Monday, October 09, 2006

Ask An Artist - Airbrushing vs Inks

My art-school younger brother asked me this question:

Oh and what do you know about using airbrushes? I might look into getting one, because I want to start painting on canvas, but I can never get real fine line, and real solid colors. I think they're pretty expensive, but it might be a worthwile investment, no?

And when I say clean lines and solid colors, I mean along the lines of this.

some random painting

My answer:

You could certainly invest in the equipment - i think for about 2-300 dollars you could get something low-end but serviceable (I'm pulling from memory on that so I could be a little off) but there are two problems with that -
1. low-end tools suck to use and maintain - and they don't last very long
2. you're just starting to paint on canvas at all - you may not like it, you may spend months learning about the way compositions change when they get larger, only to find that your cheapo airbrush is breaking right when you are starting to get good.

my advice? Ink. Ink is underused by a lot of artists, i think. It's amazing stuff. There is nothing blacker than black ink. They make it in tons of colors, too, and with a round brush and a little practice (practice that will be very good for all of your hand-work skills) you can do a lot with very little.

When you go to the art store:
Make sure you are buying waterproof inks. If they are waterproof it will say so on the bottle; if they aren't it may not say anything about it. Speedball makes a decent array of colored inks that are also waterproof and opaque.
You don't need to buy the ridiculously expensive brushes. The one I use for this type of stuff I bought in college for 3 dollars. What you are looking for - round. try a couple different sizes - the graphic work you are looking to do probably means you don't want smaller sizes as much but they are so fun you may want to try it out anyway? try: 0,4,6,8.
So how do you tell what kind of brushes to buy? the array is pretty bewildering. The media you are trying to carry, ink, is thin with a consistency like water. This means that the brushes you want will be lighter, more flexible. The really stiff brushes are needed to carry heavier paints but you are using the lightest of the light. This means you will have maximum control! Asian-style calligraphy brushes are great because they are designed to produce a pretty wide range of marks. You want a brush, basically, that will bend in half with the lower half making sweet love to your canvas, all the while maintaining its shape. Don't be above bringing a water bottle into the store to dip the brushes into, then pushing them around on the shelves to try to gauge how they will act. Watercolor brushes will work really well too.

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