Volume 12, Number 5, January 2011

Published six times a year by The Paschal Group, Inc.
Publisher: Robert Paschal
Editor: Jeanne Paschal
Also see — The Newsletter for Visual Artists

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Head in the Clouds
An Introduction to Illustration Effects

By Thomas Adams
Rebel Kustoms, Inc.
(Click on any photo for a larger view!)

At the onset of this New Year, it occurs to me that we have all grown a year older. With age comes wisdom and experience. To this end our craftsmanship must graduate to new levels. It has occurred to me that over the past several years we have done many projects together, large and small.  Hopefully, this has given you inspiration for your airbrushing career and helped shape the beginnings of many techniques that will benefit your artwork for years to come.

But, a without a challenge, these skills will not grow into maturity. So, that being said, the next few projects we do together will be smaller, more intensely focused studies on techniques and effects that will take your airbrushing from the novice level to a professional one. Where better to begin this journey than at the top, in the sky?


This installment will deal with the amazing effect of making clouds. When done right, airbrushed clouds can look amazingly realistic. This is mostly because airbrushing lends itself well to the design of clouds, i.e., wispy soft lines, etc. Let us begin with a clean sheet of illustration paper. 


Fig. 1 - Clean, heavy Illustration paper will hold paint well.

For this project I will be using Com-Art Airbrush Colours from Medea. These colors are great illustration colors, are premixed, and have an easy to pour bottle.

Begin by coating your paper with a uniform coat of a light sky blue or cobalt blue. I tend to use lighter blues because it seems to improve the effect by making the white look more subtle upon the background. Once the paper is evenly coated, allow it to dry completely (perhaps help it along with a hair dryer.)


Fig. 2 - Com-Art makes great Illustration colors. Fig. 3 - Give your illustration paper a nice even coat of light blue paint.

Fill your airbrush with opaque white and water it down just a bit. For this project I will be using the good old Iwata HP-C. It will work amazingly well for the various pattern sizes I will be spraying. Also, this airbrush atomizes paint very nicely, so even with heavier water-based pigments I won’t get that sputtery spray paint look that ruins the illusion.


Fig. 4 - This Iwata HP-C has a ton of miles on it, but it is a quality airbrush and will be around for years to come.

Turn the pressure down to around 35-40 psi and make sure that the paint is flowing freely. If you are not getting a nice even spray you may need to adjust the pressure a bit.


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Time to get spraying! The technique of doing realistic clouds is challenging and hard to explain. The most important factors are to be random and to build slowly. So to begin with the slow building of the clouds, hold the airbrush farther away than normal--8 to 10 inches should be good. Now begin a medium spray pattern and undulate your hand in a random motion over an area. You are trying to make a very light random outline to be the base of the cloud. In other words, this step loosely determines where the clouds are and where they are not in regard to the sky.


Fig. 5 - When spraying clouds, always start extremely light and build up.

Once this “skeleton” is complete, the next few steps will deal with shaping the depth of the clouds. This is challenging because clouds do not have any definition. The way to achieve this effect is to start overlapping small areas randomly. I like to do this by keeping my hand moving in a semi-circular direction, beginning the spray around 6 inches from the paper and pulling the trigger back as I back my hand away from the canvas. This sounds very complicated but imagine the action as blotting a brush against a canvas while blending in a half moon shape.


Fig. 6 - This stroke will build depth into your clouds.

As you continue to slowly build areas of the clouds you will see a foreground and background begin to emerge.  Also, using small bursts of white pops light into the entire piece. You can see this effect in the illustration. Be careful not to overdo your clouds. Try to resist coloring in whole areas; the cloud as a whole should look like a cotton ball was pulled apart and glued to the paper.


Fig. 7 - Build everything slowly and keep clouds spaced apart. Fig. 8 - Build several different tiers into your clouds and keep a common light source in mind.

Once you are satisfied with the piece you may want to add a little something or use it as a background for a composition. Practice this technique diligently; it will help you illustrate smoke and fog, and it is the basis for realistic fire effects. This is not an easy technique to learn but learning to achieve an effect like this can bring you one step closer to having what it takes to tackle professional requests. Next time we will try something even more exiting, but until then Keep Paintin’!


