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The Beginners Guide to Airbrush

Updated on September 4, 2019
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This author loves to research and write about traditional cultures.


airbrush painting of a skull
airbrush painting of a skull | Source


Airbrush is an air operated device used to spray different media. The tool is capable of spraying dye, ink, foundation or paint depending on the application. Tiny droplets of paint is produce by high velocity compressed air, needle. Mechanisms in the tool include the trigger, venture, mix point, feed system, reservoir, tapered needle.

Airbrush components and tools

The tool comprises the airbrush stylus, hose, small air compressor, mixing dish and pipette.


  • Trigger
  • Venture
  • mix point
  • feed system
  • reservoir
  • tapered needle


The tool is classified by 3 characteristics, those that use bottom or top feed mechanism for the paint, trigger action and mix point. Feed system pertains to paint reservoir mounted below or atop the airbrush.

The mix point is either external or internal. Internal mix of air and paint produces a finer spray. In the case of external mix the paint/air exit the tool before mixing. Internal mix airbrushes are more expensive than the external ones.

The trigger and needle placement regulates spray pattern. We have single action airbrushes and dual action ones. Dual allows simultaneous adjustment of color flow and air pressure.


Airbrush | Source

Uses of Airbrush

Airbrush is used for many artistic applications. They include photo retouching, illustrations and art. Others are application of makeup, clothing’s, and finger nail art. They are used in street art, automotive industry, temporary tattoos and airbrush tanning.

  • photo retouching
  • illustrations
  • art
  • makeup
  • murals
  • clothing
  • finger nail art
  • street art
  • automotive industry
  • temporary tattoos
  • airbrush tanning

Temporary tattoos and finger nail art

It is easy to create amazing tattoo designs that lasts from 1 to 2 weeks. To create them a tattooist uses a stencil and sprays ink to create the tattoo. Finger nail art on the other hand involves direct application of desired image on the nail.

Makeup and Textile

Airbrush makeup application is popular in the movie industry, funeral and special effects industry. Textile applications on airbrush clothing is practicable on apparels, jackets. Other applications are on T-shirts, hoodies, jeans and pillow cases.

Street art and Murals

Artistic expressions are found in murals or street art using the medium. They create custom designs for tourists on canvas or t-shirts.

Photo retouching and illustrations

Photo retouching has to do with objective removal. Common in digital imagery, glamour photography or photo manipulation. Airbrush illustrations are common in graphic novels, comics, book covers and advertisement. The medium is perfect for rendering, realism and an alternative to digital.

Spray Technique

Spray technique involves freehand manipulation, air pressure, distance, trigger action and distance from object. Other parameters are type of paint, equipment like double or single action device.

Ways to Airbrush

Under the airbrush stylus tightly fit a connect air hose onto a nozzle. Using thick paint will clog the system so you need a thinner. Enamel paint and paint thinner produce harmful fumes therefore use a respirator or mix in a well-ventilated area (preferably outside).things to consider before spraying are needle setting, air pressure, thickness of paint.

Painting on Canvas

Prepare the paint by mixing the thinner and paint to the right consistency in a mix tray. The stylus has two types of loading mechanism top or bottom loaders. Use pipette to transfer few drops of paint to stylus.

Adjust the air compressor dial to 10PSI. The pressure is adjust based on the type of work. To apply paint hold the device 2 inches from canvas point the nozzle and push or pull trigger.

Use lower pressure for finer details and vary distance from canvas for thicker effect. Test spray to test the color consistency before applying the stencil. Once finished allow the paint to dry for 24 hours.

How to Apply on Canvas

  1. prepare device
  2. connect hose to compressor
  3. use thinner to mix paint
  4. add 5 drops of paint to cup mechanism
  5. adjust air compressor dial to 10 PSI
  6. hold 2 inches from canvas
  7. use a stencil then engage trigger to apply paint
  8. allow paint dry for 24 hours

Apply on Makeup

Use only airbrush kits and cosmetics meant for makeup. First step is to wash face with moisturizer and cleanser. Then connect hose to nozzle on compressor. Add 4 drops of regular foundation inside cup on top of stylus.

Adjust control dial to 10 PSL then hold stylus 5 inches from face. Press trigger to apply and use a circular motion for even application. Apply the spray in layers until you attain your desired look.

To apply bronzer and blush add 3 drops into airbrush. Hold 4-5inches from face press trigger around cheeks. Warming be careful and avoid any contact with the eyes or nose.

How to Apply Airbrush Makeup

  1. wash face
  2. moisturize
  3. connect hose to compressor nozzle
  4. add 5 drops foundation to stylus
  5. turn compressor dial to 10 PSI
  6. hold stylus 5 in from face
  7. press trigger to apply foundation (small circular motion)
  8. use separate airbrush to applying blush and bronzer
  9. flush device after use

10. store device

How to Clean After Use

To avoid clogging pour cleaning solution into stylus and leave for 20 seconds. Use a paint brush or cotton swab to remove paint in cup. Press trigger to spray the cleaning solution till cup is empty. Use 15PSI pressure and continue process until clear.

Types of paint

Type of paints used in the device depends on the application. Common types are acrylic, lacquer, enamel. Thinning solutions are lacquer thinner, water, enamel thinner.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


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