AIRBRUSH APPLICATIONS & TECHNIQUES
Robert W. Parkin

CHOOSING SPECIFIC AIRBRUSH COLORS
Every color has a specific opacity, hue, value and chroma. These ratings are important in airbrush technique, since color blends are optically created. In traditional painting colors are physically mixed on a palette.

Most Acrylic Colors are labeled on every container for Opacity, Hue, Value, Chroma, Lightfastness and Pigment Names as well as safety information. Refer to Label Information.


THINNING ACRYLIC PAINT FOR AIRBRUSH APPLICATION
Liquitex Medium Viscosity Concentrated Acrylic Colors can easily be thinned to flow properly through an airbrush. The proper thinning procedure is determined by the type of surface to be airbrushed and by durability desired for the final paint film.

Absorbent Surfaces:
Paper, fabric, plaster, Liquitex Modeling Paste, bare wood and primed canvas.
Thin paint with water or Flow-Aid Water (FAW).
To create FAW, mix 1 part Flow-Aid to 20 parts water.
Fabric: Wash prior to airbrushing to remove sizing. Colors must permeate the cloth and be seen as a ghost image on the reverse side to be permanent. After 3 days cure time, the fabric can be machine-washed or dry cleaned. Resulting colors are permanent.
Surfaces absorb paint differently. Spray a test piece prior to spraying actual surface.
For more information refer to: Part 2 Applications & Techniques: Fabric


Non-Absorbent Surfaces:
Hardwood, plastic, metal, masonry
Thin paint with Airbrush Medium, Liquitex Fluid Mediums & water or Liquitex Fluid Mediums and Flow-Aid Water.
Thinning with water only may cause poor adhesion, cracking, flaking or peeling.
Abrade surface for increased adhesion.


A. Thinning with Water or Flow-Aid Water
Add 50% water or FAW to the paint and mix thoroughly. Add more water if necessary to produce the desired effect. Color may be thinned up to 80% with water. Some colors may require more or less water due to individual pigment characteristics. Adding water reduces pigment concentration and color strength.

Strain to insure proper flow through airbrush.
After several airbrush layers it is possible that the surface will no longer be absorbent. When this occurs, subsequent airbrush layers must follow directions for Non-Absorbent Surfaces.


To increase absorption on absorbent surfaces, paint flow through airbrush and reduce paint build up and tip clogging use FAW instead of water.
Use this mixture instead of water and follow directions for "Thinning with Water'.

B. Thinning with Liquitex Airbrush Medium
Liquitex Airbrush Medium is a 100% acrylic binding system specifically formulated for thinning acrylic colors for airbrush application. Mixing colors with Airbrush Medium will ensure that the colors do not lose their flexibility, durability or adhesion.

Mixes easily with all Liquitex Medium Viscosity Concentrated Artist Colors to produce airbrush paint with the proper viscosity for airbrushing. It contains specific additives designed to retard drying time, improve the flow of acrylic paint through an airbrush, decreasing airbrush clogging and paint build up around the airbrush tip.
Can be mixed with Liquitex High Viscosity Artist Colors.

Liquitex Iridescent and Interference colors contain mica flakes that may require a larger airbrush nozzle and greater air pressure for consistent spraying.
Can be mixed with all Liquitex Paints, Mediums and Gesso.


Airbrush Medium Mixing Directions

Mix 1 part Airbrush Medium into 1 part Medium Viscosity Concentrated Artist Color.
Mix thoroughly, adding more Airbrush Medium as needed. The proper sprayable consistency for acrylic paint is that of light cream. As more Airbrush Medium is added the intensity of color will be decreased and the transparency increased.
If mixture is too thick to flow through airbrush either increase air pressure or addwater to thin airbrush paint mixture. Do not exceed 1 part Airbrush Medium to 1 part water.

The proper viscosity, will depend on the air pressure supplied, type of airbrush and proximity to the working surface. As the paint is thinned, air pressure can be lowered and the airbrush held closer to the working surface for greater detail. As the air pressure is increased the airbrush is held further from the working surface.

MASKS
Masks cover and protect areas not to be painted. Stencils and friskets are 2 types of masks. Masking paper can be taped over larger areas.

Stencil
A thin sheet of material in which a shape or pattern is cut, through which paint can be applied to the surface below.

Frisket
Frisket films are usually 3-mil clear vinyl with a low tack adhesive on one side.
If an area has been painted, allow to dry completely. Apply frisket to cover area to be protected.
Burnish frisket to make sure it's flat, with no air bubbles.
To improve adhesion of frisket film to canvas, use a fine weave canvas and apply 1-2 coats of Gloss Medium and Varnish over area that is to be covered.
Using a sharp razor knife and light pressure, carefully cut frisket to desired shape. Remove unwanted frisket and apply next color.
Do not allow frisket or tape to remain on the surface for periods longer than a day.

Tape
For straight lines or to hold masking paper use drafting tape or Scotch T" 31 1. It has a low adhesive tack, which will not disturb the dried acrylic paint it is applied over. Follow directions for frisket, substituting tape for frisket.

Protecting Delicate Airbrush Areas on Canvas for Masking Procedures
Allow sprayed area to fully dry.
Using a clean, soft brush or spray application and carefully coat area with Gloss Medium and Varnish. Allow to dry.
Continuing airbrush application over painting surface as needed. Repeat as necessary.

AIRBRUSH CLEANING
Because Most Acrylics are water-soluble, they can be easily cleaned from the airbrush while wet. Do not allow acrylic paint or mediums to dry in the airbrush. Use airbrush thinner and spray though the airbrush with the paint holder removed. Then removed the nozzle to soak and clean it with thinner. I use this for acrylics and enamels so that the nozzles remain as clean as possible.

While working
Back flush clean water through the airbrush, periodically. You may get paint build-up on the tip of the airbrush needle and in the spray cap. Remove build-up using your fingernail, occasionally removing the needle for a more thorough cleaning. While taking short breaks, airbrushes can be stored in a container of water, with tip submerged, to keep the paint from drying. Do not immerse the entire airbrush in water.

Final Clean Up
Use water, an ammonia based window cleaner or airbrush cleaner to spray through the airbrush or back flush by placing the finger over the front of the brush (depending on type of airbrush).
Spray cleaner through the airbrush and into a paper towel.

Allow some cleaner to remain in the airbrush for about 15 minutes to loosen any stubborn deposits.

Follow this by spraying water through the brush until clean.

Remove acrylic that has dried onto the outside of the airbrush with denatured alcohol.
Do not soak plastic washers, seals or handles in alcohol.

HEALTH WARNINGS

When spraying, use an effective dust or particle mask, approved by NIOSH.

Airbrush in an enclosed area. Airborne spray particles will travel widely.

Airbrush enclosure should have adequate ventilation, with vent for incoming air and fan for exhaust.

Read paint label. Cadmium pigments are toxic in mist (spray) and are considered to be potentially cancer causing if inhaled. They should be avoided in spray technique. Liquitex Cadmium Hues are non-toxic in mist and can be used in place of Cadmium colors for spray applications.

Always keep the work areas clean of airbrush overspray. Do not eat or smoke in the studio.

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