Volume 7, Number 6, March 2006

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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Common Airbrush Questions

by Robert Paschal

Throughout the years in classrooms, by letter and via e-mail, beginning students and those just curious have asked a variety of questions about some of the more fundamental aspects of airbrush equipment and techniques. Inquiries as basic as what an airbrush is to the more complex aspects of air pressure and how it relates to airbrushing have been answered.  Following are a few such questions/answers:

What is an airbrush? An airbrush is a small pen-shaped tool that sprays fluids in a precise, controlled manner.

How does an airbrush work? Pressurized air (from a compressor, pressurized gas tank or propellant can) is forced through the airbrush, causing a vacuum that draws the paint into a stream of air. The air and paint are thoroughly mixed (or atomized) and then sprayed out.

How do you select an airbrush? The best airbrush for you is dependent upon the desired application (fine art, mural painting, illustration, hobbies and crafts, fingernails and makeup, ceramics or sculpture, etc.) and/or your budget. Most artists today use single- or dual-action internal-mix airbrushes because they produce the finest sprays. All airbrushes can be used for all applications, but some are more suited to specific applications than others. For example, if you work large and need a large paint reservoir, then an airbrush that is adaptable to a jar is necessary. On the other hand, if you work on objects where minimal amounts of paint are used, e.g., photo retouching, then a slotted gravity feed airbrush is the best choice. The various types of airbrushes--side feed, gravity feed, and bottom feed--are available from all manufacturers in student to professional grades with corresponding prices. Your retailer will be happy to assist you in making the best choice to meet your needs.

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.

What types of paints can be sprayed through an airbrush? Most--if not all--paints can be airbrushed. However, it is very important to reduce or thin paints to a consistency no thicker than milk so that they are fluid enough to be sprayed. For example, artist acrylic colors are thinned with water and oil paints are thinned with oil mediums before spraying.

What surfaces can be airbrushed upon? All surfaces are compatible with airbrushing in the same way that all surfaces can be painted with a paintbrush. A key factor here is compatibility of the paint with the particular surface, which is dependent upon proper preparation of the surface. For example, canvas must be gessoed and aluminum must be primed prior to being painted with acrylics and lacquer, respectively.

If you use an airbrush, must it be used for every aspect of your work? Definitely not! Most artists who employ the airbrush in their artwork also use other types of paint applications, from paintbrushes to photo silk screens to palette knives to digital prints. Don't feel that you have to spray in eyelashes when you should be using a 00 sable paintbrush!

Most people are introduced to the airbrush out of curiosity and frequently experience frustrating periods of trial and error during the learning process. So any information that can be obtained will be of great help.   Investigate workshops and classes, videos and books through your art supply retailer and online.

The Ultimate Airbrush Handbook (Watson-Guptill Publications) by Pamela Shanteau with Donn Shanteau is a treasure-trove of useful information. Included are chapters on choosing equipment and supplies; operating the airbrush; developing images; textiles; murals and signs; body and fingernail art; scale models and crafts; fine art and illustration; and automotive airbrushing. Readers will also find tips and how-tos from highly respected professionals in various airbrush genres, including Tom Grossman, Lindy Brown, A. D. Cook, Kirk Lybecker, Andrea Mistretta, Robert Anderson and others.

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.

The Birds and the Bees--Decorating New Digs for Both

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

With the approach of spring and summer, many people begin to spend more time out of doors.  It’s also a time to spruce up the flower beds and gardens and to get the areas around the home in tip top shape for all the upcoming outdoor activities.  One thing that makes a garden area of any size more enjoyable is the introduction of bird houses.  If you are lucky enough to have birds actually build nests in one of your houses, it gives you many hours of enjoyment watching the fledglings grow and prosper.

Birds are considered pests by some, but if you watch them in a bed or garden area, they actually benefit the plants by nibbling the insects that might otherwise damage your plants.  Birds are often colorful, their songs are restful and seeing young birds take flight is a total joy.  Decorating bird houses is great fun and will add a lot to the garden experience.  Bright colors beacon the birds because, unlike many animals, birds can distinguish colors. Birds use colors and patterns to communicate with each other, to find food and shelter.  So bright colors will be noticed and utilized by the birds in your area.

Other animals can also benefit from shelter.  Orchard Mason Bees (sometimes called Blue Orchard Bees or BOB) are very beneficial to farmers and large-scale agriculture and pollinate up to six times the number of blossoms per day as do honeybees—and they do not sting.  These tiny bees love special small burrows for raising their offspring.  The bee houses are easy to make or are available from many farm and ranch supply catalogs.  You can also decorate these houses with colors that have been tested to attract bees of several species.  Blue seems to work very well, so some part of the BOB house should be blue.


