Volume 10, Number 6, March 2009
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How Can an Airbrush Work for You?
By Janean Thompson
Photo 1: Keyboards trap dust but an airbrush is a fast, easy and free way to clean them.
|Photo 2: Clean geodes/rough stone with ease. No space is too small to clean.|
Computer keyboards are notorious for being dusty. Dusting cloths or handled dusters might do an admirable job on surface dust, but what is trapped beneath and around the keys is often difficult to remove. With the clean air provided by the compressor and an airbrush to direct the air flow, you can pinpoint exactly where and how the air is used. For such an application, every nook and cranny on a keyboard can be cleaned. (Photo 1) There is little harm that can befall the keyboard with the ambient air from the compressor/airbrush. However, other electronics, such as the computer itself, should not be dusted with anything but the compressed cans of “clean air.”
With that understood, here are other ways you can use your air supply and airbrush to work for you. Often, costume jewelry with set stones gets dusty. Maybe this is because it is used on a dressing table or counter as décor. In the course of time the jewelry collects dust. Use of an airbrush can totally remove all accumulation. Gemstone collections such as exposed geodes or other oddly shaped stones really benefit from a good puff or two. (Photo 2)
Many items that cannot tolerate water contact but can benefit from cleaning can be dusted very effectively with air. Following are more examples:
Photo 3: Any molded, grooved or designed wood can be cleaned with an airbrush.
|Photo 4: Animal skins used in décor are abused with vacuuming. Air blown over the surface pushes out dust.||Photo 5: Antique collectibles are a perfect candidate for air dusting. Here I clean an antique stationary steam engine.|
Heavily carved or molded picture frames are a great candidate for air cleaning. They are next to impossible to clean with conventional methods, but are easily cleaned with an airbrush and air supply. (Photo 3) Any item that is covered with animal hide or fabric is also worth consideration. (Photo 4) Fabric can be damaged by vacuuming because it removes tiny fibers each time the brush is moved across the surface.
Antique toys and other collectibles are often intricate and trap dust in tiny cracks and crevices. An airbrush is great for gentle air directed into those dust traps. (Photo 5) Air dusting is easy and much more thorough than virtually any other method of cleaning.
Everyone has things that need maintenance and attention. Why not consider using your airbrush and air supply to help out? You might even consider the activity practice with the air flow. The more familiar you become with the amount of air and the path that air takes, the better your artistic use of the tools becomes.
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Over the course of my airbrush career and ever since Abner Peeler invented the airbrush in 1879, we have seen constant improvement of our favorite tool. The airbrush has become like the modern car in that it runs great and does its job very well; but we, the users, are always looking to improve upon the performance of our machine. I believe this is because almost everyone that picks up an airbrush is an artist, a thinker if you will, an individual who always seeks to improve upon the technologies that are intricately woven into our daily lives.
With this in mind, enter the Iwata Eclipse G-Series of guns (http://www.iwata-medea.com/index.php/products/eclipse/), seemingly another small detail gun to keep airbrushers and auto painters appeased. But right out of the box this gun feels different, even down to the way it fits in your hand. This gun is a hybrid, a crossover between airbrush and sprayer that can be equally enjoyed by both sides of the fence. Let us take a look at the gun and its adjustments and put it into practice with a short project. (Fig. 1)
Like all of Iwata’s equipment, the G5 is a chrome beauty. I prefer chrome finishes myself because they are easier to keep clean and they just plain look good. The gun has three main adjustments similar to a spray gun, but Iwata’s version is a little more refined. The lower adjustment is the air pressure adjustment, which controls the amount of air pushing into your gun like a regulator. This gun has a very smooth air adjustment screw which is important in something like auto painting because you need dynamic control over your pressure or else your paint might spread or run on the surface.
The next adjustment is that of the needle, which controls the “snap” of the handle—or, in other words, at what point during drawing back the handle will the paint start to flow. In some instances—like base coating—you want the paint flow to start and stop abruptly without much of a transition from zero to full spray. Other times it is advantageous to have the handle set for a smoother transition for blending and fading.
Now the final and most important adjustment that make this gun what it is—the pattern adjustment. The pattern knob will turn your pattern from a full spray down to a thin line, and the line is even thinner with the G3. When you adjust this knob on the Iwata G5 and bring the fan pattern down to a small circular pattern, it’s like you are holding a pistol-gripped airbrush. I was astonished at the flexibility of this gun and the ease of use!
(Fig. 2) Make sure to get comfortable with this new tool before trying it on your own stuff.
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Take a look at some of the early practice I did with it in Fig. 2. You can see how this gun can go from a rather sizeable basecoat gun down to a flexible detail gun. Since this practice run I have learned many more tricks and become very comfortable with this gun. It is great! You will see plenty more in the articles to come about how to use and adjust it. But for now, let’s have some fun!
