Airbrush FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

airbrush-faq

This page I decided to create in order to answer some of the questions from my readers right away. I realize that one day I can get too busy and just won’t be able to answer all the e-mail directly. I’ve been thinking even creating a forum but I don’t see any reason for that at the moment as there are many forums assigned directly to airbrush. Here it is – Airbrush FAQ.

What is the most important to master your airbrush level?

Trigger Control. As I used to say before and will repeat it all the time, the golden rule of airbrushing is “Start with air – Finish with air”. So with improving your skills in controlling the paint flow while releasing and stopping the air you will improve your master level.

How to copyright my artwork?

In US to legally protect your art and yourself you should register your images with US Copyright Office. If you go to their website you can find out that the prices. For protecting your work you have to pay good money. There is a way to save a lot of money when you register more images on one page instead of registering each image separately and they will be fully protected anyway.

What are the most common mistakes all beginners make when starting with airbrush?

Again the same point here. Not enough practice of The Golden Rule. Most beginners stop the air at the end of every stroke what leads to uneven paint coverage. Try to keep air flow until you stop paint flow.

Overspray and how to avoid it.

Overspray is a common problem in airbrush practice and there is many ways to avoid this unwanted effect. First of all while spraying you should try to point airbrush slightly away from the area you don’t want to overspray.  Another tip is to use masking or stencils, even piece of paper to quickly cover area you don’t want to overspray.

Different types of paint in same airbrush

Different type as in acrylic, urethane, water, oil, etc, but not brands. If you use all these types of paint it is better to use different airbrushes but you don’t have to if you don’t mind to clean airbrush very precisely (take it apart) before every change of your paint type.

I think that those of you working on the budget will have no choice anyway. If you do airbrushing just for yourself as a hobby then you can stick to one gun but if it is professional work then you should think on your reputation.

How to deal with airbrush clogging?

This can happen to any artist but it gives real headache to airbrush beginners. To prevent this I would advise first to thin paint  or use airbrush ready to spray paints (sometimes, even ready to spray paints need to be thinned). Always deal with tip dry. If you get bad clogs then you should do a deep cleaning of the airbrush gun. From time to time rinse the airbrush under higher air pressure. You can find very interesting test about airbrush clogging here

What is the right pressure to work with airbrush?

First of all you should spray at the pressure that you think is good for your art, experiment a little to find your comfort zone. It depends on paint you use and how thin it is.

Higher pressure has its pros and cons. With higher pressure you will have better atomization and less clogs but at the same time the overspray is a nightmare (you won’t be able to work without stencils and masks and of course breathing mask too). Another negative thing is that paint dries very quickly (better atomization – smaller droplets of paint – dry faster).

Lower pressure has its positives and negatives too. The positive is less overspray and better transfer efficiency of paint (it means that you waste less paint). On the other side the droplets of paint are bigger and painted surface will look a bit rough. Also you will have to deal more with airbrush clogging. I would advise to start low and if you are not satisfied with the result bring the pressure up until you get the right atomization for your artwork.

What is the right paint for my airbrush?

I’ve written an article on this topic a long time ago called Advanced guide to airbrush paints.

Do I have to deep-clean my airbrush after every use?

It depends on paint you used but in most cases the answer is no.

Soak the airbrush.

Many times airbrush beginners think that soaking the airbrush after work in the cleaning solution is a “no hassle” cleaning method. DON’T DO IT!

If you leave your airbrush in cleaning solution it will destroy all non-Teflon o-rings, removes all the lube from airbrush mechanic parts, dissolved paint will  crystallize. If your cleaning solution has ammonia in it, it will react with all brass parts of airbrush.

Using lubricant for your airbrush.

Usually you will feel it. The movement of trigger is not fluent and needle tends to stick back and forth. There is a few places that you should apply lubricant if you experience any problem. Needle o-ring, air valve o-ring and screws. Some people ask if it possible to use WD-40 as a lube. No, there are special lubricants for airbrush, do not use WD-40 as it doesn’t like the paint. Just a drop of it can destroy your painting.

There is more lubricants on the market. Most popular is Iwata Super Lube and Badger needle juice. If you can’t get any of these then there is other option like Glycerin that can be found in drug stores. The last resort is cooking oil, but I don’t have any experience with this so I can’t really recommend it.