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

Supplies you will need for the bird and bee house decoration include:  An airbrush (I seem to always fall back on my trusted Iwata Revolution CR Airbrush because I love the ease of color changes and the speed with which you can refill the cup); an air supply (the Iwata Studio Series Smart Jet Compressor is a quiet, dependable workhorse); an all-wood bird house; a BOB house; acrylic airbrush craft colors of your choice; and miscellaneous paper towels or cloth rags for quick pick-up or clean-up.  Optional is an artist’s brush for fine detail around openings and a sealer, if desired.

Bright colors will attract birds to a new dwelling.  Add charm and character to the bird house with a bit of speckling or accent color.

Begin by painting the bird house.  I chose a bright blue for the body of the house and red for the roof.  I was especially careful to get good coverage so that the colors would last.  The weather on the plains where I live can be brutal to things outdoors.  Accent color, just to jazz it up was selected and the final tonal application was a dark color to make it look a little worn.  You can also sand or scrape through the base colors to get the look of wear and age if you want to make it look “settled” into the garden rather than an obvious new addition.

A BOB house is easily made from a length of 4x4, cut and drilled.  Add a decorative roof and you have a great addition to your garden or a smashing gift. Blocking the cells of the bee house will keep them clean during the painting process.

For the BOB house,  I first plugged the holes to prevent any paint from entering the egg chambers.  I am unsure if that makes any difference, but I thought it was better to be safe than sorry.  I selected bright blue for the house, similar to the color used for bee traps in the southern states.  Bees do seem to be attracted to blue.  For the roof I selected lime green for contrast and high visibility.  Other combinations that look good are red and blue, green and blue and yellow and blue.  Almost any colors will do.

Sealing the colors will help keep them from fading if that is important to you.  But I love the way paint ages through contact with the elements, so I used no sealer coat.

One finished bird and one bee house ready to install in the garden.

The finished bird and bee houses will hang throughout the garden with the other bird houses in my collection.  They are fun to make and decorate.  Try one and you’ll agree.

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.

Quick-Sketch Portrait

By Kent Steine
(Click on any image for a larger view!)

For my first contribution to AirbrushTalk, a simple preliminary study-sketch will be executed in five basic sections. As an illustrator who specializes in pinup, glamour, and portraiture, it has always been a challenge to express more life and beauty within a painting than is possible with photography. It amounts to an impression of the same experience we see and feel in life. If a portrait doesn't engage your attention as a real person does, it has failed in its purpose. The manner or style of execution is irrelevant whether it be cartoonish or on-model realism; or painted with an airbrush or bristle. I’ll be using photo reference of my favorite model Shannon for this demonstration.

The first stage involves constructing the head, its planes, and structure. I begin by sketching out the head on tracing paper in pencil. This allows me to make easy and fast corrections. The simple guidelines are transferred to a piece of 11” x 11” series 310 illustration board. I will be using jar acrylics for this study, with flesh tones consisting of a dulled value 8 yellow and a dulled value 6 red-orange. That's it. Using an Iwata HP-C Airbrush, I begin by spraying an even transparent layer of the yellow over the entire area that will be flesh tone. This warms the red-orange, and acts as the initial layer of a glaze. I have added points of detailed information such as eyes, brows and the location of the mouth with a sable dry-brush application.

This establishes a point of reference in order to maintain accuracy within my overall drawing. I now begin to locate and identify the darkest darks with the dulled red-orange, i.e., shadows and form. At this stage, I am spraying in a freehand manner, without frisket or shields. I am also beginning to work the "entire" piece, working from the large to the small, from the simple to the complex.

With a variety of curves and Artool shields, I now begin to establish the various planes and shapes with their respective "edge modulation.” For me, the importance of using a curve or shield is not to create the shape, but rather modulate the contours and edges. Sharper edges placed in front of softer ones create depth and the illusion of focus. At this point, I am modulating edges, with form and light throughout the entire picture. As the image begins to take shape, I am using both shield and freehand drawing techniques for the various passages.

Same thing for the hair, which is best represented with two contrasting values for it to read well. Here, I am looking for forms and shapes to identify and exploit. In this case, we are dealing with simple cylinders. Think of hair as mass shapes and simple forms rather than individual strands.

At this stage, the portrait is nearly complete. With the addition of a few soft highlights in the flesh tones, re-establishing the edges throughout with focus and contrast, I am ready to apply the finishing touches with both the Iwata and my sable brushes. This involves sharpening focus and increasing contrast. I do this wherever I want “our” eyes to be drawn. With this and most portraits, that would be the face and, more specifically, the eyes. Other elements such as the flower and dress are produced with a combination of airbrush and dry-brush technique. I would produce additional focused studies on various elements such as the flower before starting the “finished” artwork, and would consider this a successful study in order to proceed.

