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Airbrush 101
Beginner's Tips

KISS - Keep It Sanitary, Silly! Most malfunctions are caused by a dirty airbrush. With airbrushes, cleanliness is next to godliness. If you use water based paints use distilled water or purified water from one of those machines.  You won't get any mineral deposits in your airbrush & the colors of whatever medium you use won't be affected by chlorine, minerals or anything else your tap water contains.


Wear a mask or respirator! - Even water based dyes, paints, and inks aren't good for you to inhale. If you're using something other than water based paints make sure you use a respirator that will remove the vapors. Get one that is approved by NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health).


Learn what your mediums are made from. A lot of artist's materials are toxic, not only the solvent but also the pigment (that goes for water based mediums also!). Read labels, call manufacturers (800 numbers are great!), and read this book: "Artist Beware : The Hazards of Working With All Art and Craft Materials and the Precautions Every Artist and Photographer Should Take" by Michael McCann (Watson-Guptill). Your local art store should have it or try Amazon.  Beware, a lot of solvents (M.E.K. - denatured alcohol - lacquer thinner etc.) can be absorbed through the skin! When I repair airbrushes I always wear gloves to protect my hands from whatever solvents I'm using. Remember the dust from overspray can also be toxic.


Ventilate! - Get the overspray away. You can make a simple & cheap spray booth or ventilator for waterbase paint only using a bathroom fan from Home Depot, a small wooden frame made from 1x4's to mount the fan in, and dryer vent hose to reach a window, etc. Set this on your work area. Use foamcore to make the sides,  and top. I have two sets of foamcore "wings" that I can change, depending on what I'm doing and how large it is. You can use the same setup for solvent base paint but you need a fan that is safe around flammable type paints, most bathroom fans aren't. It's something to check out if you buy a commercial unit.


Wear eye protection! - You never know. what can happen. This is especially true if you use a Paasche AB. Its very easy to launch one of those needles and have it hit you in an eye.


Use some type of "cleaning station" or "catch container." You can spray your excess  paint into the container when you clean out your airbrush. Its just another way to keep from breathing paint and vapors.  You can buy one or make one from a plastic container. I use a round container that originally held baby wipes. I popped it open and filled it with coarse foam that I got from an upholstery supply shop. Since I don't use acrylics I can reuse the foam. For acrylics you could use the foam if you don't let the paint dry or use paper towels. I have a second one with 1" of coarse foam at the top and bottom with good aquarium carbon sandwiched between. I use this for oils and lacquers. I also cut off the tips of the four flaps in the lid to help save needles. You can even use soft drink cups, T.P. or paper towels for water based mediums in a pinch.


Learn the ins & outs of your airbrush and how to disassemble & reassemble it. Other than Paasche's AB, they're very simple instruments. This is the best reason to buy from a local dealer, live support.


When you first start out, use a water based medium such as Dr. Martins dyes or non-permanent inks. They are easy to spray, don't require thinning, and are water soluble after they dry making clean up very simple. Acrylics can be a hassle to use for a beginner because they dry relatively quickly, clogging the airbrush and slowing your learning curve.  An easier & quicker way to practice airbrushing with virtually no cleanup is to use "Brush-Up Paper" by Loew Cornell. It's a specially coated paper that was designed for practicing brush stroke techniques. When you "brush " water on it, the wet part turns black. The black fades as the water evaporates, magic. It works with regular brushes or airbrushes. I use it to test repaired airbrushes so I don't have to re-clean them. It costs $3.95 and can be reused hundreds of times, especially if you use distilled water!


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