Airbrush Step-by-Step

Airbrush Portraits over Paint Pouring Panels- From start to finish- Charlize Theron/Aeon Flux


We all love the latest craze with paint pouring and the absolute love for abstract painting. What if I told you that the road doesn’t end there, or it doesn’t have to end there? You can create portraits or whatever you’d like on top of the already crazy cool background. They are great left alone but, if you wanted, you could say “the sky’s the limit”. So grab your paints and let’s get to it!

Step 1: Using the palette of your imagination, acrylic paint, acrylic pouring medium and a little pouring silicone medium, create a really cool effect by pouring the paints together and let them separate naturally. Her I chose the colors red, orange, yellow and black.. I did my pour over white paint which gives it a real nice separation. Have fun with this step.
Step 2: So the next step, while my canvas panel is drying, I prepare the stencil of the the portrait I will be painting. Here, I am simply cutting out the basic forms of the face such as the eyes, nose, mouth and the actual face. I want a negative and a positive of the face so that I can protect either side, if needed.
Step 3: So you can see here that I will be spraying the darkest features of the face first, such as the nostrils, the blacks of the eyes and the corners of the mouth. I do use weights to hold down my stencil while spraying because I did not want to use any spray adhesive on the project. I also turn my air pressure down a little to keep my spray from lifting under any part of the stencil.
Step 4 : Now that the stencil is removed, you can see what you are working with. This is a good way to map out the features that make each and everyone of us so unique! Here I add the pupils of the eyeballs. Make her come to life, right away. Portrait painting is a lot like sculpting a portrait; you have to pay attention to each little detail as it all comes together in the end and makes a wonderful piece of art!
Step 5: Here I am using a very fine line detail brush to add in the eyelashes, eye liner and eyebrows. We will be adding in the airbrush details after this step. I just like to get this step out of the way, so that when I do add some airbrush, we don’t have to worry about it.


Step 6: Now I can begin to add the details of the mouth and lips. Take as time doing these steps. The more detail, the better the outcome.
Step 7: So here comes the fun and the trickiest part about the portrait, and that is the very gradual building up of layers of shades and highlights. For this, I am using a transparent black and a few drops of airbrush medium (for additional transparency). If you are having a challenging time free-handing, visit my post about conquering free-hand shading strokes and lines at how-to-airbrush .
Step 8: Now comes time to paint in the highlights of the eyes. Now, most reflections in the eyes are from above, such as the sun or lights over head. In this situation , the light source is coming from below and the reflections are going to be under the eyes. It will look like there is a glow coming from below the standard reflections found in painting portraits.
Step 9: Here, I am adding in the fine strands of hair and their highlights. For this, I am using the very fine-line detail brush. Her ahir is black, so the highlights are just from the gloss and shine found in black hair. Don’t get carried away with the white highlights, but if you do, you can always knock them back with a little transparent black. ( which we will be doing in the next step)
Step 10: Here I am using the trans black to hit the edges of the highlights to make the strands of hair look like they are folding back naturally. If you do not take this next step, the white will just look like it is painted on the hair and won’t give the hair a natural look. Painting hair is another tricky endeavor. It is organic and there are so many layers of things to take into account. Just take your time and have fun with it.
Final: So there you have it; a portrait of Charlize Theron on top of some paint pouring action. I do hope you are having fun with these How-to’s and I am having a blast showing and teaching you all. Remember to leave your thoughts, ideas and concerns below and remember to stay creative, be colorful and have fun!


Artist’s Tool Box:

Airbrush- MAS G444-SET

Compressor: ABD TC-20-HB

Airbrush paints:  USA AB-KIT-12-TRN

Acrylic paints:  USA PT-24100

Wood Pouring panels: USA WCS09X12-4PK

Specialty Paint brush: USA BS-D12

Follow me at artistanhpham for more of my art

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