Airbrushing-Basic lines and Dots

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How to hold an airbrush, Creating simple lines and dots.

In the first article of the Airbrush Series, I showed you some examples of what’s possible with an airbrush as well as some examples of the two main airbrush types and compressor types. If you haven’t seen the first article in the Airbrush series, check it out here:

http://www.rctech.net/articles/rc-cars/airbrush-101-intro/

In this second installment of the airbrush series, we’ll get into some of the basics. We’ll look at how to hold an airbrush, as well as demonstrate how the airbrush works by creating some simple lines and dots. These examples will show the similarities between the single and double action airbrushes. In the next article (#3) we’ll look at some performance differences.

For this demonstration I’ll be using the Paasche H-Series single action airbrush and the Iwata Eclipse HP-CS double action airbrush. For paint, we’ll use reduced opaque lacquers.
Airbrushes, pressure gauge, and moisture trapSmall compressor.

Before we can create lines, we need to be able to hold the airbrush. Ultimately, each person needs to hold the airbrush whichever way feels most comfortable to them. I’ll show you how I hold an airbrush and you can adjust from there.
Holding an airbrush

I am left handed, so naturally, I hold the airbrush in my left hand. When I pick up an airbrush it’s similar to picking up a pencil. I lay the rear shaft of the airbrush in the area where my thumb meets the main part of my hand. The front of the airbrush is lightly squeezed between my middle finger and thumb, while the tip of my index finger is laid on top of the button. 

We’ll be using heavy white paper as our painting surface for this article. Purple paint will be used in the single action airbrush and teal paint for the double action. I’ve also labelled the left side of the paper “Single Action” and the right side for the “Double Action” airbrush. We’ll start with the single action airbrush on the left side of the paper.

To create fine lines:

  1. Screw in the flow cone until a very small amount of paint is allowed to flow from the airbrush.
  2. Holding the airbrush close to the painting surface, push the button, and move the airbrush across the paper.
  3. The slower you move, the thicker the line will be. This is because the longer you hold the airbrush in one spot, the more the paint will accumulate causing a thicker line.
  4. Release the button at the end of the line.

To create thick lines:

  1. Unscrew the airbrush flow cone a bit to allow more paint to flow out of the tip when the button is pushed.
  2. This time, hold the airbrush five to seven inches away from the paper, push the button, and move the airbrush across the paper.
  3. As with the thin line, the slower you move the airbrush, the thicker (and runnier) the line will be.
  4. Release the button when you get to the end of the line.

To create a small dot:

  1. Screw in the flow cone until a very small amount of paint is allowed to flow from the airbrush.
  2. Holding the airbrush close to the painting surface, press and release the button, while holding the airbrush still. The longer you press the button, the bigger the mess you’ll get. Lol. If the paint puddles and runs down the paper, you’ve held the button too long or you need to further limit paint flow by screwing in the flow cone some more. Try it again pressing and releasing the button very quickly.

 To create a large dot:

  1. Unscrew the airbrush flow cone a bit to allow more paint to flow out of the tip when the button is pushed.
  2. This time, hold the airbrush five to seven inches away from the paper while you press and release the button.
  3. As with the small dot, the longer you press the button, the bigger the mess you’ll get. Lol If the paint puddles and runs down the paper, you’ve held the button too long. Try it again pressing and releasing the button more quickly. The opposite is also true. If you end up with a hazy transparent dot, hold the button longer, or unscrew the flow cone more.

Single action airbrush. Lines Single action airbrush. DotsSingle action airbrush. Lines & dots

Now let’s try the same exercise with the double action airbrush.

Unlike the single action airbrush, the double action airbrush doesn’t have a screw on flow cone, instead, paint flow directly corresponds with the distance the top button is pulled back. The further you pull back the top button, the more the paint flow valve is opened. We’ll get into why this works a few articles from now when we disassemble the airbrushes for cleaning and maintenance.

To create a fine line:

  1. Holding the airbrush close to the painting surface, push the button straight down allowing air to flow from the airbrush.
  2. Slowly pull back slightly on the button while moving the airbrush across the paper. The further you pull back on the button, the more paint will come out resulting in a thick heavy line, and possibly a mess.
  3. The slower you move, the thicker the line will be. This is because the longer you hold the airbrush in one spot, the more the paint will accumulate causing a thicker line.
  4. Rock the lever forward at the end of the line stopping paint flow.
  5. You can now release the button upward, stopping air flow.

To create a thick line:

  1. Holding the airbrush five to seven inches away from the painting surface, push the button straight down allowing air to flow from the airbrush.
  2. Slowly pull back the button about half way while moving the airbrush across the paper. The further you pull back on the button, the more paint will come out resulting in a thick heavy line, and possibly a mess.
  3. The slower you move, the thicker the line will be. This is because the longer you hold the airbrush in one spot, the more the paint will accumulate causing a thicker line.
  4. Rock the lever forward at the end of the line stopping paint flow.
  5. You can now release the button upward, stopping air flow.

