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WHICH AIRBRUSH AND COMPRESSOR SHOULD I USE FOR MY TYPE OF WORK?

 

2/12

Paper for Airbrushing — Any surface that can be painted with a paintbrush can also be painted with an airbrush. Success is not dependent upon the tool used but on the compatibility of the surface with the paint that’s applied. The most common material used in airbrush technique is paper, the surface you will likely use when learning the technique.
There are some considerations when selecting paper. Because moisture is sprayed onto the surface, you should work on a sheet that is thick enough so that buckling does not occur. Two-ply paper such as Bristol or paper of at least 145 lb. weight or heavier is recommended. Also consider the picking (lifting) quality of the paper surface. When using self-adhering frisket film, stencils or tape, be sure that the paper will not tear upon removal. Test the durability of the surface by applying and then peeling a piece of masking tape. If the surface lifts, the paper cannot be used with confidence.
The rag content of the paper is also important; the more rag, the stronger the paper. Therefore, a 50% rag content or higher is recommended. Hot press (smooth) and cold press (slight tooth) are commonly used. Heavier textured papers, such as watercolor or pastel, are less suitable because the texture will be evident in the artwork and this may not be desirable. Two-ply Bristol is well suited for student work; and for advanced artwork that is to be exhibited or sold, 100% rag paper is recommended. Similar to watercolor technique, an airbrush artist utilizes the white of the paper for highlights. Therefore, the whitest paper is best. 


Noisy Compressor/Quiet Work Space – Many people who become involved with airbrush technique already own an air source. In many instances, this is a compressor purchased from Sears or a hardware store for purposes other than spray painting. Generally, since these were not designed specifically for airbrush technique, they can sometimes be too loud when operating in the work environment. To eliminate the noise problem, some airbrushers enclose the compressor in an insulated box, which must have an opening that allows the compressor to breathe and possibly a fan to cool the compressor, as necessary.
An easier way to solve this noise problem is to locate the compressor at a good distance and run an air line into the work area, where an air regulator is attached to the end of the hose. The regulator, some of which come with a built-in moisture trap and airbrush holder, should be placed as close as possible to the airbrush station. The airbrush hose is connected to the regulator and the other end is connected to the airbrush. Because the regulator is close at hand, you can quickly and easily manipulate the air pressure.
A tip would be to let the compressor run full-blast and do all air regulation at the work station. You can also T-off the air at the compressor, thus allowing you to work with the power tools of original intent, i.e., nail gun, sander, etc. See your retailer and visit www.silentaire.com  for an extensive line of Silentaire Technology compressors.


MAC Valves – The new Hi-Line Airbrushes from Iwata look very similar to the older HP Series except for one unique feature: There’s a knob situated at the bottom front of the airbrush just below the color cup. This is the micro air control or MAC valve.
A breakthrough in technology from IWATA, this valve allows infinite control of the air flow at the head assembly of the airbrush. This is quite different from regulating the air pressure at the compressor. For one thing, it allows you to adjust the airbrush to spray a coarse stippling effect by cutting down the air flow. Conversely, by opening the air flow you will get full atomization without ever having to touch the regulator. To achieve an extremely fine line for detail work, adjust the air valve to give maximum control of the paint output. Also, by fully opening the MAC valve, the airbrush can be quickly cleaned during color changes. To paint a broad background, fully open the valve to spray a large amount of paint.
Some airbrushers find it handy to hold onto the MAC while painting, giving added stability and being able to instantly twist it open or closed at will. See your retailer and visit www.iwata-medea.com .
 


"Airbrush Quick Tips Archives"

 

 

12/11

Realer Than Real—Abstract painting was in the spotlight in the 1960’s when along came sharp focus realism. Paintings in this style were more realistic than a photograph and usually much larger in size. (This was before giclee printing was available.) Among photo realists the airbrush was a preferred tool with which to render. Painters such as Don Eddy, Audrey Flack and Chuck Close painted subject matter from gigantic portraits to still lifes to landscapes in acrylics as well as oils using the airbrush with its innate ability to spray in a manner that mimics a photograph.

Galleries that championed this art form sprung up on both coasts. OK Harris, Lewis K. Meisel and the Nancy Hoffman Gallery still exist in SoHo, New York City, within a few blocks of each other. On the West Coast, exhibits were held at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art and at San Jose State, both in CA, as early as 1971. This sharp focus look in painting was also utilized by abstract painters such as George Green, Michael Gallagher and Paul Sarkisian and was called abstract illusionism. These works are collected by major museums throughout the country and can be seen on a regular basis in Manhattan galleries.

Drain Your Tank—Most piston-operated compressors have a storage tank in which the air is held before it’s consumed. This tank tends to collect condensation and/or oil, so it must be drained periodically. At the bottom front of most storage tanks there is screw valve that is unscrewed while there is pressure in the tank to allow the moisture and excess oil to drain. Once the tank is drained, the valve is closed so that it can again build up pressure in the tank. If moisture is left in the storage tank too long, rusting can take place; and excess moisture buildup can lead to moisture in the air line, neither of which is desirable. Periodic draining will prevent both.

