Airbrushing Makeup: Part 1

Thursday, 2 September 2010, 8:00 | Author : Kricket
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An airbrush is another “expensive tool” that cosplayers can consider purchasing if they are serious about cosplay.  Although an airbrush can serve many artistic purposes, within cosplay the most relevant use is makeup application.  Now, I’m not trying to tell you that your makeup should always be applied by airbrush, but if you need to dramatically change the color of your skin (face, neck, hands, etc.) then airbrushing can provide a quick, flawless, and durable solution.  Likewise, if you create stencils then you can quickly apply tattoos and other character markings using an airbrush.

Earlier this year I purchased an Iwata Eclipse CS (dual-action, gravity feed, internal mix) airbrush and an Iwata SmartJet Air Compressor.  I found a great introductory kit at Blick Art Materials for $349.

If this is also your first encounter with airbrushing, I want to share some basic terms that you need to become familiar with in order to choose the most appropriate machine.  The following definitions are quoted from Airbrushing: A User’s Guide to Getting Started © Iwata Medea.

internal mix: A type of airbrush where the paint is atomized inside the airbrush tip.

single action: A method of activating an airbrush whereby depressing the trigger delivers both air and paint simultaneously.

dual action: A method of activating an airbrush whereby depressing the trigger delivers air and drawing back on the trigger releases paint.

bottom feed: A siphon-feed system where paint is drawn up from a reservoir (jar or color cup) mounted underneath the airbrush.

side feed: A siphon-feed system where paint is drawn from a reservoir (color cup) mounted on the side of the airbrush.

gravity feed: The system where paint is drawn into an airbrush from a reservoir mounted on top of the airbrush.


Once you have your airbrush, be sure to purchase the following items.


I purchased Ben Nye’s liquid makeup (MagiColor), which is available in 23 colors.  According to their catalog, “[These] highly pigmented paints dry quickly to a smudge and water-resistant finish.  Apply with brush, sponge or airbrush.  If desired, thin paints with 10% Final Seal for airbrush.”  (Their product, Final Seal, sets the paint so that it won’t rub off.  Alternatively, you can also spray Final Seal as a base before applying the airbrush paint.)  When purchasing paint, it is important to check whether or not it has been “pre-reduced” or thinned.  If not, your paint may be too thick and could clog your machine.  Face-paint tends to separate and dry when it is not being used, so do not pour any paint into your reservoir until you are ready to use it.


I didn’t think gloves were necessary until I started opening new bottles of paint.  Somewhere between mixing the paint and pouring into my reservoir, I ended up with smudges of paint all over my fingers.  If you want to keep yourself and your machine clean, stop by your local grocery store to pick up a 10-pack.


A stiff medium-sized paint brush is useful when cleaning the outer rim of your paint reservoir and into the crevices.  Although you might be tempted to clean your machine with a fibrous material (paper towels or cotton balls) these items can break apart and clog your machine.


These can be used to plug the nose or ears when airbrushing your subject’s face.


If you are worried about inhaling too many toxic fumes, you can purchase a mask from any hardware store.


I’m guessing that the range of spray on the Eclipse airbrush is too limited to airbrush a face efficiently.  I hypothesize that the range could be widened by purchasing a larger nozzle, but this theory is unconfirmed. explains, “Although they have some effect on the line an airbrush produces, nozzle sizes (Fine, Medium, Heavy or 1, 3, and 5) apply more to the material that should be sprayed through the airbrush than the fineness of line an airbrush will produce.”

This discussion will be continued next week in Airbrushing Makeup: Part 2.

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