Volume 13, Number 1, May 2011
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Celebrating our 12th Anniversary!
Basic Handling and Care of the Airbrush
To most artists, airbrush maintenance basically means keeping the airbrush clean so that paint flow is uninterrupted. But another aspect of maintaining the airbrush deals with proper handling and care to prevent damaging the components of this highly sensitive tool. This can occur when the airbrush is dropped, mishandled, or sometimes lent to a friend. Let's look at the parts of the airbrush and how they apply to its proper performance.
All internal mix airbrushes have needles that run through the body to control the flow of paint. These are honed to an extremely sharp elongated tip that, if bent, will result in an undesirable spray pattern. The harder the material of which the needle is made, the harder it is to bend the tip. (The most durable needles are made of stainless steel.) Damage can occur to the needle during the cleaning process when it is removed from the airbrush. Upon replacement, it can accidentally press against metal parts, thereby "hooking" the very fine tip. This may be remedied by rolling it between two flat metal objects, gently twisting the needle to straighten it. Be aware that if straightened too many times, the result will be tip breakage and replacement will be necessary.
If this part—which controls the atomization of the spray—becomes dented, the performance of the airbrush will be compromised. This can occur if dropped onto a hard surface (and this will bend the needle, too). If dented, it must be replaced, and the parts are readily available at art supply stores. When the head assembly is replaced, it must be seated properly and tightly. Years ago airbrush tips were sealed with beeswax, and then they were sealed with metal "O" rings and after that with PTFE "O" rings; and today there are self-seating tips and head assemblies. No matter which type is being replaced, it must be seated tightly so that there is no air leak; otherwise, the airbrush will have a pulsating spray. However, be careful not to over-tighten a head assembly or the threads might break off inside the body of the airbrush. This would necessitate the tool being sent back to the manufacturer for repair.
On some airbrush models, when the needle is removed for cleaning, the trigger is susceptible to falling out of the body, and the small spring-loaded return mechanism located behind the trigger can fall out or drop down into the body of the airbrush. This can be a real nuisance, but everyone who has ever owned an airbrush has been faced with this problem and been successful in replacing the parts. Once the mechanism is back in place and the needle is reinserted, be sure that the trigger and back lever are aligned properly so that the needle can slide through without the tip being bent.
Anywhere that objects are threaded together on the airbrush you must be cautious of cross threading, e.g., where the air hose attaches to the airbrush and where the head assembly screws into the body of the airbrush. Otherwise, an air leak may occur.
There are a number of types of airbrush handles, and in many instances artists work with the handles removed. These were designed to cover and protect the needle and the inner-workings of the airbrush. If you work with one of the new handles in which the needle can be removed from the back of the handle or if you work with the handle removed, there is a strong possibility that at some point you will hit the back of the needle against something and either wedge the needle or split the airbrush tip. Because of this, it is best to work with handles that cover the needle completely.
The airbrush is a durable, precision instrument. But, as with any precision instrument, it is susceptible to damage if handled improperly, so handle it with care.
Fast and Colorful Fourth of July Celebration
By Janean Thompson
We decorate for many holidays and one of the best reasons/seasons is the 4th of July. So many dining decorations can be created easily and inexpensively that it is fun to explore them. While the colors used in these patriotic elements can limit their use, the principles are the same and could be applied to any holiday or celebration.
The dining table is one important location for embellishment that we will explore. Consider all the items on a party table: table cloth, napkins, napkin rings, placemats, flower containers, garlands hung from an overhead light fixture, chair seat cushions, chair covers – and the list goes on.
For our project, and in celebration of the 4th of July, this month’s how-to will concentrate on some fast, easy and totally personal and cool-looking items. You will need to gather some basic materials and your airbrush and air source (I chose my single action Iwata Revolution SAR along with the Silent Air Compressor that is so quiet you don’t even notice it running.); blue airbrush acrylic paint; scissors; red ribbon; clean-up materials; stencils if you have them/want to make them. (Photo 1)
The first project we will do is a “wrapper” that could be used for a number of applications. We will make a cover for a floral vase. When I make them, it is usually to disguise a less than beautiful floral container, but it could be used to create items that would carry your chosen theme further into the decorating. These covers (wrappers) can be used to cover old flower pots, out of season items like holiday candle holders, last year’s metal art containers that don’t fit your new “chic” dining look and many more.
Start with an item you wish to wrap. Use the item as a pattern to cut a template, trimming and snipping to make the cover fit perfectly. (Photo 2) Use the template to cut your decorative paper and “dry fit” it to the container. With a good fit, you are ready to begin your airbrush decoration. (Photo 3)
Apply a soft, feathery pass of color along the top and bottom of the cut paper. I used blue but, here again, it could be any color that matches your theme. My 4th of July blue will go grandly on the dining table for the holiday party.
