Beginners Airbrush Basic Info

Beginners airbrush basic info answers some of the more basic questions that a newcomer to airbrushing may have.

My name is JoAnne Kenne, also known as “heartless”. I live/work in Central Wisconsin, USA. I started my airbrush journey in 2005, but don’t get to play/spray as much as I would like to.

Anyway, I hope to help with some of the more basic questions that a newcomer to airbrushing may have. First off, I want to say that the “Airbrush Products Reviews section of can be very helpful in trying to decide what to get. There are many helpful reviews on everything from airbrushes to paint posted there.

The first, and most common question is “What kind of airbrush do I get?” That is kind of like asking which do you prefer – Ford, Chevy, Dodge…you get the idea. What I can tell you is to stay away from the cheap knock-off’s – they are not well built and often chase off new airbrushers because they don’t work well and the newbie thinks it is them, not the airbrush, that is the problem. Save your money, and a lot of headaches, and don’t buy them.Best advice I can give, is do your research and get the best airbrush that you can afford.

Badger and Paasche both make very affordable brushes that are great for beginners.

Once you get your airbrush – take the time to become familiar with all of it’s parts by taking it apart and putting it back together again a few times. Having a parts diagram – a “blown apart” picture showing all the parts – is very helpful for this. You may get a parts diagram with your airbrush, but if not, they can usually be found online at the manufacturers website (some online retailers also have them available) Pay close attention to how everything fits together, and where – and be careful not to lose anything! There are little tiny parts in there! An example of a Parts Diagram: This happens to be for a Badger 200 Single Action. (I own one of these, which is why I have this particular diagram.)

Badger model 200 airbrush



Airbrush Compressor


Next question is usually “what kind of compressor should I get?” Again, kind of hard to say specifically, but “where” you will be painting can help you decide. If you are in an apartment, or going to be painting in a house where noise would be a factor, then you will probably want to get a “silent” type compressor. There are several brands on the market, or if you are the handy type, you could build one yourself (directions for this project can be found elsewhere).

If noise is not a big concern for you, a regular home garage type compressor works great. A compressor with an air storage tank is best, the compressor wont need to run as often. Whichever type of compressor you get, you will want to add a second moisture filter to the system. Compressing air creates heat, as the air cools, it condenses, or creates moisture, and that moisture needs to be removed before the air reaches the airbrush.

Yeah, yeah, I know, there is a moisture filter built right on to the compressor, right? Well, guess what, it is too close to the source of the heat to do any good at all. You need to give the air time, and distance, to cool off. Adding at least 8 feet of line and then a moisture trap will remove MUCH more moisture than the trap that is right on the compressor. You should be able to purchase a second moisture trap/filter from the same place you get the compressor. You may also need to purchase some additional fittings/adapters to get everything put together. Also, it is recommended to “seal” the threads on all fittings with either teflon tape, or beeswax to prevent leaks – just be careful to not get it in the air passages.

Here is a pic of my “indoor” compressor with the second moisture trap installed. The coiled hose that runs between the compressor and the trap is about 8 feet long and came with the compressor.


airbrush compressor

A word or two about air pressure settings… Most “newbie’s” make the mistake of not setting the pressure high enough because they are afraid of damaging their brush. A good place to start is a “working pressure” of around 35-40 psi. Working pressure is set by pressing the trigger of the airbrush and checking the pressure gauge on the compressor. Adjust the knob to get the pressure around the 35-40 psi mark while air is blowing thru the airbrush. You may need to adjust up or down from that point depending on what you are painting and the type of paint being used, but this is generally a good starting point.

Another question that comes up frequently is “What kind of paint?” Here again, it is more a matter of choice – and what you plan to paint on. There are two basic types – acrylic paints (water based), and solvent based paints (urethanes, or “uros”). For most projects there is an acrylic paint available that will do the job, and for a beginner – acrylics are probably the best way to go.

That being said, for the beginner needing a cheap “practice paint” there are a couple of very economical options. One is food coloring & water – super cheap and easy to get. The other is “India Ink” – not quite as cheap as food coloring, but still very reasonable. It also has a little more “substance” to it than food coloring/water, making it a very good choice for practicing with – a bit more like “real” paint.

Don’t go buying the cheap craft paints at Wal-Mart or Hobby Lobby and think they will work in your airbrush – they don’t work very well at all. The pigment in these paints is not ground fine enough for airbrush use, even when thinned down, and will cause you more frustration than anything. Save your money and get paints that are intended for airbrush use, there are plenty of them out there. Figure out what you want to be painting on – T-shirts, autos/motorcycles, fine art (canvas or illustration board) and purchase the appropriate type of paint for that surface.

A few other tips… Where ever you plan on painting, take the time to protect the walls and floor against paint spills and over spray if needed – and take my word for it – there will be spills and over spray! A basement or garage it may not be needed, but a spare bedroom – you may want to use a drop cloth or two.

Keep your painting area well ventilated – we want you to stay healthy! An open window with a box fan blowing out will help keep the air clear.

Get a good respirator – a cheap dust mask is NOT enough!! Breathing paint fumes and over spray is not a good thing! Again, we want you to stay healthy!!

And most of all – Have FUN!! Sure, practicing the basics is important, but you can have fun with those basic strokes, too!

Airbrush Terms and Definitions

Airbrush terms and definitions covers commonly used words, terms relating to airbrushing and their definitions.

I have been adding to this list from the day this web site went up; it’s an on going and continuing project that I add to as word comes to mind and as time allows. Please feel free to print this list off but please do not post it on the internet else where. Book mark this web site and come back often as I add something new almost daily. I would like to thank all the subscribers to Airbrush Technique Magazine for their support as by subscribing they help in part to fund this web site which benefits the entire airbrushing community.


*Acrylic – Synthetic resin used in water based paints.

