Volume 4, Number 5, January 2003

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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Drawing for Airbrush Painting

With Michael Cacy
(Click on any image for a larger view!)

Cultivating or honing your drawing skills is a good idea (if not a necessity) regardless of your choice of media application, whether we're talking about airbrush, watercolor, mixed media, or whatever. No level of painting expertise will save a poorly drawn composition. Great color and clever techniques are not enough to overcome an unresolved drawing.

That said, the focus of this article, however, is not how skillfully you draw, but rather how a drawing for an airbrush painting differs from a drawing prepared for a painting in another medium. Or, to put it another way, just what exactly goes into a drawing executed in preparation for an airbrush painting? With airbrush art, it is necessary to be analytical with your reference, capitalizing on the beneficial information in front of you, and editing out any aspects that may be ambiguous or confusing. Whether you intend the finished piece to look "photo real" or "stylized" (as in humorous, primitive, or fantasy art, for examples), shooting or gathering usable reference is important. No one expects you to pull off a drawing of an 18th century brigantine armed with only a sketchy recollection (if any) from your history class. Do your homework and become familiar with your subject before you start drawing.

While the importance of drawing skills cannot be ignored, if you are not a classically or formally trained draftsman, you may be relieved to learn that not every ace airbrush artist who has come down the pike has been a "natural" at drawing. There are several differences (in both the appearance and purpose) between the character of a drawing done for the sake of an airbrush painting and a sketch prepared for paintings in other media, or even a drawing intended to stand on its own as a finished piece of art.

Preliminary pencil drawings for illustrations to be rendered in media OTHER THAN AIRBRUSH

A handsome drawing with thick and thin line quality, shading, and loads of excessive detail may look impressive, but is probably not the best way to begin an airbrush painting. A meaningful, crisp, linear guide applied in pencil will serve better than a "sketchy" line. Shading in pencil is unnecessary for a couple of reasons: A) You're going to be shading in airbrush later, right? Why sculpt your subject twice? B) If masking materials (such as frisket film) are to be used, the adhesive tack of the masks will likely partially lift off some of your pencil work. (So, if pencil rendering is to play a role in your finished piece, save that work for later--after all the masking part of the airbrush process has been completed.) As for the part about "excessive detail," apply only enough drawing onto your working surface to get the job done. Otherwise, you may have unwanted lines showing through the airbrush paint you will be applying later.

Shown here is an example of a drawing prepared for actual airbrush project. It looks more like a "roadmap" than a beautiful drawing. Before I dive into what goes into one of these, let me note that as an illustrator, I am almost always expected to furnish an art director with a preliminary pencil drawing for approval before going ahead with a painting. I may indicate more detail on my pencil tissue than I actually intend to transfer to the illustration board. I mention this because sometimes airbrush artists project an image directly onto their working surface without the intermediate step of a preliminary pencil tissue. In either case, the nature and amount of drawing actually applied to the working surface would look virtually the same.

An actual preliminary drawing for an airbrush painting.

Notice that the drawing is interpreted as clean, crisp lines. Keep your surface clean and smudge-free, and avoid greasy handprints or aggressive erasures. Draw dark enough to provide a guide for the painting, but don't get heavy handed. A bold, dark line is not required. The graphite pencil point is kept sharpened. A standard, office style number 2 pencil is just about the right hardness. A softer pencil may be impossible to keep sharp. A harder pencil will negate the possibility of gently erasing away an unwanted line with a kneaded eraser later, should that need arise. Some prefer a mechanical graphite pencil to avoid constant trips to the sharpener. Sometimes it may be to your advantage to draw preliminary lines in color instead of graphite. If drawing in color, use a non-waxy pencil such as a Berol Verithin or Derwent Studio pencil. Some illustrators (working in water-based media such as airbrush acrylics or gouache) use water-soluble pencils, such as Caran d'Ache, when preparing a preliminary drawing for airbrush.

You can also see that lines drawn represent mostly complete shapes. These shapes may be handled in the painting as windows cut from frisket masks or acetate masks (or a variety of other airbrush techniques, including the use of freehand shields). So, what kinds of lines should be indicated on the working surface and which should not?

I explain the process to my workshop attendees this way:

Structural edges need to be drawn, e.g., the contour of the subject(s) against the background or an eye against the flesh of the face or the edge that defines the shape of a wheel against a tire.

