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Basic Airbrush Lesson:Three Color, Color Wheel

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For this airbrush lesson I’ll show you how to create the color wheel shown above using only three colors: Red, Blue and Yellow.

The tools you will need for this lesson are:

  • Your airbrush equipment
  • Red transparent paint
  • Blue transparent paint
  • Yellow transparent paint
  • Something round (to trace a circle)
  • White Paper
  • Pencil
  • Masking film / Frisket (stick back transparent film)
  • Exacto knife

The skill we will be learning in this airbrush lesson is:

  • Color Theory!!!

Ahem… I have to rant for just one second about color theory before we begin… knowing your colors and how to mix them is the single most important part of airbrushing that few bother to master.

I highly recommend once you are done this lesson that you try the next lesson too to get an even better understanding as this lesson just covers the basics. Rant over…. sorry ;)

Scroll down when you are ready!

Preparation Pictures

Ok. This is kinda funny.

When I decided to do this airbrush lesson, I had a really hard time wrapping my brain around how to explain it to you.

I had to draw some diagrams to figure it out, and, in retrospect, I think it may be helpful for you to see upfront what we are going to be doing before we start.

Below are three photos of diagrams. The diagrams show how we are going to apply three colors, each on one half of a circle, at varying angles to create six distinct areas of color. Three of the colors on the wheel will be original (red, blue, yellow) and the areas shown with cross-hatches are blends of color (or two colors overlapping).

NOTE: You don’t have to recreate these diagrams… it will all make sense at the end.

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Step 1

Ok!! Now that I understand what we are doing (hahaha), we can get started.

Trace a circle onto your frisket material and cut out the circle with the exacto knife. Peel the backing off the frisket and apply the piece with the circle cut out of it onto your white paper.

TIP: Frisket can often be really sticky and difficult to remove from your paper when the project is complete… to make it less sticky, stick it on to a cloth and then peel it off – this will leave small fibers on the frisket and make it less sticky

Mark the frisket as shown indicating where the red, yellow and blue pieces of the pie will be.

Also mark the center of the circle.

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Step 2

Load your airbrush with a few drops of pure red transparent paint. Spray the top half of the circle as shown.

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Step 3

Clean out your airbrush really well.

TIP:Double check that there is no more red paint in the gun by filling the cup with water and spraying it onto a white piece of paper towel. Did it spray pink water? Better give it another cleaning.

Put a few drops of blue transparent paint into your airbrush and spray another half of the circle as shown (it may help to turn your paper so the “blue” label is at the top of the page).

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Step 4

Clean out your airbrush really well and put a few drops of transparent yellow in the cup (or bottle – depending on airbrush type).

Spray the last half of the circle, being sure to overlap a third of the red and a third of the blue with the yellow paint.

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Step 5

Carefully remove the frisket. You should have something that looks like this.

Note: Colors will vary depending on paint brand and the specific colors of red, blue and yellow you have. For example for blues there are colbalt, cerulean and turquoise blues.

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Step 6

Use a pencil to mark the six different colors on your color wheel.

You will have your three original colors:

  • Red
  • Blue and
  • Yellow

As well as three NEW colors:

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Step 7

Optional: Mark up your circle further by adding division lines as shown.

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Now give the BIG color wheel a try to really master color theory: 6 Color Wheel

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