Iwata Airbrush Repair Service

Last year I was a bad girl.

I let all three of my airbrushes fall into disrepair.  I have three so that I always have a back-up one if one of them is broken, but, apparently that only works if you send the for repair when the need it.  Whoops!

In the past, when my airbrushes were not functioning well, I was always able to get them up to snuff myself.  Thorough cleaning and soaking usually did the trick.  But not this time.  I done some major damage over the years to them – seals were leaking, one needle was damaged, and I was fairly certain I had one (maybe two) cracked nozzles.

All three airbrushes were over 3 years old (one of them 5 years) and they had never been “professionally serviced” so I figured I should get them looked at.

After a bit of research, I decided the best place to send my airbrushes was to the source…. to Iwata themselves.  They built them, they should know how to fix them.

Making the  Appointment

One the Iwata website there is a number to call to arrange for repair.  I called that number and a nice lady answered and asked:

  • What equipment I was sending
  • When I was sending it
  • What I suspected may be wrong

She then gave me a repair code number and instructed me to do the following:

  • For each airbrush, write an short note explaining the problem(s) and include on that note my contact info and the repair code.  I was really pleased that she was so diligent in explaining this to me because one of my fears of sending my babies away was that they would get lost in the shuffle and I wouldn’t get them back.
  • Wrap / contain each airbrush (with the note) in plastic wrap or a plastic bag
  • Package them for shipping (together) being sure to include the Repair Code on the package.
  • She then informed me that they would call me once they had looked at my equipment to get my authorization for repair.

Sending them Off

I will save all my ranting about Canada Post for another post … but I will say that I made a HUGE mistake when shipping.  I sent the packages by ground because I was in no huge hurry to get them back (and I’m cheap) but I forgot to get a tracking code for the package.

After about two weeks had gone by and I hadn’t heard from Iwata I was sure they were gone forever.  Stuck in customs or someone’s pocket or something like that.  I even went shopping for a new brush … but that turned out terrible.  I was very worried.

But, eventually, Canada Post did get them to Iwata… 4 weeks later. (my fault, I know … but it feels better to blame a government organization :P)

The Diagnosis

When Iwata called to let me know the state of my airbrushes, the woman who called actually sounded nervous to talk to me (not a good sign).  I was fully braced for at least one “cannot be revived” diagnosis knowing that one of my brushes was in quite bad shape… but that news never came.

She simply told me that all three required maintenance (included in the service fee) and that I needed a few new parts including two nozzles and one needle (I must has ESP).  She also said that the majority of the seals/o-rings were shot but that they would all be replaced as part of the service.

The Price of Repairs

Once I knew all that was wrong, she moved on to price.  Once again, I was worried.  Airbrushes ain’t cheap and neither are their parts so I was expecting the worst.

Total Cost of Repairs?  $140 total – that includes the $25 service fee per brush.  That’s only $65 for the two nozzles and the needle – not to mention all the seals.

She asked me if I’d like to proceed and I said “HELL YES!”.  I couldn’t purchase those parts and have them shipped to me for that price.  SWEET!

The Results

About two weeks after that phone call my airbrushes arrived back in Canada.  They were all wrapped up nice and obviously very well taken care of on their trip.  I unwrapped my favorite brush, wiggled the trigger and was amazed at the difference.  For a minute, I thought maybe they sent me a new airbrush, but as I looked closer, I could tell it was mine.

All three airbrushes operate like they are brand new, right out of the box.  The funny thing is I didn’t even know how bad they really were.  You know when you become immune to something over time – like the sound of an airplane flying over your house, or that knock in your car – well, I think I had used my airbrushes in ill repair for so long that I couldn’t even tell how bad they were!

But they are perfect now!

OVERALL RATING: AWESOME … I will send them more often for servicing …. it’s worth it!


Digital Time Lapse Camera

You guys have to see this cool time lapse camera!  So wicked!  Me want!

With my new 2012 commitment to post a YouTube video every Saturday, I have been exploring options for creating time lapse videos.   I wanted the time lapse aspect for three reasons:

  • time lapse is really entertaining to watch – it’s almost like performance art
  • I paint slow … much slower than the 15 minutes YouTube gives me … so for you to ever see a full piece it has to be sped up
  • time lapse is incredibly satisfying to me … there’s something about watching yourself paint something that you know took hours and see it come to life in a few minutes.  It’s almost like some sort of vindication.  You end up feeling like, “Ya! That was me!  I took that plain white piece of paper and made a masterpiece just like that.  I am talented!” Personally, I’d like to archive a time lapse of every painting I do.  It would be like a memoir.

