Preshading with the Airbrush

Once you get the basics of airbrushing practiced, it’s time to move up a level and get some practice with airbrush control. The basics of this technique is to paint a base color first, then follow this with a lighter tone to created a shaded effect. The shading effect is completely optional, some folks like the look, others don’t, so doing so is just personal preference. There are some setting factors that are part of this technique:

  • air pressure regulation
  • thinning ratios
  • airbrush distance

The first part of this is your basic airbrushing technique. Spray a light mist coat followed by slightly heavier coats until the part is completely painted. For the base coat, I usually pick a color that is darker than the the second layer. I usually try to avoid really dark colors such as black and dark grays as I find that the shading tone is a little too stark. Additionally, not all colors look good when sprayed over too dark a base coat. Yellows and reds over black just messes with the color tones too much. For those colors I would use a brown or an orange. The base coat can also be used to create a colored tone, for example, spraying a blue base, followed by a white second coat will create blue shaded effects. There are limitless combination choices.

Once the base coat is sprayed, it is time for the second coat, the preshading coat. The idea for shading is to start at the center of the parts and slowly spray to the edges and areas where you want the shaded effect. This takes a decent amount of control that with practice, will become better. Since I am spraying detail, I lower my air pressure to about 8-10 psi. My normal spraying pressure is 18-20 psi. With the pressure lowered, the airbrush is positioned very close to the part and the center areas are sprayed. Once all the individual center areas are sprayed, the part will look very heavily shaded. It is personal choice to how heavy a shaded effect you like. My personal preference is a mode subtle shaded effect. So at the point, the pressure is raised to 18-20 psi, and the airbrush position is pulled back from the part and the entire part is misted with paint to blend in the light and dark areas. The part is misted until the desired shading tone is reached.

Additionally, when thinning the paint for the second layer, the paint can be thinner than normal as the pressure will be very low. This adjustment is very small, but with practice and experience, it becomes easier with more practice.

The technique is easily created with an airbrush. Practicing will help with control. Always remember the basics of airbrushing, a light misting coat, followed by a heavier coat. The same is necessary for preshading, with the exception of additional hand control.

Every so often, I’m asked by people how to keep dust from landing on your parts. Well, honestly, you can’t. But you can remove it easily if you take the proper precautions. While painting, if dust lands on the part, immediately stop painting and put the part down and allow it to dry. Chances are, you’re working on other parts, so move on and paint the other pieces. Return to the part when it’s dry. Using a high grit sanding pad, a 320 pad I have at my paint booth, the area where the dust or particle has landed is lightly brushed with the sanding pad to remove the dust. When the dust is gone, you can resume painting the part.

172 Comments on “Preshading with the Airbrush”

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