*Air tank capacity – Air tank capacity represents the volume of air stored in the tank and available for immediate use. The larger the tank, the longer the air tool usage in situations where the air tool requires more SCFM than the compressor can deliver.

*Adhesion – The ability of dry paint to attach to and remain fixed on the surface without blistering, flaking, cracking or being removed by tape. Types of Adhesion related to paint.

*Mechanical Adhesion – An interlocking of two materials because of shape, texture, etc. causing the two materials to remain affixed to one another. Commonly called tooth, you scuff a helmet to create tooth for the paint to bit into.

*Chemical Adhesion – A chemical reaction of two materials that bonds the two together.

*Adhesion promoter – user over a insoluble finish to increase the adhesion of topcoat being applied.

*Air Cap – Refers to part of your airbrush that fits over your tip to protect it during none use, refer to AIRBRUSH page for more details

*Atomize – Breaking up of paint into fine particles.

*Basecoat – highly pigmented color used as a base color. Single stage does not require clear coating. Acrylic and Euro’s do require clear coating.

*Complementary colors – colors opposite each other on the color wheel.

*Cool Colors – Colors that are predominately blue in tone. Cool colors are those which trick the eye into receding an object in a painting and of course they are opposite of warm colors.

*Color Cup – That part of your airbrush where you put paint, please refer to AIRBRUSH page for more info.

*Dual Action – Type of airbrush please refer to AIRBRUSHES page for more info.

*Enamel – glass like opaque or semitransparent coating on metallic or other hard surfaces for ornament or as a preservative lining, smooth hard coating

*Extender – added to paint to increase to alter the paint by making it cover more, become more transparent.

*Fluid Nozzle – That part of your airbrush in the front where paint pass’s thru, the size of your Fluid Nozzle will determine the type of paint you can spray easily and the coverage you will get, see AIRBRUSHS page for more details

*Gravity Feed – type of airbrush, please refer to AIRBRUSHES page for more info on this subject.

*Lacquer- paint that dries by solvent evaporation, now very common in the US any more

*Latex – milky fluid of mixed composition found in various plants and trees used for commercial purposes.

*Masking – process of cover an area where you do not want paint, masking tape and paper, liquid masking, transfer paper, Glad Press N Seal, frisket, are just a few products used to mask areas.

*Metallic Color – paint containing small particles of aluminum flake.

*Needle-Tapered metal pin that is inserted into your airbrush, please refer to AIRBRUSHES page for a picture.

*Opaque – the opposite of transparent. Light can not be seen thru it and will not allow what’s under it to show thru. 

*Orange Peel – If your paint after it’s applied looks like a orange peel you’ll understand this terms, happens to us all once in awhile cause by improper application or reduction of the paint.

*Over Spray – Your hard earned money going up in smoke as over spray is material that dos not stick to the area you are applying paint, you know that fine dust that settles around your shop or studio. Cure LOW PSI , always take the time to find the correct pressure setting when you are spraying paint, airbrushing. To high and you are wasting material, putting your health at risk and making a mess of your shop.

*PSI – Pounds per square inch refers to air pressure setting on your compressor regulator.

*Pigment – coloring matter used as paint or dye as an insoluble suspension, color with or as if with pigment.

*Primer – coating applied to a substrate to give corrosion resistance to add adhesion properties and to protect from chemicals. On substrates such as canvas it is applied to give you a smoother surface which to paint on.

*Primer-Sealer – Foundation used to improve adhesion and to seal your painting surface.

*Receding colors – Colors which trick the eye into pushing objects to the back or foreground, cool colors do just that, your blue tones

*Reducer – Product which lowers the viscosity of paints like enamel, urethane and auto air

*Respirator – If you own an airbrush, spray gun you should own and WEAR one of these. A mask worn over the nose and mouth to prevent you taking in toxic ( and yes water base paints are included in this) pigment particles while you’re creatively spray your paint. There are many different kinds of respirators please make sure you are using the correct type for the material you are spraying.

*Retarder – Added to paint to slow the drying time.

*Run – Weather your painting a house, car or fine art on canvas apply to much paint to a given spot the result will be a run.

*Sag – a big run as defined above

*Sealer – Applied to seal the surface you intend to paint from absorbing paint

*Side Feed – Type of airbrush please refer to AIRBRUSH page for more info.

*Single Action – Type of airbrush please refer to AIRBRUSHES page for more info.

*Siphon Feed – Type of airbrush please refer to AIRBRUSH page for more info

*Solvent – Liquid that dissolves a resin, usually that part of a paint that evaporates as the paint dries.

* Surface Prep – preparing the surface to be painted to accept the paint you are about to apply.

*Toner –ground pigment used to produce colors

*Tint – used to change another color or to add color to a clear base

*Tip- Please refer to AIRBRUSHES page for more info.

*Transparent – Opposite of opaque, allows light to pass thru objuects underneath can be seen thru it.

*Trigger – That part of your airbrush where you place your finger to control air flow and the amount of paint you are applying, please see AIRBRUSHES page for more details.

* Umber – What a great sounding word meaning brown pigment, its actually hydrated iron manganese ore from color shades of olive to the dark rich browns which are called burnt umber. Now aren’t you gad you know that.

*Undertone – Subdued color of limited intensity that leans character to the dominant color; or in common terms a less intense color.

*Viscosity – refers to how thick a paint is. Physics of a fluid and the resistance to flow

*Warm Colors – tones of red-orange, opposite of cool colors, colors that trick the eye into drawing an object in a painting forward.

*Water Based Paint – Paint which is generally made with acrylic or latex thinned with H2O (water) these paints the pigment is suspended in water, the water evaporates the paint dries.

Airbrush Tip Dry

Airbrush tip dry ok so you are airbrushing along and all of a sudden the paint flow stops, or less paint starts to flow now what? Don’t get excited, bent out of shape this is just one of those little things that occasionally happens while airbrushing. No matter what kind of paint you use paint will occasionally build up on the needle tip, commonly called “tip dry” and you’ll need to clean it off. This seems to take place a bit more often when using white but will happen with any color weather you are using water base or solvent based paint. With thicker paint (higher viscosity) like textile paint (Createx, ETAC, Aqua Flow) the more often tip dry seems to occur.

