Category Archives: Fine Art

airbrush-red-rose

Work In Progress: Airbrush Roses

I have been looking for the perfect photo to try out a new technique on … and I think I found it!  What I wanted to do was to try to use the technique that I often use for painting black and white photos and try it on a colored background.  Now, I easily could have used photoshop to “make” a photo like I wanted by swapping out the white of a B&W photo for say, blue, but what I really wanted was a “real” photo that primarily only consisted of two colors… and this is it …
airbrush-red-rose

 

Isn’t it gorgeous!? I was very excited to have found it.  The way I see it, this photo could be interpreted as a “black and red” photo so MAYBE it can be painted like one.  We’ll see.  Please keep in mind that this is an experiment… it is still not finished and I am not sure what the end result will look like … but I figured I would show what I have done so far.

Preparations Steps

Normally I would trace the outlines of the photo onto a white canvas and slowly begin filling in the darkest areas, but for this painting I knew I would have to take a different approach because each petal was so distinct.  So, instead of tracing the photo onto the canvas, I decided to make a flapper stencil that would help me to define the red areas and the dark areas.  Below are a series of pictures that show the steps tracings and resulting stencils.

airbrush-red-roses First I placed the photo into a clear plastic folder and traced the outlines with a fine tip sharpie marker
airbrush-red-roses That left me with a much more defined image to then trace onto tracing paper.  I did this step because it was very difficult to see the details of the photo through the haze of the tracing paper.
airbrush-red-roses I thin redrew the outlines onto tracing paper and identified the drakest shaded areas by coloring them in.
airbrush-red-roses I then created TWO stencils.  The top one reveals only the very darkest shadows in the center of the flower. The second is a “flapper” stencil that will help me define the petals.

Prepping The Canvas

As usual I am using cold press illustration board for this painting.  The photos below show how I established the red background from my experiment.

airbrush-red-roses First I taped the edges of my illustration board to protect the edges and to frame my finished piece.
airbrush-red-roses Then I began the process of color matching the red.  I sought out the lightest red in the painting.  As you can see, it took me multiple tries to get a color I was happy with.
airbrush-red-roses Every time I made a color, I tested it against the actual photo reference.  The final comparison is shown here and as you can see I am a smidge light.  But that’s OK.
airbrush-red-roses Then I spray the entire surface of the canvas red.  It took lot and lots coats … I sure am glad I mixed I lot paint.

Establishing the Darks

This is the part where I KNOW you guys are all going to panic!  You are going to think “What is she doing?!? That looks horrible!!” and I am totally with you!  This DOES look horrible!  But that’s the thing with art … it always looks terrible when you’re starting out and that is why so many people give up at this stage.  They look at what they produced and groan “I might as well quit now.” – and let me tell you – I thought the exact same thing at this stage – I always do – but you have to push through it.

Trust me.

 

airbrush-red-roses My first stencil is to establish the dark area around the outer edge of the roses.
airbrush-red-roses And this is what it looks like once the area is sprayed with watered down black paint.  I kept it light at first to let the red shine through because I can always darken it up later.
airbrush-red-roses My next stencil was cut into the first (I hid it from you in the photo) and it is to establish the dark areas in the center of the flower.
airbrush-red-roses And, this is what that looks like when it is sprayed in.  To be honest, in retrospect I wish I would have had a lighter touch at this phase, but, c’est la vie!

Defining the Petals

Because this photo is so intricate, I did not want to rely on my memory to know where all the shadows landed to define each petal so I created a “flapper” stencil (I don’t know if that is it’s technical name but that is what I am calling it anyway!).  These types of stencils allow you to peel back areas of the stencil and “dust” paint beneath them to sort of “sketch” in the shadows and define certain edges.

When making flapper stencils be sure that you don’t cut all the way to the next line so that the stencil doesn’t fall apart … you have to leave bridges or else you’ll end up with a pile of paper and not know which bit goes where.

airbrush-red-roses This pictures shows my flapper stencil.  All the lines shown in the photo have been cut with an exacto knife.
airbrush-red-roses This shows how each “flap” can be pulled up to expose an area of the canvas below.  Using the photo as reference, I carefully determined which edge of each flap needed shading and painted it in.
airbrush-red-roses I continued to do this with each flap until I was satisfied with the “sketch” that was left behind.
airbrush-red-roses And here is the result of all the stencilling … pretty ugly right now but it will look better shortly.

