How to Get Started Airbrushing

The airbrush is gaining popularity and becoming a valuable tool for artists to use. With the new airbrush technology, new dedicated airbrush paints, and more retailers selling airbrush products, it is easier than ever for the new airbrush enthusiast to purchase high quality reliable supplies.

There is also a wealth of information available to teach the skills of airbrushing. However, for the airbrush artist not interested in learning to do flames and skulls it is difficult to weed out the good information from the bad, and there is very little reliable information for the absolute beginner to get started effectively. Airbrush techniques and secrets have been closely guarded for so long that veteran artists are just now beginning to share their knowledge and help newcomers to the world of airbrushing.

Whether you’re wanting to paint t-shirts, models, cars, temporary tattoos, make-up, or fine art, you are going to want to start with high quality reliable materials. Obviously, your fundamental tool will be the airbrush. When choosing an airbrush, you’ll want to keep in mind what its primary function will be. Just like any other type of paint brush, there are specific airbrushes designed for specific functions, as well as more multi-purpose airbrushes. All of the major airbrush manufacturers provide a comparison showing the best applications for each model airbrush they produce.

When shopping for your first airbrush, you will want to stick with one of the 3 big name brands: Iwata, Paasche, Badger, with Thayer and Chandler being a subgroup of the Badger Airbrush Company. Each company produces quality airbrushes, and stand behind their products. Further, they are easy to contact in the event that you need technical support. If you plan to use your airbrush frequently and want to develop you skill, you will want to choose a double-action airbrush. Single-action airbrushes are for hobbyists who have limited uses for their airbrush.

After you have your airbrush, your next major piece of equipment will be your air-source. Your two primary options for a reliable air-source are either an air-compressor, or a compressed gas cylinder. There are many different options for air-compressors, keep in mind that the majority of airbrushing will be done between 10-60 psi, so you’ll want a compressor that can operate between these ranges. Next, consider how often you will be using your airbrush, and generally how long will most sessions last. This will determine whether or not you need a compressor with an attached tank or not. Generally, it is better to have a compressor with a tank, as this will allow your compressor not to run as often, while providing your airbrush with a consistent air supply. Next, you’ll want to consider the noise level emitted by the compressor. You can find relatively cheap compressors with a two gallon tank at most home improvement stores, however, they are very loud. This could be a problem if you plan on painting late into the night and you live in an apartment building. You will want to be sure that your compressor has a moisture trap to keep any moisture out of your airline.

If you choose to go with a compressed gas cylinder, you will need a good regulator to go between the cylinder and the airbrush hose to regulate the pressure. The two types of gas often used for airbrushing are carbon dioxide, and nitrogen. In my experience, carbon dioxide is easier to work with and more available. Your local welding supply store or beverage distributor can supply you with everything you will need to get started.

Now that you have your airbrush and air-source, all you need is paint. There are many different choices in paint. You will want to stick with paints made specifically for use with the airbrush, to help reduce the frustration of learning airbrush techniques. Keep in mind that the airbrush atomizes the paint and sprays it onto the media being painted.

This atomized paint can be breathed into your lungs, so even if you are using water-based paints, you will want to wear proper breathing protection to prevent any damage to your lungs. Learning how to airbrush is a fun and sometimes frustrating experience. Stick with it, and learn something new every day, and you will soon be on your way to mastering your new tool.–tomylwjj

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