So how do you go about cleaning the dried paint off the tip of your airbrush needle tip? Carefully of course you do not want to bend the tip of your needle. Below are some examples of how you go about carefully cleaning your airbrush needle tip.


airbrush tip dry


airbrush tip dry two


Pictured above some of airbrush artist favorite tools, a Q-tip and cleaning solution. When using water based paints you would use airbrush cleaner like that made by Medea. If you are using solvent base paint as in automotive custom paint you would use lacquer thinner or reducer.


airbrush tip dry 3


The first thing you will want to do is to remove the tip guard. This is accomplished in different ways on different brands of airbrushes but most tip guards just screw off. Remember lefty lossie, righty tighty when trying to unscrew the tip guard.  Please refer to the airbrush manufactures recommendation on how to remove the tip guard.


airbrush tip dry 4
using q tip to clean

The Q-Tip method of removing the paint is pictured above. With the Q-tip soaked in the appropriate clean solution carefully wipe the tip of the needle off.


airbrush tip dry 6

Above is the most preferred method of cleaning tip dry off the airbrush needle tip. Using your forefinger and thumb finger nails simple clean the paint off the airbrush needle tip being careful not to bend the tip. This actually becomes almost second nature after you have been airbrush for awhile. There you go the mystery of “Tip dry” solved and how to over come it. I hope you found this helpful, remember its just paint, relax and have fun.

Airbrush Tech Tips

Airbrush Tech Tips From Members At

Have your “Airbrush Tech Tip” or technique included on this page receive full credit with your name appearing with your tech tip . Just e-mail your tech tip to me to have it posted . Check back often as we will be adding to this OFTEN !!!!!



**Don , The best and easiest paint strainer that I’ve ever used is a 2 oz. syringe like you find at the veterinary supply. Take the plunger out and cut the needle end off back to where it starts the taper to the needle. Cover the end with a small piece of fine silk screen, taping it around the barrel of the syringe, and over the cut off end. Pour the paint in and insert the plunger, pushing it all the way down. It does a fast job of straining paint, especially fabric paint. Later, Tom Eddleman THANKS TOM


**While I’m working I use Glass Plus cleaner to clean my airbrushes between color changes etc.. ( water based Paints ) Works great and is fairly inexpensive. The following I do every night: I pull the needle out and using a plastic bottle with york top I force Glass Plus down the length of the airbrush. Put the tip of the plastic bottle in back end of the brush where you just pulled the needle out and squirt the Glass Plus into the brush. (do so while holding airbrush over waste can with trigger depressed and pulled back) Do this until just clear fluid comes out. Insert needle, pull back out make sure there’s no paint, none your done. With solvent based paints just replace Glass Plus with thinner or reducer and follow as above. This has worked for me for years and I very seldom take my airbrushes apart, once a month maybe. When I do take them apart I soak all the parts for a few minutes in airbrush cleaner than clean them. You might find the Airbrushes Brushes cleaning kit very helpful, I do. Don Johnson / Airhead

**HEAT SETTING ART WORK ON T-SHIRTS — If you don’t have a heat press try this. Use an clothes iron set on the highest setting with an old paper ( one layer of the bag) on top of your art work hold the iron on your art work for 20 to 30 seconds keeping the iron moving all the time.


**Airbrushing Black T-Shirts Airbrushing black t-shirts is fun and profitable so don’t turn this work down.

1) using a mixture of 50% water and extender spray the area where you will be airbrushing.

2) Using a iron and teflon sheets or heat press , heat set this area for 10 to 15 seconds. The idea here is to mat down all the fiber giving you a nice surface to airbrush on

3) With aqua flow white lightly mist in area you just heat set. This will give you a light area to lay your design out and will give the airbrush colors you are using in the design a light background to bounce off. If you just airbrushed red onto a black shirt it would be pretty hard to see the red, put white on first than try it, works much better.

4) I use #2 pencil to very lightly layout the design, if complex design I will draw on tracing paper than transfer the design over to the shirt. Do this by flipping the tracing paper over and retracing the design on the back with soft pencil. Position tracing paper design face up on shirt with piece of acate on top, tape design to shirt keep it from moving, now once again trace your design on the acate. Using the acate allows you to apply pressure while you trace the design ,without it pencil would go right through paper into the shirt. When you have gone over whole design remove acate and tracing paper and there on the shirt you should have your design. Keep your pencil lines very faint as they will be hard to cover with the airbrush paint. You should be good to go, paint it, top coat it and heat set. Have fun. Don Johnson / Airhead


**Checking to see if your surface prep was done good enough , the right way on hard surfaces such as helmet’s, plates etc. is easy. Apply your paint to a small section allow to dry, take a piece of masking tape apply it over your just painted area, pull it off, if paint comes off with the tape you better re-think how you prep that surface. Better you find out than your CUSTOMER !!! Taking the time to do it right the first time saves you time, money and is the cheapest form of advertising you can get.


**When I need to clean the tip of my Paasche VL ,I use a round tooth pick. It is wood and doesn’t scratch the brass tip .You can also use a Kabob schwer. It is bamboo.


**If your going to paint on plastics……any plastics, here are the steps to get it to stick the best it will……..

Remove all parts that you don’t want painted wash with soap and water,,,,,

Rinse very well and dry clean with a good wax and grease remover skuff with red scotch brite pad until no shine shows anywhere clean with a good wax and grease remover spray with a good adhesion promoter….

Bull dog is what i use, it comes in areosol and quarts spray with a good primer sand primer as per instructions….

I usually use grey scotch brite pads until smooth spray base color spray artwork use a good clear coat…..

