Airbrush

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Airbrush! It isn't considered as "traditional" as oils or acrylics, but it is pretty cool as well. Bear in mind, it's been a few years (at least) since I picked up an airbrush. But it's amazing how all the products for airbrush haven't changed. So I'm recommending to you what I used, and what my airbrush teacher recommended to me.

An airbrush is a bigger investment than a small set of watercolors, a set of pencils or acrylics. So, if you are going to buy an airbrush, you might as well do it right.

Paasche Model H Single Action airbrush - This is considered the "cheap" hobby version of Paasche's airbrush line, but you know, I made a whole lot of very nice artwork with it. I had to adjust it a little more (because it is "single action") but it got the job done. Consider this airbrush if you are pinching pennies.

Model H Airbrush Set 

Paasche Model V Double Action Airbrush - The double-action Paasche. I started out with this one. It's very nice indeed.

Paasche Model D Compressor 1/4 horsepower - The kind of compressor I have. If you are going to get an electric compressor, don't pinch pennies, get at least a 1/4 horsepower. This is what my airbrush teacher told me, and I believe him. We saw examples of artwork made with less powerful compressors. They had a slightly "spattered" look, because the air just couldn't push out the paint well enough to make a clean, rich line with the airbrush. (See my little demonstration illustration.) The "bad" example is what an airbrush stroke can look like with a less powerful compressor. All spattery.

Airbrush colors - Badger's Air-Opaque, Dr. Martins, and more. These are paints, inks or dyes that are easy to use with an airbrush. They usually come in jars, or ink bottles. I used Air-Opaque a lot for a while, and liked it because it was so convienient (pre-mixed). Please note that Dr. Martins is not a light-fast ink. It is used for commercial art. (It's great, but don't make your heirloom masterpiece with it.)

All these products are available at Blick Art Materials.They have an excellent inventory of art supplies, including many products that I have a hard time finding locally. (Or, I am too lazy to drive downtown to where the "good" art stores are.)

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Airbrush has a bit of a learning curve (but it is sooo fun) and it is a larger investment. But, it's wonderful, and it has a completely different look than any other art tool (except for Photoshop, which has a built-in airbrush tool!).

Other brands of airbrushes that I recommend are Badger, and Thayer-Chandler. Actually, Thayer-Chandler is considered the "cream of the crop" in the airbrush world. I could never afford to get one.

You can use simple India ink in your airbrush, or you can mix your gouache or watercolors to a creamy, milky consistency, and use them. One artist I knew used oil paints in the airbrush, but most people don't recommend this! The thing is, you don't have to buy special airbrush colors. Just use your regular paints. As long as you water them down enough, they will be fine.

The secret to using an acrylic-based paint (or any paint, really) is that you have to make sure the airbrush is cleaned after each session. My airbrush teacher had us buy big bottles of rubbing alcohol, which we thinned with water and sprayed through the airbrush until all the color was gone (it sprayed clear). We also used pipe-cleaners to clean out all the parts, so the paint wouldn't clog the insides.

I learned to wear a good dust mask when I airbrushed. You can breathe in that stuff if you aren't careful, so take precautions.

If you can't get the good quality 1/4 horsepower compressor, I have heard that you can use big canisters of compressed air. You just have to have them refilled occasionally, but they are silent, and have sufficient air-power. 

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