 

Diaphragm Compressor—This is a small and inexpensive compressor of a moderate noise level that is used in airbrush technique. Unlike a piston-operated compressor, this produces air in a pulsating manner that can be interpreted in the airbrush spray. This can, however, be alleviated by attaching the compressor to a storage tank. Normally the highest pressure available is around 35 pounds per square inch (psi). A diaphragm compressor is not especially suited for spraying high viscosity materials such as artist acrylics, but it works really well when spraying inks, dyes, watercolors and airbrush paints. It is designed to propel one airbrush at a time and is not compatible with larger spray guns. However, because of the cost factor, diaphragm compressors are well suited for beginners, students and hobbyists. See www.silentaire.com.


10/11

Inks, Dyes and Liquefied Watercolors – The airbrush will spray virtually any paint or color that exists, but in many instances, the paint must be thinned for spraying.  In the case of inks, dyes and liquefied watercolors, they come naturally in a fluid consistency compatible with spraying.  However, the term liquefied watercolor is a misnomer.  These are not natural watercolors because there is no pigment used; they are actually dyes similar to ink that are normally fugitive and susceptible to ultraviolet rays and fading.  On the other hand, inks—although of the same liquid consistency—are available colorfast and waterproof. 

For a beginner, the easiest materials to use when learning techniques are inks, dyes and liquefied watercolors.  With these, the airbrusher need not be concerned with thinning formulas or clogging the airbrush, since these materials are the thinnest colors available and rarely clog the airbrush.

A Stiff, Flat Brush – A handy tool to have in the studio for airbrush maintenance is a stiff, flat brush, e.g., a No. 4 flat bristle.  This inexpensive paintbrush is well suited for cleaning the airbrush because it enables you to get into the nooks and crannies of the color cup or the slot in which the needle gets dirty or the air cap and tip to eliminate dried paint and clogs.  A small round brush is also handy when using a bottom feed airbrush where paint may dry in the siphon intake or a side feed airbrush where paint may need to be removed from the color cup intake. 

Note that a paintbrush is a preferred tool for these cleaning purposes.  Some artists make the mistake of using a cotton swab to clean the color cup, which can deposit cotton fibers during the cleaning process that may contribute to clogging of the airbrush

Airbrushing in the Round—Frisket film is used for stenciling on a flat surface, but when an artist works on a three-dimensional surface, a different type of material must be used—and STRETCHmask from Artool fills the bill.  Because it stretches, it’s ideal when airbrushing on curved surfaces such as motorcycle tanks, sculpture, helmets, ceramics, models, etc.  This flexible and repositionable masking film is clear so that you can see through it, it cuts easily with a stencil knife or razor blade and can be reapplied after removal.  STRETCHmask has a medium tack and won’t lift paint when removed; it is solvent-proof and can be used with either water- or oil-based paints; it doesn’t wrinkle; paint does not bleed underneath; and it will not flutter from airbrush spray.  This material is excellent for use by the auto graphics painter, sign painter, fine artist, ceramicist, hobbyist, modeler, sculptor and more.  STRETCHmask is available in rolls 18” wide and 10 or 25 yards long.  See www.artoolproducts.com.


08/11

Diner/Restaurant Ware: A Hot Collectible—Throughout the U.S. from the 1920s to the 60s, pottery manufacturers produced thousands of different airbrushed plates, cups, saucers, platters, etc., for diners and restaurants. This dinnerware would sometimes incorporate the logos of the establishments or visual images that denoted the diner or just plain decorations that were easy to produce using the airbrush and stencils. These potteries included Syracuse China, Chenango China, and Sterling, among others. This type of ware is easy to identify because of its extremely distinctive airbrushed look of designs such as ducks in flight, bounding deer, Western motifs, leaves/flowers, and silhouettes or airplanes for such places as the Yankee Clipper Diner or Steer Head Steakhouse. Keep an eye out for these at your local flea market and swap sales; and there is always some for sale on e-Bay.

Simplistic and New for Its Time – The American Dadaist painter Man Ray developed a series of paintings in the early 20th century between 1917 and 1919. These were the first airbrushed fine art paintings to be shown in a gallery and were called aerographs. In today’s standards, they would be considered extremely simplistic, since they consisted of images developed by airbrushing around found objects such as tools, paper clips, paper cutouts, etc., that were used simply as stencils. When airbrushed around, repeated images—both opaque and transparent—were created that lent themselves to the look of cubism. It is said that Man Ray was primarily interested in producing paintings with a high gloss, machine-like finish. Because the paint was airbrushed onto the surface, there were no brushstrokes in the artwork—which imparted an industrial appearance.

Man Ray was introduced to the airbrush while working in an ad agency in New York City. An excellent collection of his works is held by the Art Institute of Chicago and, even when viewed today, their simplicity is astounding.