The only good rattle can clear i have found is rustoleum crystal clear……

hope this helps have fun

Chuck Newberry, Texas.


**If you have a choice beteew Excel and Xacto blades, BUY THE EXCEL! They are sharper to start and last much longer than Xacto. The cost was the same for a 15 pack of either, and Excel is make in the USA, unlike Xacto!


**Before spraying in a large area with a concrete floor take a hose and moisten the concrete. The extra moisture will act as a magnet to pull dust and dirt out of the air. It will also cool it down a little bit if it’s hot. This isn’t a good idea in humid areas as it can add to other problems while painting. But if you live in a dry dusty place then a little water on the floor will keep a lot of dust out of your work.


**If you are painting portraits human or animals on canvas or illustration board(easy to move around) a easy way to see if you got right proportion on the paint job is to hold it in front of a mirror,this shows any errors very clearly.


**Use a highly reduced mixture of red and black to used for shading or shadows. This color works for just about anything.


**Go to “The Bass Pro ” web site, they have a product called “The Razor Sharp Knife Sharpening Kit” here’s the deal you get 2 card board wheels that go on a bench type motor, one side is an abrasive wheel and the other one is a polishing wheel. Now when your exacto blade or razor blade gets old, in one second you can have a sharper edge than the original edge, I can use one blade for months and you can always use the set to sharpen the kitchen knives so you can shave with them. Try it you’ll love it!


**First off I don’t like to hose down my floor (hold on there its not what your thinking, my kidneys aren’t that far gone yet lol). Anyway I did a google and found out that dust abatement liquids contain acrylic co polymers. What I have found works for me is to dilute water with Future floor polish (which contains no wax or silicone’s and is used by some model painters as a clear coat in fact) at about an 8:1 ratio. The other thing you need is an orchard sprayer from Wally Mart which you can pick up for about 8 bucks. This allows you to put a fine mist of the mixture on the floor and it drys pretty quick with the ventilation of the paint area helping and thus does not create a lot of humidity. 3M makes a product which I suspect is similar in content but I cant prove it that costs $35 a gallon, ouch! The other thing i do is ground my work, of course it only works for metal, using some primary wire with alligator clips on the ends. I have heard that there is an element used in swamp coolers to discourage mineral build up that can be used at the floor end of the wire but i haven’t tried this yet. This mixture certainly seems to help in my shop.

Airbrush Reference Library

Airbrush reference library tutorial covers one way to help you get organized in respect to your airbrushing, being well organized will help you enjoy your time airbrushing and will help ensure better results.

No matter how long you’ve been airbrushing or custom painting it remains a learning process, experience; there’s always some new technique to learn, try. Which is great as it keeps airbrushing, custom painting exciting, keeps you reaching to progress in your skills and knowledge to produce an even better piece with your next project.

To get the most out of the digiat format of our magazine this is a perfect solution, print the issues off and organize them into a nice well organizied airbrush reference library.

As is the key to success in many endeavors you under take being well organized in your airbrushing, custom painting endeavors is one key to becoming successful. Building a big well organized reference library of technique articles as well as reference photo’s certainly is a step in the right direction. The ability to pull up relevant information to help a project go smoother, save you time and materials will certainly make any of your projects much more enjoyable and possibly even more profitable. Before starting your next painting project having a well organized reference library will make it easy to research techniques, best materials to use and plan for that painting.

How to build a well organized airbrush, custom painting reference library of techniques is what I’ll cover in this article by showing you how I go about putting my own reference library together.

What you will need…three ring binder, three hole bunch, plastic divider tabs to make different sections in your three ring binder.

airbrush reference library one


airbrush reference library

Next I go thru Airbrush Technique Magazine issue #23 and separate the how to articles out into corresponding divider section topics I made in my three ring binder. Use your three whole punch to prepare the pages of each article for insertion into my binder. Or if you go to you can download the FREE PDF airbrush lessons I have published there.


airbrush reference library

Pictured above my airbrush reference library is well under way. The three ring binder will now accompany me to the shop/studio where it will come in very handy in future painting projects I’m sure. I hope you’ll follow my lead and put yourself a airbrush reference library together soon.

Airbrush Paint Video

Airbrush Paint video is a quick over view of the most common paints used for airbrushing, types of surfaces they are best used on, reduction and clean up. This by no means shows every paint available for use in an airbrush but does include some of the most popular at the time I made this video.

airbrush paint


If you are new to airbrushing and just getting started be sure to follow along with my basic airbrush lessons and use the suggested paint. You will have enough to deal with getting comfortable with using an airbrush you don’t need the hassle of fighting to get your paint to flow thru your airbrush. For that reason I suggest you start out using a illustration type airbrush paint such as Createx Illustration paint, Golden Airbrush Colors, Comart as it will flow thru your airbrush effortlessly.

Once you are comfortable using your airbrush and the basic techniques are second nature than you can use just about any kind of paint you want to. Be sure the paint you use is manufactured for the type surface you are airbrushing on and that you wear a respirator while spraying any type paint.

Airbrush Paint

Airbrush paint is a brief run down on the different types of paints most commonly used in an airbrush most  can be purchased in most art stores, craft shops. A few of the paints listed must be purchase at specialty shops like automotive paint suppliers.
As you begin to learn “How To” airbrush its best to use a paint made specifically for airbrushing. A few good ones are DR PH Martins, Golden Airbrush Colors, ETAC Private Stock, Createx Illustration Colors. The pigments in these colors are ground finer than those in craft paints allowing for easy use in an airbrush. Craft, textile paints are fine to use after you learn the basics but when first learning to airbrush using an airbrush ready paint like suggested above will make the learning process much more enjoyable believe me.
Most of these paints fall into two categories either Transparent or Opaque. For learning purposes it really does not matter which you use; the best color to start out with is Black as it’s very unforgiving.