With the feathery blue application dry, wrap the cover around the container and use a tab of tape to hold it in place. (Photo 4)
For a finishing touch, tie a length of bright red ribbon around the container over the strip, holding the cover in place. (Photo 5) Place a few stones in the bottom of the “vase” to give it stability in the event of wind. Fill with blooms – real or handmade. (These are also airbrushed!). (Photo 6)
Another thing you can do with the colors you are working with and to continue your theme forward is to create a table runner of heavy paper. A 14- to 15-inch width of heavy paper table covering is perfect for this or you can use Kraft paper/meat wrapping paper. Airbrushing over stencils onto this larger piece gives quick recognition to the event.
Placemats and napkin rings made of heavy paper can also be a neat decoration because you don’t have to worry about upkeep or laundry. These items are so fast and easy to make, just toss them when you are done. It’s time to celebrate our Nation’s Birthday!
Rock Solid - Creating Marble Effects
Illustration Effects - Part III
By Thomas Adams
Last we left off, we were getting back to learning the essential illustration effects with an airbrush. In keeping with that tradition, this month we will explore the illusion of stone, specifically Tuscan marble. Marble is an extremely easy special effect to do with the airbrush, and when done correctly can look shockingly close to the real thing.
We will start as we did in the last few lessons with regular illustration paper and a few water-based colors. I began by taping a torn off sheet of paper to the illustration board. I did this mostly because the amount of paint we will put on this paper usually causes it to wrinkle. Much like the last article, we are aiming for a blotchy, textured surface as the background of your painting. So, I will employ the same brush used in the former lesson. Using the 3-inch chisel brush, I painted on a light brown background, varying strokes and being careful not to make it uniform. This in-turn will yield a textured background with light and dark values and be the basis for our stone.
Once this is done we will use a lighter antique white for the accents in the marble. Marble is a naturally occurring stone that is usually formed over many years by sediment in river beds. Therefore, it can vary in colors and patterns of veins within the stone. To start off, thin the antique white paint by 30% and load it into an Iwata HPC. The Iwata HPC will be perfect for this, seeing as we can use it to do the larger light, cloudy areas in white, and then come back and do the fine veins as well. Using a back and forth motion vary the distance from the paper while also varying the size of your spray pattern.
To achieve this, use a lower pressure and a lighter stroke when working on the veins. Using the HPC, vary the placement and size of the veins in the marble, but keep in mind that each stone has its own “grain.”
Once this is finished, it helps to come back with a little bit of black to darken some areas intermittently. Likewise you may want to highlight the veins with a bright white in certain spots to enhance the illusion. Now you basically have the completed effect and you could stop here, but that is no fun.
Some people are never satisfied, and I guess I am one. So we will go on and have a little practice on doing realistic cracks and fissures in our marble. Just so we have a focal point, we will airbrush a quick cartoon-like skull in black. Out from the skull we will begin to radiate cracks as if the skull had fallen onto the marble. Using black at full strength I again take up my Iwata HPC and remove the crown cap. On the Iwata HPC, the crown cap is the cap that surrounds and protects the tip of the needle. The purpose of removing the crown cap is to make very fine fluid lines easily. Starting at the skull, spray a very jagged thick line that branches off in several directions and gets thinner on the way out, much like the branch of a tree. Also like the branch of a tree, bring several other hair-width stress cracks out from the central crack. This will create the illusion of marble that has been smashed into several pieces.
In addition to cracking, stone usually weathers over time. So to enhance this illusion of weathering, you may be obliged to put some very light silt and mold lines running from your cracks.
Once again, use the HPC at around 30 psi with the crown cap removed. This time stay a little farther back from the piece and spray a light airy dagger-like line running down from each crack. In addition, softening the edges of each fissure with black will continue the illusion that this stone has been weathered for some time.
Like the projects we have done recently, the applications for the marble effect are seemingly endless. Even though this one died a little bit from using some heavy black to practice the cracks, it is still a good example. The only limit to your skill is your imagination and determination. Till next time, keep on paintin’.
New Airbrush Products
New Studio Series Tubular Compressors from Iwata
The new Studio Series Tubular Compressors from Iwata are totally unique—a tube acts as the air storage tank and serves as the handle as well. Both the Smart Jet Plus and the Power Jet Plus shut off automatically when not in use; have zero maintenance and are oil-less with a built-in airbrush holder; have an air regulator and gauge for precise air pressure adjustment; have an on/off switch and a high-strength braided nylon-covered hose that fits all Iwata airbrushes; and have that unique 0.5 liter air tank inside the handle.
See your dealer and visit www.iwata-medea.com.
New Beginner Airbrush Set from Iwata
The new Beginner Airbrush Set from Iwata contains everything the beginner or fledgling airbrusher requires to start airbrushing NOW:
This set will make a great graduation or birthday gift. See your art materials retailer and visit www.iwata-medea.com.
Coast Airbrush, Anaheim, CA, presents
Basic Airbrush Techniques 3-Hour Quick-Course
Look for your next issue of AirbrushTalk in July 2011!