Cleaning it up

Now for the hard part.  Working at it until it begins to resemble something more than just some red and black blotches.  For this phase I use really watered down black paint and carefully shade each petal constantly referring to the reference to determine where to start and stop.

I personally find that I tend to build it up in stages … that is, i will go around the whole piece and lightly shade, then take a break, come back and shade some more.  Taking breaks is really important in my process … I usually end up taking a break when I think that the I have either a) ruined it or b) done as much as i could.  Typically, when I come back to it in ten minutes or so I see that it is not nearly as bad as I thought it was, or, that it has a lot more that could be done to it to make it better.

The photos below shows it at the 50% shaded range (i.e. it’s not done) – but I wanted to show you something….

both the photos below are at the EXACT SAME STAGE of painting only one has the tape on, and the other has the tape removed.

What a difference hey?  I wanted to show you this because I know that when you are painting you are almost always thinking about “how bad it looks” and really, once you get it all cleaned up, it is never as bad as you think!

 

I probably have few more hours left on this one before it is ready for detailing which I will show you in the next instalment.

Join the conversation!

Have you ever tried the flapper stencil method?  What did you think of it?  Too tedious? Absolutely awesome?  What about the colored B&W painting?  Do you use this technique?  Do you think it’ll work out in the end?

 

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Black and White Airbrush Paintings in 10 Steps

airbrush paintings

The above is one of my airbrush paintings from quite a while ago – long before I started this website – so, I will apologize upfront and let you all know that not every step is shown.

However, I think it still may be helpful to show you how I approach black and white portraits.

(of course, there are a million ways to do this – there are no right or wrong ways – only the way that works for you! Remember this is supposed to be FUN!)

For this project all that was used was:

  • airbrush equipment
  • black TRANSPARENT paint
  • masking tape
  • exacto knife
  • frisket
  • pencil
  • a surface to paint on

The Basic Formula I Use For Black and White Airbrush Paintings

1. Find a great reference photo.

Preferably in Black and White or converted to Black and White

2. Study the photo

Look for the following:

  • Tones (i.e. light grey, medium grey, dark grey, black)
  • Shapes of the tones (i.e. there is a light grey triangle under the chin)
  • Edges (i.e. sharp and soft edges)
  • Transitions (i.e. how one area fades into another)

3. Make A Copy

If possible, make a copy of the black and white photo and mark it all up with the findings of step 2. This becomes sort of a cheat sheet when completing the painting.

4. Transfer the image to the painting surface in pencil.

Don’t just draw the outlines – lightly mark all the areas identified in step 2. I typically use an opaque projector because I can’t draw.

If your wondering why I do it twice (once on the copy of the photo then again on the painting surface) it’s because it is easy to get lost in all the pencil lines on the surface and not be able to figure out why you put them there in the first place.

5. Tape the edges

Framing the painting in white makes a huge difference in how the finished results looks.

6. Paint the eyes to a finished state.

Note that this is the only place that I use frisket when painting a face.

When making airbrush paintings of people (or portraits, to state it a little more classy) I always start with the eyes. It is really just a personal preference – but here is my theory. Eyes, in western culture anyway, are the most recognizable feature on a persons face. If you get them a little off, or if they are slightly cross-eyed or googly eyed, it will really stick out. SO…. I start with those so that if I screw them up I can start over without investing a whole lot of time.

7. Lightly start painting the darkest areas of the reference.

I do this to establish some landing points … I think of it like sketching

8. Build up tones SLOWLY

(it is easy to add color, hard to take it away)

9. WALK AWAY

IMPORTANT STEP – walk away for at least 20 minutes. Come back and adjust

When you right close up to your artwork and intensely working on it, you’ll find that your sense of reality gets messed up (at least I do). Something that looks really dark to you when you are painting it will look way to light 20 minutes later when you look at it with fresh eyes!

10. Erase or scratch away highlights.

Now… of course…. this varies a bit from painting to painting… but overall this is how I approach each one of my black and white airbrush paintings.

An Example

The following are photos show the how the painting at the beginning of the post evolved. Note that most of the photos are steps 7 and 8 where I slowly build up the tones.

