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Discussion in 'How to Control an Airbrush' started by Mr. Magoo, Jun 24, 2016.


  1. Mr. Magoo

    Mr. Magoo Spider Splatterer

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    A BEGINNERS JOURNEY

    iT surprises me that there are so few posts under this all-important topic and that's why I is posting here. Six months after buying my first gun, I still have control issues (and probably always will). In any event, I think I've made good progress since my last post over a month ago. My 3 month old desktop computer died after I just built a new one in February. Now using a laptop but I can't type on these things worth a damn -- keyboards are too small, my hands too big so I'm reduced to hunt-n-pecking.

    Been getting tons of help from you guys and no doubt some of you were getting irked at my inability to get my 3 brushes to function even reasonably well. When I had only 2 brushes I was blaming the tools for being defective but when I took advice and got an Iwata Eclipse and it wouldn't do what I wanted, I knew the problem was me, not the tools.

    Airbrushes are anything but easy too use, and I got buried under an avalanche of variables that affect the performance of this unforgiving tool so I had to find a way to simplify my efforts at trial and error testing. This is prolly the main thing that leads beginners to give up in frustration. The first problem was that out around 75 bottles of paint, there were 5 different brands and 3 types of reducers, and I was mixing and matching them all. Taking advice, I selected only one brand and put all the others aside. That produced some immediate results.

    Apparently, mixing some brands of paint together can produce some really nasty problems within the tool, such as the paint coagulating, as I noticed that it was drying in sheets inside the cup and then could peel off in sheets and/or strings. It would also produce some really nasty gunk in and around the spray tip.

    Next was never to use a reducer from one mfgr. with another's paint. And, use only distilled water.

    Then, clean guns only with HOT water as most of these paints when dry soften up rinsed with hot water. After doing these things I had no more trouble trying to get nice, fine lines from any of my guns. ( I'll call it a gun cuz it has only 3 letters instead of 8 and I can't type on this damned machine).

    Internal clogging was a huge problem for me but when using E'tac and Com-art paints with only their own reducers, that problem ended. Its still a problem for all others. I can go for days with no paint build up internally when following these rules.

    The other control issue was that when I pull back on trigger, I never knew what was going to happen. The tools were completely unreliable in this regard. I can't say that its solved, only that there are improvements. When starting new lines I must test it first on scrap paper because once I let the air off, something changes and I cannot resume making the same size line; invariably it comes out much thicker. No way could I do a fine portrait with this situation as it is. I am clueless as to how to correct it.

    But deviate just one time and the splats and skips are right back again.

    Paint Bottles: Paint dries around the cap opening and eventually blocks it off and eventually you take some item like a pencil tip and ream it out. In so doing, you are pushing chips of dried paint back into the bottle and I don't think I need explain what happens after that. That paint is ruined unless you want to try to strain it, an ugly job, at best. The solution is simple: just remove the cap and clean with hot water in your sink.
  2. RebelAir

    RebelAir Air-Valve Autobot!

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    Always fun to read about others journeys. Sounds similar to most :) Sounds like you've hit a little wall with a few things? Been doing this for a long time taught a fair bit also so looking at it from that perspective. Its important to learn correctly, its generally not hard to see in some peoples art, especially spanning over 15 odd years of watching people learn and paint who skipped certain lessons ;)..One day you'll find out those lessons and continue to improve and improve etc etc. Sounds like your waiting for that click moment, not sure if you've noticed but some really good artists here have "clicked" recently, not mentioning names but most know who they are..When self taught you get to a point of am I actually doing this right..That sometimes takes a few years because you struggle to get over those few last humps, generally that's because some don't really learn the foundations correctly..Portraits are very easy to achieve, they have a few simple formulas' to paint them easily and well, add a good understanding of your paints and controlling overspray. Sounds easy because for those who understand that basic recipe they can paint realistic portraits, no matter the reference. Generally we paint a little bigger at times when we want that super detail and to get a super detailed and realistic portrait it involves very little need of line. Its mostly stippling and figure eights or just random spaghetti..Then blend that under detail in with more opaque gradient work to soften the highlights and then you can adjust with a little transparency later.