Fig. 9 - Built up to my liking, this one is ready to be used in a composition or all by itself.

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Recycling/Repurposing Old Tins

By Janean Thompson
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During every holiday season there are times when gifts are available in tins or decorative tins are used instead of boxes and gift wrap.  When the size is right, these tins can be recycled and used for wonderful new purposes.  That is exactly what this project will do…recycle a tin.  The source of this particular box was an old sale CD.  It will become a jewelry box for travel…it might carry a pair or two of small earrings, a necklace, a bracelet and a small pin – and more when needed.  Another use for such a shallow tin might be to organize your “special” credit/identification cards to keep them organized.  Or perhaps an even deeper tin could be used to hold a small collection of items or desk paper clips and push pins.

Start by collecting the supplies needed to complete the project:  the tin – your choice; an airbrush and air supply (I will use the Iwata Revolution HP-CR 4500 single action and my Iwata Studio Series Smart Jet air supply – quiet and capable.); sandpaper to scuff the surface; soft cloth for cleaning off dust; colors for painting, acrylics; small paint brush; sealer (if desired); cleanup materials.

Begin by sanding the surface of the tin – top, bottom and sides.  Use very fine sandpaper for the smoothest surface.  Sanding will provide the tooth needed to grip and hold the acrylic paint.  You could use enamel paint and solvent for thinning and cleanup, but those present health hazards and possible skin penetration that acrylics do not.  If you want to use enamels, please follow safety instructions carefully.


Iwata Airbrushes
The professional Iwata Airbrush line is imported and manufactured exclusively by Medea Airbrush Products, along with commercial spray guns, Medea Textile Colours and Com-Art Airbrush Colours.

After the sanding is done and the surface has lost its sheen, clean off any dust and residue with a soft cloth.  Prepare the color you want to apply first as a base coat.  Apply a heavy coat of base color with the brush and start to move the color with the airbrush. (Photo 1)  You will see it moves easily.  While this brushed-on coat is still thick and wet, begin to add other colors.  In this case, I used green base coat and lime and turquoise over the thick wet green.


Photo 1:  Your tin is coated with a thick layer of paint.

Drip on thick droplets of color and use your airbrush to “schmooze” the colors into whirls and swirls.  (Photo 2)  With a bit of practice, you can create deep dimensions of color and mix tones together to create blended and combined colors.  Way cool!  Gemstone textures and simulations can be created by adding a sprinkle of sand, dry soil or even metallic powders into the wet paint.  This works especially well when you work in layers and add tone-on-tone and need a bit of control for the textural additions.


Photo 2:  Droplets of color are added to start the abstract design. Photo 3:  The completed halves of the tin.

Once the first coats are dry, you are free to add more colors or textures to the surface of the repainted tin.  My mix of colors was more abstract and colorful than what one might find in nature, but the tin will be easy to find when I pack it.  (Photo 3)


Medea Com-Art Colours
All airbrush colours are not the same. Com-Art is considered to be one of the finest and most versatile professional airbrush colours in the world. Because of a common hydro-carbon base binder, Com-Art transparent and opaque colours can be used together without bleeding between colours. This non-toxic, ready to use paint is specifically formulated for use with an airbrush and never needs to be filtered or strained. Com-Art colours are heavily pigmented and light fast, allowing for accurate 4 colour separations. They provide superior atomization, smooth spraying, and they dry instantly.

The resulting designs of this method are interesting and this technique is very easy to do.  Use of a small, handheld hair dryer can speed up the operation considerably.  Or, unlike me, patience will allow drying to happen on its own.  Drying quickly often causes some cracking and crevices which add even more to the finish.  Remember to use a finish coat of acrylic painting medium to give a more durable surface and a bit of sheen.


Photo 4:  Finished and ready to use:  A travel jewelry organizer.

Once completed, allow it to dry and join the two sections. I added a bit of marker lines for definition. (Photo 4) The airbrush provides a constant and well controlled supply of air so you can create intricate and ornate “pushed” colors on other decorator items as well.  I regretted not having more items to decorate when I got going on this project.  It was fun, interesting and opened up a completely new way to utilize my airbrush.  Can’t wait to do more!


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Prince of Deceit

By Wes Hawkins
(Click on any photo for a larger view!)

