A Dozen FAQ's/Answers
Following are 12 Frequently Asked Questions about the airbrush and
airbrush technique. These have been compiled from various letters and
e-mails sent to ARTtalk.com, AirbrushTalk.Com, and airbrush manufacturers.
1. What is an airbrush?
An airbrush is a small, air-operated tool that sprays fluid (paint,
ink, dye, stain, glaze, etc.). It resembles, and is held like, a pen.
2. How does an airbrush work?
The airbrush must be attached to an air source to spray. The artist
turns on the airbrush by depressing a trigger, which on most airbrushes
regulates the amount of paint delivered. As the artist pulls back on the
trigger, a combination of air and paint are sprayed.
3. What type of airbrush is best for me?
This depends on your desired application. Most artists today use single
or dual action, internal mix airbrushes because they offer the most
control and the finest of sprays. However, single action, external mix
airbrushes are very popular for hobby and craft applications, the spraying
of ceramic glazes or high viscosity materials, or where cost is a factor.
(They are less expensive.)
4. What types of surfaces can be worked on?
All surfaces can be airbrushed paper, canvas, plastic, metal, glass,
wood, leather, skin, etc. The key is to insure that the material sprayed
is compatible with the surface.
5. What is masking?
Masking--or in airbrush vernacular, frisketing―is any system in which
you block spray from invading a specific area of an artwork or surface
with some type of stencil, masking material, frisket film, template, tape,
or found object.
6. When is it appropriate for me to use an airbrush in my own work?
Anytime, but particularly when you want to achieve a soft look with no
visible brush strokes.
7. What kinds of paint can I use with the airbrush?
All paints are sprayable (oils, acrylics, watercolors, automotive
paints, enamels, alkyds, etc.) as long as they are thinned to a
consistency that enables them to flow easily through the airbrush.
8. Are airbrushes hard to clean?
No, it's quite a simple task. But it is important to develop a habit of
regular maintenance by flushing with the appropriate cleaning agent for
the paint or material that is being sprayed. The airbrush should be
cleaned between color changes, with a thorough cleaning at the end of the
9. Is airbrushing safe?
Yes, but use a common sense approach. Remember that you are spraying
materials into the environment and neither you nor anyone else should
inhale them. It is essential to work with good ventilation and exhaust
fans (if not an airbrush spray booth) and to wear a carbon filter
respirator when spraying toxic materials such as automotive paint.
10. What types of air sources are available?
Three different types of air sources may be used with the airbrush.
First is the airbrush compressor; next is a carbonic gas tank (CO2
or nitrogen); and third is the propellant can (for limited applications).
11. How much air is necessary to operate an airbrush?
As a rule of thumb, you need a cubic foot of air (cfm) at 30 pounds
per square inch (psi) to propel an airbrush. You can work at lower or
higher pressures, depending on the materials sprayed and the effects
desired, but the cfm requirement remains the same.
12. Are instructional books and videotapes available on the airbrush
There are many books on the market on airbrush technique, particularly
those that discuss basics, as well as an array of videotapes. Your local
art materials supply store will have them in stock. There is also a basic
introductory course in airbrush technique located online at www.airbrushtalk.com.
It is common for the novice to ask the foregoing questions. But, for
those more advanced users who have technical questions, you can e-mail
them to airbrushtalk.com at firstname.lastname@example.org
to be forwarded for appropriate responses.