Volume 5, Number 2, July 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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Airbrush Questions Answered

With Michael Cacy

I have recently fielded a number of questions about airbrushing, some of which may be of interest to you, as well.

Q.    I normally paint on illustration board, but what other watercolor paper surfaces can I paint on that are flexible enough to wrap around a laser scanning drum for color separation? R. M., Playa Del Rey, CA

A.    If masking is required in the type of airbrush painting you do, forget about working on most traditional watercolor papers such as "Arches." If frisket film or other adhesive masking materials are used, removal of these materials can cause the fibers of the surface to stand straight up. However, Strathmore medium surface 2-ply paper has long been a favorite of airbrush illustrators. This is also sometimes referred to as "vellum surface." Strathmore makes a variety of surfaces, smooth and toothy, but this high quality medium surface stock has a slight tooth to the surface that readily accepts airbrush paints. Here's a tip: Notice the Strathmore "thistle" logo embossed into one corner of your paper. When viewed "right reading," you are looking at the top surface of the paper. Airbrush illustrators often opt to paint on the reverse side, which has slightly less tooth to the surface than the front side.

I have tried several of the plate finish papers designed for airbrush (usually available in pad form), but found them difficult to keep clean and smudge-free. Paint applied to the surface of these papers is also subject to unwanted skids or scratches. I prefer to have my paint stay where I put it.

Q.    I have a new airbrush, an Iwata HP-C, but have not yet purchased an air source. Would you recommend a compressor or CO2 cylinder? E. H., Denver, CO

A.    First of all, nice choice of airbrushes! The Iwata HP-C is one of the most versatile and one of the best all-purpose airbrushes I know of. I, personally, do most of my painting with an HP-C…the same one I've used for years.

Now, as to your question about air sources, both compressors and CO2 are popular, but the answer partly depends on what type of airbrushing you intend to do. With that thought in mind, let's look at CO2, first.


Getting set up with a CO2 system is likely to be less expensive than buying a studio quality silent compressor. One advantage of a CO2 setup over a compressor is that there is no noise or vibration while in operation. Check your local Yellow Pages under Carbonic Gas for a supplier. CO2 is also available from commercial refrigeration houses, fire extinguisher suppliers, and welding supply companies. (This is the same CO2 used by restaurants and bars; do not accept "dip tube" CO2, which is in liquid form.) You may not have to purchase the cylinder, as many suppliers will rent, lease, or simply supply you with one of their cylinders with the agreement that you will return it when empty for refill or exchange. If you opt to actually buy a cylinder, be advised that these cylinders must be hydro-tested (a test for stress in the metal) every few years. Not a big deal, but here in Oregon, I believe the period between tests is seven years.

The cylinders most widely used by artists are the 20 or 25lb. flat bottom bottles. The cost to refill an empty cylinder of this size around here is about $18. Smaller cylinders run out of pressure too soon, and larger cylinders are very difficult to carry or to move. Be sure, once in place in your studio, you lash the cylinder to a table leg or other support with a bungee cord or chain so that it cannot be knocked over.

While you won't necessarily have to buy your tank, you will have to buy a regulator. Art students (the shrewdest scroungers on the planet) figured out a long time ago that the best deals on regulators are at "brew-your-own-beer" outlets, not from commercial gas suppliers. If you wind up purchasing from a welding supply house or other commercial supplier, remember that you need a low-pressure regulator for CO2. An acetylene type regulator, as used for welding, is a high-pressure regulator and not what you're after.

Fittings (such as threads where the regulator attaches to the tank) are mostly universal in the U.S., so you're not likely to need an adapter of any kind. You should be able to screw the regulator right into place on the cylinder, but ask your cylinder supplier if a PTFE O-ring is required where the tank stem meets the nut on your regulator. Otherwise your system may be subject to undetected leakage. If an O-ring is required, install a new one each time you change over to a new tank. (Don't just re-use the old one.) PTFE plumber's tape is a good idea on all threads in your system.