This is it for now. This page will grow every time I find really good question to any answer. If you have any question then send it through my contact page . You can always leave a comment bellow if you think you have something to add and if you think that this page was a good idea then like it, tweet it or give it a plus.

Questions from our readers

I have been airbrushing for almost 30 years and I use to use lacquers then urethanes then switched to water based paints when they first came out and still using them. The only draw back is tip dry and blow outs, I just bought a new air compressor and the infinity airbrush. When spraying white especially, I make 2 or 3 small strokes and the paint builds up at the tip of the airbrush and I’m forever cleaning it, I have tried different air pressures adding reducer but nothing seems to work.

I, myself use AutoAir and Createx. It is really truth that especially white water based paint causes the tip dry. Actually I’ve been experimenting with this a lot and only with experiments I found the best solution but I didn’t really get rid of it completely.

The problem with water based whites is the size of the pigment grains. They are bigger than in other paints that’s why they make a problem in fine airbrushes.

I use alcohol based reducer. AutoAir makes special reducers like 4010 medium dry (I use this). I’ve tried even vodka or even windolene (for cleaning windows). It does not matter that you use more or a different reducer for white until it’s alcohol based and if the rest of paints is thinned with alcohol based reducers too. Try to thin white with no water, only reducer.

Also worth checking 4003 Auto Air Reducer, it should dry slower then 4010. For cleaning they have 4007 (while changing colors) and 4008 (when you finished).

A customer gave me a Paasche Talon as a gift for doing some art work. It seems to sputter a lot, except when I use the #3 needle and nozzle set. Does the paint need to be thinned?

I don’t know which one is #3 as I had only two sets of needle and nozzle with my talon. If it is the biggest one then it might be the paint problem. Did you try to thinner paint more? It also might be the nozzle-needle centering problem like this

Centering problem airbrush
Centering problem

If you find the centering problem then it might be bad nozzle and you will have to get new one. Be careful every nozzle has to be used in this airbrush only with one of the needles. It means you can’t use nozzle #1 with needle #2. Bad nozzle can even come with brand new airbrush, so it does not have to be your fault but manufacturer fault.

But try to play with paint consistency first and check how often paint dries on the needle. If paint dries very quick then it cause same problems.

I have a Paasche compressor but i don’t care for the paasche VL airbrush I have with it. I was wondering if i can use other brand airbrushes with my Paasche compressor?

It should not be a problem unless you use a proper adapter between your airbrush and hose. Most of airbrush makers use different sizes of connectors (I think they should finally make a standard one for all). There is one called 1/8″ BSP (British Standard Pipe) but I don’t think Paasche uses this one as well as Badger and Aztek. I know that Iwata, Harder&Steenbeck, Grex etc use 1/8″ NPT(National Pipe Thread) at the airbrush. Iwata and Grex hoses use 1/4″ at the compressor side and 1/8″ at the airbrush side. I will recommend for you to check my friend shop at http://www.chicagoairbrushsupply.com/aihoad.html where you may find what you need.

If you are not sure what exactly do you need just send more details like exact type of the compressor and what airbrush gun do you want to use with it. I hope I helped you somehow. Thanks for question…

Can I use my industrial Craftsman compressor for airbrushing? If so, what kind of regulator do I need?

Any source of compressed air can be used for airbrushing, especially industrial compressor. Other thing how comfortable will you feel while working with it. Is it loud? If it has a big tank then you can spray maybe for 30 minutes in silence without need to feel tank all the time.

All you will need is a regulator with filter that can fit on your compressor, maybe some fittings to connect it all together.

My airbrush is spraying upward instead of straight . the needle looks good so i assume it is the nozzle. do i need to buy the whole head assembly or get by with just the nozzle.

Has your airbrush ever fell off on the ground? If yes, then you can have problem not only with the needle but with nozzle too. You have to be sure that the needle is fine then you have to check your nozzle.

Take off the head and look at airbrush from the front. Pull the trigger back till your needle is almost all inside. The tip of the needle has to be exactly in the middle of the nozzle hole (use some magnifying glass to see it better). IF you think that it looks ok try other thing, try to unscrew the nozzle slowly with provided key and look at it the same way as before. May be you will see something more, remember the tip of needle has to stay exactly in the middle the whole time.

If you see the smallest errors and you are really sure about the needle then you have to change the nozzle. You don’t have to buy the whole head, just the smallest part (nozzle :)).

