Airbrush Step-by-Step

Airbrushing a Stand up Paddle Board “Phoenix Rising”

Free-hand airbrushing anything is such a wonderful form of expression. When you don’t have to stop and stencil, mask or frisket anything, it gives you the power and freedom to just flow with your creativity.  Here is how I created this Phoenix rising out of the sunrise, on this Stand Up paddle board.



Step 1:  The entire deck was base coated a deep black before I came into the shop.  Using references, I start to map out the entire job with a light yellow.  I am really just sketching out where the bird will live and where the horizon will be for the sunrise.

Step 1 Cont.:  Here I sketch out the head of the bird and where her wings will extend out to.  This is just a loose mapping out of my components.  Have fun in this step. If you are not an experienced free-hand airbrush painter, go to the lesson I created called Beginner Practice strokes and shading on this site.  It gives you some basics on free-handing and shading.
Step 2:  You can see where I have sketched out  some very light lines with the yellow.  So now I can Start to add some white lines to build up my Phoenix bird.
Step 3:  Here I can begin to add in the base coat of the wings.  I know that there will be a great deal of colors in this entire painting, so that is why I am building up the image with white first.
Step 3 cont.:  Just having a blast free-handing in the bird’s head, wings and body!  Can’t wait to add some color on her.
Step 3 cont.:  At this point I am happy with the base coat and I can now start to build up my sunrise with some bright airbrush colors.
Step 4:  With the yellow already laid down, I give my Sunrise a touch of Orange and then blend in some bright pink.  Next comes some deep purple over the pink to really make this sunrise nice and colorful.
Step 4 cont.:  Notice the strip of masking tape I’ve put down as my horizon line. This is my island and the point at which I will divide the sky from the water.  This is why I have painted the reflection of the sky in the water. (painted in reverse)
Step 5:  I use some free-handing to build up the clouds in the sky and in the reflection of the sky as well.  I added some stars in the sky and in the reflection as well.  After that, I can continue to build up the flames and smoke on the Phoenix.  She also gets the white added for the tail, which I want to be whipping around the sunrise.  I can even add a little color to her wings so I can see where I am with my color scheme.
Step 5: Now comes the Orange for the flames and fire in the wings and the tail.  I use the yellow I originally put down as a guide for the next colors.  So everything is laid down in order so I have a mapped out guide for everything to come.
Step 6:  Notice here where I have added my orange as guide for the next colors.  I add a little red next to spice up the fire.  I also added some Turquoise for some contrasting colors in the piece.  After that I retouch my white so that I don’t lose any brightness in the tail and feathers.
Step 7:  This a fun step.  I cut out a crude feather stencil to be used in the wing.  Using a transparent black paint, I spray around the tip of the feather stencil, then move it up and continue to spray this stencil until it makes a feathered wing.  Then I added an outer layer of feathers and then yet another.
Step 8:  Notice, I continue to add white whenever I can to keep that brightness and retain that white flame in the tail and wings.  You don’t want to lose that touch.
Step 9:  After one more step of retouching the colors wherever it is needed, the last thing I do is re-add my whites to really make the Phoenix pop out!
Step 10:  Now it is time to reveal all by removing the protective masking tape around the painting and the tape in the middle to reveal the silhouetted Island.

I hope you have enjoyed this tutorial as it is just so fun airbrushing and free-handing a piece.  Perhaps you can try this at home on a canvas or art board to see how it comes out for you.  Thank you for joining me today and be sure to leave a comment or question below.  Happy Painting!


Thank you to King’s Paddle sports for the creative space

thank you to for the art supplies

and to Vynce Pham for the awesome photos.



Artists tool box:

Airbrush, Paints and compressor:  ABD KIT-G44T-MASTER


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