So, if you've got an airbrush connected to a hose connected to a regulator connected to a CO2 cylinder, you're ready to paint. Remember to close down the knob on top of the cylinder itself (not just the regulator) when you are finished painting for the day. The knob probably has arrows and the words "open" and "close" on it. Otherwise (due to undetected leaks around threads), if you are careless, you may find yourself with no pressure next time. Then depress the trigger on your airbrush to bleed off any compressed air from your regulator so as to prevent any prolonged stress. There, your system is now "off."

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CO2 System vs. Compressor

CO2 is quiet, vibration free, requires no electricity, and comparatively economical to purchase.

When empty, a CO2 cylinder must be returned to the supplier to be refilled or exchanged.

Also, illustrators work at a lower average pressure setting (air pressure is measured in psi or pounds per square inch) than do, say, T-shirt airbrushers. Most of my work is accomplished at about 25lb. of air pressure with an HP-C (less when I use a Custom Micron). A T-shirt artist uses a lot more air pressure due to the viscosity of paints used and the need to penetrate the surface of the fabric. I know T-shirt people who work at 60 to 75 psi.

A CO2 system is more appropriate for those who intend to work at lower pressure settings, like illustrators. If you intend to push a lot of pressure through your system, obviously you'll need to replenish your CO2 more frequently. CO2 is not appropriate for those who work at high-pressure settings (over 40 psi) because pushing constant or even frequent high pressure through a CO2 system will cause air lines and your regulator to get frosty or literally freeze up. If you intend to paint at high pressure, purchase a compressor, instead.


So, you intend to work at high pressure, or just don't want the hassle and expense of having to return a cylinder when it runs out? Then you're in the market for a compressor.

Diaphragm type Air CompressorI don't recommend the cheap (under $100) hardware store variety of small, diaphragm type compressors for serious airbrush artists. They generate a lot of noise, vibration, and heat. Most offer no way to regulate the output of air pressure. And, because the force of air feeds directly off the motor, the air pressure generated is inconsistent.

Smart Jet Piston Type Air CompressorHowever, for the casual airbrusher, there are a number of relatively inexpensive new piston type compressors on the market. While most don't feature holding tanks for the compressed air, they are compact, lightweight, and (the ones I've tried, at least) seem to work quite nicely.

Hammerhead Silent Air CompressorThere are a dozen or so reputable brands of more sophisticated studio quality silent compressors available in a variety of sizes. Which compressor will work best for you is determined by what kind of painting you intend to do (and, of course, your budget). If you are curious, the compressor I use in my studio is a 1/2 hp Medea Hammerhead model. Whatever model you select should include the following features:

  • A holding tank. This is the tank which stores the compressed air so that the air pressure you get is constant. Most compressor motors are designed to cut off once tank capacity has been reached, so the motor is only operating when the tank needs to be recharged. Most "silent" type compressor motors only make about as much noise as your refrigerator.
  • A regulator. This, of course, is the device that allows you to govern the appropriate air pressure setting.
  • A moisture trap. Keeps moisture and other impurities out of the air path.

So, the bottom line: If your budget allows, I recommend shopping for a studio quality silent compressor with a capacity to suit your needs.

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Beginner Landscape - Easy and Fun To Do

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

Years ago when I began to experiment with airbrush work on my canvases, I wanted to do simple exercises to learn how to control the air flow, how to determine the viscosity of the paint that best suited the look I wanted to achieve and methods that would give the best looks with the easiest techniques. I had seen repeated references to torn paper templates in the literature. It seemed a great way to control images, and most of the materials used in these templates are recycled, so they didn't cost a cent. That appealed to my sense of economy and my desire to get started immediately. So using a few sheets of torn newsprint, the very first scene I painted was an impressionistic mountainscape. I loved it!--Not only creating the templates (something for nothing), but also painting the scene, and the end result was very striking. Whenever I teach a basic airbrush class, I always include a simple landscape and the students seem to like their results, too. It's a perfect "beginner" project to share.