    I feel that clicking moment come for some paiters because they learn that above recipe, its one that can be used on every painting and nce you learn how to look at your reference, the airbrushing is the easy bit... One difference you will find perhaps worth trying if not already doing so, on the original transfer of the image, make it super detailed. i did an explanation a while back on breaking down the image.It will really help.Transfer that topographic style projection, paint in a paint by numbers style but just layer it instead and you'll maybe get the results and get to see how easy learning that layering recipe kind of is, I teach my students how to layer correctly before worrying about dots and lines, everyone should be good enough with them by day 1, learning how to use them in an easily repeatable fasion or get over that wall that maybe the last hurdle is the hard bit :) Maybe not but often taking a course with what you currently know will also jump you leaps and bounds as the teacher will show you that recipe and perhaps where you having issues or what you missed learning about..

    best of luck, interesting to hear your thoughts and journey thus far, it does only get easier, but focus not so much on the perfect line but understand how you can hide that perfect line later as few portraits have a need of them. Add some distance to your canvas, most peeps try to paint to close and always in detail, knowing when to soften your spray patterns to produce distance is when your paintings will really begin to shine..:)
    JackEb likes this.
  3. markjthomson

    markjthomson Very happy! Staff Member Mod

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    So good @Mr. Magoo you've learnt some really helpful things. That will stand you in good stead! :) Enjoy learning.
  4. basepaint

    basepaint Air-Valve Autobot!

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    You found out that the more time you put in the easer it gets:D:thumbsup::thumbsup:
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  5. Mr. Magoo

    Mr. Magoo Spider Splatterer

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    Hi Reb. My desktop crapped out on me and I'm left with trying to type on a laptop, which I cannot do. It finally clicked that I could connect a keyboard to it. So that's why I haven
    t posted in two weeks.

    I need to come clean on what I am trying to accomplish with an airbrush. I haven't disclosed this because I didn't want to hear anyone say it couldn't be done (the jury is still out on that). Basically, I am trying to do lines drawings with the A.B. That, and filigrees, so I haven't given too much attention to all the other aspects of the use of this tool, although I've done a few monotones and one landscape. Yike, that last was worse than lines drawings insofar as knowing what to do. At least with that, I learned what you are talking about. You call it layering, but in brush work this technique would be called "washes" where you dillute a color down to a mere hint of color with a solvent, depending on medium. So at least I know what you're talking about.

    Anyway, my stumbling block at this point is my inability to hold a line. As an example, say you area outlining something with a fine line. What happens to me is that on holding the trigger position, that line will not remain consistent; it will fairly quickly start to fade out, getting smaller and smaller over a rather short distance, an inch or two, (3-5 cm). Naturally, one's reaction is to pull back further on the trigger. MISTAKE !!! Because it is impossible, for me, at least, to adjust the line back to the original size and more often than not what I get is a big SPLAT as a reward for my attempt.

    To put this in simple terms, I find it impossible to resume making a line once it has been interrupted. My question is, is this a common problem, or is this just the result of my inexperience? I have my line sizes down to 1/4 mm or less but have this problem with larger lines, as well. Say you make a line 1mm thick and then stop. How would you go about trying to resume that line again with the exact thickness. Could you do it?
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2016
  6. RebelAir

    RebelAir Air-Valve Autobot!

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    Perfect line control my friend is the holy grail of airbrushing anyone can blend but few can line cleanly, but yes it can be done but will take a lot of practice in really understnding the gun, pressures and paints/inks..PS try some inks and get away from paint if thats your main goal..Also get kids drawing books, the more detailed the better and trace one after the other over and over to improve that line work. This will also help to teach you better methods of change of direction and as you mention picking up a line which for most part isnt too hard but again controlling your motion is very important and is probably something that really comes with time, many who have been painting for many years still have issues in clean line work but training yourself in that are will improve those skills as its simple with learning anything, wash, rinse, repeat, repeat, repeat and so on LOL..No doubt you'll get there and it is possible with the airbrush but generally not what most would use in that arena of work as you will always have a slight oversprayed look to your lines as its the nature of the beast, unless of course you go more into similar work with stencilling. For what your wanting to achieve you may really find a need for a very high end gun.
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  7. RebelAir

    RebelAir Air-Valve Autobot!

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    PS Don't try to hard, line work punishes those who do, it has to be fluid to some extent to then gain control of it, painting to slow or watching your line and actually caring is the opposite to what you need to likely do. ;) Line work is kind of like a little dance also think about other clean up methods, for example you could use an erasing style paint then clean up you lines later to the same line consistency. or paint a little bigger till you gain that control, it does help..Good luck :)
  8. Mr. Magoo

    Mr. Magoo Spider Splatterer

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    I didn't reveal my intent originally because I was sure there would be those who would tell me that it couldn't be done and I need all the encouragement I can get as I noticed early on that there was a lack of artwork using lines and hard edges getting posted here, mostly portraiture and gothic stuff. And when it does hqve hard edges, its most always done with stencils, friskets, etc., not by hand. As you can see by the attached pics, I am getting close. I have a whole box of 11 x 17 40 lb. paper left over from a print job to practice on and its more porous than normal paper so it doesn't spider as often. Nice.