Color breaks need to be drawn. If one area is red and the adjacent area is green, a line needs to define that change.

Extreme value changes (abrupt changes in contrast) need to be drawn. In chrome or glassware, for examples, reflections or refractions often appear as hard-edged, contrasting shapes.

In the case of hair on a human figure or fur on an animal, draw just enough of an indication that you have some sort of guide to the flow of the hair or growth pattern of fur when you begin the painting. Don't draw every hair.

Any soft-edge transitions need not be drawn. A gradual blend from dark to light represents a change in contrast, but a line here would show through the careful blend you create later in paint and be a distraction. A subtle shape in a portrait such as a cheekbone or dimple should not be drawn onto the art surface. A soft-edged wrinkle in fabric should not be drawn onto the surface. In short, any aspect to be painted entirely as a soft-edged shape should not be represented in your drawing. Often, if we intend to execute these kinds of soft-edge shapes using a loose mask, the shapes are drawn at the outset onto 5-mil acetate with a permanent pen to be cut later with a knife blade or stencil burner.

When preparing your drawing for an airbrush painting, remember that, often, it is what you leave out that makes a piece work. Simplifying some portion of your imagery so as to engage the viewer (forcing the viewer to complete an image in his mind's eye) can work to your favor.

If you are serious about improving your drawing skills, any professional will tell you that life drawing is the best way to learn. If you can draw the human form convincingly, you can draw anything. If no life drawing classes are offered in your area, start packing a sketchbook and sketch people at bus stops, the library, or friends and family. It's all good practice.

A Decorating Project as Simple as A-B-C

Using Artool's Great ARTMASK Friskfilm

By Janean S. Thompson
(Click on any image for a larger view!)

Decorating a kid's room can be one of the most enjoyable projects around the home. There are lots of really cool things that you can do to create a personalized atmosphere that will be enjoyed for years to come. This project is especially suited to those who have little or no airbrush experience but who are eager to complete a project.

Since the alphabet is about as basic as you can get and letters, along with learning to read, are essential parts of childhood, why not use letter shapes in the decor of your child's bedroom? Our project will be to create an alphabet motif using simple block letters, but it could be any style of lettering you prefer. Another idea would be to use the child's name spread across the wall or used as accents above the bed (faux headboard) or above a toy chest. Repetition of the letters of a name along the wall can create a visual division between two tones of paint or perhaps between painted and papered areas similar to a strip of border wallpaper.

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.

This project will make great use of Artool's wonderful ARTMASK Friskfilm product. It is a medium tack masking film that adheres to nearly all porous surfaces. ARTMASK may be designed primarily as an artists' tool, but any crafter worth his/her salt will find tons of uses for this marvelous product. It cuts and lifts easily and is easy to apply, even on large flat surfaces such as a wall. It stays put and won't wrinkle or flutter under direct assault from an airbrush. With a bit of care, it can be used repeatedly and will stand up to either water-based or solvent-based paints.

For our letter project, you will need to create letter motifs. Another source is to browse through a kids' coloring book. You can also enlarge most fonts in your computer to a large point size or take smaller images to a copy machine and enlarge/shrink/alter the size and shape to fit your needs. You will also need a roll of ARTMASK Friskfilm, a blade to cut out the shapes desired (X-Acto or snap-blade knife work well), an airbrush, and a selection of acrylic airbrush paints. (I find the Iwata Eclipse an easy to master double-action airbrush and love the different siphon feed jars available.)

Once you have a selection of letters, cut out the shapes and position them on the wall with small bits of tape (Photo 1). Pull off a length of ARTMASK Friskfilm at least one foot longer than your layout and gently press the tacky side over the letters and flatten against the wall (Photo 2). Cut around the paper letters (Photo 3). With careful cutting, the letter can be removed and painted around to create a "negative" letter. These look really great "floating" around the solid alphabet letters.

Photo 1: Printed letters (computer generated) are attached to the wall. Photo 2: ARTMASK Friskfilm is positioned over the letters, tacky side down. Photo 3: Careful cutting allows the letter shape to be saved, then painted around to create a "floating" letter.