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Airbrush Portrait in Time Lapse Video

What a find!!! This airbrush portrait is STUNNING!!

It’s so rare to find a full length time lapse on youtube! And this one is great… I’ll blather on about it at the end cause I know you just want to get to the video :)

I so happy I stumbled across this…. Normally, I watch Chris Scalf’s(the artist) youtube videos for his amazing photoshop skills – you should check out his photoshop dragons – they are absolutely breathtaking.

In fact … they are SO good, that as a BONUS CLIP I’ll add one of my favorite photoshop dragons of his at the bottom – even though it is not airbrush related, it’s worth showing from an artistic point of view.

And now for the BONUS FEATURE

OK!! So let’s talk about that airbrush video!!

How about I just list all the things that really impressed me!

1. He doesn’t even have a sketch on that illustration board – it’s 100% freehand

2. He uses a shield, what, three time?!?! And to top it off it’s a ripped up piece of paper!

3. It only took him 4 hours to paint (man, I wish!)

4. He uses very very little white paint – just a few spots on the shirt to punch out the highlights

5. He mixes up his media by using prismacolor pencils at the end to add the “little extras”

6. And lastly, I am just plain old impressed – aren’t you?

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Airbrush Step by Step: Hockey Jersey

airbrush step by step

In this airbrush step by step I’ll go through how I painted the hockey jersey shown above. I get lots of requests for these for baby showers – I guess it is something to make the Daddy’s feel included :)

To paint your own jersey, you’ll need the following:

  • your airbrush equipment
  • TRANSPARENT paints in the colors of your favorite team
  • white OPAQUE paint
  • frisket
  • exacto knife
  • marker
  • a surface to paint on

Scroll down when you are ready to start!

Step 1

To start this airbrush step by step you’ll need to draw out the shape of the jersey on some frisket film. I used a marker and cheated by using an opaque projector to draw this one. I also traced some letters for the name across the back (the last name of the baby… in this case).

Notice that around the perimeter of the jersey I have made little hash marks at various random spots… these will come in handy later

airbrush step by step

Step 2

Next I used an exacto knife to cut out the outer perimeter of the jersey – there is no need to cut the other areas yet… just the outside. Then the frisket surrounding the jersey was removed. Be sure to keep the part removed though… you’ll need it later

airbrush step by step

Step 3

In this step of the airbrush step by step I have started painting the background of the painting. I usually keep them really simple and just use one color – in this case blue. I am going for a starburst effect behind the jersey. I have done it by painting a light mist of the color around the entire jersey and then painting dagger strokes out from the jersey fading them off towards the edges.

airbrush step by step

Step 4

Alright… this is a bit of a tricky part.

Here I have put the frisket I removed earlier back over top of the area painted blue in the last step. This is a little tricky because it is tough to get everything lined up right. Remember all the little marks I made in step 1 – here is where they become useful…

Simply line up all the marks from the jersey to the piece of frisket and … voila … everything is in the right spot!

Also, because the frisket does not cover my entire working surface, I have taped scrap paper over all the remaining exposed areas to protect it from overspray – just in case!

airbrush step by step

Step 5

With everything lined up, I use my exacto knife to cut all the remaining lines on the drawing… then I remove one color section at a time painting in the appropriate color.

Note that a little planning at this stage goes a long way… as all of the little bits you remove will need to be replaced once the color is painted to protect them from the overspray of the next color… so taking the time to make sure you’ll be able to fit the pieces of the puzzle back together again is very useful!

The following is a series of photos showing all the bits removed, painted then replaced…

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Step 6

Once all the little areas are painted, double check to make sure that all your hard work is well covered in frisket. I’m serious…. double check!

When you are done checking, load up your paint with the base color of the jersey (in this case red) and then spray on the color slowly. Be careful while your spraying that all the little frisket bits stay stuck down.

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Step 7

Remove all the frisket and admire your work so far! If there are a few areas of overspray on the white areas, use an exacto knife to lightly scrape away they paint from the affected area.

airbrush step by step

Step 8

Now..at this point in the airbrush step by step the jersey looks pretty good at this point, but pretty flat. We need to add some dimension…

… using watered down black transparent paint, paint lightly around the perimeter of the jersey to make it look rounded. Also, spray a few fading lines up through the body of the jersey to make some shadows in the folds. Go easy on these – too many looks muddy.