WATER COLORS – As the name states these are water based colors well suited for use in an airbrush. Available in pre reduced form airbrush ready or in tubes. Water colors best reduced in most cases with distilled water and are very transparent type paint.

GOUACHE – All so sells under the name Tempera is also water based but with a white pigment added to make it more opaque. Because of the white pigment added you might find it a little harder to use in an airbrush than water colors. Gouache like water colors can be reduced with distilled water.

ACRYLICS – These come in both opaque and transparent colors. There are many manufactures but you will find it much easier to use these if you stick with a brand made for use in an airbrush. Usually can be thinned with water or if the manufacture makes a reducer that should be used. Acrylics can be cleaned up with water or a cleaning agent if the paint manufacture makes one. Long lasting on just about any surface, be sure to read the manufactures tech sheet on surface prep, best uses before you use them. As with the above Gouache do not allow these to dry in your airbrush, clean right after use. One category of Acrylic paints is textile paints made for use of course on textile products like T Shirts, jackets, sweat shirts. Most require heat setting to be permanent again please read the manufactures tech sheet as to use for best results.

OIL PAINTS – A solvent based paint can be thinned with turpentine, minerals spirits and cleaned up with same products. Oils can be either opaque or transparent depending on how much you thin them. Oil paints have a very slow drying time.

SIGN PAINTS – One Shot is one such product. Be very careful using these products, use in a well ventilated area, wear a mask. Again a solvent based product. There are other manufactures of these products. Care should be taken with these products to follow the manufactures tech sheets.


airbrush paint
Createx airbrush paint

Createx Colors Home Page


badger spectra tex paint
badger spectra tex paint

Badger Spectra Tex Home Page


ETAC airbrush paint
ETAC airbrush paint

ETAC home page

Above example water based airbrush paint for crafts, textile paint


airbrush paint
Golden Airbrush Colors


Iwata illustration paint
Iwata illustration paint

Iwata Comart home page

Above examples water based airbrush illustration paint


auto air
Create Auto Airbrush Paint

Createx Auto Air airbrush paint home page


ETAC airbrush paint
ETAC airbrush paint

ETAC home page

Example water based airbrush paint for metal, hard surfaces



ETAC paint
ETAC airbrush paint

ETAC airbrush paint home page


badger spectra tex paint
badger spectra tex paint

Badger Spectra Tex Home Page


createx wicked airbrush paint
createx wicked airbrush paint

Createx Wicked home page

Examples of water based paint for airbrushing textiles


water color
water color paint

example airbrush water colors



Fabric– Including 100% cotton, 50/50 blends, denim, sweatshirts, and most natural fibers.
1) For best results, wash item first to remove sizing and mill finishes.
2) Airbrush the design onto fabric avoiding thick buildup of paint and excessive paint layering.
3) Allow colors to dry, or a heat gun may be used to accelerate drying time. Drying time varies depending on application.
4) Heat set fabric for permanence by one of the following methods: a) Iron for 2 minutes at 300º F use a protective cloth, keep iron moving. b) Turn item inside out and put in clothes dryer for 40 minutes at highest heat.

1) Clean leather by wiping with mineral spirits or rubbing alcohol.
2) For best results, lightly spray mist a base coat of Opaque White on areas to be sprayed.
3) Apply color, avoiding over saturation and excessive paint layering.
4) Allow colors to dry thoroughly before heat setting. 5) Iron for 30 seconds at 225°using a protective cloth, or use a hot air gun at highest level for five minutes.
5) Heat Press – 300 degress for 10 to 15 seconds

Paper and Canvas
1) Apply Color, avoiding thick buildup.
2) When using high tack frisket, dilute colors 25% with water. Colors are permanent when dry.

1) Prepare surface by lightly sanding, wipe clean.
2) Apply color, avoiding thick buildup of paint. Allow colors to dry for 24 hours before applying clear finish.

Ceramics and Clay
1) Apply color in thin even coats, avoid thick buildup.
2) Do not exceed temperatures of 300°F when baking. Colors are permanent for example water based airbrush paint for crafts, textile paint handling after 24 hrs.

Airbrush Paint And Air Pressure

Airbrush paint and air pressure covers matching the consistency of your paint with the air pressure required to atomize the paint best varies with the type of airbrush you are using and type of paint you’re spraying.

*Before airbrushing any type of paint please think safety and keep yourself healthy by wearing a respirator with the appropriate filters for the particular paint you are spraying. Keep your family, co-workers protected from any paint fumes, vapors. Spray safely by always working in a well ventilated area.

When airbrushing it is important to match the consistency of the paint with the air pressure that produces the best results. The trick of course is to adjust your air pressure according to the viscosity of your paint. The thicker the paint the more air pressure you’ll need generally to atomize the paint correctly.

Thick paints commonly used in airbrushing are textile colors like Createx, Wicked Colors, ETAC, Aqua Flow, craft type paints and most artist acrylic paints. Before we go further a word about craft paints, artist acrylics and trying to use them in your airbrush. Paints made for use in an airbrush the pigments are ground finer than the pigments in craft, artist acrylics generally. You’ll find using paint made specifically for airbrushing is much less hassle to use than craft, artist acrylics.

A good rule is to thin your paint to the consistency of milk. There are exceptions to this rule like when airbrushing T Shirts with airbrush textile colors. Use the appropriate thinner for the paint you are spraying. Water, distilled water for water based paints, reducer for water born paint like Createx’s Auto Born, appropriate base maker or reducer for automotive urethane’s (please refer to the manufactures tech sheet).

Siphon feed airbrushes require slightly more air pressure to spray paint than a gravity feed airbrush and will handle thicker paints much better.

air pressure gauge


Once you find that sweet spot where the air pressure is just right to correctly spray the paint you are using take note of that pressure so you’ll be all set to go next time. When setting that pressure next time you pick up your airbrush be sure the trigger of your airbrush is fully depressed and watching your gauge to set the pressure. If you don’t have the trigger depressed you’ll find yourself adjusting it again soon.