All you need is an airbrush and air supply, a white substrate upon which to create your painting (rag mat board is great for practice) and the colors you wish to use (blue for sky, cream to light rose for horizon area, a soft greenish-gray for the distant mountains, deep gray-green for the foreground mountains). You will also need some paper towels and recycled papers and cardboard/mat board for templates.

Template materials can be anything from old ads to scrap newsprint and paper towels.

Start by tearing the templates to create the illusion of mountains. Some of your stencils should have jagged peaks, some less angular, as most mountain ranges are varied from peak to peak and range to range. My templates are made of mat board, a trash mail ad, office cardstock and paper towel. The paper towels were crumpled to create a soft-edge template to paint around and create cloud shapes. Remember that using a white substrate means where you do not paint will remain white. This is great for creating skies and deep valley mists between the ranges in this mountainscape.

A soft tone is vital to achieve the look of distance. You can easily control the tone, making a soft or dark range with the same color.

Paint in the sky, being careful to keep the tone soft, and leave some impressions of cloud shapes. A soft, early morning sky is our goal. Use about 1/3 of your substrate surface for the sky. After misting on a soft blue tone, add a whisper of soft pink just at the horizon. This will anchor the sky to the mountains and make it draw the eye.

Progressively darker tones bring the ranges closer to the viewer.

Select a template that you like for distant mountain ranges and apply the first range with a very light touch and using the soft grayish-green tone. Be cautious to keep the tone soft because deeper tones bring the image forward. Darker tones will be used for the closer ranges. If you notice the image of the completed painting, the far range of mountains was applied using only a part of one of my stencils. It peeps out from behind a closer range, seeming a bit more realistic. You seldom see ranges that do not disappear and reappear behind ranges that are closer to the viewer.

The completed artwork is just one example of a "start-up" project that is easy and fun.

Create the look of a slightly darker tone of gray-green for the second range. This is the same color as the first lightly applied range, but it is airbrushed more heavily.  Also, the area beneath this stencil is filled in with a wider area of coverage between it and the third range.

Using dark gray-green, airbrush the third range.  Notice in the finished artwork that it is painted in well below the top of the peaks. This coverage and the darker color act to bring the range forward.

The final range is most heavily painted, using the darkest gray-green tone. It is also possible to add subtle texture to this range by immediately pressing a crumpled paper towel into the still-wet paint. It gives the appearance of trees and shrubs.

Don't be hesitant. Try airbrush and you will love it. The looks you get cannot be attained with any other art media.

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.

The Art of Airbrushing Makeup Part Two: What Product Line Do I Use? (continued)

by Bradley M. Look

Let's now turn our attention back to which airbrush makeup lines are currently available. Because this list is quite extensive, it can be accessed at - JULY 2003/BradleyLook/index.htm. Products are listed by their brand name, as well as the name of the manufacturer. Additionally, you'll find colors, size amounts, and other pertinent information listed. For example what is the chemical makeup of a product? That is to say, is it considered water or alcohol based? Or is it something else? What is the proper cleaner to run through your airbrush when you're finished spraying? That's always an important one to know so as not to clog up your gun. I've also listed which products are good for doing a beauty makeup and which are better suited for fantasy or prosthetic work.

All of the brands listed are pre-reduced, so they're ready-to-use straight from the bottle. To atomize, spray between 3 and 6 PSI. Remember that the process of airbrushing makeup should be a pleasant one. Using pressure higher than necessary is not only uncomfortable for your model, but also displaces more product in the air, which is unhealthy.

Now while every attempt has been made to make this a complete list, I am sure that one or two might have been inadvertently left off. New makeup products pop up everyday. You'll find the listing pretty extensive, so I would highly recommend that you print out a hard copy as reference: - JULY 2003/BradleyLook/index.htm. This will help you with any web browsing and ordering you might want to do in the future.

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.