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Step 9

Last step! Remove all the frisket and admire your work!

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Airbrush Tutorial: Realistic Airbrush Flag

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For this airbrush tutorial I’ll show you how I painted the flag shown above, which is MUCH cooler than my previous flag! It uses the same technique of layering transparent paints, but, is a little more realistic.

For this project you will need the following:

  • your airbrush equipment
  • red, blue and black TRANSPARENT paints
  • frisket
  • exacto knife
  • pencil
  • black marker
  • scrap paper
  • a surface to paint on

Scroll down when you are ready to start!

Step 1

To start the airbrush tutorial, use the masking tape to make a border around your painting surface – this won’t work without the border. Also, using a pencil, very lightly draw some diagonal lines on your surface to guide where the flags folds are going to go….

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… notice that I left a small area at the bottom right corner to place a little sky … this helps with the realism. In the photo below the sky area is masked off and the pencil lines are erased to near invisible.

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Step 2

Using really heavily reduced black transparent paint (reduced with water) place some soft shadows in the lowest areas of your furled flag. This gives the furls (is furl even a word??!) a rounded effect.

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Step 3

Then, to make the folds more pronounced, fold a piece of paper as shown below and place it along side each of the fold areas. Spray the diluted black paint on to the edge of the paper letting the overspray create the soft edge….

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Step 4

When you remove the paper it should look something like this…

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Step 5

Now what we want to do is deepen the effect with some freehand work…. lightly spray over the fold lines making them gradually darker and darker.

This is the part of the airbrush tutorial where you may make a common airbrush mistake …. it’s called “chickening out” :) …. “chickening out” is when you are so worried about ruining a good thing that you stop short of the goal – this is not the time to be hesitant! Just Go For It! It only looks really dark because you are 10 inches away from it.

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Step 6

Now, place a big piece of frisket over the entire painting surface.

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Step 7

Then break out your black marker and redraw all your lines on the frisket (I like this method because it makes the cutting SO much easier!). At this point double check your design and make sure that you have the right number of stripes in each fold. I actually went through and marked out which ones were red and which were white (with W’s and R’s shown below) just to double check.

(can you tell that I have made that mistake a few time?)

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Step 8

Using an exacto knife cut the frisket along all the black lines. Then remove all the stripes that are going to be red.

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Step 9

Now load up your airbrush with transparent red paint and spray away on the exposed areas. DON’T worry if it looks pink at first … the color will deepen the more you spray.

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Step 10

Once you get all the red placed, remove the frisket covering the blue area of the flag.

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Step 11

Critical Step in the Airbrush Tutorial !!!

BEFORE you start spraying the blue area, take extra special care that EVERYTHING else is protected from overspray! Blue is one of those pigments that just seems to get everywhere!

Here I have used extra frisket to cover the area right next to the blue and then scrap paper to cover the entire rest of the piece…. I even taped down all the exposed edges – just to be safe…

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Step 12

When you are done covering everything, spray blue transparent paint over the area. Layer it on slowly – letting the color deepen as you spray.

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Step 13

Then remove all the frisket and paper to reveal this…

Notice that there is still a little bit of frisket in the bottom right corner – that is where the sky is going to go – which I totally failed to take pictures of! SORRY!

All I did was remove the frisket to expose the white canvas underneath, then I used more frisket to mask off the area and mixed a pale blue sky color and applied.

Again, Sorry I forgot to take photos of that! My bad!

(some airbrush tutorial, eh?)

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Step 14

…. remove all the tape and VOILA …. one completed flag.

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Airbrush Tutorials: Small, Manageable Bites!

airbrush tutorials

Of all the airbrush tutorials – this is an important one… because rather than being about technique, it’s about confidence!

While the painting above looks really complicated and difficult, it was not terribly difficult to paint… all I had to do was break it down into smaller, more manageable parts…

Part 1

First I came up with a plan … and sketched it all out.

airbrush tutorials

Part 2

The I worked solely on the horses bridle – and I worked on it till I thought it was as perfect as I could get it. Once happy with it, I covered it all up with frisket so that I would not damage any of my hard work with over spray.

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Part 3

Next I worked on the background…again covering it with frisket when I was done.

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Part 4

Next came the boot….