Hopefully the video below will explain PSI relating to airbrushing in a easy to understand manner.

Airbrush Paint For Models

Airbrush paint for models tutorial covers information on the many different types of paints used to airbrush models, advantages and disadvantages of using each.. Written by Ken Synder brought to you by Airbrush Technique Magazine

Greetings fellow Airheads! I am going to be going over model paints as a foundation and build on it a bit. Model builders tend to be an odd lot, we will experiment like crazy, trying to figure out other ways of doing things, and we will search for cheaper things, neat tools, and bits of whatever to spruce up a model. Yet, oddly enough, we tend to not be terribly imaginative about our paints. So, I intend to break out of this mold, and mess with new paints. These experiments, I will leave for other articles. For this article, I am going to approach paints from the traditional model builders’ standpoint.

One advantage that all “model paints” have is that their pigments match paints that are used to paint the real thing that you are trying to model. By this I mean, if you want to build a model of a Russian tank from the cold war, you can get the correct color of green to do this. You don’t have to mix various colors to try to match the correct color.

I classify model paints into three categories. The first is “oil based” (or enamel). The second is “water based” (or acrylic). These names aren’t entirely accurate, but that really isn’t important, it’s mainly to keep things organized. The third category I’ll “specialty”, this is a weak name for everything else, and those that I haven’t messed with yet.

For oil based, there are a number of common manufacturers,..]Testors (Model Master) Great for MS595 colors for military stuff. They do have colors other than the MS colors also. They cover some foreign military colors, and a few other things, but they mainly aim for the military builders. Fairly easy to airbrush when thinned and brush straight out of the bottle. Disadvantage is limited variety of Gloss colors, and they all seem to serve specific purposes, like “Blue Angel Blue”, very handy if you are building a Blue Angel airplane, not so handy if you really wanted something a little brighter and more vibrant. MS595 (aka Mil-Std-595 ) is a US Military Specification for color. You can purchase a copy, (Come to think of it, I need to purchase another copy, some thieving magpie nicked my last copy from work), it was about $25 back in the 80’s. It is page after page of little 1″x1/2″ stickers of colors with a number below them. It is a 5 digit number and appears as FS12345. The first digit will be a 1, 3, or 5. 1 means Gloss, 3 means semi-gloss and 5 means flat. The next number indicates the primary color red, blue, yellow, and misc….if I remember correctly they go a little further with brown, green, etc….not that those are “Primary” colors, remember we are dealing with the military, not artists..LOL! The next three numbers are pretty random, it doesn’t go darker to lighter, or anything handy like that….I think its just a number they decide to apply, again, remember the source. Also, the spec does not have the “pet names” for the colors. Certain colors are used a lot for camouflage on US military vehicles, and they have widely accepted names such as, Gunship Gray, Armor Sand, Light Ghost Gray, Aircraft Gray, Sea Blue, Forest Green, etc. So, when building US military kits you may need to get reference material to figure out what colors you should be painting your subject. The MS colors have also been adopted by many NATO countries too.

Testors (Boyd) Brought to you by the same guys as the Model Master stuff, expect similar quality. Great gloss colors for the car guys. Even have things like Ford engine blue. Limited color selection overall…I build a lot of European race cars ( F1 and LeMans ) , the Boyds leans towards hot-rodder. Also, seeming to be harder to find of late, might have been discontinued.


Testor Model Masters Paint

Figure 1-From Left to Right; Testor’s Model Master, Testor’s Boyd, Two versions of Humbrol, Floquil.


model race car

Figure 2-This model was finished with a combination of Testor’s Model Masterand Boyd paints.


Humbrol Model Paint : Very nice paint, brushes very well. I think they are from England, and are tricky to find in the states. Lots-o-colors! The little tin they come in is a little inconvenient. This is because there is a little lip that makes it very difficult to get any quantity of paint out, without making a mess. Another thing about Humbrol is that some of there paints, the color of the lid is the color and there is no name, just a Humbrol reference color. Other tins have the name and color on a sticker in the lid, which likes to fall of, leaving you with no clue what’s inside, unless you had opened it earlier, and spilled down the side. This can be really frustrating. Another thing, and I’ll put this one down to conspiracy theories, : , is that some model manufacturers will use Humbrol color numbers in their instructions, for paint schemes. This is really fun! Since the Humbrol numbers have no rhyme or reason, you have no clue what color to paint things unless you; A) buy Humbrol paints, or B) get reference books and pictures. I generally go for B, since it is sometimes hard to find Humbrol paints.

Floquil Model Paint : Nice paint, but they are geared to the model railroad, so you get things like caboose red, AT&SF Blue..etc. I think they are also all flat colors. Not so handy if you need to put on water slide decals, I’ll get into that in another article though. Others:There are some other brands out there that are very esoteric for certain niches, Luftwaffe, Formula One etc. hard to find and disappear quickly too! I will cover a couple examples, but not dwell on them. Aeromaster was a wonderful paint that was geared to WWII Luftwaffe builders. Key word is “was”, they unfortunately stopped producing the paint. MisterKit is a new one to me, they also seem to cater to Luftwaffe colors. Finisher’s is a paint company the is devoted to covering F1 colors. I have not shot the paint yet, I have heard they are very good. But if you want the correct shade of blue to due a 1978 Tyrell, or are trying to capture the subtle changes in the red that Ferrari has used over the years…….these are the guys.

model paints

Figure 3-Some of the Esoteric Paints that ‘might’ be available, from left to right; Aeromaster, Misterkit, and Finishers. Thinning : For all of these I use lacquer thinner. All of them are a pain to thin just right. Batch to batch variation is common, different colors behave differently, weather plays a part too…no quick answer, I always have a piece of a junk model or styrene to test before I shoot the model.Now to the “water based”….