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

Streakin' is a technique used to create texture to a plain color. Streakin' makes any paint job look like it is in motion while standing still. It can even develop into other graphics, like ghosts and ghoulies escaping the paint job, or create a water rippling effect. The possibilities are endless! Streaking is a cool effect that will catch anyone's eye. Whether a racer or a custom painter, streakin' is a way to be different from the rest. There are many ways to use the streakin' method, and I will show you one of them.

1. After washing the body, I applied mask. A really good mask is Artool's Hobby Mask Masking Film.
2. Using my Iwata HPC and a reduced Createx Black, I applied drop shadows to my front graphic.
3. I then applied my second graphic on top of the first one to create a "layered" look. I then used pin-striping tape to separate the side of the car and masked the bottom portion of the separation.
4. With my HPC, I used Createx Opaque White and proceeded to do my streaks. Some are thin, some are thick and some are dagger strokes. The key is to do the strokes randomly.
5. I backed the streaks with Createx AutoAir Iridescent Blue.
6. I peeled the bottom portion I masked of the separation and was ready to do more streaking. Since the bottom of the basecoat was going to be Yellow, I did not want the Yellow to look flat. To give it some texture, I decided to use Yellow's complimentary color, Violet. (Complimentary colors are the opposite colors of a color on the color wheel.) Whew! That's a lot of color! I proceeded to apply streaks of Violet--thin, thick, random streaks until I got the desired look. I shot Yellow to back the Violet, and then backed the Yellow with Opaque White.
7. I peeled the pin striping tape and shot Createx Pearl Silver.
8. After peeling the second graphic, I used the Violet with my Iwata Revolution to make shadowing effects on the graphic and then backed it with Silver. I peeled the pinstripe outline of the graphic and shot Opaque White to further define the graphic.
9. I peeled the pinstripe front around the first graphic and made the necessary drop shadows to give the illusion of the graphic looking layered. I then shot Yellow for the pinstripe and backed it with White.
10. I peeled the final graphic and used the Iridescent Blue to make the shadow effect. I used a paper towel behind the clear graphic to see how the Blue came out. When I was satisfied, I then backed it with White.
There ya go! Streakin' without Security chasin' you down!!!


Vertical and horizontal opaque art projectors, transparent overhead projectors, waxers, stat making equipment and spray booths.

Artool's Nail Master Stencils

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

Ya know, I've been searching for years to figure out a way to get my better half to accept my chosen hobby a little more--to find a way to excuse all the messes, overspray, paint spills and all-around nuisance I am when I'm airbrushing one of my projects.

Finally, after YEARS of searching, I've found the answer!! Artool's Nail Master Stencils!!

Why didn't I think of it before? There are so many advantages to learning how to airbrush women's' nails. First of all, for those of us that have wives, imagine the money you'll save her. You'd not believe the prices some places charge to spray paint on nails. You're paying money for something you do all the time at home for free anyway! Secondly, for the single fellows out there, knowing how to do a woman's nails is the best chick magnet since money! Sure, some of your pals might make fun of you, but who's going to be laughing when they're home alone and you have a house full of female friends? Sure, they're exploiting you, but who cares?

Now, if you're still not convinced, look at it this way, the wife will accept the messes you make when you airbrush and may even help you clean up later. What more can you ask?

Artool's Nail Master Stencils are made from a flexible plastic material (Mylar, I believe) and are impervious to solvents. I've been using thinner to clean mine and have yet to notice any degradation of the stencils. The stencils come in a wide variety of shapes & forms such as French Manicure (which almost ALL women love) and many other shapes that can be oversprayed and inverted to create all sorts of interesting lines and pinstripes that are usually done by hand with a paint brush.

