An introduction to airbrush.

David Boxshall

David started the evening by explaining how the airbrush worked; how it was controlled, and the sources of gas to actually carry the sprayed paint. He went on to talk about the types of paints which could be used which include watercolour, gouache, acrylic, and inks. Control of the airbrush was by a dual action lever which adjusted the flow rate, and also the shape of the cone of sprayed paint. The distance of the spray tip from the sprayed surface was another variable which could be used to good effect.

The airbrush is particularly useful for producing graduated tones, but by employing masking techniques can produce crisp lines or edges.

In this example, David used a simple circular mask or template to paint a spherical object.

In this example he used a pyramid shaped stencil, but by masking each face in turn he achieved an excellent 3-dimensional effect.


By using a reversible tree shaped stencil and some simple additional masking, a simple desert landscape was quickly painted.

He then demonstrated how a complex shape such as a rose could be achieved by using multiple templates - for this example four masks were used. Needless to say, accurate registration of the masks is required.

After 2 masks

After 4 masks

The petals were then given a slight golden glaze using the airbrush and the stem painted in by hand.

In this example, a thin transparent self-adhesive sheet of film was applied to the paper and then a shape (the letter 'M') was carefully cut out using a scalpel. This was then given a graduated airbrush 'wash' in two halves using a piece of card to separately mask the top and bottom halves. The film was then removed, and the film section which had been cut out was carefully replaced over the letter. A golden wash was then applied to the surrounding area.


This is an example of using a star shaped stencil and opaque white spraypaint, feathering the paint out towards the edges of the rays.

This shows the original sphere demonstration after receiving a thin gold wash and a highlight using the star shaped template.

During the tea-break David showed some of his portfolio of work from the days when he was a professional illustrator. This was a fascinating part of the evening and some considerable time was spent explaining and answering questions about how the numerous variety of effects present in his works were achieved. Although not part of the evenings demonstration of airbrush techniques he showed some fantastic drawings of old motor cars which were done with just 2B pencils and some careful erasing techniques. It was difficult to tell these drawings apart from black and white photographs.

The above image is one of his cover designs for a technical magazine and employs many of the techniques demonstrated during the evening.

Although most members present were not familiar with use of the airbrush, David gave us a thoroughly interesting and enjoyable evening.