Tamiya and Gunze Sanyo (Also marketed as Mr. Color) Both behave pretty much the same. I thin them both with Gunze’s Mr. Thinner. There are a couple issues with these paints. They aren’t as durable as the “oil based” stuff. They are a little healthier than the “oil based”, but they are not “Non Toxic”. A couple advantages. They have an ability to, what I call, “Re-Activate”….if I get a fingerprint or a little dry spray, I have found that I can spray pure Mr. Thinner over the area and get it to flow again and smooth out. This can be done even after it has dried for weeks. Also, if you really screw up, Windex takes the stuff right off. Very handy for beginners. The “oil based” stuff is a pain to strip. Finally, the flats come out kinda’ semi-gloss, which means you can put decals on without the decal silvering. (Note to self, start a topic on decals in the modeling section)

model paints 2

Figure 4-From left to right; Tamiya, Gunze Sanyo, Mr. Color, Polly S and Polly S


model airplane

Figure 5-This kit was finished with a combination of Tamiya and Gunze paints.


Polly S These are water thinned paints, pretty wide variety of colors, haven’t used them much, they’re a little hard to find. They strip with rubbing alcohol. They have some cool weathering colors like, mud, dirt, grease, oily grime, etcTestor Acrylic : Never used the stuff, the bottles look like Testors Model Master line and I’d be afraid I’d grab one thinking it was the other, put the wrong thinner in and really have a mess. It could be the greatest stuff in the world though.Now ‘specialty’ paints: ALCLAD II THIS STUFF IS THE BOMB for simulating bare metal finishes…bare metal finishes were the bane of modelers until this stuff came out. There was nothing that had the right balance of realistic look/mask ability/durability/coverage. The ALCLAD is not hard to use, but it is tedious and expensive, but it works and that is what counts! You need an impeccable base coat of a solid gloss color. Black seems to work the best. Then you put two, what I call, dust coats of this airbrush miracle paint on and you have a beautiful metallic finish that looks like it was machined from a block of metal. What’s more, you can mask it. They have about a dozen or so colors, like Chrome, Polished Aluminum, Light Aluminum, Dark Aluminum, Duralem, Pale Gold, Burnt Metal, White Aluminum, Copper…etc. This is great for pulling off a bare metal aircraft, with a multi-metallic shade, that gives the kit realism and depth.


Alclad 2 model paint paint

Figure 6-A variety of Alclad II metal finishes.


model airplane painted

Figure 7-This kit was finished with 4 different colors of Alclad II

Oil Paints (The stuff for canvas, that gets thinned with linseed oil) I will use these for figures and have know guys to use them on armor to create realistic weathering and shading. However, I have yet to run into anyone who has had much luck thinning them and running it through an airbrush.Anything else:As I said most model builders pride themselves with being experimenters and scroungers, but for some reason we tend to go to the hobby shop for our paints, so things like Createx, House of Kolor, all these names that airbrush artists know so well and do miraculous things with are really basically unknowns to us. I am very guilty here, I have built models for 33 years, and it wasn’t until about a year ago that I started trying to find “other things” to put in my airbrush.


Createx paint

Figure 8-Unknown territory for most model builders.

I use all of the above stuff with no real preference. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, but it with depend on the subject and colors available etc. Another thing common to most of the paints marketed to modelers; they are not airbrush ready (Alclad II is an exception). This is because you need to do a bit of brush work too. Most of the paints do well as both an airbrush medium and a brush paint. However, it is inevitable that some will do one better than the other.Bottom line, when you paint a model, the goal is to produce a finish, by any means necessary, which makes the model look real. The quick test is if you were to take a picture, with the right background and surroundings, would the image be difficult to tell from a picture of the real thing? There is a catch though, the paint is not the only thing involved in creating this illusion. You have very tiny surface details on the model, sometimes no larger than a hair, which can be obscured by too much paint. Additionally, beyond the primary color(s), you will probably have at least two layers of clear. These are a clear gloss before the decals, and a final clear (flat, semi, or gloss depending on the subject) over the decals. Sometimes this final clear can be omitted (future article). Thus the catch is, the paint has to gone on as thin as possible and still cover.

Airbrush Equipement and Supplies

Airbrush equipement and supplies covers airbrush equipment and supplies for those new to airbrushing; an over view of airbrushes and compressors. My whole goal with this web site is to help you step in to the world of airbrushing and have a positive and fun experience. Please at least give airbrushing a fair chance by buying the best equipment you can afford. Check out my new Airbrush Magazine it’s packed full of useful airbrushing tips , tricks and technique How To Articles.


Airbrush Compressor’s / Air Sources

My personal feelings on this is to purchase a good air source, one that supplies steady , dry air. You need at least 10 to 30 psi for airbrushing models , fine art , illustrations , finger nail art, bike and car murals, 5 to 12 psi for body art, 40 to 60 psi for t-shirts, textile art and large wall murals. For a spray gun like a Sata or RG 3 you need a 3 to 5 horse power compressor . If your are on a limited budget spend your cash on a good airbrush , as a fancy air compressor will not improve your airbrushing results, a good airbrush will.

CO2 tanks might be the best choice for the artist on a limited budget. It will supply a steady supply of dry air depending on pressure you’re running 20 to 30 hours. For fine art, models, helmets, auto murals, body art, finger nails would work great .Check with your local welding supplier or beverage supplier for rental rates.

Piston driven commercial compressors like you buy at Home Depot, Eagle Hardware etc. work just fine. Usually you can get a good 1 or 2 horse power commercial type compressor for under $200.0 . As long as this type of compressor has a pressure regulator on it, moisture trap it should work just fine . Before buying ask to hear the compressor run, hear for yourself how loud it might be. You can always build a plywood box to fit over the compressor and insult the inside with stro foam to provide sound dampening. Cut two holes one each end for air flow .This type of compressor is the best way to go if airbrushing t-shirts.

