Airbrush Basics

Airbrush basics for those new to airbrushing here is some essential information to help you get started in the right direction making your experiance a lot less frustrating.

by Kevin Mayes

For some time now, airbrush artists have had to gather their knowledge from any source available. Fortunately, there have been a number of very good books published in recent years. One that I highly recommend is by Radu Vero, titled “Airbrush: The Complete Studio Guide”. This is an excellent book for all levels of study. It is my hope that this newsletter will also be, or at least become, that kind of source for helpful, intelligent information on the art of airbrushing.

What I hope to achieve with this newsletter is to impart the knowledge and experiences that I have had and to relate the experiences of those who wish to share the same by writing me. This is intended to be a platform for the exchange of knowledge, experiences and practical information concerning the airbrush. It is in this context that I encourage you to participate in this exchange and thereby enhance the growth and enjoyment of this art form.

When I first began my work with the airbrush, there was literally no one from whom to to learn the ins and outs of the medium. I learned from trial and error (often there was more error than trial) and from studying samples from magazines and posters. Trying to imitate the work in those samples was frustrating at best. Fortunately, I was able to find an air brush illustrator years later who was kind enough to share his knowledge and skills with me. Thanks to him, I was able to achieve my goals and reach the level that I now enjoy. Thank you, Dave Willardson, for your honesty, direction and inspiration. I am very grateful.


self portrait by kevin

Above is a ‘self portrait’ by airbrush artist, artist Kevin Mayers. I would like to thank Kevin for letting me reprint this news letter series here on How To Airbrush. I think you find them very informative.

My advice…………..don’t hesitate to contact an illustrator artist you admire for advice or infor- mation. Most, I have found, are more than willing to help new talent. You can do so on our airbrush artist forum at Airbrush Technique.Com


Airbrush Basic Maintenance 

Proper care of the airbrush is essential to insure a positive experience

First of all, clean your airbrush often! It’s a good idea to rinse the brush with clear water frequently during your work sessions. This will help reduce the build-up of pigment around the needle at the head assembly. Some build-up of pigment is bound to happen regardless and the easiest solution to this is to clense the brush with a cleaning solution. You can use a cleaner purchased from your local art store or you can make your own using the following formula.




Although this is an effective formula, it is moderate in strength. I do not reccomend using more than a 30% ammonia/ 70% water mix. Anything stonger could damage your airbrush!


A number of people have asked what to do to keep the paint flowing instead of clogging and spattering. Often it is simply a matter of keeping the tip of the needle moist. Periodically, during your work, it is helpful to simply apply a drop of water to the tip of your needle. Remember that you are blowing air along with the paint! Air dries paint, and under the right atmospheric conditions, it can dry it as it comes out of the nozzle!



All too often, people will be intimidated by an airbrush to the point that it ceases to be fun.

Remember, the airbrush is only a tool! It is not the be-all and end-all in art! This simple tool can, when used on its own or in combination with any other medium, be pleasurable and just plain fun to work with.

Everyone, including me, gets frustrated with this darn contraption from time to time. When this happens, take a moment and let patience be your guide. Patience is one virtue that is needed when airbrushing. Sometimes it tests your patience, but you can win out over it. Ask yourself where you went wrong, or if the instrument is acting up; ask yourself what is it doing and where could it be coming from? Do a little trouble-shooting and calmly remedy the situation. If needed, set the project aside for an hour then go back and start again with a fresh out look. Should that not work, and then set it aside over night before trying again. If you are still puzzled then contact someone with airbrush experience and enlist their help with the problem. The trick is to not let the medium defeat you.

No matter what medium you work in, such as airbrush or watercolor or oils, there will be days that are problematic and you learn to work through them. Look at it this way: With every problem or glitch you encounter, you gain knowledge. Knowledge is what we seek. And with knowledge comes skill. Your work will only improve with each thing you learn.

So, don’t take things too seriously and HAVE FUN


Airbrush Fundamentals  

To be or become proficient with any art form, there are certain fundamental things you must do to achieve your goals. First and foremost,you should draw as often as possible. As I learned early in my career, you will never be able to paint better than you can draw. So, draw whenever you can. Secondly, practice the elementary exercises found in most airbrush books. Those annoying little circles, squares, dots and gradations are invaluable to improving your skills. These exercises are also a great way to ‘warm up’ before painting. Third, be observant. Observing things and people around you can be a great source for inspiration and reference.

I hope that you have enjoyed this premier issue and that you will look forward to the next.

Kevin has a great DVD series on airbrushing pin up art be sure to check it out on his web site

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