Happy New year everyone!  I’d like to share with you a neat little bust that is no longer in production, entitled “Prince of Deceit.”  This is the smallest bust I’ve attempted to paint, but this is going to show you just how much you can do with the right tools.  In this case, I’d like to highlight the Iwata Custom Micron C+.

The head of this bust is about the size of my thumb, so the ability of this airbrush will become self-evident.  I wouldn’t trust any other airbrush to spray the hair thin lines I’ll be needing here.  I thin my paint at a ratio of ten to one thinner/paint and spray at less than 5 PSI.  It takes a lot longer to finish a project, but the benefit is that the thinned paint leads to more subtle effects and the low pressure prevents spattering.  One of the great things about the C+ is the micro valve at the front of the brush.  This allows you to lower the pressure of the air once it’s inside the brush and the paint is mixed.  This revolutionary feature allows for maximum control and I have yet to find any brush that can match the C+.

Here we have the primed bust.  You can see all the areas that will need shading and highlighting. Let’s get started!

I’ve decided to use only two colors on this bust.  This seems rather lacking, but once I get rolling, you’ll understand. Here I’ve base coated the bust in a dark red with the Custom C+.  The reflection from the overhead light helps indicate where the shadows and highlights will go.  Also, a word of note:  Do not plan on laying down your highlights and shadows in one pass.  Usually it takes me 20 or 30 passes before I have the shadows and highlights how I want them.

Here I’ve completed the shadows and misted the shadow color over the entire bust.  This helps soften the edge between the shadow and base color and helps in the transition.  You’ll see how the base color will finish this bust.


So, here we are with the horns added.  I’ve taken the shadow color and traced along the bottom of the horns where they meet the head.  This will help set off the color of the horns.

Next, I thinned down the base color and carefully sprayed the highlights.—again, making slow deliberate passes with the airbrush, building up layers until I had the highlights just right.  This takes patience and a clean airbrush, so after each color, I spray a cupful of thinner though the brush.

The horns were finished with a wash for the shadows and dry brushing for the highlights.  The eyes also were done by hand.

I enjoyed this project and I hope you enjoyed this article. Please feel free to email me with any questions/comments here. Thanks for reading!


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 New Airbrush Products

New Templates from Artool
(Click on any photo for a larger view!)

Artool Products Co. has announced the new Artool Viking FX Freehand Airbrush Templates designed by Craig Fraser and the Wood Grain FX Freehand Airbrush Templates by Dennis Mathewson.  Viking FX are composed from imagery that the Icelandic culture left on Craig over the years of teaching airbrush in the land of the Vikings!  The four stencils include Runes, Vahalla, Berserker, and Draugar and are also available as a Set and in a Mini Series.  When used separately or all together they can conjure up some heavy duty “mjog svalt” (Icelandic for very kewl) murals and/or graphic designs.

The Wood Grain FX will give you all of the advantages that seasoned professional painters have trusted in for many years.  Each size template includes a Graining Template and a Knot Template.  Plus, with each package you will receive a step-by-step instructional guide in which Dennis Mathewson shares secrets so that you can achieve realistic wood grain effects every time.  See your Iwata-Medea-Artool supplier and go to

Airbrush Workshops

Basic Airbrush Workshop
Place: Tampa, FL
Dates:  Feb. 4, 5 or 6, 2011
Instructor:  Robert Paschal

For details, go to

GENERAL INFORMATION/Registration: Please contact Traci Torres at 813-989-0302 OR email Traci directly at

TECHNICAL INFORMATION: Please email Robert Paschal: or call ARTtalk at 845-831-1043.


...the link between you, the visual artist, and the manufacturer of art materials.
ARTtalk is a monthly eight-page newsletter available FREE-OF-CHARGE from Participating Art Material Retailers in the U.S., Canada and Bermuda. Each month you'll find informative articles that deal with a variety of subjects such as painting, printmaking, sculpture, ceramics, arts and crafts, and more. These explain various techniques—how to work and paint with watercolor, oils, or acrylics; use pastels or pen and ink, airbrush, and more. You'll find information on art history, current events and art world news, as well as an occasional "Kids' Korner." Subjects vary and change each month.




Look for your next issue of AirbrushTalk in March 2011!