Silent compressors: are nice if you have the coin to buy on . Good for just about all airbrush applications. Make sure the silent compressor is rated for the type of airbrushing you will be doing before you buy it. Most use a refrigerator compressor with air storage tank, pressure regulator and moisture trap. Most are oil lubricated with piston driven motors which eliminate friction and noise. An attached air tank allows the compressor to store air which than shut’s off when the tank is full.

Diaphragm compressors: try before you buy. These are small airbrush compressors marketed toward the start-up airbrush artist. Make sure they supply a steady flow of air. Best if you can find one with air supply or storage tank attached. For about the same amount of money you can get a mini oil less piston compressor, much better off with this type compressor than small diaphragm compressor like a Paache D500.

Cans of Air: If this is what you have put the can in pan of hot or warm water when using will work better. You will never understand what Airbrushing is really like using these. A waste of money in most case’s.

Oil less piston compressor’s like Spar Max TC 2000 , Stealth 5000, Medea Smart Jet, Intruder 100. These are made in Taiwan and are very good compressors. Most are a great buy for the money. Great for just about any airbrush application, just make sure the one you buy is rated for the type of airbrushing you intend to do . Smart Jet, Intruder 100, Spar Max Gold, work great for fingernail art, models, crafts, illustrations, fine art where you need 30 PSI or less. For Textile, T-Shirt art you would want the TC 2000 or Stealth 5000

Compressor terms what they mean:

High Viscosity or thick paints (createx, Aqua Flow, Auto Air) require a high pressure compressor.

Low Viscosity or thin paints (com-art, water colors) require less pressure than the above.

High Volume Airbrush’s (VL, BCS) require high pressure (30 to 60) compressors.

Low Volume Airbrushes like gravity feed HP-B or HP-C require lower pressure compressors.

PSI means pounds of air per square inch.

Max PSI means maximum air pressure.

Auto Shut-off usually means compressor turns off with the airbrush or when air tank is full.

Cooling fan cools the compressor



External Mix 

Airbrush Single action airbrush, looks good price wise but of very limited use. Amount of paint to be sprayed is adjusted separately from the trigger, usually by turning fluid cap front of the airbrush.

Double action airbrush is the way to go for airbrushing just about anything. Again there are many different models, types. In a nut shell by pushing down on the trigger you get air and by pulling back on the trigger you get paint ( on independent double action). The further back you pull the trigger the more paint you get. So pushing down on the trigger and pulling back on the trigger at the same time gives you both air and paint. Most will produce spray pattern from pencil line size to 2 inches. How big a spray pattern you get is determined by how far you are from the spraying surface. Two main types of double action airbrush’s are the siphon feed (either bottom or side color cup. container) and the gravity feed (color cup on top of the airbrush) Generally speaking you can get better detail from a gravity feed airbrush than a siphon feed airbrush.

There are two basic kinds of fluid tips or nozzles use by just about all airbrush’s. The floating tip, nozzle being one such as the Vega 2000 airbrushes. With this style tip the nozzle just sits in the end of your airbrush held in place by air cap or nozzle cap. Screw in tip is the other type used and these actually screw into the body of the airbrush, like Iwata HP-B. You can general get better detail from this style tip nozzle than with a floating style. For t-shirts, textile art, wall murals, background fine art, bottom siphon feed Airbrush works best. Fine art detail, finger nail art, models, bike and automotive murals gravity feed Airbrush works best (Iwata HP-B , HP-C) Above is a very fast overview there many good books on the subject if you need further info.

Richpen airbrush


Above example of a double action gravity feed airbrush. Paint would go in small cup on top of airbrush, hose connects to bottom by screwing it on. Behind the color cup is the trigger.


Iwata airbrush BCS


Above example of a double action bottom feed, siphon feed airbrush, paint or color goes in bottle on bottom, hose screws on post next to color bottle.


Iwata SBS airbrush


Example of a double action side feed, siphon feed airbrush, you can see color cup, paint container on the other side of the airbrush, plugs in usually friction fit, hose connects to bottom and screws on the post.


Please don’t let what other people say about a particular airbrush determine what you yourself can do with that airbrush. I can take one of my $49.00 airbrush’s and get just as fine a line as I can with $500.00 airbrush. And that is not to say a $49.00 airbrush is as good as a $500.00 airbrush its not. But it is how you have trained your finger and mind to use and control the airbrush. Just like most things in life your going to get out of it what you put into it. Take the time to learn the basic airbrush strokes no matter what you want to airbrush, finger nails, , models, Harley you will get better results.


Airbrush Paints

This can’t be stressed enough if you are just learning to airbrush use a good AIRBRUSH specific paint. Paints made for use in the airbrush in other words . Golden Airbrush Colors or Doc Martins, Com-art are colors that are very easy to use. They are inexpensive paints that will make your learning experience a lot more enjoyable. Airbrush textile paints, hobby paints or model paints, most of which are fine products probably, but not what you want to use while trying to learn how to airbrush. Use the one of the above mentioned products on paper until you are comfortable using your airbrush. You will find you get less tip drying and clogging with these so instead of messing around trying to get your airbrush to work you can actually be using it. After you have become comfortable with how the airbrush works you can use just about any kind of paint you want.


Airbrush Paint terms what they mean:

Opaque is impervious to the passage of light. To enhance airbrush colors use white first as its very opaque , like when airbrushing on any dark surface, black t-shirt. for example

Transparent will transmit light so that the colors beneath can be seen. Combined with opaques will create beautiful pastels.

Fluorescent colors will fully cover any white or light colored surface. Gives you that neon look or hot look.

Pearlescent covers both dark and light colored surfaces , creates satin-like sheen and shimmer.

Metallic covers both light and dark colored surfaces,creates metallic like sheen, reflective properties.

Iridescent is permanent, light fast capable of producing an array of rainbow colors, covers dark surfaces without base coating white first.

Chameleon magically changes color with reflected light for maximum effects use it on dark surfaces.