Airbrushing, as we all know, besides the compressor and the airbrush gun, consists of mixing colors. And these usually have to be mixed. Because especially when it comes to photorealistic art and representation, you’ll never find the pure colors in nature that otherwise well-known manufacturers offer. The following information will show you how to mix colors correctly and essential.
Airbrush paint mixing: What to consider?
If you want to get started with the airbrush technique, you should get right into mixing the colors. However, these can be slightly different depending on the manufacturer.
Also, you want to deliberately create an effect with your work where you need highly pigmented or very light colors.
The more dilution you mix into color, the less pigment it contains. This results in quasi-transparent colors, and the gradient image becomes more “watery.” However, this effect can also be desired.
For example, if you want to spray fine details such as subtle shadows on a face and pores of the skin or only light, fluffy clouds, the right consistency would be a very diluted airbrush paint.
There are special thinners or even distilled water for mixing. However, regarding the water, it should be mentioned that it is only a solvent and not a binder. However, it can serve as a saving measure for those above more expensive thinners.
In turn, they and the paints could carry the risk of aerosol and gas formation. However, you can reduce them by always keeping the work area well ventilated, installing an airbrush exhaust system near the work area, and using a special protective mask for paint jobs. This is recommended for airbrushing anyway.
As a protective mask, we recommend the Nasum M101:
Which colors are suitable for mixing?
Typically, the professional airbrush colors of well-known manufacturers are best suited. They are acrylic paints and, therefore, water-based paints. You should not fill other paint colors in your airbrush gun. Otherwise, the tiny nozzles can get clogged.
We recommend the airbrush paint set from Vallejo:
The airbrush paint manufacturers are usually at the same time manufacturers of thinners for these colors or expressly point out the respective combinations that will fit.
Otherwise, it would help if you always used suitable airbrush paints and thinners from the same airbrush paint manufacturer. By the way, some offer somewhat matte colors and others that provide relatively bright colors. In addition, you should note that the well-known manufacturers sometimes have different pigment compositions and therefore provide a thinner paint than others.
It is true that they can also be mixed with each other and are basically the right colors. However, the procedure becomes more complex and does not always give the same results as the otherwise sprayed lacquer. Accordingly, light colors can come out or produce rather dark colors.
A tip that shows depending on the manufacturer: White color is to be dosed precisely and the overall result to observe. Because the desired lighting can go with some providers somewhat into the bluish. If this is the case, you can neutralize this shimmer with a little yellow as the opposite color on the color wheel.
Airbrush paint mixing: step by step instructions
Mixing is easy to do. In doing so, you should have some additional tools on hand, which will also depend on the amount of paint you want to use.
Necessary utensils and tools
It would help if you had the colors, thinner, water, pipettes, at least one white sheet of paper, and a brush.
Here is a list with some recommendations:
- Airbrush paint set from Vallejo
- Small transparent containers
- Airbrush colors glass container from Racksoy
- Thinner from Vallejo
- G2PLUS transfer pipettes
- Fabriano Bristol block, DIN A3
- Paintbrush set from WLOT
However, it is always recommended that you prepare the paint externally in a small sealable container so that the color mixes well right at the beginning and can also be sealed when you take a break. The transparent containers are recommended, then you know right away which airbrush colors are used.
A necessary brush for stirring should preferably not lose its hairs in the process so that they do not get into the mixture and clog the nozzle later.
A white sheet of paper insufficient number is crucial to test the mixed color first in its mixture. More about this in the following.
You are also always recommended a pipette, which can give the paint in your gun as needed and the required drops. There are also containers with an integrated pipette.
In the following, you then go through the following steps to mix the airbrush paint:
Step 1: Assemble the mixing utensils as described.
The first step is to assemble all the other utensils mentioned and the actual colors for the workplace, producing the final color. Then you have everything together and can start concentrating.
For example, red and yellow become Orange in a mixture of two colors. A human skin tone, on the other hand, is obtained by mixing three colors: Yellow (1 drop), Orange (2 drops), and a bit of Black (1 slightly damp brush).
Step 2: Plan and mix the correct color ratio
Of course, you should have the color wheel in mind to know which mixtures of colors will become which final color. However, it takes some time if you want to copy or mix a color from a template. Try-And-Error is the right word here and leads later to the best result.
To do this, place the template (photo or image) and the white paper close together so that you can make the respective tests. So you see then also whether it is a too light color or the airbrush paint also used too thick.
An excellent tip for mixing and testing is to cut out a small viewing window on the white sheet and then place it over the template image. Then spray close to the side of the mixed color and check the result.
With such a white viewing window, you will always have a distraction-free view of the desired target color and not be distracted by others on the original image. If the mixing takes longer because you don’t have the specific color yet, you will need more viewing windows and passes.
Step 3: Add thinner and water
Now, you should add as much thinner and water for everyday needs until the desired mix of colors used is achieved. Usually, this is a milky consistency.
If you want to achieve the other effects mentioned, such as a transparent veil or really opaque colors, you need to add less or almost no thinner or water.
Step 4: Keep the excess paint after use
It is recommended that you keep the paint you have used for a while. This is because you will always notice mistakes and need to make repairs or corrections, especially if you sleep on them. Then the remaining color will help you.
If you also have a lengthy procedure that you first mixed the particular skin type, it is too bad to dispose of the old colors. If you are also about to do a whole series, you should think about one color per application and the supply of the entire series.
Step 5: Don’t forget thorough cleaning
One thing should never be forgotten: You shouldn’t forget to clean thoroughly between working with other colors. Otherwise, unwanted mixing could occur.
After the last work step, you should carry out a thorough final cleaning anyway so that the nozzle remains accessible in the long term and does not become stuck or clogged. As mentioned above, even the highest quality paints will clog the fine nozzles, mainly if you use them in pure form.
FAQs about mixing airbrush colors were answered.
Does the mixing ratio depend on the intended use of the airbrush paint?
The answer to this is basically “yes.” As previously mentioned, sometimes you want to have a slightly shimmery effect and fine color streaks or make slight color enhancements. In that case, very light color is recommended to make this successful. On the other hand, if you want to make an accurate correction or achieve a high opacity of the original color, it should be very concentrated.
Can I mix primer with paint?
It is not advisable to mix primer with paint so that the thicker paint does not clog the fine nozzles. Small amounts of primer are sufficient. Unclogging the nozzles and needles is a nuisance and can only be done with cleaning thinner. Therefore, it is essential to first apply the primer, let it dry, and then start with the airbrush paint. Then the primer will be in its proper place: directly on the surface and underneath the airbrush paint.
Can all tones be mixed with airbrush paint, or are there exceptions?
All shades can be mixed with the airbrush since they are based on the base colors. However, of course, it takes experience and some tools. For example, you can only achieve the glitter effect of gold or silver if you buy these colors with the additives directly from the manufacturer or buy the glitter separately and mix it in. Also, the unique colors such as fluorescent or phosphorescent you do not get so quickly yourself and should seek out known manufacturers.