Anyway.  Continuing on with the story…

I did some research on how to create time lapse videos and discovered that iMovie 11 has the capability of speeding up video footage.  So, for like $20 I downloaded the new version so I could make them.

What the good folks at Apple failed to tell me is that compressing 45 minutes of video footage into 3 minutes takes 3 hours!

3 hours!!  Who has time to do that.  I’d have to set it up to run while I slept then edit from there … balh blah blah …. unacceptable anyways.

That’s when I stumbled on this BABY!

Everyday I visit a handful of websites and one of them is SwissMiss.  She always has the neatest home decore stuff on there and I’m in to that.  So imagine my surprise when I’m over there snooping around and I find a Digital Time Lapse Camera!  This thing is so cool!!

Buy the Digital Time-Lapse Camera at the Photojojo Store!

Buy the Digital Time-Lapse Camera at the Photojojo Store!

You can set the timing anyway you want … but it has enough memory to take a single photo every day for 200 days.

That doesn’t quite translate well into airbrush language, but the technical specs say it can do the following:

      • 38 hours at 1 frame every 5 seconds
      • 10.4 days at 1 frame every 1 minute
      • 13.8 days at 1 frame every 5 minutes
      • 52 days at 1 frame every 30 minutes
      • 83 days at 1 frame every hour
      • 133 days at 1 frame every 4 hours
      • 200 days at 1 frame every 24 hours

How cool would that be!  You could set it up to film an entire year of airbrush production at 30 minute intervals.  I could timelapse my whole life!  Although it would be fairly boring …. sleep, get ready, go to work, come home, paint, computer, sleep.

Here are the rest of the specs:

Just so you know, I am not affiliated with these people in anyway … I just think this product (as well as the others on their site) are AMAZING.

  • Records HD video at 1280 x 1024 resolution
  • Stores to a 2GB flash drive (included)
  • Can replace storage with a larger flash drive (max size supported is 8GB)
  • Records in AVI file format
  • Includes Windows software for grabbing video stills from movie files (not Mac compatible)
  • 6 default time-lapse settings: 1 minute, 5 minutes, 30 minutes, 1 hour, 4 hours, 24 hours
  • Plus 1 custom setting from 5 seconds to 12 hours (Windows Only)
  • 2 lens settings: standard view and macro view
  • Water resistant plastic; safe for outdoor use
  • Standard tripod mount
  • In normal mode focal length is 20″ to infinity
  • Camera dimensions are 2”x4”x8” and weighs 1/2 lb without batteries
  • Runs on 4 AA batteries (included) that last

It’s only $150 too …. can’t beat that price!  I’ll be sending away for mine shortly …. next pay day I hope :)

Liquid Frisket Fail

I just have to share this because it is FUNNY!

I sat down to with the intent of painting a strawberry and decided that I was going to use my liquid frisket to mask off the seeds in the flesh.  So, I pull it out and shake it dilegently, open it up and look what I got!


It was one huge solid mass and it was the consistency of a marshmallow.  The worst part was when I tried to put it back in the container to throw it out without stinking up my “studio”, it burped, bubbled and farted.  I laughed and laughed.

So gross …. Hahahahahaa.

Airbrush Prices: Where NOT to Shop

All three of my airbrushes were recently broken :(

Don’t ask how this came to be, let’s just chalk it up (is that right? Chalk?) to stupidity and move past that point.

Anyway, as I was packing them up to send them off for repair I was lamenting over the fact that I would be brushless for a number of weeks and had a brilliant idea…

Why not buy a NEW airbrush to use while I waited!

(I love ridiculous logic).

Normally I make all my airbrush purchases when I am at airbrush conferences or training because they usually have a rep from the airbrush company on-site to give you a hand choosing the best brush for your needs AND because they always seem to have killer deals. But I am not scheduled to go to one of those events for quite a while…

So I headed to the art supply store in my town to check out their selection. I was actually impressed to see that on their cluttered messy shelves there were a few Iwata brushes tucked back in there. Wallet burning in the bottom of my purse I grabbed an Iwata Hi Performance HP-SB off the shelf and took it to the till to pay.