To create a small dot:

  1. Holding the airbrush close to the painting surface, push the button straight down allowing air to flow from the airbrush.
  2. Slightly and quickly rock the button back then forward while holding the airbrush still. The further you pull back on the button, the more paint will come out resulting in a thick heavy dot, and possibly a mess.
  3. If the dot is too big or runny, try pulling back less on the button or releasing it more quickly.
  4. You can now release the button upward, stopping air flow.

 To create a large dot:

  1. Holding the airbrush five to seven inches away from the painting surface, push the button straight down allowing air to flow from the airbrush.
  2. Rock the button back then forward while holding the airbrush still. The further you pull back on the button, the more paint will come out resulting in a thicker, heavier dot, and possibly a mess.
  3. If the dot is too big or runny, try pulling back less on the button or releasing it more quickly. 
  4. If the dot is light and transparent, try pulling back further or holding it in the rearward position longer.
  5. You can now release the button upward, stopping air flow.

Double action airbrush. Lines Double action airbrush. Dots

Single & Double action airbrushes. Lines, dots, & trouble shooting

Now that we’ve created a simple line and dot using both single action and double action airbrushes, you can see that there are some basic rules that apply to both.

  1. Fine work requires less paint flow and large bold work requires more paint flow.
  2. The longer you hold the airbrush in one spot, the more paint will accumulate on the painting surface.
  3. The distance you hold the airbrush from the painting surface directly effects the size of the area being painted. Close for thin crisp lines & further away for thicker lines.
  4. Mixing distance and paint flow is necessary to achieve the desired results.
  •  Large distance + much paint flow = large line or dot.
  •  Large distance + little paint flow = large misty transparent line or dot.  
  •  Small distance + little paint flow = fine/small line or dot.  
  •  Small distance + much paint flow = a mess.

As you can see, both airbrushes performed similarly in these two examples, with only one main difference, where and how we control paint flow. 

Demonstration:
Here is a quick example of the different lines and effects that can be acheived using a single airbrush with only one color paint.

Demonstration: Double action airbrush.Demonstration: Double action airbrush. Demonstration: Double action airbrush.Demonstration: Double action airbrush. Demonstration: Double action airbrush. Demonstration: Double action airbrush. Demonstration: Double action airbrush. Demonstration: Double action airbrush.Demonstration: Double action airbrush.

Thank You for reading. Don't forget to check out the video.

Check out this video for a full demonstration of what you’ve just read.

In the next article, we’ll create some daggers and fades. This is where we’ll notice a major performance difference between the two types of airbrushes. I think it’s important to note, the action designation refers to the button on the airbrush. Both airbrushes allow separate air and paint flow. See the video for further explanation. We’ll also talk about some examples of some airbrushes on the market today and the possible cost.

Let me know in the comments if you’re enjoying this series so far. Thanks!

 

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About Author

I built my 1st real RC vehicle in 1986 and have enjoyed this hobby ever since. I like all RCs, cars, trucks, boats, planes, helis, etc. I think every RC vehicle has its place, whether it be toy grade or hobby grade. They’re all fun to me, but the best part about this hobby is the people I’ve met and friendships I’ve made. But hey, enough about me. Share your background in the comment section of this article.

2 Comments

    • Hi Andeston,
      Honestly, the best compressor to start with is one you already have. If you don’t already have a compressor, you need to consider a few things before deciding on one.
      • Is noise an issue? (do you live in an apartment or noise restricted area?)
      • What else might you want to use the compressor for? (nail guns, air ratchets, paint guns?)
      • How serious do you expect to be in airbrushing? (hobby or for income?)

      Once you’ve answered these questions, it will help you decide on the right compressor for you.

      I personally started out with a roller tank style craftsman compressor as I already had it for use with my nail guns and automotive air tools. It worked fine until it finally quit working (not from airbrushing, I used to remodel homes). I then went to a Hitachi twin canister compressor. It still works great. The reason I got a silent compressor, I was airbrushing in other peoples houses and businesses, and noise became an issue for me.

      The main thing to remember with any compressor is to use a pressure regulator and moisture filter. Many compressors have a built it pressure regulator. I used an external water trap as well as an inline moisture filter. You can get these at a hardware store or large home improvement store. The only thing that may be a “special purchase” is a silent compressor. I got mine at Hobby Lobby, but I used a 40% off coupon.

      I’m not real big on the “this compressor is better than that one” argument, as they are all decent for the most part. With the exception of those really cheap small plastic ones marketed toward airing up tires, they won’t work. What matters is you get what will best suite your needs for the lowest price. So, if a lower end compressor is all you can afford, get a cheap compressor. If you can afford an expensive one, buy an expensive one. All they do is compress air so the real factor is noise and what else you want to use it for. Some of the more expensive ones do have the moisture filters built in, which is nice, but they are easily added on externally.

      NOTE: A small silent compressor will not run air nailers, air ratchets, larger paint guns, etc. They only put out enough air volume to run small equipment like airbrushes.

      I hope this helps, let us know what you decide or if you have any more questions.
      Matt

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