Airbrushing On Black Surfaces

Airbrushing On Black Surfaces

Airbrushing on black surfaces tutorial will introduce you to one of the most fun and challenging surface colors to airbrush on, black. Written by Don Johnson, airbrush artist to see more of my work.

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In the Transparent, Opaque Colors Practice Painting article we covered airbrushing on a light colored surface and adding a under painting by adding violet to create a shadow, using the painting surface color (white in this case) to act as our highlighted areas and spraying yellow over it all. Here we will be having some fun on a black surface with our flower design. I generally don’t paint flowers but it’s a great design for you to practice the techniques presented in this article.
When working on a light colored surface we concentrated on adding areas of shadow and letting the surface color help us create highlighted areas in our flower. When working on a black or dark color surface it’s just the opposite as we will be concentrating on using color to create high lighted areas and letting the surface color help us create the areas of shadow.

As you should have found out by now just about any kind of paint sprayed thru and airbrush is transparent. Spraying a yellow over a black surface is not going to work very well for that very reason. So our under painting this time will be accomplished using white and our colors applied over the under painting.


black painting surface

Airbrush Materials we’ll need to practice these airbrush techniques, one sheet of Frisket, Hobby knife, Black foam core board, Light colored Staedtler Lumocolor pencil or a light colored crayon, Double action airbrush, airbrush ready paint, colors white, yellow and red

Black foam core board is a great inexpensive surface to practice airbrushing on dark colored surfaces and can be purchased at any craft or art store.

Staedtler Lumocolor pencils come in 6 different colors are non- permanent dry markers that are water-soluble, can be wiped off many surfaces such as plastic, metal, leather etc. and will wash out of most textiles. These can be purchased at most art stores and you will find them very handy for design lay out on all sorts of surfaces.


Frisket Film


design transferred

This time we will be transferring our flower design onto the Frisket surface and not the painting surface. To accomplish this simply over lay the flower design with the Frisket (backing still on the Frisket) and trace the flower design with your light colored Staedtler pencil or crayon.


applying frisket film


applying frisket film

Pull the backing off the Frisket film and attach it to the foam core board.


cutting design out


cutting design out

As we did in lesson four and five go thru the entire design and cut it out with your hobby knife. This is great practice as cutting designs out on your painting surface is something you will be experiencing as long as you airbrush. Use new blades often, apply very little pressure and let the blade do the work. You are more or less just dragging the hobby knife over the Frisket.


airbrushing design

Now if we where to start the painting process as we did in lessons four and five by removing the smallest pedals first you can see on dark colored surfaces this could create a problem. As we are rendering areas that will be lighter in color or highlighted areas of color on the dark surface it would be very hard to accomplish this as we did in lesson four and five. Once again when working on a dark colored surface you have to think sort of opposite as to when you are working on a light colored surface.

If we continued on as we did in lesson four and five removing the Frisket from pedals you see that after we add our white to the smallest pedals and go to work on the next level of pedals we would be adding more white to the areas that will be in shadow on the smallest pedals, not good.


airbrushing design

I replaced the Frisket over that smallest pedal and remove the center and we will start our painting with that section just the opposite as we did in lesson four and five where the center was the last section we worked on. There is no real need to airbrush the center to a pure white what we are shooting for is a light gray. To accomplish a pure, bright white over black would require many layers of white and sense this is just an under painting that we will be adding color over a light gray will work fine.


airbrushing black surfaces
airbrushing design

With the center in shades of gray we move on to removing the Frisket from the largest group of pedals and adding white to those as pictured. Areas that we used violet in during lessons four and five we will now leave black or dark gray, around the center, bottom side of the pedals.

This could very well be a skull or horse on a black Harley tank or helmet the techniques used here with this flower on black foam core board are the same you would use on those surfaces.


airbrushing black surface
airbrushing black surface step 12


airbrushing black surface step 13

Continue removing the Frisket from the largest group of pedals and adding you white.


airbrushing design on black step 14

With the largest pedals completed now move onto the second group of pedals keeping in mind where your areas of shadow will be and where the areas of high lighted color will be.


airbrushing black surfaces step 15


airbrushing black surfaces step 16

And lastly we’ll airbrush the smallest pedals working in toward the center of the flower on the pedals leaving our areas that will be in shadow a darker color.



start airbrushing yellow


airbrushing yellow onto the design

After cleaning your airbrush out add yellow to your color cup and airbrush yellow right over the white we just airbrushed into all the pedals. Stay back away from the painting surface several inches and apply the yellow in a nice even shade over all the pedals.


airbrushing center of design


airbrushing center design


airbrushing center of design completed

With all the pedals in yellow now use the free hand shield we made in lesson five to add texture to the center of the flower with red. Work the center with the red the same way we did in lesson five, have fun with it.


design on black surface airbrushed

With the center of the flower complete remove all the Frisket and admire your work, compare this flower to the ones you did in other lessons. The flower is much more striking on a black surface and the areas that are in shadow look much more natural. Using the free hand shield to add the shadow areas (violet) made the flower look much more mechanical in the end than this flower in lesson six. Try lesson five again but this time free hand airbrush the violet into the pedals instead of using the free hand shield to see what a huge difference it makes in the final out come.

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