With the ARTMASK in position, select a color and paint the exposed wall area. Allow the paint to set for a few minutes; then cover that portion of the mask and do the second letter. Remove the ARTMASK gently (Photo 4). Two people are recommended to keep the sticky side from welding against itself. With two people working to reposition ARTMASK, the ARTMASK is reusable. Remember those cutouts. A mix of colors can be used to create a great mix of solid and floating letters (Photo 5). Smashing!

Photo 4: Peeling the mask should be done carefully. Photo 5: As easy as A-B-C! Here you see both the solid and the "floating" letters. Imagine the possibilities!

Whether a small grouping of letters, random letters floating around a room or perhaps used as a border or "chair rail," this project is fun, easy and can transform any kid's room. You could also create one-of-a-kind accessories for the room using the letter masks. Have fun!

Artool Products Co.
Art bridges for painting and drawing with soft and wet mediums. Safety non-slip rulers, and cutting mats for use with art and utility knives and rotary cutters. Low-tack film for airbrushing, illustration and fine art. Airbrush templates for illustration and graphics. Body art and finger nail art accessories and paint. Manufacturer of innovative art materials, tools and airbrush accessories for fine art, illustration, T-shirt art, body and finger nail art, sign and automotive art and graphics. Artist Bridges, Cuttingrails, Freehand Airbrush Templates, Friskfilm, Artool Cutting Mats, Body Art and Nail Art supplies.

Shredded Carbon Fiber

By Charlie Barnes/CFX PAINTWORKS
(Click on any image for a larger view!)

Hello racers! My name is Charlie Barnes or Charlie B on the forums, and here is my contribution to this awesome hobby of painting RC cars. I have been painting since 1987 and have done many paint jobs from portraits to mailboxes. My true love, though, is painting RC cars-where the world of painting backwards is not???!!!

Here I will show you how I make my "carbon fiber look" with the appearance of paint shredding-kind of a cool effect for those who want something extra.


  • #1 X-Acto Knife
  • Iwata Micron, Eclipse, and Revolution
  • House of Kolor: Chrome Yellow, Orion Silver, Basecoat Black, Tangerine, and Root Beer and Basecoat White
  • Transfer tape
  • Drywall tape
1.  I lay transfer tape on the body after washing it out with 5 Star Wax and Grease Remover. You want to apply the tape uniformly so you don't have a lot of overlapping tape.
2.  Draw your graphic on top of the body to represent paint peeling off the car.
3.  With an X-Acto knife, cut out the section you just drew on the taped side of the body.
4.  Peel away the unwanted section of the tape.
5.  The body should look like this after all the tape is peeled off.
6.  Now you want to put drop shadows on your graphic to give it some depth with the Iwata Micron. You want to over-reduce Basecoat Black to give it some transparency. Then, you want to use Tangerine, also over-reduced, to accent the black. Paint the drop shadows in layers so you can "build up" the color. You never want to lay the paint on too thick! Remember, you do not want to make it too dark or the graphic will not look as "authentic" or "natural."
7.  To check the darkness of the drop shadow, use a paper towel or anything that is white to see how the drop shadows come out through the body.
8.  When you are satisfied with your drop shadows, take Chrome Yellow and spray even coats for the base of the body with your Iwata Eclipse bottom-feed brush.
9.  Since you are painting from the inside, you must back the Chrome Yellow In Basecoat White.
10.  With your X-Acto knife, peel away your next graphic and make sure no paint has bled through.
11.  Since I wanted to add more "flare" to the body, I added an extra graphic on the body. I used my buddy's GSXR for reference. It is composed of Yellow, Black, and Gunmetal Grey. I started with the Black part of the GSXR Graphic.
12.  After spraying the Black on with my Iwata Revolution, I peeled off the remaining tape, which would be Gunmetal Grey. I mixed a little Orion Silver and VERY little Organic Green.
13.  After spraying on the Gunmetal, I peeled off the front graphic where I will be putting the Carbon-Fiber look and once again spray on the over-reduced Basecoat Black. Remember to check how dark the shadows are with a paper towel.
14.  Start applying drywall tape onto the front part of the body. This will give the Carbon-Fibers mesh. To make the drywall tape form to the body's curves, use a hairdryer to soften it up and then apply.
15.  With a mixture of Pagan Gold, Root Beer, and a touch of Icewhite flakes, spray even coats onto the front of the body.
16.  As you can see, the effect is starting to come alive.
17.  With Orion Silver, spray the graphic to back your Carbon-Fiber look.
18.  Peel away the drywall tape.
19.  Spray Basecoat Black over the graphic to cover the remainder of the Carbon-Fiber graphic.
20.  With only one type graphic left, peel away the "tearing off" graphic and, with your Iwata Micron, make shadowing and metal bending effects using the over-reduced Basecoat Black. Again, check the darkness with a paper towel.
21.  To back this last graphic, use Orion Silver to give it the "metal" look.
22.  VOILA!!! The Carbon Fiber look on your RC car!!

