If you're in doubts which paint to choose for your airbrush, this guide is right for you. Here we'll help you to find airbrush paints that will perfectly match the surface you're going to paint.
As you probably already know, many airbrush artists assert that airbrush users are able to find and choose appropriate paint only while practicing. It's true, but this doesn't mean you have to go through all the troubles and you can't steer clear of at least some of them. Even if you experience some issues with the viscosity or texture of your airbrush paint, there is always a way out. In our guide on Airbrush Additives & Mediums, you will find all the necessary information about it.
Types of airbrush paints
There are five commonly used airbrush paint types:
- inks and dyes
Let's have a closer look at each paint type, their unique features, and peculiarities of their use.
Watercolor airbrush paints
Due to their thin consistency, these paints give a very smooth and fine coverage on the surface. And some artists even recommend experimenting with them in order to find the right texture and viscosity of paint for work with an airbrush.
Watercolor paints do not offer much durability in comparison to acrylics or urethanes. There are both advantages and disadvantages in it, as you can easily thin your watercolors with water to any desired consistency but in the same manner, when exposed to moisture or water a watercolor painting can be easily destroyed. This is why watercolor paints are not suitable for use in illustration and fine art.
As to the transparency of these paints artists also treat it ambiguously. Some find it tiresome as watercolors lie in thin coats and one has to spray layer upon layer to give necessary depth to his or her artwork. Others, on the contrary, think them adorable because only with their use it is possible to achieve exquisite unique lights and shadows while preserving a depth-graded multilayer coating. In addition, they mix easily that allows for creating custom colors. Anyway, watercolor paints require a great deal of care and do not forgive mistakes, because earlier coats appear even through several layers. If you want to get the solid and dense coverage it's better to make a choice in favor of gouache. Its characteristics are quite similar to those of watercolors but offer opaque coating, so you can easily correct mistakes.
Watercolor paints come in tubes, cakes, there are premixed and ready-to-paint ones. For your airbrush, you can choose any of them and as it was already mentioned above you need to add some distilled water to get the right consistency. And as you may have already guessed this property of watercolors allows for easy clean-up of the airbrush.
There are two more issues with watercolors to mention. If you use a frisket be sure that the adhesive won't affect the paint. What's pleasant with watercolor paints they dry quickly but be careful with your ready-made artwork as bending can cause very thick watercolors to crack.
Airbrush inks and dyes
This paint type is also very popular among airbrush users. Its qualities allow for easy spraying without high air pressure.
Inks and dyes give rich and vibrant colors with the thinnest coating that's why they are a good choice for illustrators. But because of that thin coat, a texture of a painting surface shows through the paint. For this reason, inks and dyes require more thorough working than any other paint type.
There are not so many colors to choose from ready-to-use inks and dyes, but this is more than outweighed by their property to mix easily. So, several of them will make your own custom colors. For your convenience, most ink and dyes jars have a dropper on the lid allowing for precise color mixtures.
Here are some tips on using ink and dyes:
- shake the bottle before using paint as pigments tend to separate;
- clean your airbrush every time you finish your work and between changing colors;
- avoid contact of your hands with the artwork, if you do not intend to leave grease and oily fingerprints on it. For this purpose, you can use cotton gloves while painting;
- to keep colors looking gorgeous, do not expose your artwork to light as it causes fading.
Airbrush oil paints
These paints are notable for their intense colors and durability. As oils initially were not intended for airbrushing their viscosity is thicker than needed. But it is still possible to use them with an airbrush if you thin oil paints with turpentine or mineral spirits. The drying time for oils is slow, so, before applying any masks be sure paints dried properly. Remember to clean your airbrush after working with oils in order to avoid further issues with rubbing out dried paints.
Airbrush acrylic paints
Among other airbrush paints, acrylics are the most common option as one can apply them nearly to any surface whether it is fabric or acetate. They provide smooth spraying and even coating, plus these paints dry quickly and they are very fast. All that allows for speeding up the painting work since you don't have to wait for a long time to apply the next layer. If you want to get the effect of transparency, this is also what acrylics can offer you. To achieve that, you can get ready mixed transparent acrylic paints what's simpler or you can thin them on your own. Although acrylics are very strong and can withstand exposure to different external factors, they dissolve in alcohol. This means you can safely use friskets with them. Here are some tips on using acrylics with your airbrush:
- before using paint, we recommend that you shake it;
- for effective spraying, adjust the air pressure from 40 to 60 psi;
- to get the most out of acrylics, heat set the painted piece;
- and never ever forget to clean up your airbrush after working with acrylic paints. These paints are very difficult to remove once they dried.
Airbrush urethane paints
These are a perfect solution for extremely durable coverage. Urethanes can boast of their rugged strength and this is why they are best for automotive airbrush painting. As this paint has a very long drying time, you will require a catalyst or hardener to speed up this process. When handling with urethanes do not forget about precautions. Because these airbrush paints have toxic fumes, use a respirator and work in well-ventilated areas.