    My Sotar will yield less fuzzy lines only I damaged the tip and Badger wants a ridiculous price to replace it ($62) when I can nearly can buy a new tool for that price, so I forego replacing it. I really appreciate the encouragement. Paint now seems to be the problem there are rare times when I manage to get the kind of lines I want, but I usually don't remember how I did it.

    Yeah, ink. I need to try that. When I read that others don't need to clean their tools as often as I do, I know that what I am attempting is just too much. After a VERY thorough cleaning, my tools will perform as I wish for about 1/2 hour and that's it. Then I must dismantle and clean again. They are THAT sensitive to the slightest blockage. But if I clean, the performance will return, so that proves the point.
  9. Mr. Magoo

    Mr. Magoo Spider Splatterer

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    IMG0026A.jpg IMG0025A.jpg Here are a couple of my practice sheets. Mostly I just do doodles related to my type of work. Previously, I only used monotone but the one on the left is my first foray into color, blending and overlays. I see the huge difference in how colors perform prolly based on pigment particle size.

    This is also my first attempt at actually doing some filigree work, and it surprised me by coming out far better than expected. A better tool will certainly improve this dramatically tho it won't stop my hand from shaking (I'm 70 y.o.). Filigree is actually fairly easy because it is 95% curves and very few straight lines, always short ones.
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2016
  10. RebelAir

    RebelAir Air-Valve Autobot!

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    There is a few artists out there doing similar and probably more if you have a good looksie online..check out Ravenshadows work, was a member here a few years back and easily found and does some really nice outlining style work and also the late Jamie Rodriguiz-One of the few that had mastered the line imho, maybe not so much mastered as I dont think anything can be mastered, nor should be to some extent but perhaps watching him work may help you out..Even studying calligraphy may assist your needs as the relationship is very close to your needs, you may find the more experience you get the less you will shake, its amazing what happens once you take the brain out of the equation, often shaking and such simply vanish when your in the moment rather than spectating the moment if that makes sense..Best of luck m8 and the main things we should focus on in life are those that others say can't be done :).
  11. markjthomson

    markjthomson Very happy! Staff Member Mod

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    Now I think about it, along the lines of calligraphy, check out pinstripping... Call it mixed media!
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  12. Boltcase

    Boltcase Detail Decepticon!

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    While I totally agree with not mixing reducers across different brands I will have to say that Com-art does work well with Createx w500 reducer. But that is the lone exception to the rule, at least that I have heard of to date.
  13. RebelAir

    RebelAir Air-Valve Autobot!

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    just found this on FB this morning and probably explains better what I was trying to say earlier..Lines are a dance. Good old Anthem you LOL

    But does show some very good line control, note how fast he moves. maybe the vids timelapsed a bit but would doubt the need, its fast, confident and fluid motion that helps line work, also standing really helps and practising your arc of motion a few times before committing to painting it, you can also check your line position by learning to introduce a very minute spray so its barely visible but shows you your spray location and if correct you then introduce ink/paint on the next pass because you maintain that motion..No doubt this fella has had some practice, likely paints 20-30 of these a day on a good one.

    https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=1057133777697646&id=136214173122949
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  14. Mr. Magoo

    Mr. Magoo Spider Splatterer

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    Yep, I agree as I just tested ComArt with W500 this morning. Others have caused paint to fragment in pieces in the cup when you try to remove and that becomes a huge problem,
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  15. Mr. Magoo

    Mr. Magoo Spider Splatterer

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    Yes, I have heard of and seen a few works of pinstriping claimed to be done by airbrush.
    IMHO the length of pinstrips lines makes the AB a very poor means of doing it. Its hard enough with proper brushes and I see no joy in making it even more difficult.

    Calligraphy, like script, is all about the beauty of the line. There are lines and then there are LINES. Its all about Intensity, shape and flow and the AB is much more conducive to creating beautiful lines than for pinstriping, which mainly uses hard-edges lines of equal thickness for which the brush is ideal.

    Check out a really good pencil drawing or sketch sometime and notice what it is that makes it good. Its not only the placement of lines, but the beauty of the individual lines themselves. How it begins, intensifies and then ends. You take no notice of a line that is parallel-sided and of equal intensity en-to-end. Its the ones that harmonize within themselves and relation to its neighbors. And if you try to duplicate such a line, you discover that it is no accident and how difficult it is.

    The airbrush can do this, though few try.
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