If you didn’t see anything then try to clean it properly, but I don’t mean just with some soapy water. Use some good reducer and don’t be scared. Iwata is not afraid of any heavy reducers as some Chinese stuff.

I was wondering about what paint to use just to airbrush on poster board kind of paper. I’ve been reading a lot of people going into detail about what paint to use for cars and stuff but I just want to paint on paper and poster board for art kind of pictures. Can you tell me what is the best kind of paint to use for this.

Basically I would use water, gouache or acrylic based colors as they work very well on paper.

But this days you can use almost anything. I have a lot of experience with Createx classic and they are good for this use too. Createx are straight from the bottle, but if you find water or gouache color then you will have to thinner them with water to kind of milk consistency.

I airbrushed our hotel basement for a mini golf area. I did this in black light paint. I have found that when you wear 3-D glasses certain colors(reds,pinks,ect.) give it a very cool 3-D effect. But not all of it. How can I make, say, a killer whale look 3-D with out painting it hot pink? My boss would love to promote this as a 3-D black light mini golf.I would love any help you could give me as well as any tips for making our basement look more 3-D.

This question really surprised me. But still even if I’m not sure that I can help you with that 3D. If you not going to wear 3D glasses I don’t think that colors are that important then. You should concentrate on the perspective and realism of the painting, details on the foreground and blurred background.

If you do wear 3D glasses then it depends on the type of these glasses.
1. Red (left eye), Cyan (right eye). The eye is sensitive to 3 primary colors, red, green, and blue. The red filter admits only red, while the cyan filter blocks red, passing blue and green (the combination of blue and green is perceived as cyan).

1930_Cord

2. Amber (left eye), Blue (right eye). One eye (left, amber filter) receives the cross-spectrum color information and one eye (right, blue filter) sees a monochrome image designed to give the depth effect. The human brain ties both images together. Images viewed without filters will tend to exhibit light-blue and yellow horizontal fringing.

budweis

So you will have to paint with this kind of effects. That’s my only opinion about this particular thing.

I’m wanting to paint a goalie mask, what type of paints should i use, acrylics? and also, I’ve noticed when I spray acrylics, the mist I get when I want to do shading seems to be a big mist, more of a speckled look than a light mist, when I tried shading my skull I painted it came out looking like it was speckled, not quite spattered. Any ideas how to fix this, is it the air pressure (set usually at 25 psi) my Iwata brush has a .35mm tip, or is it maybe just acrylics in general?

I do not think that your problem is in the brush or the pressure. What brad is your acrylic paint you use? I would say that most common problem in this case is paint consistency. It has to be like “milk consistency”. Or other thing is size of the pigment particles, even if you reduce your paint to the max it will still act as it does.

I recommend acrylic paint specially for airbrush, for example: Createx, Auto-Air, DuPont, PPG, Sickens, HOK, Mobihel, …

Some of them are mixed with water and hold like hell.

I just got my self a Clark professional airbrush (Its a gravity fed, i bought it from machine mart, it has forwards backwards trigger and it cost £30) and i got given a high out put oil-less compressor b and q make …what psi should i run to ….i am wanting to paint canvass motorcycles small stuff.

For gravity feed the minimum is 8 – 16 PSI, if you paint with thicker paint it might not work. I would look for something like AS-186 with small tank. It works around 50PSI and has regulator to set it lower. Didn’t see that in Machine mart though.

Friend of mine wants me to paint his name, baseball team name (local team), and his jersey number on an actual baseball base. How do I go about painting one of those, do I need to scuff it up? Primer? Clear coat? Only have a couple bases so I don’t have to much room for trial and error.

I assume that baseball base is silicon rubber. I do not have any experience with this type of materials at all but my friend had it ones. For painting silicon you will have a to use more silicon because it’s the only thing that will stick to it. He used a combination of silicon bathroom sealant, oil paints and white spirit ;).

I am ordering my first airbrush set and I want to include a stencil but there are so many. What would be a good stencil for starting. I am just beginning. I know Skulls are popular but flames are also, pinups, clowns, etc… what would be the most beneficial for learning with.

Well, it’s really difficult to recommend some special stencils for beginners. I usually make stencils myself for the particular work I’m working on. I think you should choose stencils that you going to really use. for example if you want to paint real fire buy stencils for it, want to paint skulls, there you go – skulls. Nature, pinups? why not, just go to Airsick Stencils they have everything…