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New Products from Artool

Artool Products Company, Inc. is proud to announce the release and availability of their new Freehand Tiki Master II Airbrush Templates by Dennis Mathewson, their new Freehand TRIBAL MASTER Airbrush Template Set by Steve Vandemon and their popular Freehand Airbrush Instruction Video (approximate run time: 60 minutes) in a digitally remastered DVD version by Eddie Young.

Freehand Tiki Master II Airbrush Templates by Dennis Mathewson--Wow, talk about paradise kewl—Dennis has gone over the top this time with his aloha visions!  You will now be able to enjoy the second installment of his insanely popular Hawaiian signature series airbrush templates from Artool.  Create your own Polynesian paradise with Topical Tribals, Hula Spirit, Two Face Tiki, Tiki Joe, Freakin Tikis and Leilani.  These new Artool Tiki Master II creations can be purchased individually or pick up the whole set and give your artwork a tropical twist—guaranteed to put you into the spirit of ALOHA!

Custom Automotive Airbrush Graphics Supplies   Buy Now Click Here
Airbrushing anything that moves!

New Artool Freehand Tribal Master Template Set By Steve Vandemon--This has been a highly guarded top secret mission for the last year!  Steve Vandemon has been working with Gabe McCubbin at the Artool Chemtox Labs to fine tune his first signature series Artool Airbrush Templates.  With this new Artool set you will now have the opportunity to work alongside Steve to easily capture the unique styles and intricate contours which he has perfected throughout his career as a professional artist. TRIBAL MASTER is sold as a set only, which contains 42 (yeah, you read it right: 42!!!) positive and negative templates in various sizes with two incredibly creative concepts: TribalNometry and CirqueDuTrible.  Pick up a Set and be blown away by how many Kewl Kulture FX can be achieved with these babies!

New Digitally Remastered Artool Freehand Instructional DVD By Eddie Young--This is still a powerful learning tool for those airbrushers wanting to learn the techniques of airbrush illustration for animation.  Eddie Young demonstrates his signature series Artool Freehand Airbrush Templates, FH 1 and FH 2.  These first two original Artool Templates incorporate the most common shapes you will need to create a vast range of airbrush effects for illustration, automotive and sign art, T-shirt art, hobbies, crafts and design.  Discover many examples of shortcuts, tricks and airbrush color formulas that will allow your own artwork to flow easier, faster and to ultimately achieve professional results.  The techniques Eddie Young uses on this Artool DVD are as powerful now as they were over ten years ago, and it is still the only instructional teaching aid for airbrush animation!

These new Artool products are now available at your favorite Iwata-Medea-Artool supplier.  For a complete listing of the Iwata-Medea-Artool catalog on the Web, go to www.ArtoolProducts.comE-mail:

Coast Airbrush
Coast Airbrush is a specialty store primarily for everything Airbrush. A massive warehouse full of every airbrush supply imaginable. Our 130 page catalog will make any airbrush artist drool for more. Attracting the worlds most famous Airbrush Artists as their customers. Take an airbrush class from the industries most celebrated artists, or just surf the website and check out new things or take some serious hang time in the Tiki Lounge..

Free Airbrush Event

Saturday, March 25th,  9am-5pm, at Meininger, 499 Broadway, Denver, CO.  Come to Meininger's Denver store where they have gathered several airbrush experts for this free airbrush event.  From 9:30 to 11:00 a.m., Iwata representative Tom Grossman will show you the proper and effective way to repair, clean and maintain an airbrush--knowledge that will save you time, money and aggravation!  (303) 698-3838 - features informative articles on Watercolor paints, brushes, paper, techniques, tips and products.

Airbrush Workshops presents

Basic Airbrush Techniques
with Robert Paschal
Saturday, March 25, 2006 – 10am – 5pm

Here’s your opportunity to complement your artwork, be it fine art, hobbies/crafts, mural painting, interior decorating, tattoos or body art, nails or automotive painting—by learning the basics of airbrushing, from operation/maintenance to compatible materials and techniques, as you complete hands-on exercises.

Intermediate Airbrush Techniques—Special Effects
with Pamela Shanteau
Sat. – Sun., April 29-30, 2006 – 10am – 5pm

Discover a treasure trove of great techniques and airbrushing aids that create mind boggling effects and details with amazing ease.  On the second day you’ll complete the painting started on the first, using your newfound techniques.  A working knowledge of basic airbrush techniques is a prerequisite.

Materials and equipment are supplied for use in both classes.  Seating is limited to provide personal attention, so don’t delay!

The above classes will be held at, Gallery at the Square in Beacon, NY—just 60 miles north of Manhattan on Metro-North Railroad’s Hudson Line and close to Stewart-Newburgh International Airport.

For information, visit or call 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 May 2006!