The lady behind the counter looked at my item like she had never seen an airbrush before and promptly had to get out the “big black binder” to look up the price. (I guess they don’t have the scanning code of practice in place here).

As she thumbs through the pages she finally says “AH! Here it is! That’ll be $369.


I immediately tell her that she must have it wrong. She disagrees. I ask her if I can see the book myself and she spins it around pointing to the line item. And there it was, in black and white …. $369.

Shocked and appalled I pushed the airbrush across the counter and told her she could keep it.

Who do these businesses think they are?!

That airbrush can be purchased online for about $200 US and they’re charging $369? That’s a (hold on … let me get my calculator) 84% markup from the online prices … not to mention that their wholesale is probably $125.

Discovering this really broke my heart. Not just because I wanted to pick up a new airbrush that day, but also because I couldn’t help but think of the airbrush-wannabe who may go into that store all excited to get equipment for the first time and be turned off by those airbrush prices. It is really very sad.

So here’s my lesson learned and my advice:

  • I know that we should all support our hometown art supply store but geez louise times have changed! If your art supply store marks anything up more that 15% of what you can get it online for – don’t buy it from them. That 15% is not worth the convenience of walking away with an airbrush today. Be sure to tell them that this is why you are not buying.
  • Nobody likes a looky-loo but people also don’t like to buy something that they’ve never seen or held before. Use your art supply store to “handle the product” before you buy. See how it feels, look at the quality, and then – if its overpriced – walk away and buy it online.

I’m curious if this is just my art supply store of if yours is just as ridiculous. Let me know if you’ve seen any of these kinds of discrepancies in pricing in your city in the comments. Maybe we can start a revolt or something!! Whooo Hoooo! Viva Revolution!

Coping With A Bad Airbrush Day

Even though I author this website about airbrushing I want to remind you guys that I too am somewhat of a beginner.  I may know a bit more than you do at this point (or maybe not) and I may be able to show you how to paint some pretty nice stuff … but I want you to know that that is not always the case.

For every GOOD painting, there are at LEAST THREE DUDS.

Yup.  That’s right folks.  I suck at painting somedays too.

For instance today.  I sat down with the intent of making a tutorial about how to paint clouds.  I’ve never painted big fluffy white clouds before, but I figured it would be a good, easy, “beginner-friendly” thing to paint.

It was an absolute disaster!  I’d post a picture of it but I took my frustration out on it and scribbled all over it.

Crappy Paintings Are a Good Thing

I get extremely frustrated when I am taking the time to try and make a tutorial and it goes horribly wrong, but I appreciate when it does happen because it reminds me of how very much alike we are.  I am a beginner at everything I have never painted before … just like you.

One good painting does not make you a good airbrush artist.  Neither does 20.

I know it’s incredibly cliche to say but learning to airbrush is a journey.  Maybe someday far down the road there will be a time when I am confident that I can paint anything that is put it front of me – but today?  Today I am having an off day – and that my friends is OK.  I know the deal.

It’s two steps forward, then one step back.

The Knowledge/Skill Gap

When I have an off day and paint a horrible painting, the first thing that pops into my mind is:

“Why on earth do I operate Airbrush-Guidance!  Who in their right mind would want to learn from a horrible artist like me!?”

While this lamenting is a little overly-dramatic, it is true.

Really, why DO people want to learn from me? There are plenty of other more qualified people out there to learn from, but, everyday people e-mail me questions, read my website and watch my videos.  And, they seem to like them … so what’s the deal?

As I see it, I think that I am filling a gap in the airbrush market. Everyone who makes airbrush videos or puts on formal airbrush training are pros – like REAL pros.

Pros are as intimidating as hell to the absolute beginner! These people, many whom I’ve met in person, don’t have off days like me.  They can whip out stunning paintings consistently.  They make it look SO EASY, and then you (or me) sit down to try it ourselves and fail miserably!  I don’t know about you, but it leaves me with that icky, gross feeling of “I’ll never be as good as them, so why bother”.

Here’s where I come in.  My niche, so to speak.  I am not a pro.  I am not an amazing airbrush artist. That means you don’t need to be intimidated by me. Nope, not at all.

