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How to Use an Airbrush

Marble allowed Michelangelo to create his David. An airbrush will allow you to draw a dragon on a conversion van.


  • Step 1: Sketch out painting Lightly sketch out your painting on the hot-press board.
  • Step 2: Erase extra lines Erase any extra lines and go over the ones you need to reduce them as much as possible.
  • Step 3: Mix paint with water Mix some paint with water in the airbrush bowl or jar.
  • TIP: Practice this to find the right consistencies for the effects you're after. In some cases, you won't need any water at all.
  • Step 4: Use airbrush on scrap Try out your airbrush for a while on scrap paper to get used to the lever and button.
  • TIP: Use a double-action airbrush, which allows you to control air and paint volume independently.
  • Step 5: Wash out airbrush Practice washing out the airbrush by immersing it into the bucket far enough for the brush to cycle water through the paint bowl.
  • Step 6: Dry out airbrush Then practice blowing the water out of the airbrush against your scrap paper or the rag until the airbrush is clean and dry.
  • Step 7: Mix a color Once you're done practicing, it's time to mix the first color you'll use on your painting.
  • TIP: Generally, you'll want to work from the lightest colors to darkest.
  • Step 8: Paint general areas Start painting general areas.
  • Step 9: Cover areas from the paintbrush Use the craft knife to shape the frisket or copy paper and mask off areas from the airbrush.
  • Step 10: Move to a new area When you're done with an area, move to the next.
  • Step 11: Seal the paint When you're done with the actual painting, use a fixative to seal the painting in place.
  • Step 12: Wash out airbrush Thoroughly wash out the airbrush when you're finished, particularly if you're using a paint that dries hard like some acrylics or enamel paints.
  • Step 13: Disassemble Disassemble the airbrush to make sure you've fully cleaned it. Be very careful with the airbrush needle, which is very delicate and easily breakable.
  • Step 14: Admire your creation Admire your creation. Like Marcel Duchamp wrote, 'Can one make works which are not of art?'
  • FACT: The first airbrush was invented in 1879.

You Will Need

  • A double-action airbrush set
  • including hoses
  • jars
  • and bowls
  • A compressor or compressed air tank
  • A well-ventilated space
  • Ink or acrylic paints
  • A rag
  • A hot-press board
  • A pencil
  • An artist's eraser
  • Craft knife
  • An easel or drafting table
  • Frisket or copy paper
  • Artistu2019s tape
  • Scrap paper
  • Fixative
  • A small bucket
  • And some water
  • An air-filtering mask

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