air is released; the second action of drawing back on the trigger releases the paint. This dual-action—down, then back—enables the user to adjust the volume of spray simply by manipulating the trigger and without stopping.
Q: What types of paints can be sprayed through the airbrush?
A: The best type of paints to be sprayed through the airbrush are paints that are designed and manufactured for the airbrush in mind however most paint can be sprayed through the airbrush as long as it can be thinned to a uniform consistency (such as that of milk or ink) with the appropriate thinner.
Q: At what air pressure is the airbrush sprayed?
A: For artwork 20-30 psi; 30-40 psi for small areas; 40-50 psi for generally larger areas; 65psi T shirt spraying and automotive.
Q: Is an airbrush hard to keep clean?
A: To achieve optimum results always make sure your airbrush is always cleaned after use. If using water based paints flush through via spraying with warm water or an airbrush cleaning solution to expel any remaining paint in the system. Then continue to use air alone to dry the system. When using solvent based paints then the appropriate solvent thinner is used in the same way. To aid the cleaning process hold a piece of lint free cloth tight over the airbrush nozzle cap and spray into the cloth this will force back and circulate through the system achieving removal of residue of paint. After prolonged use or poor cleaning it may be prudent to strip the airbrush and soak parts that are showing signs of stubborn dried paint in the appropriate cleaning solution, airbrush needle, nozzle and nozzle cap being the most common airbrush parts requiring attention.
Q: Why are there different size tips for the airbrush?
A: Most airbrushes are adaptable to three different tips approx—0.2 fine, 0.3 medium, and 0.5 heavy—to enable different size/volume sprays and to spray materials of varying viscosity (thick or thin) When the tip is changed in an internal-mix airbrush, the needle must also be changed to match (fine, medium or heavy)
Q: What distance from do I spray?
A: 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.
Q: Do I need to thin my paint for airbrushing?
A: 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. As starting paint viscosities often vary from colour to colour, even within a specific paint brand, it is best to avoid fixed thinning ratios. It is also best to vigorously mix/stir paint rather than shaking it before use because mixing/stirring paint better blends pigment and base creating a more consistent paint from the top to the bottom of the bottle, and causes pigment to re-settle slower. Various paint types and materials, including acrylics, lacquers, enamels, urethanes, inks, water colours, dyes, stains, cosmetics, and food colours can be applied with an airbrush if properly reduced for spraying. Airbrushing can be done on canvas, paper, textiles, plastics, metals, wood, etc Even the human body (skin/nails) can be airbrushed.
Q: What is over spray?
A: The airbrush will produce over spray. 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 when airbrushing
Q: Why do I get a spidering effect when I spray?
A: Air Pressure Too High-Reduce air pressure until problem disappears, painting on different mediums requires different pressures and if its a smooth surface, high pressures won't be your friend.
Too Close-If your too close to the work surface it may introduce spidering, by moving faster or by reducing pressure again this may help solve the issue, Also try spraying at a slight angle to the surface, this also can help.
Medium Is Thinned Excessively- You may have over-reduced your paint, have another look and see if you think it may indeed be to thin and causing some issue.
Q: Why do I get Spattering at an Angle?
A: Diagnosis/Remedy- Medium Build up- Pick the tip clean regularly whilst painting, a paint build up on your tip can help throw it in all directions.
Needle Bent-Pull out your needle and place on a flat surface, if its bent it will easily be seen and if your careful most bends can be easily removed. If its bent at the tip itself, you could try fixing it but its better always to have a backup needle..Just in case. Nozzle Damage-Replace (See Your Airbrush Manufacturer/supplier)
Q: Why do I get bubbles Appearing in paint Cup?
A: Diagnosis/Remedy- Nozzle cap Loose- Tighten and or seal with Soft Beeswax. Nozzle Washer Wear-Remove and replace (See Your Airbrush Manufacturer) Mismatched nozzle and Cap- Does happen especially if you have a gun with multiple heads and needles, remove and match the right set.
Q: Lever fails to Return After Being Drawn Back?
A: Diagnosis/Remedy- Needle Spring Remove and retention by stretching it, quite often a biro pen spring will achieve the same tension with a little bit of adjustment, otherwise contact your supplier. Build Up Of Medium- Again if paints getting in here, fix the issue, but a good clean will solve it temp. Lever Assembly broken or damaged- Replace (See Your Airbrush manufacturer/supplier)
Q: How do I avoid moisture problems?
A: Moisture 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. Air regulators with a gauge and moisture trap combine the two items described above.
Q: What's atomization?
A: An airbrush takes a fluid and turns it into a directed airborne mist. You can think of it as a sophisticated perfume atomizer or as a controllable spray paint can.
Q: How are liquid and air mixed?
A: Liquid is fed into the air stream either by siphon action or gravity. Siphon-feed airbrushes work just like sucking a milkshake up through a straw, and it takes one or two seconds to get it working. Gravity-feed airbrushes are quicker because the colour cup is located on top, and the fluid flows directly down into the air stream. This is a nice advantage when making a lot of colour changes.
Q: Can I use my Airbrush to spray tattoos?
A: Temporary airbrush tattoos (TATs) Remember to use inks that are designed for spraying onto the skin
Airbrushes can also be used to apply temporary airbrush tattoos. An artist sprays ink onto the skin through a stencil. Often, the resulting design mirrors the look of a permanent tattoo, without any pain or discomfort. In the past, TATs might only last a week, but now, the best inks can last up to two weeks or longer.
Q: Can I use my airbrush to apply tanning solution?
A: Airbrushes are used to apply special tanning solutions as a form of sunless tanning that simulates the appearance of a natural sun tan. It is promoted as a safer and healthier alternative to the damaging effects of long term exposure to the sun. It is often performed by companies also offering other sun tanning alternatives like sun beds.
Q: How do I learn to use an airbrush?
A: There are some simple learning exercises that can be practised 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. 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. 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.
Q: Where do I find Airbrush tutorials?
A: Social media sites like YouTube are great ways of finding free airbrushing lessons, videos, tutorials making learning to airbrush easy and fun.