This is a little sign window on Lexan plastic for a friend of mine who owns an auto repair shop. The design is a set of blue street signs on a pole. We are going to concentrate on using the G5 to basecoat the blue and then turn it to a large airbrush pattern to lay in some lowlights in the sign area.
I start by masking out the plastic and drawing the design directly on the tape. (Fig. 3) It is always nice to have a mockup handy of what you are doing. This one was provided to me by my friend, but if I had started from scratch I still would have made some kind of pre-drawing. Planning is a good habit to get into when doing these kinds of projects because it lets you foresee possible obstacles in your work, and it keeps a constant working image in your head. As you can see, once the image is laid out I remove the sign area and then thoroughly scuff the area to be painted. My personal preference on plastic is to use a red Scotch Brite pad. These are available at any general store in the cleaning supplies. They work well because the pad won’t destroy your tape if you run over the edge, and they leave a clean, even scuff area.
Once that is done I base this area with a primer. But if this were to be a two-sided window, I would reverse-paint the lettering on, then base in blue and prefer to do the same lettering on this side. Wow—talk about tricky! But this only faces the customers one way, so one side only. Now, finally we are going to use our new amazing “Hybrid” G5 to lay some iridescent metallic blue base.
(Fig. 4) Lay some base down using the G5’s wide pattern spray. Make sure to get a good sized fan pattern when doing this. Remember the larger the area, the wider the pattern should be. Build up the blue in light coats just to the point that it covers. On this plastic, less paint means less chance of peeling up with the tape.
Now I can dial that pattern back down to a mid-sized circular pattern to drop a shadow in the middle part of the sign and along the corner where the two signs on the pole overlap.
(Fig. 5) Lightly lay in some shadow to give the street sign a realistic appearance.
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Sorry the picture does not show much detail but the metallic paint impedes my ability to show the drop shadows properly. I used the gun as I would an airbrush, dragging it across in a straight line through the center where I wanted my shadow.
To finish the sign I back masked the blue and used the black already in the gun to finish the pole and laid in a little highlight of silver to give it some shape.
The pointed finial at the top also pops out with a little light. I finished the window off with some reflective vinyl lettering and gave it to the boss to hang. (Fig. 8)
All in all, I would suggest picking up one of these Iwata rigs. The G5 really flies, as you will see in the next few articles. Until then keep dreamin’ and keep paintin’!
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Greetings once again everyone! In this article I will be painting a delightful little figure of Eric Draven from the graphic novel “The Crow” by James O’Barr. This particular figure is approximately 1/8 scale and is inspired by the back cover of the novel. This is my first attempt at painting cold cast porcelain, so this is bound to be interesting.
Here we have the kit primed in automotive gray primer. As mentioned in my prior articles, the purpose of the primer is to make flaws in the kit more obvious, and it also allows the future layers of paint to get a better grip on the surface. As you can see in the pic, the primer illustrated the folds in the clothing, and gives me clues as to where to add shading and highlights later.
Here I have sprayed the shirt with a lighter shade of gray and the pants with flat black using an Iwata Eclipse HP-CS. I went a little further and painted the fleshtone, only to realize that I wasted my time in painting the shirt and hair, as the overspray from the fleshtone covered the previous work. Let my mistake be a lesson to all of you out there. Think your projects through before you leap into them, or you’ll find yourself going back and re-accomplishing work you’ve already done once. From this point on, I masked off flesh areas with Iwata Hobby Mask Film. This film is far superior to masking tape, as it does not stick to painted surfaces with such force that it will remove paint, as most other masking agents do.
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Using the box art and the comic as a guide, I sprayed the face with Com-Art airbrush-ready Opaque White. The beauty of airbrush-ready paint is there is no mixing or thinning involved. This is probably the single biggest problem that I encounter when painting. I either make the paint too thin, which then splatters on the surface, or I make it too thick, which won’t flow through the brush. The Com-Art paint is ready to spray straight from the bottle, which has proven to be a tremendous timesaver, not to mention saving me the stress of seeing hours of work being ruined by poorly mixed paint.
The base received a base coat of Model Master Wood colored paint, followed by several light passes of flat black, burnt sienna, rust, leather, and raw sienna. The passes were done in such a manner to imitate the wood grain in the floorboards in a bar, so I wanted the wood to look somewhat dilapidated and worn. I finished off the base with a dark wash, which can be seen more clearly in the final pic.
The sword was painted gloss black and then sprayed with an airbrush-ready chrome paint. Again the beauty of the gravity-fed Eclipse shone through as I dropped the air pressure down to less than 5 psi. This was vital in order to keep the chrome from over-spraying onto the rest of the figure and forcing me to re-do several hours of work that I had already done. A siphon-fed brush would have made this impossible due to the higher psi requirements, and the Eclipse is engineered and built so well that airbrush-ready paint will flow through with an absolute minimum of pressure.
Thanks for reading! Please contact me if you have any questions!
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