Airbrush Step-by-Step

Airbrushing Logan on a car hood, step by step and piece by piece.

I am, on many levels a nerd.  I am an art nerd, a dedicated paint dork and a certified X-Men geek.  I love the X-Men, Logan and Hugh Jackman!  He is one of my favorite actors and Wolverine is my all time favorite Mutant and superhero.  Now if I can only combine these aspects of my inspirations, together on one car hood,  then I would be the happiest painter I could be.

Step 1: Although it looks boring, this is one of the most important parts of painting with automotive paints.  If you do not have a proper and thorough sand and scuff job, you’re paint, art and clear coat will peel and crack.  I scuf and sand in a way that is to make sure the paints will adhere properly.  I use a crosshatching method, and then I crosshatch at an angle after that.  This will assure you have the textural aspects to accept the fine atomized paints.
Step 2:  In the booth, I use my spray gun to blast out the yellow background on the entire hood.  I will have to let this hood dry completely before I can tape and paint.
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Step 3:  Using an 18in self adhesive transfer masking paper, I cover the entire hood.  Note that I use the transfer paper to cover the middle of the hood and this is where I will create the portrait.
Photo 9-21-18, 12 21 23 PM
Step 4:  Now I use some graphite paper to trace out the portrait onto the transfer paper.
Photo 9-21-18, 12 21 36 PM
Step 5:  Using a pencil, I trace out Logan’s face and his features. I only need to trace out the dark areas of the face.
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Step 6:  Here comes the stenciling and cutting of Logan’s facial features.  I only need to cut out the dark areas and inset areas of the face like the eyes, nostrils,  mouth and ears.  Not only does this map out where the features will be but, it creates shadows for me add some freehand shading.
Photo 9-21-18, 3 19 40 PM
Step 7:  Before I airbrush, I will use a Hog bristle paint brush to create Logan’s beard and hair.  I do this before the airbrush step because I want to be able to have the hair in place before I peel off the stenciling.
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Step 8:  I am now ready to airbrush black paint in the dark areas.  I did let the knife work map these parts out for me in the cutting stage.
Photo 9-21-18, 4 52 40 PM
Step 9:  Here, we can remove the protective masking paper to expose the dark facial features that we’ve just painted.
Photo 9-21-18, 5 01 40 PM
Step 10:  So here, I am creating stubble and facial hairs.  This is something that an airbrush cannot do.  Use different tools to create different textures and feels.  Do not limit yourselves to just one tool as this will limit your art.
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Step 11:  Now comes the fun part of painting portraits and that’s free handing the shading and shadows.  I am using a transparent black for this.  For more instruction on free hand airbrushing, visit How to airbrush-Beginner Practice Strokes and Shading
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Step 12:  Continue to build up the facial structure and features by overlaying more and more transparent black airbrush paint.  I avoid the highlight areas for creating highlights.
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Step 13:  This is a great technique that I use create highlights without adding paint to the portrait.  I am using an eraser to remove paint, thus creating nice bright highlights.  I don’t want to use any white paint for highlights on this piece,  just the yellow of the basecoats.
Photo 9-21-18, 6 56 43 PM
Step 14:  To create realistic looking hair and facial hair, I am using an utility knife to remove the black paint by scratching away at it.  This is a great way to make very fine hair lines on portraits.  Then I can add very light layers of transparent black over these scratch marks, then continue scrathing and removing more and more.
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Step 15:  So here we are ready for the Wolverine’s claw marks!  I apply some masking paper over the area and draw out the claw marks and where the ripping will occur.  This is actually very easy and fun to do.  I first airbrushed the black empty space first, then worked to the ripped parts of the metal.  It is all done with transparent black.


So this piece is complete and we’ll call this done.  So happy with the outcome and finished product. As an artist, being happy with the outcome is what it is all about.


Thank you for joining me today and remember to check out and follow my Instagram at ArtistAnhPham

Artist’s tool box:

Airbrushes:  MAS G33

Spray Guns:  TCP G6600-14

Basecoat:  Daytona Yellow 1401 

Clear coat:  KUS KIT-KC2020-GL

Tape and Masking: KUS STMF12150

Paint brushes:  USA BS-036

Scuff pads:  DUR SP-7448

Tack cloth:  GER 020001B-BX


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