Rough Paper = Texture – There are many textured papers available today. The two used most often in airbrushing are smooth or hot press paper and slightly toothed cold press paper. But airbrush artists can work on any type of paper, from crepe to heavily textured watercolor paper and from pastel to tracing paper. Keep in mind that airbrush spray mimics the texture of the paper in the appearance of the artwork; and the heavier the texture, the more apparent that texture is in the end product. Therefore, when selecting a heavily textured paper such as 300 lb. watercolor paper, be sure you wish to incorporate the resultant appearance as part of the rendering.

Interesting effects can be achieved on heavily textured paper by spraying the paint at various angles so that the color hits only certain parts, e.g., the high parts and not the valleys. Experiment with different papers and see how you can manipulate the surface to add to the uniqueness of your artwork.


6/11

Stippling Technique:  Large Dot, Small Dot—Stippling is a term that refers to the spraying of visible dots that are utilized to create specific effects.  Both external and internal mix airbrushes can spray a stipple.  The external mix brush does it almost innately because of the method in which it sprays the paint, while the internal mix brush produces a stipple when the air pressure is lowered to 1 or 2 pounds pressure (psi) and/or when the air cap is removed.  Both work at a low air pressure for stippling.  This incomplete atomization produces unusually large specks of paint that can be controlled with the airbrush.  The spray is used to develop various textures, e.g., the rough surface of a metal casting, rust, and fabric as well as background areas or color field painting, etc.  As opposed to the soft, delicate spray usually achieved with the airbrush, artists find the ability to stipple the spray extremely handy.

Airbrush Holders – It’s quite obvious that you can’t just set the airbrush down on the work table when it contains paint or the fluid will flow onto the work surface.  It’s necessary to have an airbrush holder in which to support the airbrush upright.  Different types of holders are available ranging from the simple, flat metal holders that come with some airbrushes to the more elaborate double-holders that have regulators and moisture traps attached.  Most types consist of two hooks between which the airbrush rests.

Myriad Airbrush Applications – At a recent basic airbrush workshop program held in Milwaukee (see www.arttalk.com/workshop/workshop.htm for the next dates), a survey was taken to see in what applications the students intended to apply their new airbrush skills.  The diversity of the students was amazing, and following are some of the many responses:  illustration, fine art acrylic on canvas, fabric/T-shirt painting, wall murals, sign painting, working on vinyl, makeup for hi-definition TV, kustom auto/motorcycle painting, wood carvings, furniture decoration, plastic models, miniature figures, model railroads/dioramas, doll restoration, glazing ceramics, china restoration, wall stenciling, photographic retouching, painting on fur/feathers, face masks, fingernails and preliminary renderings of designs for tattoo clients. 

The airbrush is constantly being adapted to new and unique applications.  Key to many of these is the ability to apply paint without touching the surface with a brush.


4/11

Spray Straight – When spraying with the airbrush, point it directly at the work surface; and move your entire arm when making a spray pass.  Beginning artists are sometimes inclined to move only the wrist when directing spray, and this prevents them from getting even coverage with the paint.  Another problem can arise when spraying at an angle if the spray lifts the edge of the stencil/frisket material.  Paint will drift underneath the stencil and a hard edge will not be achieved.

 MAC Valves – The new Hi-Line Airbrushes from Iwata look very similar to the older HP Series except for one unique feature:  There’s a knob situated at the bottom front of the airbrush just below the color cup. This is the micro air control or MAC valve.

A breakthrough in technology from IWATA, this valve allows infinite control of the air flow at the head assembly of the airbrush.  This is quite different from regulating the air pressure at the compressor.  For one thing, it allows you to adjust the airbrush to spray a coarse stippling effect by cutting down the air flow.  Conversely, by opening the air flow you will get full atomization without ever having to touch the regulator.  To achieve an extremely fine line for detail work, adjust the air valve to give maximum control of the paint output.  Also, by fully opening the MAC valve, the airbrush can be quickly cleaned during color changes.  To paint a broad background, fully open the valve to spray a large amount of paint. 

Some airbrushers find it handy to hold onto the MAC while painting, giving added stability and being able to instantly twist it open or closed at will.  See your retailer and visit www.iwata-medea.com.

Your Airbrush Trigger Fell Out!--All airbrushers will experience having the trigger fall from the airbrush when they remove the needle for cleaning.  The needle runs through the trigger and holds it in place.  When the trigger falls out, the spring-loaded return lever that pushes the trigger back into a shut-off position will sometimes fall forward and drop into the housing of the airbrush.  You must pull back on the needle holder, relieving the spring pressure against the return lever, in order to replace the trigger, which seats itself on the air plunger.  You’ll know that it’s in place when you can press down on the trigger and air comes out.  Once it’s back in place, gently slide in the clean needle and hold it in place by tightening the needle chuck screw.  Refer to the instructional booklet that comes with your airbrush, usually accompanied with a cutaway rendering of the internal parts.

 
 

 

AirbrushTalk will post new "Airbrush Quick Tips" on AirbrushTalk.com. An announcement of the tips will be e-mailed to subscribers with hyperlinks to pages on which the tips appear. This new e-blast will go out six times a year, alternating with the AirbrushTalk e-newsletter. "Airbrush Quick Tips" are appropriate for beginning, intermediate and advanced airbrush users.

 

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