And you know what else?  Being better a better airbrush artist than me is actually achievable.  In fact, I’ve made a number of friends who have totally exceeded my abilities through this website … and that makes me SO happy.

Simply reminding myself of that the intent of Airbrush-Guidance is to be a midway point between teaching yourself and learning from the pros gives me the confidence to sit down again tomorrow and try to make another tutorial that will help someone get just a little bit closer to their artistic goals.

How do you cope with a bad airbrush day?

Do you get mad?  Do you beat yourself up?  Do you take it all in stride?  Let me know in the comments – especially if you have any great coping strategies cause lord knows I need them!

Dealing with Criticism

I know that most of you who come to this site are, like me, relatively new to airbrushing… but I wanted to deal with the topic of criticism early in your artistic endeavours because I can guarantee that somewhere down the line, someone, somewhere is going to have something unpleasant to say about your art.

As a person who does not handle criticism well due to my fragile ego I wanted to share a few strategies that work for me.

1. Acknowledge That Criticism Stings

It is inevitable that when someone has something critical to say about anything that you have spent hours labouring over that the criticism is going to hurt.  This is just a fact of life.

2. Determine WHAT They Are Criticizing

There are two kinds of criticism in my eyes.  Criticism about you and criticism about your art.

Unfortunately, to the beginner, all criticism feels like it’s about you even when it’s not. You are hard wired to take it personally and that is why I am asking you to take a moment and do this crucial step – THINK.  Did they actually say something bad about YOU personally?  Or did you twist what they said and make it personal?

It is really amazing how an artist can hear “I really think the proportions are off” and interpret it to mean “You are a complete idiot who has no idea what your doing”.  That cutting comment is you talking.  I want to remind you that YOU have the ability to change how you talk to yourself … you don’t have to be so mean!  You can teach yourself to say encouraging things to your inner artist about your work … maybe saying “You know, they’re right, the proportions are a little off – I’ll have to watch for that next time.  I still am really proud of it regardless.”

3. Consider the source

If someone is making negative comments about your artwork, you need to put those comments through the “critique or criticize” filter.

Critiquing is generally helpful in nature.  It may not be what you want to hear – but the intent is good.  For example, if your were to send me one of your paintings for feedback and I told you numerous things that were wrong with it that would be critiquing.  The colors are off here.  The edge of that shadow is too dark.  Your proportion is a little out of whack there.  Watch the intensity of your highlights.

By telling you those things I would have given you a list of things to improve or watch out for in the future and THAT would be helpful, right?

But here’s the catch …. it’s only helpful (and not hurtful) because you think that I know what I am talking about.  You value my opinion.

What if your wife or husband (assuming they don’t do art) said the same things … colors are off, shadows too dark, proportions all wrong etc.  Now, I am sure that you value your spouses opinion – but it stings a bit more when they say it, doesn’t it?  That’s because even though the comments provided are the exact same, the source makes it feel like criticism.

Why does the source change the message?

The source changes the message because of your expectations of them.  You expect me to give tips – after all, I paint.  When your non-painting spouse gives tips – your defensive flags tend to rear their ugly head.

Your feelings regarding the source of the message – whether they be appreciative or defensive – are just feelings.  They do not change the meat of the message in the slightest.  Consider the critique or criticism for what it is and choose to apply it, or not apply it to your artwork.

A word of warning: Be careful of this beginner artist trap!

4. Remember WHY you make art in the first place and Don’t you DARE think about quitting

New artists are like butterflies – they are very easily crushed.

Many new artists are very excited by their work and want to show it to lots of people.  This is awesome – but be careful that you aren’t sabotaging yourself – don’t expect everyone to fall in love with what you’ve done or praise you or even be nice.  Be sure you can handle the harsh words because many artists can’t – and those who can’t handle it and show people anyway, typically throw in the towel and quit.

This is incredibly sad.

I am willing to bet that you didn’t get into art to impress anyone.  I bet that you were interested in it and once you started you found it fun.  In the beginning, this was about YOU and your happiness and fulfillment.  It had nothing to do with THEM.  So ask yourself “Why does what THEY think matter anyway”.

Do art for YOU first, and for THEM second.  You’ll be glad you did.

