Airbrushing Makeup: Part 2

Thursday, 9 September 2010, 8:00 | Author : Kricket
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In Airbrushing Makeup: Part 1, we talked about purchasing an airbrush and what additional materials you will need to get started.  This follow-up post will examine the logistics of facepainting, broaching subjects such as technique, safety, and maintenance.


When airbrushing the face, do not exceed 6 PSI (pounds per square inch).

Online sources do not agree on how much air pressure you should use for face painting.  Although I have deferred to Iwata’s recommended PSI, I’m found sources that recommend up to 15 PSI.  So the question becomes, “Is it dangerous to airbrush a subject’s face at high PSI levels?”

I have heard that if the air pressure is too high, the paint will prickle the skin and could become forced into the skin – essentially creating a tattoo.  (Typically, higher PSI is useful for covering broad areas of the body for body painting or spray-on tanning, according to  Alternative, if you chose to spray at a lower pressure, you may just need to apply extra layers for even coverage.

Whatever your application, you can monitor the pressure of your air compressor by referring to the pressure gauge.  If you need to lower the pressure, you can open the Pressure/Moisture release outlet.  Now if you want to forgo all the stress, you can purchase an airbrush from a makeup company that is designed specifically to spray the face, such as Temptu, Luminess Air, or Dinair.

Do not spray paint into the eyes, nose, mouth, or ears.

Your subject will need to be able to keep their eyes and/or mouth closed while you apply the makeup.  To prevent them from inhaling the mist of paint, ask them to exhale or hold their breath while they paint, stopping every few seconds to allow them to breathe.  Alternatively, you can also use cotton balls to block passage to the nostils and ear canals.

Spray 6″ away from your subject’s face.

According to, this will allow for even and controllable coverage.  If you get too close, you may run into the aforementioned problem of high air pressure and narrow range.

Be conscious of the risks.

I am relatively new to airbrushing and, without proper experience, I cannot warn you against all the liabilities of airbrush makeup.  Improper handling and a lack of safety precautions could lead to health problems caused by the inhalation of paint.  When working closely to someone’s face (especially a friend’s face) always make sure that they are comfortable and safe.


In order to practice control and precision, Airbrush from Scratch recommends airbrushing thin lateral and longetudal lines, then placing a dot at each intersection.  If you want to be able to practice your motor skills without the hassle of cleaning your machine afterward, you can purchase Brush-Up Paper, which turns black wherever water is applied.  In this way, you can spray water through your machine rather than paint.  If your entire canvas becomes black, simply wait for the water to evaporate from the paper and try again.


Only a small part of your machine comes in contact with paint (basically from the reservoir cup forward) but you still need to clean it to prevent clogs.  You should clean your machine every time you change colors and at the end of each session.  Personally, I use Medea Airbrush Cleaner which is great for water-soluble paints.  Paint thinner is often recommended for non-water-soluble paints.

The following text will walk you the cleaning procedure – quoted from Airbrushing: A User’s Guide to Getting Started:

“If there is paint in the paint reservoir, pour it back into a bottle or container and spray out any excess [paint] into a paper towel.  Wipe the paint reservoir as clean as possible [using a non-fibrous material].  Fill the paint reservoir one-quarter full with the appropriate cleaning agent.  With a [flat bristle paintbrush], slosh the cleaning agent around the paint reservoir to break down the paint.  The cleaning agent will turn opaque as this is done.  Be sure to get into all the nooks and crannies and, if you are using a gravity-feed airbrush, get down into the cavity at the bottom of the paint reservoir.  Spray this now paint-contaminated cleaning agent through the airbrush, and once again wipe the paint reservoir with a rag or paper towel.  [Repeat as necessary] until the cleaning agent sprays clear.  Using new cleaning agent and a clean bristle brush, gently wipe across the paint tip to remove any build-up of dried paint… At the end of the workday, you will want to clean the needle.”

NOTE:  The needle runs through your airbrush to control the spray.  Refer to manufacturer’s instructions when removing the needle for cleaning.

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