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Here is a close up… just like with the bridle, I worked on the boot till I thought it was the best I could do.

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Part 5

Then I moved onto the pants, sweater and glove – working on them one at a time.

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Part 6

Now it’s time to move on the most complicated part of the painting – the horse. Although he looks completely brown, he was actually several colors – each one was mixed individually and then painted in the right spot.

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Part 7

… And here it is all filled in. Notice how it doesn’t look quite right – nothing a little shading with transparent paints won’t fix!

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Part 8

After lots of careful shading, the horse takes shape – looking more real by the minute… note that this takes patience but is well worth it.

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Part 9

And here it is all done!

I hope showing you that breaking a project down into smaller parts helps with all the other airbrush tutorials and projects you tackle.

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How to Airbrush Water Drops

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Airbrush water drops are very impressive and very simple to paint… just a few simple steps is all it takes..

For this project I will show you how I painted the water drops shown above.

For this project you will need the following:

  • your airbrush equipment
  • a selection of paints
  • a little bit of frisket
  • a surface to paint on

Scroll down when you are ready to start!

Step 1

To start things off you will need to paint your surface some color other than white to make them stand out better. I chose a steely grey (or is it gray… I never know?)

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Step 2

Then apply a piece of frisket on the surface and draw as many water drop type shapes as you like.

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Step 3

Using an exacto knife, cut out the shapes and place them aside – don’t throw them away (or lose them) you’ll need them later.

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Step 4

Using white paint, shade one side of each shape. Notice that I sprayed mostly on the frisket letting the overspray paint the actual highlight. (I cheat whenever possible :)

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Step 5

Now using watered down black transparent paint, add a shadow to the opposite side.

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Step 6

Make sure everything is fully dried, and replace the pieces of frisket (you didn’t lose them, right?). Then remove the larger piece of frisket.

Only the three little pieces of frisket should be left on the surface.

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Step 7

Double then triple check to make sure the pieces of frisket are lined up properly. Once your sure, spray a soft shadow using watered down black transparent paint on the side of that you painted white as shown.

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Step 8

Remove the bits of frisket and marvel at your skill :)

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Step 9

But wait – there is one last step – scratch or spray a little tiny dot on as shown to make your drop look shiny.

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Step 10

And here it is all done! Water drops awaaaaay!

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Airbrush Training at the Blair School of Art

If I had a pocket full of money the first thing I would do with it is get my butt to the Blair School of Art for some serious airbrush training!

If you are into fine art airbrushing the Blair School of Art is bar-none the ONLY place to go! Dru Blair is one of the worlds BEST photo realism painters and is the greatest instructor EVER!

If you want to skip my commentary go ahead and check out his website for yourself:

Blair School of Art

My Comments

Right up front … I have not personally been to the Blair School of Art but I have taken a airbrush training from Dru Blair at an Airbrush Action Getaway – and it was STELLAR!!

If you would like to help me get there please feel free to make a donation

Here is how this airbrush training works – it’s so brilliant.

At the Blair School of Art the idea is all about Airbrush Immersion. This school is located in the middle of nowhere in the woods of South Carolina. Students stay at the school in cottage suites and are fed on “campus”. For four (4) SOLID days you will eat, breath, sleep, talk, dream, and do airbrush and nothing but airbrush. And when I say SOLID I mean it – Dru is a machine and his classes run into the wee hours of the morning.

The campus is set up like no other. There are color corrected lights, multiple TV screens, and all the equipment and paint is provided. Dru only accepts a handful of students at a time so that he can be sure to attend to each one individually.

Now, I am projecting a lot of my experience from the Airbrush Action Getaway class that I took with Dru Blair on to this training that takes place at his Blair School of Art – but I can only imagine it being 10 times better. And that is really %#$#^’ing saying something.

Dru is SUCH an amazing teacher. Words cannot really describe it.

His lesson plans are so well thought out. The materials are all so organized. And Dru and his AMAZING staff are so helpful and fun. When I left the class at the Airbrush Action Getaway there were hugs and tears as we parted – truly sweet talented people.

As an added bonus Dru is now offering his students to “stay awhile” after the classes end. After the four day classes, for the price of room and board, you can stay and work side by side with “the master” on what ever project you wish. Isn’t that AWESOME!?!

