Air-Brushing Tips

submitted by Jason C. Gares "jasoncg1971"

Part #1

1.) Surface preparation is essential... make sure all the parts have been washed to remove the "parting agent" and any oils from handling.

Use a solution of one part Dawn Dish Washing Liquid to ten parts water, spray it on, brush with a clean paintbrush and rinse with water, let dry. (Use filtered water for all cleaning, and have a spray bottle that have a built-in pump to pressurize them — find these in cooking stores, or at American Science and Surplus)

2) Use the thinnest masking tape you can find; the stuff sold in artist's supply stores is often much thinner and with less "tack" than the automotive/hardware kind. Use Tamiya masking tape, but there are others. "Drafting" tape is also better than Masking tape because it has less adhesive.

3) Cut your own tape strips, using a sharp blade and a steel straight edge. Lay the tape out onto a glass plate and cut strips. This makes for much cleaner lines, as the rough edge and adhesive "bleed" from the machine-cut rolls is eliminated. Special modeling tape does not always need to be cut, find what works for you.

Remove the tape as soon as the paint has set.

Part #2 Keep Those Parts Clean

When painting the most important thing to remember is keep the brush clean. Any build-up of paint — even a slight one — will cause the paint to spatter and coat uneven.

To produce a good quality coating always requires a clean airbrush. Always clean immediately after every use by thoroughly rinsing with clean solvent. Then... thoroughly clean and disassemble before storing your brush — even if it's just for a few hours of storage.

1. Attach bottle with clean thinner.

2. Open paint flow to full and spray several times onto a newspaper, paper towel or rag.

3. Stop the fluid with a soft cloth and force the air and solvent back through the cap and tip.

4. For thorough cleaning disassemble tip and clean with solvent and soft cloth. If using quick drying paints it is advisable to soak the tip and needle for several minutes in solvent. Use an artists oil paint brush for cleaning as well.

5. Reassemble and store in a closed container to prevent the accumulation of dust.

Thoroughly cleaning with solvent after each color. When you are finished, disassemble the brush and soak it in solvent. Take care with rubber parts if you are using lacquer thinner, prolonged exposure can cause them to swell and they may no longer fit. It can also melt some parts. Teflon parts a pretty resistant to chemicals, only soak metal parts... everything else gets brushed, dabbed, and dried.

Hope this information is helpful to new and old air-brush users alike.

Part #3  Definitions and Tips

There are a lot of things to consider before purchasing and air-brush, or a second air-brush etc. What are you going to be using it for being the most important thing. But you should also consider your experience using them, and of course, how much you want to spend.

Below are just some of the most important features of air-brushes that may influence your decision. These tell you a little about the major features that distinguish different types of air-brushes.

EXTERNAL MIX indicates that air and paint are mixed outside the air brush. The air is directed over the top of a paint siphon, "pulling" the paint up, and out. Air and paint come together outside the head. External mix air brushes produce a larger dot spray pattern than internal mix air brushes.

INTERNAL MIX indicates that air and paint mix inside the air brush. Air and paint mix together inside the head assembly, or handle, to produce a thoroughly atomized fine dot spray pattern.

SINGLE ACTION refers to air-brushes on which the trigger controls only the air flow. The amount of paint flow is generally controlled with an adjustment of the needle position... usually with a small screw or nut towards the back of the brush, or with an external mix air-brush by turning the fluid cap on the paint tip at the front of the air-brush.

DUAL ACTION means an air-brushes in which the trigger controls both air and paint flow. Generally pushing down for air flow control, and pulling back to increase the paint flow. This simple maneuver allows the artist to change the width of the line, and the amount of paint without stopping.

BOTTOM FEED refers to air-brushes where paint enters through a siphon tube or color cup attached to the bottom of the air-brush. This configuration is generally more versatile and enables the user to change colors quickly, and use large amounts of paint without refilling.

GRAVITY FEED refers to air-brushes with smaller paint cups on top of the air-brush, in which gravity draws paint into the air-brush. Less air pressure is required enabling slower movement which creates excellent control for fine detail applications. Also some paints and Lacquers require lower pressures.

SIDE FEED refers to air-brushes on where a color cup fits into the side of the air brush. The side feed color cup rotates enabling the user to work on either a horizontal or vertical surface. The side feed also permits the user to achieve fine detail without the possible sight obstruction of a top mounted color cup.

Start with an inexpensive external mix gravity feed if you are just beginning to learn to air-brush. It will allow you to learn the basic of airbrush use and the proper maintenance of a very simple tool. For details and weathering you will eventually want an internal mix brush. Either siphon feed or gravity feed is fine, the determining factor is the volume of paint you will be working with. For small quantities or frequent color changes a gravity feed with a paint well may be best.

Part #3 Air-Brush Safety

If you or any member of your household have any questions or have a medical condition that may be adversely affected by spraying, contact your family physician for guidance.


Many materials commonly used in arts and crafts such as lacquers, varnishes, adhesives, solvents and acrylics can be extremely dangerous. This list is not complete, we therefore recommend that you determine what materials you are using and follow the manufacture’s directions for proper handling. We strongly recommend that you contact the materials manufacturer to obtain a copy of their Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) which gives all the properties of the product along with safety precautions and first aid instructions, and to keep this document on hand at all times when working with that product.

NOTE: Hazardous materials pose an even greater risk to children due to their lesser body weight and frequent lack of care following directions. Children should use this product under the strict supervision of an adult.

1.) Always use some kind of eye protection.

2.) Keep your work area clean.

3.) Never spray into the air vents of the compressor.

4.) Never spray near open flames, pilot lights in stoves or water heaters, space heaters or any other heat sources, or flames.

5.) Do not point at anyone or at yourself.

6.) Do not smoke, drink or eat while airbrushing.

7.) Avoid putting your fingers in your mouth while working while painting.

8.) Wash your hand and clean your fingernails when finished.

9.) Keep cuts and open wounds covered.

10.) Stop work at the first signs of dizziness, nausea, headache, blurred vision or skin irritation.

11.) Seek fresh air immediately.

12.) Contact your physician if the symptoms persist or are severe.


NOTE: an open window does NOT provide adequate ventilation when working with hazardous art materials.

When working with these chemicals, you should have an exhaust ventilation system which actively removes vapors from your work area and vents them to the outside.

Many factors must be considered when selecting a proper ventilation system. We suggest you contact the local branch National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) or the Occupational Safety Health Administration (OSHA) for publications dealing with ventilation systems.


1.) Select the proper respirator for the materials you are using.

2.) Be sure it fits properly. To large or to small units are ineffective. Also, beards, mustaches and other facial hair may interfere with proper fit.

3.) Keep respirators clean and maintained, store in sealed container to prevent accumulation of dust.

4.) Buy only NIOSH/OSHA approved respirators. Read and follow all manufacture’s instructions.

Well, that's it for now. Hope this article was helpful and informative. Please use common sence when using an air-brush and most of all enjoy it.