Art Materials

New Artool Curse of Skull Master Series Freehand Airbrush Templates

By Craig Fraser
(Click on any image for a larger view!)

NEW Artool "Curse of Skull Master Series" Freehand Airbrush TemplatesArtool Products Company, Portland, Oregon, is pleased to announce the release of their latest creation in the continuing series of Skull Master Templates, designed by Craig Fraser: Curse of Skull Master! This is a totally new and fiendish addition to the ever-popular Artool stable of skull designs. Like all Artool Freehand Templates, the Curse of Skull Master Series is precision laser-cut, made from the same indestructible space-age polymer, and is designed to be entirely interactive with all other Artool Templates. And, as always, these new Skull Master templates are completely solvent proof for easy cleanup and can be used with either water-based or solvent-based paints.

Curse of Skull Masters are sold individually or can be purchased as a set. They include: "Petting Zoo" (FH-SK10), "Evil Horde" (FH-SK11), "Buccaneer" (FH-SK12, "Voo Doo" (FH-SK13), "Bonz II" (FH-SK14) and All Five (FH-SK15). Much like the famous horror films of old, we at Artool will continue coming up with template sequels to delight your twisted desires. As for what is next in this maniacal, endless line of eccentric stencils, only time will tell! Ask for them now at your favorite art supply source.

New Artool Products Company HOBBY MASK

New Artool Products Company HOBBY MASKArtool Products Company, Portland, Oregon, is proud to announce the availability of our new HOBBY MASK. This is a new clear adhesive airbrushing film, which is solvent-proof and can adhere to irregular and odd contours. HOBBY MASK is the only product of its kind and is especially suited for model making applications, such as scale autos, RC car bodies, camouflage, armor patterns, weathering accents, racing stripes, modern geometric designs and nearly any airbrush or paint masking application.

RC Car Action Magazine says, "Artool HOBBY MASK makes fast work out of masking. A must for all model builders and hobbyists!" The new Artool HOBBY MASK comes in a 6" x 10yd roll with a MSRP of $19.95, and is available now at your favorite model and hobby outlet.

For a complete listing of the Artool Products Company catalog on the Web, go to

Silentaire Technology
Silent compressors for use with airbrushes, spray guns, and air tools from Werther International.

Airbrush Workshops Gallery at the Square

Beacon, New York

Saturday, February 8, 2003

The Gallery at the Square in Beacon, New York (60 miles north of New York City) will present workshops in airbrush techniques on Saturday, February 8, 2003. These coincide with Beacon's new Second Saturday event, where shops and art galleries-with some providing entertainment or refreshments--remain open until 9:00 p.m. for the convenience of art aficionados and shoppers.

10am - 1pm
Basic Airbrush Techniques - Black and White
3-Hour Hands-on Workshop features informative articles on Watercolor paints, brushes, paper, techniques, tips and products.

Intermediate Airbrush Techniques - Working in Color
3-Hour Hands-on Workshop

The fee includes the use of equipment and all class materials. Instructor is Robert Paschal, MFA. Robert has taught these classes internationally and is the author of Airbrushing for Fine and Commercial Artists and co-author with Robert Anderson of The Art of the Dot—Advanced Airbrush Techniques. He has received the Vargas Award and American Artist magazine's Art Masters Award for Airbrush Teacher.

Class size is limited and pre-registration is required, so don't delay. For further information, go to or call 845.831.4458.

Whether you wish to use airbrush in fine art, illustration, crafts, tattoos, nails or makeup, a basic knowledge of airbrushing is necessary. Here's your opportunity!

...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 2003!