This is definitely on my MUST do list. All the classes and the extended stays.

As with all good things in life – this is expensive. $500 for the classes and then room and board on top of that. But like I said – if I had the money I’d gladly pay it.

Side Note: When I was in Vegas with Dru I went for dinner with him and his staff one night and I asked him why he did this – the classes that is – considering he makes plenty of revenue from his printed works of art. He simply said that being an artist can be lonely – sitting in the studio all day by oneself is dull – so he teaches the classes so that he can meet and get to know other artists. Isn’t that sweet.

Please go check out his website and see for yourself the amazing work that he does and this amazing facility he created to cater to us airbrush freaks.

AND … if you do go based on my recommendation please tell Dru, Mel and Auggie “HI” for me.

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Fantasy Airbrush Art: Space Scene

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A popular theme in fantasy airbrush art is space scenes… and the great thing is that they are fairly easy to produce…. you just need a little imagination.

For this project I will show you how I painted the simple space scene shown above.

For this project you will need the following:

  • your airbrush equipment
  • a selection of paints
  • a little bit of frisket
  • a surface to paint on

Scroll down when you are ready to start!

Step 1

First things first … you will need a surface that is painted jet black.

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Step 2

Now to add some stars to this black sky. You would think it would be pretty difficult to make with an airbrush – but not if you know the trick !!!

The trick is to make your airbrush spatter instead of spray. To make it spatter, you need to restrict the airflow by squeezing the hose as shown below. Once you have the air restricted, point the nozzle at a test surface (like some scrap paper) and push the trigger down and rock it back and forth. Keep rocking back and forth and slowly release the restriction on the hose. At a certain point, just the right amount of air will flow past the nozzle causing the airbrush to spatter paint.

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Step 3

Once comfortable that you can spatter the paint just right, spatter some white spots on the black sky.

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Step 4

Here I used white paint to add some foggy, milky-way looking effects.

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Step 5

Now I want to add a planet… so I cut a circle out of some frisket and apply it to the surface.

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Step 6

Then I painted the entire exposed area white.

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Step 7

Here I want to add some texture to the planet. I use this GREAT find – styrofoam that has been melted with a heat gun – it makes an awesome texture. I apply this over the frisket and spray a dark, transparent paint through the holes.

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Step 8

Here’s what it looks like done.

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Step 9

Now I added a bit of color to the planet.

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Step 10

And, here I have shaded the planet so it looks like a sphere.

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Step 11

And lastly, to give it a bit of a glow, I covered up the planet with the frisket and dusted white paint around the entire planet.

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And there ya have, the very basics of fantasy airbrush art space scenes.

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How to Paint Airbrush Foliage and Leaves

airbrush

For this project I will show you how I painted the airbrush foliage shown above.

or this project you will need the following:

  • your airbrush equipment
  • a selection of paints
  • a spray bottle of window cleaner
  • paper towel
  • a surface to paint on (preferably one that can handle a little moisture – so not paper)

Scroll down when you are ready to start!

Step 1

To start, mask off the area that you want to create foliage in – I kept it very simple and plan to paint the whole surface as leaves, but if you have an outline of trees and a skyline, you can just mask off the skyline area.

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Step 2

Paint the surface the lightest color in your foliage using transparent paint, I have chosen yellow.

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Step 3

Lightly spray window cleaner on the painted surface then very quickly blot the window cleaner off. This process lifts the paint, exposing the surface underneath and creates a great texture.

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Step 4

Add some more of your lightest color…

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Step 5

Then spray and blot again. See how the transparent paint is building up in value? Notice how nice and random it is? This is exactly what you want.

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Step 6

Now add a medium color in a random pattern. Here I have left some yellow holes to try and simulate sun shining through the leaves.

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Step 7

Then – you guessed it – spray and blot. If you are really quick with the blotting, you can often remove just the top layer of paint exposing the lighter color underneath. The longer you let the window cleaner sit, the more it “eats” through the paint, resulting in more paint removed when you blot it.

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Step 8

Continue spraying and blotting until you have achieved a pattern or texture that you are happy with.

Add a few branches here and there, and voila, a great leafy background.

airbrush

The technique of spraying window cleaner and blotting is also great for sand, dirt, rocky landscapes, planet surfaces and much much more.