The stencils are sized to fit almost any hand and are easy to use. To begin, my wife brushed on a coat of Artool Nail Master Basecoat (ARTOOL NM510), which is included in the set. After this dried, I placed the French Manicure stencil (ARTOOL NM-604) on her fingernail. Once it was down, I sprayed powder white nail color (NM 162) on the end of her nail that was not covered by the stencil. This was done using an Iwata Eclipse HP-CS gravity feed airbrush. I would recommend using a gravity feed airbrush when using the French Manicure stencils due to the fact that you'll use so little paint. In the picture below, you can see my first attempt at using the stencils:

Looks good, doesn't it? The paint is water-soluble by the way. Goofs are easily fixed with water and a rag or Q-Tip. I couldn't believe how easy cleanup was! Here's a pic of my second attempt:

For my first try, my wife held the stencil down with one hand while I sprayed the other hand. This worked well at first, but I soon realized I was covering up the work I had just done with overspray once she switched hands. I then realized that I could hold the stencil down myself with little trouble with one hand while I utilized my airbrush with the other.

Granted this was my first try. I didn't think I did too badly with it, seeing as I'd never used anything like it before. The nail color is thin as water and goes on easily and evenly; plus it dries so quickly that you don't have to worry about the color seeping up under the stencil. It dries almost immediately!

Best of all, the missus didn't give me any grief for making another mess with my airbrush & painting tools!

Fellows, whether you're single or married, buy some of these. It'll pay off quickly. You'll save money, make new friends, and finally end some of the arguments about the latest mess you made on her countertop with overspray. Besides, you could even charge your friends half what they pay the salons to airbrush their nails for them. They're happy, you're happy, everybody's happy! You can't lose!!

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

New Compressors for Airbrushers

New SCORPION II TT Compressor from Silentaire

The Scorpion II TT is the newest compressor in the Scorpion series. This model has a twin piston pump and an air tank, which makes it ideal for prolonged use. It's portable, compact and requires no maintenance. The sound level of the Scorpion II TT is barely above a whisper. A manual shut-off valve allows one or two airbrushes to be used simultaneously, and two coiled airbrush hoses are included. The Scorpion II TT is ideal for fingernail painting, commercial art, fine art, cake decorating, ceramics, crafts, hobbies, taxidermy, commercial art and dust control/photo retouching.

Special Features:

  • Moisture Trap & Filter
  • Regulator and Gauge
  • Airbrush Holder
  • On/off switch
  • Automatic Shut-off
  • 2 Coiled Airbrush Hoses
  • 2.5 lt. Tank

Maximum Pressure 50 psi
HP-rating 1/4 HP
Compressor Dimensions - 11" x 11" x 10"
Weight of Compressor - 16.75 LBS

Visit your retailer to see this new compressor and see for Silentaire's line of fine products.

New POWER JET LITE Compressor from Iwata-Medea

The latest addition to Iwata's acclaimed Studio Series Compressors, the Power Jet Lite, features a powerful twin pump, 1/6 hp motor, and is equipped with an adjustable pressure regulator for precise adjustment of airflow as well as a moisture filter. Built with Iwata's Smart Technology, it automatically shuts off when not in use. A high-power compressor that's economically priced, the Power Jet Lite doesn't have a tank reservoir, yet delivers all the power necessary for use with the high paint flow, multi-purpose Iwata Eclipse airbrush and the new Eclipse G6 pistol grip airbrush. As with other Iwata Studio Series compressors, the Power Jet lite comes complete with an air hose and adapters so that it can hook up to any brand of airbrush. It's housed in a protective case, is inherently quieter and is oil-less. Visit your retailer to see this new compressor and see for Iwata-Medea's line of fine products.

...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.

Airbrush Workshops


Basic Airbrush Techniques / Intermediate Airbrush Techniques

Saturday, June 14 Gallery the Square, Beacon, NY

Friday, November 7
Portland, OR - Place to be Announced

Instructor: Robert Paschal, MFA



Two-Day Advanced Airbrush Workshop

Saturday, October 4, and Sunday, October 5 Gallery at the Square, Beacon, NY

Saturday, November 8, and Sunday, November 9
Portland, OR - Place to be Announced

Instructor: Pamela Shanteau

Tuition for all above workshops includes the use of equipment and all materials used in class. Seating is limited, so sign up now! This is an opportunity not to be missed!

For further information, see or call 845.831.4458.




Look for your next issue of AirbrushTalk in September 2003!