Airbrush Compressors: Tiny and Tankless

There has been a lot of talk over on the airbrush-guidance facebook page about airbrush compressors lately which leads me to believe that people are confused by all the options that are out there.

While I can’t talk specifically to every single compressor on the market (because there are a bajillion) I can certainly try to address the different categories for you so you know what your getting into.  Also, as always, I will add my personal opinion on each type and, if possible, my experiences…

I’ll do this over a number of posts to keep the post length to a minimum …. starting with, you guessed it…

Tiny Tankless Airbrush Compressors

This type of air compressor is marketed as the “entry level” compressor for airbrush artists and hobbyists.  This is the type of compressor that you will find at your local art supply store or being sold with most starter kits.

Typically they are oil-less, piston driven compressors that do not have air storage tanks.


Even though these types of air compressors are small (and useless … oooops… did I say that out loud?) they still pack a punch in the price department with prices ranging from $150 to $250.


Because these compressors do not have storage tanks, in order to supply a constant flow of pressurized air the compressor’s motor runs constantly. I personally find this infuriating … when I paint I like to get all zen and the constant running of the compressor interferes with getting to that place.  Granted, when I paint, I tend to paint for hours at a time.

I suppose that if you are using the compressor for 10 or 15 minutes a day, like to apply make-up, or paint nails, or to work on a very small project, that this type of compressor would be OK, but it is definitely not something that you would want to use if you plan on running it quite a bit.

Noise and Heat

The noise of the motor constantly running is really annoying (they say they are quiet … but all that means is it doesn’t sound like a diesel truck but it ain’t no kitten purring either) and if you do end up using it for a long time, they tend to get quite hot to the touch.  Hot motors, especially ones that are not cooled by oil, are a bad thing.


I also found that these oil-less, tankless, piston-driven airbrush compressors have issues with pulsations.  Basically, because the piston is constantly compressing air, the flow / pressure tends to fluctuate.  This isn’t a problem when you’re painting an area (like a finger nail, or a filling in a stencil) but it does become a problem if you are trying to paint lines that are a consistent thickness.  Instead of a smooth, clean line, the lines will go thick-thin-thick-thin in sync with the piston(s) moving back and forth.

Now it’s time for me to be (extra) blunt…

I think these systems are a waste of money for what you get.  Sure, there are applications where they make sense because they are super small and portable, but in most cases for the price you pay, you can get a clunkier unit that is going to be a lot more satisfying to use.

What do you think?

Do you own or have you owned one of these types of airbrush compressors?  Would YOU recommend one of them to a friend?

Airbrush Reference Photos

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!  Welcome to 2012 …. the perfect time to discuss airbrush reference photos (you’ll see why in a second).

I few years back I went to an airbrushing class where the instructor stated that “In order to be a good artist, you must split your drawing into thirds.  One third is drawing from a reference photo, the second is drawing from real life, and the third is to draw from your mind”

While this is excellent advice and I am sure that the intent was great … this ain’t ever gonna happen for me.  I need reference photos. Every single piece I paint is based almost 100% of a photo or a collage of photos.

I would say that this is probably true of most beginners.  Reference photos provide the much needed support that new artists need … they don’t move or shift, the light doesn’t change and they require no creative thinking.  They are what they are.  And that’s what beginners need.  We NEED to use reference photos because we need to FOCUS on painting it right, not flattening a 3D view, or coming up with some vision in our minds.  Our minds are busy trying to figure out the friggin airbrush!

Reference Photos: Where to Get Them


Today we are super lucky … we have the internet to get reference photos from.  Anything you want to paint is just one google image search away.  Technically, though, images that you find on google are more than likely copyrighted.  That means if you are going to create a replica of that image with your airbrush you should find out who took the picture and get their permission to use it for your artwork.

Personally, I don’t take copyrighting too seriously.  Don’t get me wrong, I respect the idea and the law … but I don’t get all ridiculous about it like some artists do.   I basically use the following rules with respect to copyright:

1. If it’s just for me – that is, I am just practicing airbrushing – I don’t ask for permission.

2. If I am going to put it up on my website – that is, others will see it – I’ll give credit to the original photographer if I can find out who they are.

