How to use an Airbrush: Holding an airbrush properly [Airbrush Lesson 1]

Airbrush Lesson 1 : How to Hold Your Airbrush

This first lesson will teach you how to hold your airbrush properly.

I suggest that you use some sort of inexpensive support to practice on at first (like newsprint) or even some large sketch pads. Make sure you buy large ones as you want plenty of space to practice.

Once you will get the hang on it, you will be able to move on and use better quality.

As for paint, don’t use craft paint but rather use airbrush ready paint like Createx airbrush paint, Golden airbrush colors  or Dr ph martins airbrush paint. It will make your life easier.

Material Needed for this series of Airbrush lesson:

How to hold an airbrush

Don’t be intimidated by the airbrush. If you practice the right way, you will be able to start using an airbrush in no time. It is crucial that you develop good habits from the start when you begin to use an airbrush.

First, it is important that you learn to hold the airbrush the right way. It doesn’t matter if you are right-handed or left-handed.

Hold the airbrush in your hand just like a pen or a pencil, your thumb and middle finger are for support on the stem, and the index on the trigger finger form a pyramid .

It is important that your  thumb is more or less parallel to the airbrush axis  and not parallel to the axis of the air hose.

The key thing is to be completely relax, and let the airbrush fit comfortably into your hand.

How to hold your airbrush

The index finger on the trigger forms a
pyramid which bends inward

How to Hold Your Airbrush

It’s important not to let the index
finger being out because the finger must
slide with the trigger not pull it

How to Hold Your Airbrush

Make sure the thumb is not parallel to the axis of the air hose.

What to do with your other hand?

  • If you coordinated enough and manage to airbrush using only one hand, you can use the other free hand to hold stencils or masks…or maybe drink a cup of tea!.
  • If you are using and airbrush with a large bottom feed cup, you could use your other hand to hold the cup to give an extra support and help you a bit when you start to get tired.
  • Some people use their free hand to hold the wrist of the airbrushing hand.This will improve the stability when airbrushing
  • Another way to improve the stability is use your free hand to support the airbrushing hand:
How to hold your Airbrush: The support hand

How to hold your Airbrush: The support hand

Take the index finger of your free hand and place it just underneath the thumb of your airbrushing hand. Use the pinky of this supporting hand against the artwork , this will allow you to brace and move  as you go. So ultimately, the airbrush is no longer floating because you now have contact with the surface. You can use your pinky to pivot and do a lot of different kind of movements.
  •  If the air hose gets in the way, you could wrap it around your airbrush hand
How to hold your airbrush: wrapping the hose around your arm

How to hold your airbrush: wrapping the hose around your arm

 How to control a double action airbrush

With a double action airbrush, the airflow is controlled by pressing the airbrush trigger and the paint flow is controlled by pulling the same trigger back. The more you pull the trigger back, the bigger the paint flow is, making the spray pattern wider.

How to use an Airbrush: Holding an airbrush properly [Airbrush Lesson 1]

Set the air pressure on your compressor to 25 PSI.

Start by pressing down to trigger to release air, then slowly pull the trigger back to release the paint.

IMPORTANT: keep pressing the trigger (releasing air) until you cut of the paint release by moving the trigger back to the starting point. This will prevent your airbrush from clogging by leaving paint inside the needle.

Also, don’t try to control the air pressure by moving your index finger up and down on the trigger. Remember that you are pressure is set to around  25 PSI on your compressor.

Proper sequence of action when double actioning:

1 Air on (Press the trigger down and keep it down up to sequence number 6 )
2 Start moving (Always keep moving the airbrush)
3 Paint on (pull the trigger backwards and keep moving)
4 paint off (push the trigger forward, still keep moving)
5 move away (move airbrush away from the artwork)
6 air off (trigger up)

Proper sequence of action when airbrushing

Proper sequence of action when airbrushing

Airbrush Practicing:

It is important to practice, even if you are an experienced airbrush artist. before going ahead with your piece of artwork, it is a good idea to warm up a bit and perform some basic airbrush exercises.

If you keep practicing over and over again some basic airbrushing exercises, you will notice that they will become second nature over time and you will be able to do them without thinking.

Airbrushing TIPS:
There are four different elements that you need to consider when practicing your strokes :
  • The distance from the tip of the airbrush to your artwork: the further away you are,the more diffused and lighter your spray pattern will be. The closer you are , the thinner the lines will be and the less paint volume you will need.
  • The speed at which you are moving across your work. The slower you work, the more concentrated the paint will be.
  • The amount of paint coming out of the airbrush. The more you pull the trigger, the more paint is coming out.
  • The Air pressure use to spray the paint

Practices lines

Use the proper sequence of action to draw a precise line. Open the air, and go slowly from one side of the sheet to the other, gently pull the trigger  and gradually increase the flow of paint. Briefly fix the position of the trigger keeping the line thickness and finally slowly reduced the paint flow of the line fading it out until there is no line. Close the air and once
Do it one more time: open the air pull the trigger slowly, fix it return it back and close the air
Airbrushing lines

Open the air, pull the trigger slowly, fix
it ,return it back and close the air.

At first, you might draw lines that looks more like electrocardiogram than straight lines. This is perfectly normal because you are not used to work free hand at slow speed. With a bit of practice,this discomfort will pass  and your muscles will get used to it,the arm will stop shaking. The lines will be smoother and smoother as you go.

It is important that you train yourself to work at slow speed, especially if your lines turned out jagged. Train your trembling hands and suppress the temptation to draw at a faster speed until you manage to draw straight lines.
What you need is stable control when you use your airbrush, so only increase the speed when you know how to control the airbrush.
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