3. If I am going to sell it or make money off of it in anyway – I get permission.

(Interesting side note: Do you know Disney has a division of people that crack down on people selling “homemade” disney stuff!?  For example, they sell Disney themed cake pans for kids birthdays but if you make a Disney themed cake and instead of using it for your personal use, you sell it …. they’ll come after you!  That’s why you never see nice Disney cakes at the grocery store … just ones with licensed little plastic thingies on them).


My favourite internet source for airbrush reference images is Flickr.  Mainly that’s for two reasons.

Creative Commons: I tend to use the images on this website and I want to be able to give people credit for their work (i.e. not for personal use).  Flickr has a whole section of creative commons photos whereby the photographer has granted permission ahead of time for people to use their artwork anyway they like.  Creative commons is a wonderful thing … much too complicated to explain here but here’s a link to Flickr’s Creative Commons Rules

Interesting Photos: There are some incredibly talented photographers on Flickr.  There’s a trick to finding them though.  When you do a search on Flickr, for say, cats, it will bring up every single photo tagged with the word “cats” – including the one Aunt Mavis took of the two cats doing it in the alley.  The trick is to sort the searched photos by “interesting”.  This brings up the best of the best photos.

Picture Quality: When I choose a photo for airbrushing, I want the best quality photo I can get and that doesn’t always happen with a google search.  Flickr will let you download the photos in varying sizes and usually there is a VERY big one to get.  I then send those away to Walmart for photo finishing and voila … I have a great reference.



I love love love using calendar photos as reference photos for airbrushing.  They are usually HUGE photos, great quality and the subject matter is usually stunning.  This time of year is the perfect time to go hunting for great calendars or just to keep your eyes open for free give aways.

At my local mall, they set up a temporary calendar store just before christmas, and after christmas, they sell all the calendars at WAY less.  Since I am only interested in the photos, I’ll go snap up what ever is interesting and CHEAP.  As for freebies, I’ve already lucked out once … my pet supply store was giving out calendars with puppies and kitties pictures (umm… totally my fave subject) so I snapped up a couple.


My mom powers through magazines like nobodies business, so whenever I go to visit I take all her old ones.  Not only do I get to read the latest version of People, but typically there are a few good reference photos in there too.  Most of the photo references I snag from magazines are beauty ads … lots of high detail eyes, faces and hands.  These are especially great to use as airbrush references because they have already been airbrushed digitally once so there are no flaws in them!


I have a thing for books.  I love them.  I love going to the bookstore and just hanging out, flipping through all the books I wish I had an infinite amount of money to buy.  While I am certain to buy a reading book every time I am at the bookstore, every so often I find a book chock full of photos that I can’t live without so I snap it up so I can use them as references.

There’s one flaw to this method though.  I usually can’t stand to keep the pictures in the book … so I cut them out and then regret it something awful later.  There something inhumane about chopping up a perfectly fine book :(

What about you?

Do you have a secret source for reference photos that you’ve been keeping to yourself?  You should tell us in the comments below … there’s enough to go around.

Airbrush Skill Levels

One of the hardest things about being an airbrush artist is setting realistic expectations of how skilled you can become and how fast you can get there. I know for myself that I had HUGE dreams. I wanted to be able to paint amazing canvases with fine art, super detailed cars, and be able to whip out t-shirts with beautifully scripted names at a mile a minute. But then I got a dose of reality. You can’t be awesome at everything all at once so I chose to focus my attention on the fine art goal – and so far I am pretty happy with the results.

Recently I decided that I wanted to tackle part 2 of my big master plan and I am now trying to teach myself how to letter. I have these visions of being able to script a perfectly balanced, highly readable, super stylized name in 30 seconds or less. And boy … do I suck at it!

And that’s OK.

I know that learning a new skill is going to take time. I know that it’s going to be frustrating. I know it’s going to bruise my ego to be awful at something for a while, but, I have given myself permission to be a beginner.

And you should too.

When you are just learning to airbrush there are going to be awful days. There are going to be days when you paint something and it is incredible, and other days when you perform absolutely terribly. This is not a a reason to give up, or doubt yourself, or to beat yourself up. You’re new at this! It’s OK. Your airbrush skills will improve, I guarantee it, but only if you accept your failures, celebrate your successes, and keep on painting anyway.

Remember, practice and patience makes perfect.

Airbrush Help For Beginners